Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time served as an important novel for generations of readers, including graphic novelist Hope Larson. So when Larson was asked to adapt the classic, she was understandably intimidated. Not that she let that stop her. Using only three colors, Larson brings L’Engle’s masterpiece to life in a brand new way. Here, we talk with Larson about the challenges of adapting such a well-known work, her thoughts on predicting the future, and why she choose the color blue in her art work.
Bookish: A theme throughout the book is that judging people, objects, and places by sight is a human concept. Mrs. Whatsit even says at one point, “It’s not necessary to see us.” How did illustrating a novel where sight isn’t the key to truly seeing influence your artistic interpretation?
Hope Larson: I wish I could say I had considered anything so profound as I worked on the book! I’m asked a variation of “Why comics?” on a regular basis, and I’ve spent a lot of time mulling over the medium’s strengths so I can defend it. I had an experience at a convention recently that left a strong impression on me: An attendee came to my table, where I was selling books, and told me about how his sister was using A Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic Novel in her class of special needs and autistic kids. Apparently it was very helpful for these kids to see the characters emotions visually represented—they were able to understand the characters’ emotional states visually in a way that they couldn’t when faced with pure prose descriptions of their feelings. It turned out that, in one sense, sight is the key to truly seeing.
Bookish: What inspired you to use just three colors: black, blue, and white?
HL: I chose blue because it’s such a versatile color. A lot of the book takes place at night and in misty, otherworldly locations, so blue was a fitting choice. But honestly, the main factor was cost. It’s a lot cheaper to print a book in black and blue than in full color (cyan, magenta, yellow, and black). Limited color palettes have always resonated with me, though, thanks to my background in printmaking, and I rarely feel that a book is missing something when it’s printed in only two colors—or even just in black and white!
Bookish: What was your first reaction when you found out that you were going to adapt this classic novel?
HL: I thought I must have misread the e-mail! Then I wondered if Madeleine L’Engle was still alive, because I’m not sure I could have handled the pressure of illustrating her work if I felt she was looking over my shoulder.
Bookish: I love the image on page 42 of Meg glaring a literal dagger. Was there one panel or page you found particularly challenging? One you’re most proud of?
HL: The rope-skipping scene on Camazotz was the hardest to convey in a limited amount of pages. That one went through a few revisions. My favorite page is the one where Aunt Beast sings to Meg.
Bookish: In her Newbery Medal Acceptance Speech, which is included in the book, Madeleine L’Engle talks about how you can return to a book a second time and realize something brand new. Did you have that experience when you approached A Wrinkle in Time as an artist rather than a reader?
HL: Definitely! I hadn’t read the book in a few years and it was a lot weirder than I remembered. I always realized, the second time around, that the way I envisioned the characters as a child was not the way L’Engle describes them. It’s fascinating how much you can project your own ideas onto a novel, and I tried to be mindful of that as I worked on my adaptation.
Bookish: What gift do you think you’d receive from Mrs. Whatsit if you were about to embark on a mission to save someone you loved?
HL: Probably my willingness to jump into an endeavor with both feet first. It can be a good thing but it’s also gotten me into a lot of trouble, so this is definitely along the lines of “I give you your faults.”
Bookish: Mrs. Which says humor is the key to dealing with something deadly serious. What books, comics, or graphic novels can always make you laugh?
HL: Anything by Michael Kupperman.
Bookish: Mrs. Whatsit says that if we could predict the future we’d be like the people on Camazotz, where everything is planned and there is no real living. What do you think about that?
HL: I’m an anxious person so I spend a lot of time trying to predict the future, or specifically the worst possible version of the future, so I can “prepare” for it. Even that kind of fantasy future-prediction is a surefire way to stop living in the moment, so I’m in total agreement with Mrs. Whatsit. This is actually my big resolution for 2015: to live in the present, where life actually happens.
Hope Larson is the New York Times bestselling author of six graphic novels, notably her graphic novel adaptation of Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time. Her short comics have been featured on the Op-Ed page of the New York Times and in several anthologies, notably Flight. Hope has been nominated for cartooning awards in the US, Canada and Europe, and is the recipient of a two Eisner Awards and an Ignatz. She holds a BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. When not drawing or writing comics, Hope enjoys hiking, going to the movies, and coffee. A native of Asheville, NC, she currently lives in Los Angeles.