Jane Austened

Started sketches for the Marvel adaptation of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, which will be written by Nancy Butler.  Did some of the covers for the Pride and Prejudice adaptation, but hadn’t really read any of Austen’s books before, and only had a vague awareness of all the movies made from her book…

It seemed like an intriguing challenge though; how to translate a novel into comic form, especially a story that featured no real action scenes, and where so much is just people talking in rooms….

So first thing to do was to read the book itself, followed by watching adaptations like Emma Thompson/ Ang Lee’s 1995 film and Andrew Davies’ more recent BBC production. The Thompson/Lee version was especially entertaining, but raised issues in terms of how true to the novel it was (something covered quite a bit in another book I picked up, “Jane Austen in Hollywood“). One of the thorny issues of adaptations i guess; how much to adapt to modern sensibilities, how reverential to treat the source material.

That’s mostly Nancy’s call though – the main goal on my part would be to try to make the adaptation make sense as a comic – to justify its existence, maybe, through the use of comics language. The Karasik/Mazzuchelli adapation of Paul Auster’s City of Glass might be a touchstone of sorts…

Interpretation aside, there’s the issue of character designs, which is kinda like a casting process, figuring  out how to make the characters look right, how to avoid being too influenced by movie or tv versions… particularily tricky in Sense is Edward Ferrars, who is supposed to be plain looking in the book, but is usually played by attractive actors – difficult I suppose to separate the idea of interior worth and exterior looks when it comes to any visual medium? (Or let’s face it, much of Life Everywhere)

A couple more sketches can be found on the deviantart site here.

In the meanwhile, a lot more research to do; period costumes, architecture… i wonder if the prodcution crews of the movie and tv adaptations kept any of their notes, and if they would lend me some :p

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12 Responses to “Jane Austened”

  1. Congrats on the gig! I just learned about this through an article in this week’s “Timeout: New York” mag. No mention of you being the artist, though–what do we cartoonists need to do to get some respect around here?!

  2. Judging from the sketches, this will be really good.

    I don’t know how one can adapt a written novel to a graphic novel without either vastly increasing the number of pages, or leaving out big chunks of the book.

    • hiya don, thanks! :) well.. i think any translation from text to visual form will face that problem (unless like you said its very long). there are some advantages though – being able to show something sometimes can save a lot of narrative…

      other than that… probably best to think of it in an alan moore way – to see things as expressions in different mediums and see how successful it is in those terms rather than strict faithfulness to the original text… (or the original comic in Moore’s case) :p

  3. thanks GB! heh heh i’m going to pull a conan o’brien on them now! :p

  4. [...] Cover art for Marvel’s Jane Austen’s ‘Sense and Sensibility’ adaptation…  Sketches below, more here [...]

  5. heyyo Sonny….your line work is really fresh! Any advise you have in terms of getting consistent characterisation in different panels especially with showing emotion changes?..i know its got to do with the gestalt perceptiion of hidden cues in line weight and dynamics …but I don’t always get the vibe my characters are the same people in different panels and it kinda feels detached. I really dig your sketchy style. How do get such range of emotions with such few lines?(i’ve tried pulling my face in front of the mirror too long its starting to ache…).

    • hmm it helps to do a lot of character sketches to get a feel of what they look like from different angles and different emotions, then use that as a template when drawing (depending on preference, can stick closely to model sheets or go for more variance)… beyond that maybe try and stay loose and gestural esp in the initial stages of the drawing… does that make any sense ? :p

  6. Thanks!.Yes it does Sonny…i’ve been reading Walt Stanchfield and trying to develop consistency in my linework .(right now it still looks like caveman etchings……only worse). What i like in your linework is that its minimalist but so expressive . Your characterisation really draws readers into the world on the paper. Looking forward to the release!

    • heya prem just keep drawing! :) though cavemen etchings can be cool too – have you seen gary panter’s work? he’s amazing, with beautiful scratchy drawings :)

  7. hey thanks Sonny…i’m just checking out his website now…..his linework is ‘GaRRRRRang!’…..;)

  8. [...] and Sensibility was adapted by Nancy Butler and beautifully illustrated by Sonny Liew. The art is soft and delicate. It’s almost like the story is a backdrop for the art. But [...]

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