[24 September 2008]
Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series has been around for over 25 years, spawned 36 novels and has been adapted into movies, plays and, yes, even comics. And in celebration of Discworld’s 25th anniversary, Harper Collins reprinted these comics in a special hardcover edition.
For those of you unfamiliar with Discworld, the series is a mixture of science-fiction, fantasy, and comedy. It takes place in a shared universe where the hero of one novel might be a supporting character in the next and the villain in the one after. The Discworld that all the characters live on is a disc is supported by four elephants who stand on the back of a giant turtle that swims through space.
If that last description sounds a little weird or wacky to you, well, welcome to Pratchett’s Discworld. If Monty Python wrote The Lord of the Rings, you might get similar results. Pratchett’s writing is laugh-out-loud funny and he uses these novels to poke fun not only at sci-fi/fantasy conventions but also the world in general. He aims his satiric eye at bureaucracies, politics and society as a whole as well as wizards, warlocks, and barbarians.
As you can imagine, the Discworld novels are tricky ones to adapt into any form, yet beg—almost scream—to make the jump to comic books. Part of the magic of the novels is Pratchett’s witty turns of phrase and the deft way he develops his characters, two aspects often lost when novels are adapted into comic book form, yet the themes and concepts feel right at home in the four-color medium.
This collection reprints the contents of two four-issue miniseries that were published in 1992 and 1993, adapting Pratchett’s first two Discworld novels, The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic. They stand as good, albeit flawed, adaptations.
Both series star Rincewind, a bumbling wizard with a sacred spell accidentally trapped inside his mind. Thrown out of Wizard School, he wants nothing more than to waste his days away at a pub. Unfortunately for him, fate intercedes when Rincewind is forced to become the guide of Twoflower, a tourist from a strategically important island. This results in an epic adventure which eventually leads to Rincewind having to act to save all of Discworld.
The graphic novels capture the wit and humor of the novels quite nicely. Granted, it loses something in the translation, but provides an excellent introduction to Pratchett’s writing. Fans of the novels will enjoy seeing their favorite characters come to life and newcomers should be thoroughly entertained.
This isn’t to say this is a perfect adaptation. It is a bit choppy at times. There are several transitions that are a little too abrupt, there are characters that are not named, and scenes that are truncated a bit too much. And the main character’s robe changes color from one page to the next. These faults result in the comic being more confusing than it needed to be, something which could have been avoided with better editing.
Hiccups aside, all in all these comics capture the spirit and tone of Pratchett’s epic stories quite well, although, as is the case with most adaptations, the novels are better. However, this graphic novel is good enough to make readers want to pick up the original books to find out more.