Q&A #66: What literary figure/character should star in a comic?

In Q & A, a weekly feature of Fantastic Fangirls, we ask our staff to tackle a simple question — then open the floor to comments:

What literary figure/character should star in a comic?


I absolutely love the story of Anna Leonowens. I first encountered her in the musical The King and I, I’ve read the Margaret Landon novel and some of Anna’s own writings, and I adore the film with Jodie Foster. I’ve also read up on the opposition to the story, the people in Thailand who decry the treatment by Ms. Leonowens as an unfair and untruthful portrayal of their renowned king by a silly, self-important woman wanting to draw attention. I find all of it utterly fascinating.

The truth is likely somewhere in between Anna’s memoir and Thailand’s anger, and sadly, lost to history. But as the various versions have attracted artist and audience alike for these many years, it cannot be denied that Anna and the King both are characters worthy of starring roles. In the best case scenario it would be a retelling that draws its story from all the points of view available — maybe it starts with a production of The King and I and an intrepid stage manager wants to discover the real story so she goes to library. But she falls into the book and becomes Anna! And she has to figure a way back without letting anyone know she’s not Anna and also discover the true story since she IS there already after all and as she really wanted to be the star all along and not the stage manager this is the chance of a lifetime and . . .er, right. But. Even if it is only the story we know told again, I already love that comic.


This question was inspired by the debut of the comic book series Kill Shakespeare, in which a number of the Bard’s characters — most notably, Hamlet — team up to, well, kill him. It’s a pretty cool concept, but there are number of reasons I didn’t think the first issue worked very well. I won’t get into all of them, here, but I suspect a big part of the problem is the character of Hamlet. Don’t get me wrong, within the play, he’s a great character, but he’s also rather notable for not doing much of anything. It’s hard to take Hamlet out of the particular context of Hamlet and have the character mean much of anything, except possibly in a comedic way. (Kill Shakespeare does not, unfortunately, seem to mean much of anything in a comedic way, even when it probably should).

On the other hand, there are Shakespearean characters I feel like are dying to burst off the page and get into the metafictional action. For example:

Now, technically, Henry V was a historical figure, an actual King of England.

But the Henry I have in mind is Shakespeare’s specific incarnation of the character, who first shows up as the hard-drinking, fun-loving (but secretly ambitious) Prince Hal of Henry IV, Part I. Hal basically spends two whole plays waiting for his dad to die so that he can ascend to greatness and go on to star in Henry V. There’s a lot of room in that time period for the drunken adventures of Hal and his friends and peers (Falstaff, Hotspur, etc), and it seems pretty self-evident to me that if the King could keep Hal out of his hair by providing him with (oh, just for instance) a time machine that he could use to run around picking up other literary and quasi-historical characters to have adventures with, this would need to happen.



Michael Chabon loves superheroes.

Matt Fraction loves Michael Chabon.

Therefore, it would be in the best interest of all parties involved — including fans who, like me, love both of them — for Matt Fraction to write Michael Chabon into a comic book. Preferably one in which he’s a superhero.

Make it happen, world.


I’m a bit stumped. Bendis already created the noir heroine I always wanted when he made Jessica Jones in Alias. Alan Moore developed a number of literary figures I like in his series League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Skottie Young is doing a great job bringing the world of Oz to life on the page. And the works of Jane Austen are in comics these days. So I’m left with the Algonquin Round Table.


Dorothy Parker. Robert Benchley. Tallulah Bankhead. Ruth Hale. Jane Grant. Harpo Marx. George Kaufman. Did I mention Dorothy Parker? I’d love a biographical comic devoted to the doings of the Vicious Circle, full of wit and drunken escapades, bad ideas and worse relationships. Give me Dorothy Parker in a comic — I would absolutely buy that.

If I don’t drive around the park,
I’m pretty sure to make my mark.
If I’m in bed each night by ten,
I may get back my looks again,
If I abstain from fun and such,
I’ll probably amount to much,
But I shall stay the way I am,
Because I do not give a damn.

Observation, Dorothy Parker, 1925

What literary figure/character should star in a comic?

  • Caroline

    I actually used to get pictures of Matt Fraction & Michael Chabon mixed up and I’ve MET both of them. (I hope they would both take that as a compliment).

    I love all these suggestions. <3 Anna, and getting the different perspectives in there would add a lot of depth and make it feel like a new story. And yes, very much, to the Algonquins. There's already sort of a visual style in the cartoons from that era, and I'm thinking someone like Steve Rolston (maybe not HIM but that style) could really do it justice.

    You know, Kate Beaton probably HAS written most of these comics.

  • Dan

    I’d kill for a Nero Wolfe comic. I know they had a newspaper strip back in the day, but I don’t think they ever did an actual monthly comic.

    I also think that James Rollins’ Sigma Force novels–about a top secret team of soldier-scientists–are pretty much screaming to be comic books.

  • I would totally read all of these comics, especially the last one. Dorothy Parker is my mom’s favorite poet, and I became fascinated with her and her circle through a 9th grade research paper.

  • I love Caroline & Sigrid’s ideas. Henry V was always one of my favorite Shakespearean kings; even an alt history comic would be fun to read. And there really should be some graphic novel about the Wicked Circle’s adventures. This is a case where “they sit around a table and talk” would not only work, but style and flair and extremely well dressed. I’d add in the Lost Generation in Paris in that same vein.

