How do you adapt one of the most famous novels of the 20th century into a graphic novel? Many comic adaptations have come and gone, abridging too much, or failing to capture the flow or energy of the original. Every once in a while though an inspired cartoonist emerges that can do justice to an important literary work. Artist and writer Troy Little is that rare cartoonist. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas #1 captures all the wild mayhem of Thompson’s original novel perfectly. At times channeling Bone artist/writer Jeff Smith’s bold black and white line work, while also capturing the frenetic energy of Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes. It is high praise to be compared to two comic legends, but honestly, Little deserves it, his work is excellent. One of the greatest challenges to overcome in a comic adaptation is content. Do you abridge the comic and write your own shortened version of the book, do you use all of the text and clutter your pages with words? There is definitely a middle ground, somewhere between sacrificing too much of the book, but also substituting words for images. A good comic should be able to tell you a lot of what the words describe through sequential images, so you kind of know what’s going on before you ever read the word bubbles. In Fear and Loathing, Little took a mixed approach. While he does include full paragraphs of Hunter S. Thompson’s inner monolog, he doesn’t let that confine him. The best parts of Fear and Loathing are when Thompson goes off the deep end, ranting about the death of 60s counterculture or whatever, and no comic panel could ever replicate the words that he wrote. So Little decides to keep the majority of the text in place while adding some incredibly cartoony art.
Like I said before fans of Bone, Calvin and Hobbes, and even The Goon will be perfectly at home here. Little’s style is cartoonish but not in a crazy or goofy way. Thompson’s expressions and gestures should appear over the top because that’s the kind of man that he was. Little’s version of Thompson is perfect, he’s wild, out of control, and pretty insane. Despite the characters being depicted as cartoonish, the rest of the comic is not. Little doesn’t let his stylistic choice get in the way of the narrative, and with a jumbo sized 50-page first issue we are able to cover about a third of the novel in one sitting.
Anytime a comic artist is able to successfully adapt a great work of literature it’s a point for the comic industry. Often looked upon as literature’s lowbrow cousin, these attempts at adapting famous fiction to comics are always a good boost of energy for the comic world. This is especially true when someone as good as Little does a book as famous as Fear and Loathing. The bottom line is that if you like Hunter S. Thompson you should grab this version before re-reading your old novel, you might just find that it’s even more fun.
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Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas #1 Writer/Artist: Troy Little Publisher: IDW/Top Shelf Price: $3.99 Release Date: 5/25/16 Format: Mini-Series; Print/Digital