Graphic Novel Essay

Assignment Outcomes
  • Students will be able to demonstrate knowledge of both the original text and the graphic novel version of Beowulf.
  • Students will be able to articulate how the written and visual mediums work together (to positive, neutral, or negative effect).
  • Students will be able to demonstrate the ability to develop a thesis based upon their own observations while reading.
  • Students will be able to apply instructor and peer feedback during revision and drafting process.
Relevant Course Outcomes
  • Students will be able to identify and analyze the textual, historical, and cultural contexts of works of literature.
  • Students will be able to read works of literature closely and thoroughly.
  • Students will be able to develop insights effectively through written communication, particularly via essay.

Rough Draft Due: October 8 (bring hard copy to class and upload draft to Blackboard "Assignments")
Due: October 20 (turn in on Blackboard, under "Assignments")
Page Length: 3 (full pages!)
Other: Times New Roman, 12 point font, 1 inch margins, double-spaced (with no excessive spacing or extra spacing in header around name, class, etc.), MLA style

Must adhere to Writing Expectations

Write a response to our graphic novel version of Beowulf by Gareth Hinds. In particular, focus on the medium of graphic novels and the relationship between text and image. Does the graphic novel help to illuminate the original text? Does it help you read the original? How? Be sure to quote directly from the textbook at least once.
Be as focused as possible in this response - choose a specific aspect to discuss (i.e. do not try to cover everything). In other words, pick ONE topic.

Note: Be sure to convince me you read the graphic novel carefully.
Note: You will have at least two sources: the graphic novel and the textbook. Thus, there should be a Works Cited with at least two sources in it.

Resources - Writing Help
Resources - Research and Citation Help

Gareth Hinds, Web Site:

external image SLJ1409w_FT_GN_opener.jpg

Link to article about "Teaching with Graphic Novels"

Review of Beowulf (from site):
The New York Times Book Review - link

"...graphic novelist Gareth Hinds has reimagined “Beowulf” as a kind of superhero tale... great stretches of this “Beowulf” take place with no words at all, except the occasional “SMASH,” “SSWACK” and “SKUTCHLP.” Hinds stages great fight scenes, choreographing them like a kung-fu master and then drawing them from a variety of vantage points, with close-ups, wide angles and aerial views. In its way, the result is as visceral as the Old English, which was consciously onomatopoeic, and by changing his palette for each of the poem’s three sections he evokes its darkening rhythm."

BlogCritics - link

"Interestingly, the book traces Beowulf's life in just two events, in both cases dealing with monsters that are troubling his friends or his people. In the first half, he is full of vigor, confidence and agility and is able to easily take on monsters at will. In the second half, though regal, he is old and doubts if he will return alive from the dragon's lair. able to make us aware of the fickle nature of life using the story of the rise and fall of even a great, mythical warrior. He evokes wonder and pity for the same character by judicious use of imagery that will stay with us long after we have put down the book."
Visit to FSU, 1.24.11

Previous Responses from Gareth Hinds
- What/who most influenced the art style you went with in your re-imagination of Beowulf?
The first section is intended to evoke medieval illuminated manuscripts such as the Book of Kells. The second section is inspired by Egyptian funeral portraits which were painted on wood and are very well preserved.
The third section is inspired by ancient stone carving and relief sculpture.
More generally, I was inspired by the story itself, and also by a comic artist named Bill Sienckiewicz, who was one of the first Americans to do fully painted multimedia comics and to do a really artistic
adaptation of a classic (Moby Dick) back in the '80s.

- Why did you choose to recreate Beowulf in a graphic novel format?
This is very hard to explain, so I'll just summarize by saying that I use my instincts about what I like, what I want to draw, and what I think people will want to buy/read. There are stories that don’t lend themselves quite as well to the graphic novel medium, but there are no stories that can’t be done. I’ve put off doing certain books because they were just too huge—War and Peace, for example, is not only incredibly long, it covers a very long period of time, includes a lot of characters, and would require a tremendous amount of historical research.
- Is there anything you left out in your version of Beowulf, and if so, why?
In the original there's a lot of repetition I could remove, and a lot of narration that I could replace with visual storytelling.
- The graphic novel starts in full color, but then slowly progresses to an eventual black and white in the last pages. What was your thought process behind this?
The three sections of Beowulf are done in different materials. Part 1 is drawn with ink using a dip pen and brush, then colored digitally. Part 2 is drawn and painted on wood panels using technical pen, watercolor, acrylic, and color pencil. Part 3 is drawn like part 1, but colored using Dr. Martin's dye and white charcoal. The three sections of Beowulf are each intended to evoke a different period of ancient art history. The first section is inspired by medieval illuminated manuscripts (that was the same period in which Beowulf was recorded), the second section is inspired by Egyptian funeral masks painted on wood (Google "Fayum Portraits"), and the third section is inspired by stone relief sculpture, for its associations with memorializing past events and dead heroes.
- After the acknowledgments, there is a full two page picture of what appears to be the back of the dragon, a continuation of the first picture of Beowulf and the dragon before the novel actually starts. Why did you choose not to make it clear that it's the dragon and why are the two drawings so strategically placed?
As you observed, the front and back endpapers are a single continuous piece of art. Often endpapers feature an abstract pattern, so I didn't feel it was necessary for the subject to be clear; I just wanted it to look cool and perhaps be a bit of a puzzle for the reader who chooses to dwell on it ;-)
- The last scene in your novel is heart wrenching with Beowulf just looking into the you take pity on Beowulf or did he get what was coming to him?
I take pity on Beowulf, not so much because he was killed (he died in battle after a long and glory-filled life), but because his ambition of protecting his people is not really fulfilled. It's this tragic element that I played up by staging the death and funeral scenes the way I did.

- What was your favorite part of the story to draw?
The battles!

How Graphic Novel Essay Will Be Graded
  • The Graphic Novel Essay will be 50% of the Graphic Novel Essay/Project Day grade, which is 15% of the overall course grade