    For my choice, it’d be Gloriana, Elizabeth I. I’ve always been fascinated by her life and history. It’s not hard to come up with a plot filled with intrigue and espionage.

  • Caroline

    @Julia Oooh. You’ve read ‘1602,’ right? (Not that it’s a particularly great Elizabeth story, but it does interesting stuff with Marvel characters in that era).

  • Just out of curiosity, has there ever been a Princess Bride comic book?

  • Selena

    Since Truman Capote actually already appeared in a comic book of his own: Aphra Behn. Molly Brown wrote a great novel about this Restoration writer (the first woman to earn her living with her pen in the English language – earlier female poets were nobility and thus not reliant on an income from writing) as a detective, “Invitation to a Funeral”, and Aphra, always short of money, good at observation (she also worked as a spy for Charles II for a awhile, in real life) and knowing all stations from debtor’s prisons to court, made a great detective. Plus Restoration England should be fun to draw.

  • sigrid

    @Selena Thank you for that information! I name all of my computers after female information brokers. This newest one is named after Gertrude Bell, for her work in the Middle East. But Aphra, a writer AND a spy, shall likely be my next computer’s name!

  • xenokattz

    I know there must be at least one Anne of Green Gables GN but y’know what I’d love to see? Anne Shirley: Mutant. She’s an orphan, no one really likes her ’cause she’s too smart and weird things happen when she’s around. She’s adopted by a brother & sister to help around the farm & they all discover her powers. But I’d like to keep it more about the daily life in Avonlea rather than Big Epic Action. Just like life went on despite Anne’s shenanigans, life will go on despite of her power. Her power being telepathy & telekinesis.

    Yes, Anne Shirley is Jean Grey’s ancestor. 😉

  • Selena

    Sigrid – to quote Virginia Woolf: “All women together ought to let flowers fall upon the tomb of Aphra Behn, which is, most scandalously but rather appropriately, in Westminster Abbey, for it was she who earned them the right to speak their minds. It is she–shady and amorous as she was–who makes it not quite fantastic for me to say to you tonight: Earn five hundred a year by your wits.”

    Two useful links for you:



  • lilacsigil

    sadly, lost to history.

    Actually, a quick google will give you all sorts of useful information on Anna Leonowens and how much she made up! There’s a book called “The King of Siam Speaks” written in the 1940s by Thai writers talking about the myths and inaccuracies of Leonowens’ books and the books based on her accounts; King Mongkut was a scholar and monk as well as a king, and has left many writings of his own, as well as an extremely well-documented reign, as the colonial powers (particularly the UK, France and Japan) were all vying for control in the area.

  • Anika: I think I would be a lot more interested in the Anika’s comic from the PoV of a Thai person, perhaps a descendant of King Rama IV. Though I doubt Leonowens would come off very well there.

    I know you said that she read up on it, but I remain puzzled as to how you can say that the truth is “lost in history” when there’s a fairly epic amount of documentation by Thai writers and foreign visitors that contradict Leonowens’ books. I tend to think that the hundreds of historians writing about their own culture and history tend to outweigh the two books by a white Christian missionary. This isn’t the faceless anger of a monolithic nation, but the reasoned debates of individual academics and leaders attempting to achieve an accurate representation of their own history.

    So, I’m not really sure how adding another white woman’s POV would do much for such a hugely problematic story which has already so heavily privileged a colonial view of Asian politics.

    Sigrid: I would read the heck out of any and all comics staring Dorothy Parker.

  • @lilacsigil & muccamukk — Thanks, sincerely, for those comments. I admit I did not know anything about Anna beyond seeing the movies when I was quite a bit younger. I really appreciate that perspective.

  • Anika

    @Muccamukk Maybe I was too flippant in my phrasing — I also had written a bit more about how I realize that the movie (for example) is not the *truth* but neither would a comic be (even historical fiction that would be considered more accurate than this is still fiction) but I took it out, maybe I should have kept it or have been more clear so it would not come off that way (flippant).

    I have for a long while wanted to see the story told from the Thai perspective (a movie based on the book @lilacsgirl mentioned maybe? I have not read it but as she explained.) — ever since I read a webpage by Thai students about that movie (when it came out) and why it was wrong. I agree that their perspective on their history far outweighs Leonowens or certainly mine (which doesn’t carry any weight at all) I’m sorry if it seemed I was discounting it, that wasn’t my intention.

  • Since Shakespeare was mentioned, I can’t help but wish the entire universe of “Macbeth” was featured in comics. It’s a fantastic story, and you have truly powerful characters like Lady Macbeth and the witches.

  • Oooh, I like this conversation topic, and shall delurk for the purpose. Hello. :)

    Horatio Hornblower would be my top choice. The movies ended before all the really fantastic stuff began, and I’d love to see him depicted in comic form.

    I’d also love to see anyone from Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series. The book world would look amazing under the right pen.

  • Caroline

    @The Uranian — There are Macbeth elements in ‘Kill Shakespeare,’ but it’s hard to tell too much from the one issue that has come out so far, which is why I haven’t written a full-on review yet; I’m sure I will for the trade, though. Anyway, excellent idea. There is so much you could do with Macbeth’s world.

    @Chantall — I love those ideas! Did you catch ‘Fantastic Four: True Story’ by Paul Cornell? It was a Marvel miniseries that used some of the ideas from the Thursday Next series, I think.

  • Jen’s Mom

    Sigrid, I would absolutely read this. As Jen said I love Dorothy Parker. This would actually get me to read comics. :-)

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