Tuesday, 19 April 2011


how did you get involved in working for Classical Comics?

I can’t really remember how I got involved with working for Classical Comics. I think Karen Wenborn e-mailed me, but I was in hospital recovering after a serious nosebleed where I lost 5 pints of blood. I called her, but I was speaking funny on the phone, as my nose and throat were plugged up. Anyway, she must’ve understood me, because I got the job.

how difficult has it been adapting the Shakespeare plays to a graphic novel format?

On the one hand, adapting Shakespeare for Classical Comics is easier than adapting books, because Classical Comics do the full, unabridged text, so you don’t have to decide what has to be cut. On the other hand, translating the Shakespearean dialogue to modern English can be tricky, you can’t go for too literal a translation, because that would sound a bit cheesy, so you have to re-phrase, without losing the essential meaning and beauty of Shakespeare’s words.

what has been your approach with the writing, did you study the movies or see live performances before starting hamlet?

Yes, I watched Mel Gibson’s Hamlet before I started work on the play and attended some stage performances. I’ve always been a fan of Shakespeare and I’m a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company (not a performing member, of course).

how long did it take to do the written adaption of hamlet?

Hamlet took in excess of three months to adapt, as far as I can remember. It’s Shakespeare’s longest play and there’s also a play within a play. I tried to keep the rhyming iambic pentameter where possible and also the other metrical lines used by Shakespeare – some very complicated in this play. The Plain Text version took the longest amount of time because of the translation required.

have you a favourite scene in the play?

My favourite scene in the play is Scene 1 of Act 3, not because it contains the famous “To be or not to be” soliloquy, but because of Ophelia. I’ve always thought Ophelia to be the most interesting character in the play (also Scene 5 of Act 4 – the “mad” scene).

have you been surprised how well the plays have worked as graphic novels plus the critic reaction on the whole being very positive from actors to reviewers?

I am delighted with the critical acclaim the graphic novels have received – winning IPPY awards and a Distinguished Achievement Award. It’s great for the graphic novel medium and for literature in general.

lastly what advice would you give to a young writer starting out?

My advice to young writers starting out is to find another profession. It’s a hard road, unless you’re very lucky or you have insider connections. But, if you’re determined and you have a hard neck and thick skin, then nothing will stop you. As Lillian Hellman once said “If I had to give young writers advice, I’d say don’t listen to writers talking about writing”.

thank you John for the interview, i hope this has been another little insight into the workings of producing Hamlet the graphic novel by Classical Comics

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