What some of you may not know, I and an associate have been doing a panel called Comics: An Underappreciated Form of Literature for the past two years at Boroughcon (new, super small con in New York City.) We’ll be doing it again this year at Xavier High School Comic Con on May 11 (time TBA) so come on by.
The reason I brought up the panel is that last year my associate decided to add a new comic: Kindred, the comic adaptation of Octavia E. Butler’s novel. Problem is, I never read Kindred in any of its forms so she had to all the talking. This year I decided to just read the damn thing to give my two cents.
For those who’ve never read it, Kindred is about Dana, a young black woman living in 1970’s California who mysteriously gets sent back to 1815 Maryland. Here she meets (and saves the life of) Rufus, the son of a plantation owner who apparently has the power to bring Dana back in time whenever he needs her. Without having a clue as to how to go back and forth through time, Dana must now live like a slave in 1819 Maryland.
Yes, this is one of those books where people are sent back in time where they just might die if they do something wrong. The only thing here is that it’s practically guaranteed that Dana will get beaten (which she does) and even die. On top of that, she has ZERO rights and people WILL be her if she looks at them wrong. Butler does a nice job of making Dana, not a complete idiot and actually competent enough to live “normally” in that era.
The thing that ground my gears about this book is Rufus. He’s a whiny spoiled little shit who Dana has to suffer under because he’s the only one with the power to send her back. Butler does a great at making the reader want to whip that brat.
Also, besides the two beatings, she does have it a little easier than the other slaves on the plantation, mainly due to her “not sounding like a nigger” and can read well.
How does the comic adaptation do in terms of telling the story? It does it pretty well. Unlike in novel form, we do get to see Rufus’s face and reactions when he’s acting like a spoiled little shit, the pain on the characters’ faces whenever something bad happens to them and actually seeing Dana getting whipped is a lot more powerful. In our panel, we show a panel that has the right half of Dana’s face and the left half of Rufus’s face together. This is in the climax of the story that basically shows the conflict between these two very different people and it is pretty impactful.
So now that I have read it, all it did was give me more ammunition for me and my associate’s argument that comics can be literature and should be held at that standard. Call me a snob if you want, but I feel that comics have a place and they can be and are so much than what the masses view it as.