READ: ‘Kindred’ Graphic Novel Illustrator on the Difficulty of Adapting the Classic Book

By Sameer Rao Jan 06, 2017

Illustrator John Jennings offered insight into his and Damian Duffy‘s forthcoming graphic novel adaptation of Octavia Butler‘s "Kindred" in a new interview with Fabulize Magazine.

Butler’s celebrated 1979 novel focuses on a Black woman who time travels to antebellum Maryland, where she encounters her enslaved and slave-owning ancestors and fights to survive the plantation community’s brutal violence. Jennings explained that adpating the novel’s intense subject matter took its occasional toll. 

"When she figures out she has time-travelled and she is trying to save her ancestors and she’s faced with the slave catchers," he said, describing the novel’s second chapter. "It was painful to read, so imagine trying to articulate that in a visual interpretation. It affected me so much I started crying on the actual page I was drawing. I had to put it off, it was almost the very last part I worked on."

Jennings is Black and long-time collaborator Duffy is White. In the interview, Jennings affirmed his belief that White comic authors can create complex characters of color "if you actually care about your characters and do research and respect the culture."

The graphic novel clocks in at about 100 fewer pages than Butler’s original. "We had to cut out a few things, but for the most part, we have all the story," Jennings said in the interview, which was published online on January 4. "You can get more depth in writing, but a picture is worth a thousand words. All of ‘Kindred’ is there, you get the ‘Kindred’ experience."

The "Kindred" graphic novel will be available on January 10 through Abrams Comic Arts.