... Karen Wenborn on Classical Literature, comics and the Tipping Point
The company is now two years old. Our first book Henry V, was published a year ago. The founder (and Chairman) is Clive Bryant, who had the idea for the series. To quote Clive 'Neither Karen or I have a publishing background, but we're both strong businesspeople, and are probably overly enthusiastic about books, literacy and education. Jo comes from a print background, so we rely on her to make sure the end product is right.'
2006 in a bar, somewhere in London, Clive Bryant was explaining a new business
idea to a friend. On the train journey to the city, he'd been reading "The
Tipping Point" by Malcolm Gladwell, and was inspired by the notion of a zero
tolerance to crime having a dramatically positive effect on the streets of New
York. On reading the book, the question came immediately to mind, "Would
people behave in an antisocial way, if they appreciated fine literature?"
It was a chicken-and-egg question; certainly some people would disregard such
literature regardless of the circumstances.
However, the thrust of "The Tipping Point" is that the balance changes once a critical point is reached; there is no need to "convert" everyone, only the need to convert enough people for the rest to follow. So, how to create that appreciation? Surely it starts at school?
Ask teenagers their opinion on Shakespeare, Dickens and Brontë, and the vast majority will answer back with a number of variations on the word "boring"; and that is the major hurdle to overcome: turning "boring" into "cool".
Theres more on this subject on our website (Link: http://www.classicalcomics.com/press/aboutus.html)
Actually it is split 50/50 at the moment between 'normal' bookshop sales and education sales. Because of the pioneering three text versions of Shakespeare (two text versions for other classics) the books work incredibly well in the classroom. We also produce teachers resources providing exercises that cover a variety of curriculum topics. These are VERY popular with teachers. It is great that any child, whatever their reading level, can access the classics this way.
We 'tested' the format on a numbers of readers (and a lot of children). And every child said that the books HAD to be in full colour. TV is, video games are - so why would they want to read books in black and white? We took their point!!
Well, Shakespearean English is beyond the reach of most 10 year olds (that's when we start teaching The Bard in schools), in fact an awful lot of adults find that having to 'translate' as well as grasp the story is offputting. This way, anyone can start with Quick Text (which is simplified English and has around half the wordcount of Original and Plain Text) and then understand the story. Having done that, moving to Original Text allows those readers to fully appreciate the beauty of his language.
With the other classics, such as Dickens and Shelly, we felt that the English was close enough to today's usage for most people to understand. So we produce two versions, Original and Quick Text.
Oh, we have a full list! We'd love to have the full range out now, but as each title takes between 15 and 26 months, it is a slow process. Coming next year we have Great Expectations, followed by The Tempest, Romeo and Juliet, Dracula and The Canterville Ghost. We have Wuthering Heights, An Inspector Calls, Richard III, Hamlet, Julius Caesar, Sweeney Todd and the Importance of Being Earnest all in production.
Ah! Being a newcomer to the world of comics and graphic novels, I don't feel qualified to answer that one! But as to history - yes, using drawings to illustrate text is as old as books themselves! In fact we did start to 'write-down' stories by using pictures before we'd got around to alphabets. I can recommend everyone to start at this site and go from there http://inventors.about.com/od/cstartinventions/a/comics.htm