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Monday, April 1, 2013

Graphic Novel of Lord of the Rings (Good news, bad news)

     1 April 2013

The good news is that later this year, the first in a series of graphic novels based on J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings (LOTR) series will be coming out.  The bad news is that there will be English and American versions and the English version sounds a whole lot better to me.
   So last week I got an email from Arnold G. Sloof publishers (or AGS -- they are a tiny imprint of MacMillan) that they are teaming up with Oxford/Lirpa Books (Lirpa bought out tiny George Allen and Unwin about a decade ago -- Allen and Unwin were the original publishers of Tolkein's Lord of the Rings series.  Then Oxford bought Lirpa)  According to the email, although the rights to LOTR as a series of books were sold to Collins back in the eighties, and although the movie rights were sold long ago, there was a clause in the original contract with Collins that allowed Allen and Unwin to retain rights to "media and formats not yet developed").  When Lirpa accquired Allen and Unwin they began a legal battle in England to get the Graphic Novel to be declared a new format.  Last December a judge ruled in their favor. 
     In January, they started hunting for authors to write the adaptations.  Apparently they are in final negotiations for J.K. Rowling to write the adaptation (Woo hoo!) and for Brian Talbot (Tale of One Bad Rat) and Alan Lee to do the art.  (The memo says "Although the advances for such work are considerably below what Rowling is used to, the percentages are worth getting excited about.  Rowling says she is interested in the project, though, because she loves Tolkein's books).
     Here is the bad news, though.  Negotiations for the U.S. version are already finalized, though, and I wish I could say I was excited about the choices.   AGS announced in the same memo, that the American version will be written by Stephanie Meyer (Author of the Twilight series) and the the art will be done by Dav Pilkey.  Most of you are familiar with Pilkey as the author of the Captain Underpants books,  but he was actually an excellent children's book illustrator (check out The Paperboy --it is a wonderful book).  Pilkey tends to draw in a cartoony way -- not my first choice for this series (especially with so many talented US bord graphic novel artists aroung -- why not Alex Ross?) 
      I am more disturbed, though, by the end of the AGS/Oxford Lirpa memo, which has this quote from Stephanie Meyer:  "I am really excited to be able to be a part of this project.  I actually had never read the Fellowship of the Rings books before this.  I think they are a lot of fun (though I am only just finishing the first book.)  I think there are some exciting ways we can bring out some of the aspects of the books that most people don't notice when they read.  Like the romance.  There are a lot more love stories going on in those books than most people think.  I think we can bring that out more in our version."
     AGS/Oxford Lirpa says that Meyer will stick to Tolien's original story for the most part, but they are giving her some leeway to alter things to make it a better fit for American audiences.  The only change that Meyer is on record about is possibly introducing a dwarf love interest for Gimli.
     Frankly, this terrifies me.  Tolkien created an excellent world and one of the best narrative movements of all time.  I don't want anybody messing with it -- partiuclarly a writer whoose greatest achievement to date is a series of badly wirtten vampire books (perhaps i am not being fair).  I am also unclear about why the publisher feels we have the need for two versions in the first place.  The original LOTR was written in British English.  Since it is the second best selling novel of all time, I would have to say that it seems to have crossed the Atlantic just fine.  Maybe they are hoping that fans will buy both versions  Sigh.
     Sloof/Lirpa says the American version is due out first, probably next Spring.


  1. do you know when the release date is or when it will be anounced publicly? i have tryed searching it online but have found nothing.