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Reconsidering adaptation as translation: The comic in between

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According to Linda Hutcheon, adaptation needs to be viewed both as a process and its result. Adaptations do not simply repeat a creative process, they ‘affirm and reinforce [its] basic cultural assumptions’. This article looks at the comic as a central medium in an accelerating ‘convergence culture’, placed between traditional literature and film. Adaptations of novels, poems, even of songs have become a substantial part within the field of the so-called ‘graphic novel’ or ‘graphic literature’. And of course, the almost countless adaptations of comics to films provide an important source of revenue for both the comic publishers and the film industry, not just in Hollywood. To address the aesthetic uncertainties this may raise, and to sharpen the concept of adaptation, we are reconsidering the concept of translation. Drawing upon Walter Benjamin’s ‘The task of the translator’, translation can be thought of both as a mode of aesthetic transformation and its result: It appears neither as replacement nor as retelling, but as a sovereign artefact supplementing the original text. As such, the translation mediates between different ways of expression without overcoming their respective differences. This article takes a closer look at two translation processes: one from literature into comic and one from comic into film. Starting with Paul Karasik and David Mazzucchelli’s classic City of Glass (2004) and Dri Chinisin (2011) by Sascha Hommer, the visual aesthetics of the comic are examined as an ideal place of exchange between textual and pictorial culture. Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez’ iconic Sin City and Tatsumi (2011) by Eric Khoo are employed to illustrate how the translation into moving images can offer an acoustic and narrative supplement to the original comic, while also drawing attention to the aesthetic differences between these two media.
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Keywords: adaptation; intermediality; reverse ekphrasis; storyworld; supplement; translation

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Hamburg

Publication date: 2013-04-01

More about this publication?
  • Studies in Comics aims to describe the nature of comics, to identify the medium as a distinct art form, and to address the medium's formal properties. The emerging field of comics studies is a model for interdisciplinary research and in this spirit this journal welcomes all approaches. This journal is international in scope and provides an inclusive space in which researchers from all backgrounds can present new thinking on comics to a global audience. The journal will promote the close analysis of the comics page/text using a variety of methodologies. Its specific goal, however, is to expand the relationship between comics and theory and to articulate a "theory of comics". The journal also includes reviews of new comics, criticism, and exhibitions, and a dedicated online space for cutting-edge and emergent creative work.

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