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Middlemarch picture-story in annual? 
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Joined: Fri Aug 11, 2017 3:45 am
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Hello everyone, newbie here.

I remember having an annual with a picture-story version of Middlemarch by George Eliot. It was a great introduction to what later came to be my favourite classic novel - in particular it made me fall in love with the characters of Dorothea Brooke and Will Ladislaw and their story!

I read girls' comics (Judy, Mandy, Bunty) in the mid-to-late 80s and was often given annual for Christmas during this period but I also bought a number of older annuals from jumble sales and the like, and I think the one with Middlemarch in was probably one of those, possibly from the 1970s rather than the 80s.

Based on the research I have done so far on the internet, the annual could well have been one of the "Princess Tina" series since the contents listed for some issues of Princess Tina advertised for sale online include simplified versions of other classic novels including Silas Marner, and some of the other stories listed in those annuals also sound familiar (Chairman Cherry, The Happy Days etc.)

So I wonder whether anyone knows which annual Middlemarch appeared in? I'd love to see it again with the benefit of hindsight, and am particularly intrigued as to how they managed to adapt such a complex story into what was presumably only a few pages.

Thanks very much in advance!


Fri Aug 11, 2017 8:38 pm
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I'm pretty sure it was a Princess or Princess Tina annual. I'll see if I've still got a copy.


Fri Aug 11, 2017 11:10 pm
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Thanks very much!


Sat Aug 12, 2017 1:27 am
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...Got it! It's in the Princess Gift Book for Girls 1972: the entire novel condensed into a 12 page comic strip! :) I'll try to post a scan when I get chance but this is the cover.


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Sat Aug 12, 2017 2:27 am
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Fantastic - thanks for getting back to me so quickly!

I'm quite intrigued as to how they managed to condense a 900-page Victorian novel into 12 pages of comic strips! :D

BTW I really think these comic versions of classic literature, along with TV adaptations, are a great way to introduce these things to children and teenagers. It's a pity there aren't more of them!


Sat Aug 12, 2017 5:48 pm
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yardvaark wrote:
Fantastic - thanks for getting back to me so quickly!

I'm quite intrigued as to how they managed to condense a 900-page Victorian novel into 12 pages of comic strips! :D

BTW I really think these comic versions of classic literature, along with TV adaptations, are a great way to introduce these things to children and teenagers. It's a pity there aren't more of them!

Yes, it would help broaden children's experiences with literature if there were more of these around. The annuals also had Black Beauty and The Mayor of Casterbridge. A bit shocking, a man selling his own wife, even for those times. The only mitigation was that he did it because he was drunk, and he swore off alcohol once he realised his error but it was too late to fix it.


Sun Aug 13, 2017 12:12 am
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Here are a couple of pages from the Middlemarch adaptation. Clearly there is no room for the novel's famous digressions on Saint Theresa or the Pier-Glass metaphor - just the bare bones of plot and character. Nevertheless I think I prefer this approach as a way of getting young people to seek out the original. By contrast the American Classics Illustrated comics tended to be used for book reports by all too many students who couldn't be bothered to read a 'proper' book at all!


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Last edited by philcom55 on Mon Aug 14, 2017 1:04 pm, edited 2 times in total.

Mon Aug 14, 2017 12:50 pm
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...Incidentally, if Middlemarch seems like an ambitious subject to cover in a 12-page comic strip it's worth noting that a subsequent Princess Tina Annual managed to cram the whole of War and Peace into just 13 pages! :)


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Mon Aug 14, 2017 1:00 pm
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Very interesting - thank you!

Dorothea, Celia and Mr. Casaubon are just how I remembered them from the picture-story but I had wrongly remembered Will as being depicted with light-coloured curly hair, as he is in the book, so I was quite surprised to see him here looking just a little menacing with long sideburns (which often seems to be the mark of a menacing character in comics!).

There was a BBC TV adaptation of Middlemarch in 1994 which also didn't go into any of the more philosophical and psychological aspects of the book - this must be nigh-on impossible to do in a visual medium, particularly when you don't even have the benefit of explanatory panels and think-bubbles! Nonetheless, it was well done and in particular conveyed Eliot's sympathy for Casaubon rather than just depicting him as a pedant and an obstacle to Dorothea's happiness. I suppose many of us who've worked in academic or literary fields (probably including Eliot herself) have been afraid at one time or another of turning into Mr. Casaubon!

