While a lot of attention in the first few months of 2017 has focused on Butler’s eerily prescient Parable of the Sower (which was just reissued by Seven Stories Press with stunning cover art), readers are also encouraged to pick up this graphic novel adaptation. Butler’s tale of Dana, a woman of color in the mid-1970s who is repeatedly involuntarily transported to the antebellum South, and the ways in which her experience there are shaped by her skin color, is brought vividly and viscerally to life by the team of Duffy and Jennings. Recommended.
About the Author
Octavia Estelle Butler (1947–2006), often referred to as the “grand dame of science fiction,” was born in Pasadena, California, on June 22, 1947. She received an Associate of Arts degree in 1968 from Pasadena City College, and also attended California State University in Los Angeles and the University of California, Los Angeles. Butler was the first science-fiction writer to win a MacArthur Fellowship (“genius” grant). She won the PEN Lifetime Achievement Award and the Nebula and Hugo Awards, among others.
John Jennings is Associate Professor of Visual Studies at SUNY-Buffalo and has written several works on African-American comics creators. His research is concerned with the topics of representation and authenticity, visual culture, visual literacy, social justice, and design pedagogy. He is an accomplished designer, curator, illustrator, cartoonist, and award-winning graphic novelist. His work overlaps into various disciplines including American Studies, African American Studies, Design History, Media Studies, Sociology, Women and Gender Studies, and Literature.
Damian Duffy, cartoonist, writer, and comics letterer, is a PhD student in the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Graduate School of Library and Information Science, and a founder of the Eye Trauma Comix collective (eyetrauma.net). His first published graphic novel, The Hole: Consumer Culture, created with artist John Jennings, was released by Front 40 Press in 2008. Along with Jennings, Duffy has curated several comics art shows, including Other Heroes: African American Comics Creators, Characters, and Archetypes and Out of Sequence: Underrepresented Voices in American Comics, and published the art book Black Comix: African American Independent Comics Art & Culture. Duffy has also published academic essays in comics form about curation, new media, diversity, and critical pedagogy.
"A glorious tribute to Octavia Butler’s masterpiece. Extraordinary."
— Junot Díaz
"Kindred is a perfect candidate for the graphic-novel medium—Damian Duffy’s taut adaptation and John Jennings’s tense, electric renderings vibrate throughout, pacing and containing, then pushing every ounce of discomfort to the forefront. Comics and science fiction exploit their greatest shared strength by illuminating the mundane that surrounds us, allowing any reader to critique and process our world with new vision."
— Nate Powell
"Wonderful. Captures the essence of Octavia Butler’s vision even as it demonstrates the superlative skills of Duffy and Jennings."
— Nalo Hopkinson
The timeliness of this release is important to note, as it revitalizes unresolved discussions around what it means to be a woman of color in America. Plus, the sense of frantic movement created by the artists’ colorful, layered outlines is a very cool touch.
"Together, Duffy and Jennings manage to condense Kindred into 240 pages that are respectful of Butler’s original work while also feeling like a distinctly new story at the same time. In exchange for some of Butler’s scene descriptions, the book offers up a richly rendered, raw take on Dana’s experience, heavy with thick lines and blurred movement conveying her existential disorientation."
"Butler’s original novel is a powerful commentary on how the past informs the present and how we engage with both. But this adaptation makes an even more vivid statement about black Americans’ relationship with history. The kinetic lines feel urgent, messy, and visceral. The colors for scenes set in the present are muted while the colors of the past are vibrant, almost like a bright wake-up call to reality."
"This graphic novel adaptation beautifully retells the story…"
"This adaptation of the classic science fiction/neo-slave narrative novel by Octavia E. Butler is required reading."
"The heavily shaded, thick-lined, and rough edged art lends a grimness appropriate to a life of jagged brutality and fearful uncertainty. Both a rewarding way to reexperience the tale and an accessible way to discover it. "
"It’s gorgeous, powerful, and makes you realize how resonant this sci fi story, about a young black woman living in 1970s California who’s transported to the South in the period before the Civil War, really is."
"The story lends itself well to the medium, which makes it easy for writers to contrast narration with dialogue… According to a 2015 survey of Comic-Con attendees, half of comic fans under 30 are women. In graphic novel format, Kindred provides a voice that can resonate with those readers."
“While Kindred was released nearly 40 years ago, its exploration of black womanhood and afrofuturism proves to be as relevant today as it was then. And now, with the added imagery, the graphic novel certainly isn’t short on capturing the same sentiment as the original.“
“The violence is wrenching at times, but never over the top; what’s more disturbing, ultimately, is seeing this story through the eyes of someone who has been rendered powerless by the society around her.”
"The book stays close to the original, with Duffy reproducing Butler’s matter-of-fact-to-the-point-of-bleakness prose, and Jennings turning in moody, expressive, woodcut-influenced illustrations that look hacked out of, or into, the past.”
“This dead-on retelling of Octavia E. Butler's 1979 sci-fi novel is intense, heart-stopping, thought-provoking, and powerful…”
"Nearly four decades after its original printing, Kindred remains a valuable story and teaching tool. From its pages, we are reminded of the destructive consequences of prejudice."
"I do not lightly give anything a 5-star rating, but this is the best graphic adaptation of a full novel that I have ever encountered….the book belongs in every library and in the hands of any adult reader interested in serious graphic fiction.”
"In its illustrated form, Kindred receives a new identity of sorts, while retaining all of the complexities, politics, and moral questions that propelled its author to literary icon status.”
"Adapting any prose novel to the graphic format is an audacious undertaking at the best of times, but translating Octavia E. Butler’s fearsomely powerful work in particular must surely have been a herculean task. Yet Damian Duffy and John Jennings have managed it…A worthy and powerful supplement to a classic.”
"Kindred is a deeply intimate book filled with emotion, and portraying it visually only adds to that weight. Butler’s voice is much needed in the social and political climate right now, and Kindred’s mix of time travel and a historically accurate portrayal of racism is an incredible way to introduce her work to comics readers.”
"This is an outstanding adaptation of a brilliant novel, and there's nothing more you could possibly ask for.”
"Duffy’s words, coupled with Jennings’ brutally jagged, disorientating, gothic, and impactful art allows their adaptation to be two things: A graphic adaptation of a beloved novel, and an amplification of said novel. Reading them together illuminates Butler’s work from angles I never thought possible.”
"… Duffy and Jennings have risen to the challenge; their book highlights all of the medium's strengths while still respecting Butler's original words… It's a good introduction not only to Butler's body of work but also to the potential of the graphic-novel form.”
“If you’ve read Kindred this is a great companion. If you haven’t read it yet, this adaptation is strong enough to stand on its own."
“The 240-page graphic novel adaptation makes Butler's story all the more accessible. Duffy's adaptation perfectly captures the horrific situations forced on the lives of black people in the pre-Civil War South and conveys the emotional impact of Butler's work. Jennings' illustrations add to the atmosphere; instead of pristinely drawn images, the images have a fitting "rough sketch" quality to them that emphasizes the hardships of life in those times…Taken together, the graphic novel adaptation of Kindred is not to be missed as a solid piece of entertainment.”
"A compelling, masterly graphic novel for all libraries serving teens..."