‘A Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic Novel’: Hope Larson inks a classic

Oct. 02, 2012 | 5:27 p.m.

The cover for "A Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic Novel," adapted and illustrated by Hope Larson.

Hope Larson adapted and illustrated Madeleine L'Engle's novel, "A Wrinkle in Time." (Farrar Straus Giroux)

A page from "A Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic Novel," adapted and illustrated by Hope Larson. (Farrar Straus Giroux / Margaret Ferguson Books)

A page from "A Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic Novel," adapted and illustrated by Hope Larson. (Farrar Straus Giroux / Margaret Ferguson Books)

A page from "A Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic Novel," adapted and illustrated by Hope Larson. (Farrar Straus Giroux / Margaret Ferguson Books)

A page from "A Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic Novel," adapted and illustrated by Hope Larson. (Farrar Straus Giroux / Margaret Ferguson Books)

A page from "A Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic Novel," adapted and illustrated by Hope Larson. (Farrar Straus Giroux / Margaret Ferguson Books)

A page from "A Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic Novel," adapted and illustrated by Hope Larson. (Farrar Straus Giroux / Margaret Ferguson Books)

A page from "A Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic Novel," adapted and illustrated by Hope Larson. (Farrar Straus Giroux / Margaret Ferguson Books)

A page from "A Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic Novel," adapted and illustrated by Hope Larson. (Farrar Straus Giroux / Margaret Ferguson Books)

It’s been 50 years since Madeleine L’Engle’s heroine Meg Murry first lay awake in her attic on “a dark and stormy night” in the pages of “A Wrinkle in Time.” The novel, which followed Meg on a fantastic journey to save her father, became a touchstone for several generations of young readers enchanted by the idea of using a “tesseract” to travel through space and time. A new adaptation from graphic novelist Hope Larson brings L’Engle‘s story to life in gorgeous black, white and blue comic panels in “A Wrinke in Time: The Graphic Novel” — out today from Farrar Straus Giroux imprint Margaret Ferguson Books. Larson, best known for her middle-grade graphic novels “Mercury,” “Chiggers” and “Salamander Dream,” is signing books on Friday, Oct. 19, at 7 p.m. at Secret Headquarters in Los Angeles. Hero Complex caught up with Larson to talk about the book.

HC: I’m sort of amazed. The book is beautiful. And it’s nearly 400 pages.

HL: It’s a beast. It’s long. It took about two years. A couple of months to write the script, six months to do a rough draft of all of the art, and then like a year and a half to draw the whole thing.

HC: How did this project come about?

Hope Larson (Farrar Straus Giroux)

HL: It’s actually pretty crazy. I just got an email out of the blue from Margaret Ferguson. She became my editor on this book. And she asked me if I’d be interested in adapting “A Wrinkle in Time” — which is not an email I ever expected to receive, and I had to read it a couple of times to make sure I was actually understanding it, because it didn’t seem like it could be true. My theory is that because the Farrar Straus Giroux offices are down the hall from the First Second offices, I know a few of the First Second people, a few of the editors, and they’re sort of aware of me.

HC: Were you a fan of the book growing up?

HL: Oh, yeah. It was definitely an important book for me. All of her books were important for me — the rest of the Time Quartet. It’s one of those books that I’ve gone back to again and again throughout my life. I don’t know if it’s ’cause I read it at the right point in my life, that those images, like IT (the brain) and tessering, all that stuff just stuck in my head, and I went back to it, or if it’s more. But there’s something about her writing that just really gets me. And of course, the character of Meg is so wonderful. She’s so angry and kind of a mess, and I can really relate to that.

HC: The black and white and blue is gorgeous. Why’d you decide on blue?

(Farrar Straus Giroux)

HL: Thank you. Blue, I feel like it’s a pretty safe one. It’s a cool color, so it sinks back into the field of vision or whatever, as opposed to like a pink or something, which would pop out more. It feels more versatile and less distracting to go with a blue.

HC: Did you work digitally? What was your process?

HL: The way I did this book was I did a rough-draft version of the book. I did the lettering first in Illustrator, and then I printed that page off on like printer paper, and then I did a really loose sketch of that page, and then scanned it back in. And we edited that draft of the book, the rough draft, and after we’d edited, I blew up all of those pages on the computer to 11 x 14, and printed them off in blue line and inked on top of them with brush and ink.

HC: So it really is hand-drawn. Many artists now work primarily in Photoshop or Illustrator.

HL: It’s getting more common. I’ve never really done that. I’m just really attached to the tactile nature of drawing comics.

HC: Did you have to read the novel over and over as you worked on your adaptation?

HL: I really just read it the once, and I wrote the script. Because everything’s in the script. I didn’t cut anything, so I just read write through it and wrote the script at the same time.

HC: What images came to you first? Was there a part of the novel that you immediately envisioned and knew how you were going to draw it?

(Farrar Straus Giroux)

HL: When I’m drawing something, the first thing that I always do is work on the character design. Meg’s the heart of the story, so I started with her. Figuring out what her glasses would look like and what her face would look like and her hair, and all of that stuff.

