There was a time when comic books were considered nothing more than childish distractions, as opposed to literature. The celebration of comics as a viable artistic medium is a fairly recent development in literary circles. But certain writers knew from the very beginning that comic books could be imaginative, highly literary pursuits, capitalizing on the use of visual rhetoric and publishing marketable, extended series. In fact, some of the biggest names in the literary world have already made their mark on the comic book landscape. Here are seven novelists who ventured into comic book writing, before it was cool.
James Patterson’s young adult series Maximum Ride has been adapted multiple times, most recently as a Marvel comic. However, the author personally adapted his book for a magna series by Yen Press. While a popular YA novel in its own right, the manga has its fair share of fans, especially as one of the first manga to be published originally in English.
Stephen King wrote a comic book spin-off of his popular Dark Tower series, but his first foray into a proper comic was writing with Scott Snyder on American Vampire. A wholly original vampire story by Scott Snyder, King came on board to write part of the first five issues. King probably found favorable material in Snyder’s story about an American form of vampire with different powers and legends than their European counterparts. That’s something the American-centric King is all too familiar with.
A MacArthur fellow, Lethem was always a comic book fan. It took until 2007 for him to work with Marvel comics on a collaborative revival of the character, “Omega the Unknown”. Nominated for Best Limited Series in the 2009 Eisner Awards, “Omega the Unknown” is a strange pastiche of a work that combines literary sensibilities with trippy illustrations.
Marjorie Liu originally found herself working with Marvel on an X-Men novel, Dark Mirror, before writing the X-23 series. While X-23 was created for the X-Men Evolution animated television show the female clone of Wolverine proved to be a breakout character. Liu first wrote for the character in the spinoff NYX, before having her own series. X-23 is currently the new Wolverine, but it’s thanks to Liu that we know the character as she is now.
Famed Canadian author and godmother of sci-fi, Margaret Atwood also dabbled in creating her own adorable comics. Mostly autobiographical, Atwood depicts a stylized version of herself as she attempts to deal with the day-to-day of being Margaret Atwood. These comics, a few of which she posts on her personal website, are all delightful and worth a serious gander. Atwood’s first graphic novel, Angel Catbird, will be released by Dark Horse Comics.
Famous in college dorms everywhere as the author of Fight Club, Palahniuk announced that he would be writing the sequel to his cult-famous novel in the form of a comic book. A hugely meta series, Palahniuk even inserts himself into the sequel as the writer coming up with the story while it’s being written. It’s a little trippy, but it contains all the nihilistic aggression of his original novel.
Critically acclaimed author and journalist, Ta-Nehisi Coates made his comic book debut earlier this year with the relaunch of Black Panther. Amid the racial tension of America, and the emergence of movements such as Black Lives Matter, Coates set out to tackle and unravel the meaning behind Marvel’s iconic black superhero. His first issue sold out immediately across stores, and is one of the most powerful debuts for any character in recent memory, combining political strife and deep characterizations.