The Young Adult Literature classic, Monster, by Walter Dean Myers has recently been transformed into a beautiful graphic novel by Guy A. Sims and Dawud Anyabwile. The black and white visuals striking depict the classic storyline: Steve Harmon is a teenager who is on trial for murder and robbery. Written in the screenplay format, the reader is able to experience the events with Steve: The movie is more real in so many ways than the life I am leading. No, that’s not true. I just desperately wish this was only a movie.
Steve is making this film for one of his classes, and the themes of the graphic novel—guilty by association, impact of decisions—is the same as WDM’s classic, award-winning (it won the first Printz Award in 2000 and was also a Coretta Scott King Honor book and National Book Award finalist) novel. As Steve notes: Sometimes I feel like I have walked into the middle of a movie. Maybe I can make my own movie. The film will be the story of my life. No, not my life, but of this experience. I’ll call it what the lady prosecutor called me … Monster. Striking imagery makes the court scenes more vivid and seemingly real. The graphic novel format also helped me keep all of the individuals in the court room straight.
This wonderful adaptation must have been a challenge, for the screenplay format limits a lot of the information given in a traditional novel. Creators Sims and Anyabwile (who are brothers) also had to contemplate what to emphasize and leave out from the book. The filming thread is heightened in the graphic novel, and the court scenes became more impactful for me.
The timely topics brought about by this novel are ones that everyone should be discussing today, and this book is one way to broach the topic with teens. Although I think that reading both the novel and its graphic novel version would be preferable, I realize that Walter’s provoking novel can be powerful in either version (although I’m not sure I would have caught everything that happened at the beginning of the novel if I hadn’t read the book first.) Be sure to check it out.
My favorite interviews with Myers: