Graphic Novelists Opt To Kill Shakespeare

Nov 18, 2012

Sometimes the pen isn't mightier than the sword after all.
Credit Kill Shakespeare/Anthony Del Col and Conor McCreery

Kill Shakespeare! Those are the first words to which my engineer boyfriend Adam was attracted when we arrived at the Book Fair (other than "ham and cheese croissant"). He beelined to the colorful table and picked up a book with a quill pen drawn on the cover, and we were greeted by Conor McCreery's friendly, "Hello! Do you like graphic novels?" Both Adam and I are fairly indifferent, and I think Conor could tell, but he didn't miss a beat. He launched into a description of the graphic novel series he co-created with Anthony Del Col, Kill Shakespeare, stories in which Shakespeare's characters come to life and hunt an evil wizard, Shakespeare himself. The story all sounds very interesting and seems like a fun way to experience time-honored characters in a new light.

Conor and co. are entrepreneurial Canadian folks making a small empire out of their controversial idea and seeming to have fun along the way. Apparently some Shakespearian scholars and thespians were not pleased with the novel's existence and have been pretty vocal about it. Regardless, the guys kept the ball rolling and have moved their story into other creative venues. One of the most intriguing (to me) is the radio-style reading that they organized with a group of actors during which video of the story line plays behind them while they say the lines. They incorporate theatrical sounds (Monty Python style, with coconuts for the horse-trot sound!) and sometimes even include the audience in the noisemaking. They give the audience silverware (and waivers, of course) and tell them to clack it together during battle scenes so the sound surrounds them. 

Kill Shakespeare are working on a cell phone app and the third novel in the series. They're building a following that includes people who were never into graphic novels before, and some of those new fans ask, "Why did the book end on a cliffhanger?" Those newbs to the genre (I might be in that category...) were unaware of the tendency of graphic novels and comics to be part of a series, but since they were attracted to reading about Shakespeare, they learned that about the genre. The multi-dimensional project is in the process of being tranposed into a tablet app that could be used in schools "to help students see that Shakespeare made up some pretty cool characters, and hopefully convince the students to like the characters first and then tackle the language."

I saw Kill Shakespeare as a happy meeting of two very different genres and hope Conor and his cohorts continue to develop creative ways to get classic characters into a larger audience's knowledge base.

Sarah Mason is a contributor to the Florida Book Review.  You can check out FBR's full live blog of the 2012 book fair here.

WLRN is collaborating with the Florida Book Review to cover this year's Miami Book Fair International. Check back all weekend for updates.