HC: “A Wrinkle in Time” has such a memorable opening scene, with Meg alone in the attic, and your first page captures that so well.

HL:  The house that I illustrated on those pages is based on Madeleine L’Engle’s actual house, Crosswicks I think it’s called. So I read somewhere that the Murrys’ house was basically supposed to be that house, so I found a picture and based it off of that.

HC: Did you have to do a lot of research like that?

HL: Not really a ton because most of the book doesn’t take place on Earth, so you’re off the hook. But the stuff that does take place on Earth, I treated as a period piece. I got Sears and Roebuck catalogs so I could look at the hair and the clothes and stuff from 1962, which is when the book came out. But it’s really only the first 100 pages or something that are in the real world.

HC: Why do you think “A Wrinkle in Time” still holds up 50 years later?

HL: At least when I read it growing up, it felt very contemporary. I wasn’t really even aware that it was a story that was published in the ’60s. It has this freshness to it. And all the science and everything, it just doesn’t feel like it has aged all that much. It feels that way more now, because we all have cellphones and we all have computers, but in the ’80s and probably the ’90s, you wouldn’t sit down and think, “Oh this takes place like 50 years ago.”

HC: I guess Meg’s mother is sending letters to her father.

HL: Yeah, it’s letters, and some of the slang. Like Calvin will call somebody “sport.” Nobody’s going to call anyone “sport” now. But it’s cool.

HC: The novel is full of fantastical characters like Mrs. Whatsit and Aunt Beast. How did you go about deciding how to illustrate them?

HL: I just tried to pull out all of the details that are actually in the text about what they might look like and include as many of them as I possibly could, and base my designs off of that.

HC: Did you reference any of the old book covers?

HL: I didn’t. I don’t know if many of those illustrators actually even read the book. I always wonder about that. Don’t you? I don’t know. I’ve never done cover illustration. But there are a lot of just really weird ones for this book.

HC: It must have been a challenge to draw characters that communicate telepathically. Like Aunt Beast, whose communication is felt, not heard.

(Farrar Straus Giroux)

HL: I don’t feel like that part of the book was especially tough. At that point, I had just been rolling for quite a while. I remembered the scene where she sings to Meg being something that my editor and I talked about, because music is not really something that you can portray visually very easily, and there’s this one page, where she’s just sort of doing the singing, and it’s just sort of like surreal. There’s this speech balloon that’s coming out of Aunt Beast that’s got a picture of Meg inside of it. It’s just sort of this amorphous thing.

HC: Were there are any other parts that were particularly challenging?

HL: The dark thing was tough, because it’s just supposed to be this creeping dread. It’s like depression, basically. It’s more of a feeling than a visual thing. So it was tough to come up with a way to represent that that wasn’t just a monster.

HC: Had you ever done an abridgement before?

HL: No, this is my first adaptation.

HC: Would you be open to doing more adaptations? Or do you prefer to write your own stuff?

HL: I really miss doing my own things. I don’t think I would do it again. I would consider it, but probably not for a comic. Basically, what I’m saying is I wouldn’t do it, but you never know. I don’t want to say that I would never work with another writer again, but I’m more drawn to writing my own stuff.

HC: How is the process different between doing original work and doing adaptations?

HL: It’s not really that different because I write a script for the books that I write for myself, so when I actually sit down to draw, it’s like a different part of your brain comes into play, and it feels basically the same. I mean, you’re more concerned about getting the intent of the words across when it’s something you haven’t written yourself, because if you did write it yourself, you could be like, “Oh, well this isn’t really working. I’m going to try something else here.” But I couldn’t do that.

(Atheneum Books; Macmillan)

HC: Did you work very closely with L’Engle’s estate? Did they request any major changes to your work?

HL: The estate was actually really lovely, and I know that they basically instigated this whole project, which is pretty cool. So I didn’t work directly with them. They were communicating with my editor, and she was relaying everything to me, and I never had a problem. They were delightful, which is not what I was expecting, because you always worry. You hear horror stories about people’s estates, and that was just not the case at all.

HC: What will kids get out of your graphic novel that they can’t get from the original novel?

HL: My hope is that kids who are intimidated by the novel may try the graphic novel. And if they can get through the graphic novel, they’ll basically have read the novel already because almost all of the text is in there. Most of it’s dialogue. So if they can get through the graphic novel, it should be a piece of cake for them to go back and read the novel.

HC: What else do you have coming up?

HL: I have another graphic novel coming out in I think April, called “Who Is AC?” and it’s original. I wrote it, but I did not draw it. It’s drawn by Tintin Pantoja, who is amazing, and it’s a middle-grade fantasy sort of book. I always pitch it as Sailor Moon versus the Internet. It’s fun, it’s light and hopefully it will be a series. We will see. And aside from that, I’m finishing a short film that I wrote and directed, which is called “Bitter Orange,” and that will be on the Internet at some point. It’s a ’20s period piece, set in L.A., and I don’t really want to say much more than that. It stars Brie Larson and Brendan Hines and James Urbaniak.

– Noelene Clark

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