Marvel has teamed up with artist Hugo Petrus and writer Nancy Butler for a comic book adaptation of Jane Austin's "Pride and Prejudice."
The first issue comes out on April 1, and it may sound like an April Fool’s joke, but it’s for real: a five-part Marvel Comics adaptation of Jane Austen’s 1813 novel “Pride and Prejudice.”
Reaction so far has ranged from Austen fans who are excited and think it’s a great idea to others who regard it as a sign of the apocalypse, said Nancy Butler, who’s writing the comic book adaptation.
Marvel dipped into the Austen pool last year with “Fantastic Four: True Story,” which saw the Fantastic Four interacting with literary figures including the Dashwood sisters from “Sense and Sensibility.” There are no superheroics in this series, though: It’s a straight-on adaptation of Austen’s classic work.
It’s not as odd as it might seem. The series, titled “Pride & Prejudice,” is part of the Marvel Illustrated line, which has adapted works including “Last of the Mohicans,” “Treasure Island” and “The Three Musketeers.” This is the first Marvel Illustrated title, though, aimed directly at women.
Most Read Life Stories
- 10 delicious Pacific Northwest food gifts for happier pandemic holidays VIEW
- No vinegar, no heat. This small Whidbey Island pickle company stands by the age-old method of oak barrel fermentation
- Seattle’s best mapo tofu and our food critic's other takeout picks that will hold up well for a long drive home
- Baked, not fried: Here's a recipe for homemade apple cider doughnuts
- What to do this December weekend
Butler, a friend of Marvel editor Ralph Macchio, had suggested doing a more girl-friendly project. And she was a natural to tackle the job of adapting “Pride and Prejudice” — she has written a dozen historical romance novels set in that period. But even she had her doubts.
“I thought, ‘Oh, my God, every Jane Austen fan is going to be looking at this and saying, ‘How dare she!’ “
Converting the tale of Lizzy Bennet and her eccentric family into comic book form hasn’t always been easy, Butler said. One challenge was capturing the tone of the story.
“This is a very wry story,” she said. “Humor is a very subjective thing, and sly humor is even more subjective, and translating that into a comic sometimes doesn’t work.”
There’s also little action to propel the story, she noted.
“It’s hitting the beats. It’s like a comedy routine. There are a lot of conversational beats in Austen.”
For artist Hugo Petrus, it meant going from the heroics of “The Three Musketeers” to the sitting-room drama of “Pride and Prejudice.” Petrus, with his detailed, lush style, proved up to the challenge, Butler said.
“I love working with Hugo,” she said. “His artwork inspires me.”
She was less inspired by the cover to issue No. 1. “Ralph didn’t prepare me for the fact that they were going to go with this teen magazine approach,” she said.
She worries Austen purists will be offended. But Marvel assures her that its marketing people know what they’re doing. And if it helps the series attract girls, she’s all for that.
“I hope it’s going to open younger readers up to reading Austen. She is not tough to read.”
Butler, who said she was “a precocious reader,” first read “Pride and Prejudice” when she was about 12 or 13.
It’s her favorite Austen work, she said, in large part because of the character of Mr. Darcy. Austen, she said, created the model of what would become “the brooding, aloof, detached hero.”
“Pride & Prejudice” is Butler’s first comic book work. One thing she has enjoyed, she said, is the collaborative nature of comics.
As a novelist, “pretty much you start with the blank page, you do your thing, you hand it into your editor and that’s it. There’s no team involved.”
Seeing the finished pages, she said, is a special kick.
“I’m beyond thrilled. I’m just so excited.”