An Ominous Ethos - Standouts of Dystopian Fiction

Comic book adaptations reign over the movie screens these days, as every popular superhero has seemingly been translated to film. While these campy blockbusters have done very well in terms of revenue, there are other book adaptations making waves in the film industry for their potential creativity. 

Graphic novels - book-length stories told in comic book style, have become increasingly popular in the last decade due to the string of successful movie adaptations. Commonly known movies, like V for Vendetta, Watchmen, and Ghost in the Shell, all began as dystopian graphic novels. This genre of comics has translated well to the big screen in recent years, and with the newly released “Ghost in the Shell” starring Scarlett Johansson, this trend of dystopian style movies looks to be continuing.

The three graphic novels mentioned above are prime examples of dystopian style comics that possess the ability to appeal to a broad audience.

Watchmen, a graphic novel released by DC Comics in 1986 and 1987, creates a world in which superheroes reveal themselves to the public in order to win the Vietnam War, leading to an alternate timeline where the Watergate Scandal never occurred. The novel picks up with the main characters at a time when most superheroes have retired or receded from the public eye. The main plot line follows a group of superheroes pulled out of retirement to aid a government investigation. The series received critical acclaim and is one of the most famous graphic novels of all time. While the movie didn’t perform up to expectations money-wise, the film did receive acclaim for its adaptation of the comic series. 

Ghost in the Shell, first published in 1989, is technically under the genre of Japanese manga, but exists as one of the most prominent dystopian graphic novels. The series tells the story of a fictional counter-cyber terrorist organization called Public Security Section 9 set in a hypermodern Japan. The stories often involve military and government figures within the organization fighting against terrorist attempts. The dystopian series was recently released in movie theaters with high expectations. The series was originally adapted for film in 1995 and its critical success is one of the main reasons that many Americans even know about the franchise. There have also been television adaptations, in addition to new story lines being introduced in the mid 2000s.

The third notable dystopian graphic novel to discuss is V for Vendetta. The British series, originally published through DC comics, is set in a dystopian and post-apocalyptic world. The first editions of the series, published in 1982 and 1985, tell the story of an anarchist in Britain fighting against those in power. His character is defined by the purpose of taking down those who wrong others or are immoral in their decisions. The series was adapted to film in 2006 with Natalie Portman playing the main character, opposite Hugo Weaving, playing V. The graphic series is known for its dark tones and storylines. It's also the most gruesome and violent of the three novels discussed here.

As graphic novels continue to increase in popularity throughout the United States, their presence will grow throughout proper mediums as well. An increasing number of comic series are being placed in libraries around the country because of the sizable amount of teens and youths that are interested in reading them. With this new presence, graphic novels also are changing the culture around their place in the literary world. Once considered merely a comic book on the level of Garfield, these novels are now rightfully being seen as important additions and creative diversions. 

Graphic novels have a distinct advantage in comparison to most common literature. These books are able to combine the best parts of a comic book - the engaging pictures, with the length, depth and plot line of a real novel. Watchmen, Ghost in the Shell, and V for Vendetta, are all examples of how an interesting dystopian story can exist in the setting of a graphic novel and still bring the same impact as any other piece of literature.