The Colour of Magic: The Graphic Novel
Steven Ross, Scott Rockwell, Vickie Williams & David Campiti
The Discworld series seems the perfect series to adapt into a comic book, the whole world feels like one already. Bursting at the seams with interesting characters spurred on by ridiculous plots with laugh out loud gags every two sentences; it seems like a no brainer, all anyone would have to do is add pictures to the words Pratchett had already laid down. All of this just makes it all the odder that the team behind this graphic novel got it so spectacularly wrong…
The Colour of Magic is Pratchett’s first novel in the series and sees the useless wizard Rincewind tasked with protecting Twoflower, a tourist in Rincewind’s town of Ankh-Morpork who hails from a powerful nation that the Ankh council want to keep on their good side.
Over the course of the book Rincewind and Twoflower find themselves in multiple dangerous scenarios including finding themselves lost in the temple of an ancient demon and battling a clan of dragon riding warriors.
The original book isn’t the best in the series, it still feels like Pratchett is finding his voice, trying out a bunch of different stuff to see what works for him, but the key ingredients of the Discworld series are here, loving parodies of the clichés of the fantasy genre, clever word play and jokes and an underlying sense of the absurd throughout…all of which are missing from the comic.
That’s the main problem with this book, it just isn’t funny. There are jokes, don’t get me wrong, but they seem to come once every ten pages instead of every two sentences and when they do appear, they fall flat, failing completely at capturing Pratchett’s style of humour.
The characters all suffer terribly, Rincewind’s cowardly persona, when sapped of its humour, comes across very poorly, he just has no personality at all.
That said, at least the underlying joke that Rincewind is a coward still rears its head, at least slightly, other characters don’t even get that. A good example is Liessa, the leader of the dragon riders. In the original novel, she is a parody of women in the fantasy genre. She “armours” herself in a remarkably impractical chainmail bikini which is useless at containing her buxom physique let alone providing any actual protection.
She’s a satire of the sexist cliché running through the fantasy genre of women as little more that set decoration, dressed in skimpy outfits for no reason other than titillation.
Here, all of that is removed, there’s no joke about her outfit or its impracticality, she makes no mention of it herself nor do any of the other characters, she’s just a woman in a chainmail bikini. Instead of offering some satire of the cliché, she just becomes another example of it, there to do nothing but titillate.
So the writing does a poor job at capturing Pratchett’s style, but surely some of it remains in the artwork? ….not so much.
Taking a quick glance at the original cover illustrations for the Discworld series by Josh Kirby you immediately get a sense of what the novels will be like. They burst with colour and are cluttered with characters and minute background detail. They’re overly busy, riotous and anarchic, exactly what the Discworld series is like to read. Here, artist Steven Ross’ work is far too stiff, the colours too washed out. He attempts to populate the world with that same anarchy, scenes in Ankh-morpork often feature small background details of people engaged in fights and things like that, but none of the panels ever feel alive.
Not only that, but often, they don’t even do their job of helping tell the story. There were several moments while reading this book where, during a page turn, there was a scene jump with no real explanation as to why.
One example was a scene where a demon attacks Rincewind and Twoflower on the road. Rincewind dispatches of it and in the very next panel under a text box that reads “Sometime later…” Twoflower sits alone on a rock revealing that he is lost, having been separated from Rincewind for several hours. Immediately I checked to make sure I hadn’t accidentally skipped over a few pages but no…in the panel that sees Rincewind kill the demon, there is a tiny background detail of Twoflower’s horse (or, more precisely, the horses head) seemingly bucking up at the threat of the demon. The reader was apparently to read this easily missed detail as evidence that Twoflower’s horse gets startled and carries Twoflower off into the woods for miles until he is totally separated from Rincewind.
This, on its own wouldn’t be an issue but this exact same thing happened at least five times while I read the book, with details linking scenes either minute or missing entirely.
This comic is a sadly missed opportunity. What should have been an easy transition seems to miss the point of the Discworld series entirely, presenting an utterly humourless version of the story that feels like a third-rate generic fantasy tale with nothing to offer. Fans of the novels will be disappointed and newcomers to the series risk being put off continuing. Avoid it.
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