Did the picture-story also include the Lydgate/Rosamond and Fred/Mary plots? I am assuming not, with only 12 pages to go at. The plots are mostly reasonably independent of one another except for Dr. Lydgate's treating Casaubon, and the misunderstanding near the end resulting from Rosamond's flirtation with Will. Did the picture-story authors include that or did they just say 'Dorothea and Will decided that Casaubon's will didn't matter and that they were going to get married anyway', I wonder?

That's quite impressive trying to fit War and Peace into 13 pages, but I do like the way they have drawn the characters, particularly Pierre.


Mon Aug 14, 2017 5:12 pm
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Thanks all for the info. about classic story adaptations in comics. But Tammyfan mentions wishing there were more of them, and there are. Look & Learn published a lot of balloon strip and text strip adaptations of great stories. The Red Badge of Courage in 8 pages might take a bit of beating :) The Classics Illustrated version
takes up about 50 pages!
Also, and always near the top of my favourite great story adaptations are the D.D. Watkins versions of Kidnapped, Treasure Island, Robinson Crusoe and Oliver Twist. So good.


Mon Aug 14, 2017 6:03 pm
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I'd never heard of the Classics Illustrated series, but from what I see on Wikipedia it is US-based and so I'm not sure whether it's also available in the UK. It's over 20 years since I was at school and in the market for such things and I don't have children myself so I could be a little out of the loop.

I suppose there will always be students who use TV adaptations, SparkNotes, comics etc. as cribs. In a way, making students read certain books could give them the impression that reading (particularly 'serious' books rather than comics, sci-fi or whatever they actually enjoy reading) is something that you have to do out of duty, and not something that anyone would voluntarily engage in unless they were forced to. If the comics or adaptations spark the students' imaginations and prompt them to seek out the original books, as happened in my case with Middlemarch, then that's surely a good thing? Making the jump from children's and YA books to classic literature is hard, even for children who enjoy reading, and needs a certain amount of motivation. I remember spending a summer holiday struggling through Jane Eyre, the first classic book I tackled, and finding it very frustrating. I simply couldn't relate to the characters and was mystified as to what Jane saw in Mr. Rochester! Even now I find the characters in Middlemarch much more sympathetic and relatable.


Mon Aug 14, 2017 6:32 pm
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As seen in this page the Middlemarch adaptation does include Dr. Lydgate and Rosamond to the extent that their story impinges on that of Dorothea and Will, but little more than that. As you surmise Fred and Mary are cut out altogether. I do agree that the original novel presents a surprisingly sympathetic view of Casaubon, in spite of the cruel will he leaves behind. To my mind the really tragic aspect of his life is the dawning realization that, for all his learning, he is simply incapable of completing his life's work.

As far as comic strip versions of classic works of literature are concerned it's worth remembering that in recent years the British publisher Classical Comics have followed their Shakespeare titles with some excellent novel adaptations - particularly Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre which feature beautiful artwork by John Burns. On the whole, though, series such as Classics Illustrated and Look & Learn tended to concentrate on works like Treasure Island and the Three Musketeers which featured more of an action/adventure content and might therefore appeal more to boys. The thing I like about those Princess and Princess Tina annuals is the way in which they introduced their predominantly female readers to some really unexpected choices - for example an adaptation of Gustave Flaubert's Salammbô in the 1969 Princess Annual!


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Mon Aug 14, 2017 8:34 pm
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Salammbô is indeed rather obscure. I haven't read it myself but Wikipedia describes it as "largely an exercise in sensuous and violent exoticism" and according to the summary it involves crucifixion, torture and child sacrifice, which doesn't make it sound like an obvious candidate for an adaptation for pre-teen girls! Presumably they must have toned down the gruesomeness.

Thanks for the tip about the Classical Comics - they could make good presents for some small friends of mine in a few years' time :)


Tue Aug 15, 2017 2:36 am
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Yardvaark, the Classics Illustrated did start off in America but moved lock, stock and barrel to Europe in the mid-1960s. You can find plenty of issues on the UK version of Ebay.

As to comics adaptations of books, you also have The Stainless Steel Rat books in 2000AD. There were also the adaptations of Kidnapped and Jekyll and Hyde by Alan Grant and Cam Kennedy 10 years ago for the Edinburgh Citywide Reading Campaign.

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Tue Aug 15, 2017 7:39 am
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There was a superb adaptation of Lorna Doone in Princess. Illustrated by Ron Embleton in full colour. Anyone who knows Ron's work can visualise how beautiful it looked. It should be reprinted in a special edition.


Tue Aug 15, 2017 11:25 am
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