"All writers, not just ours, but European writers, too, have always failed whenever they attempted a portrait of the positively beautiful... There is only one positively beautiful person in the world, Christ, and the phenomenon of this limitlessly, infinitely beautiful person is an infinite miracle in itself... But I am going too far. I'd only mention that of all the beautiful individuals in Christian literature, one stands out as the most perfect, Don Quixote... Whenever compassion toward ridiculed and ingenious beauty is presented, the reader's sympathy is aroused. The mystery of humor lies in this excitation of compassion." - Fyodor Dostoyevsky, 1868.
I'd almost forgotten, but in 1988 I broke down Dostoyevsky's novella Notes From Underground into a 48 page graphic novel(la) script (the same page count as the original story). I then did the page layouts, and completed full color art for the first two pages. When I heard that DC Comics was launching Piranha Press, an experimental line of alternative comics (pre-Vertigo), I proposed this story. They liked my work, but wanted an original story instead. Within a week I completed a script for what would be the first of two original graphic novels (and a short story) I did for that line.
In 1990 I heard about First Comics (in Chicago) launching a new line of Classics Illustrated-type of graphic novels. I drew two more completed pages of Notes From Underground (also in full color), and the editor loved it, and said a contract would be forthcoming. Waiting for a few weeks, the contract never came, and my editor came down with some strange, sudden disease which left him wheelchair bound. Within months the entire company went down the tubes (and First Comics had had many successful titles under their belts with established pros, so they weren't a fly-by-night operation). I learned that Bill Sienkiewicz was never fully paid for his work on Melville's Moby Dick, and Peter Kuper just barely got paid for his on Sinclair's The Jungle.
A year later I pitched the story to the (then-new) Vertigo line, drawing yet two more pages. Editor Karen Berger liked it, saying, "I'm a huge 'Dusty' fan, but we're not doing literary adaptations right now." That same year I did an original story, serialized in six issues of a Dark Horse title, and in 1992 pitched Dostoyevsky's Notes From UndergroundThe editor loved it, and said a contract would be forthcoming. I began working afresh on the pages, now having completed ten, and halted when I didn't hear anything. Calling my editor back, I found out that one of the senior editors was saying, "Who does he think he is, asking for such a page rate?" and like comments. He then informed my editor that they could only pay so much per page, and that the book would probably be a loss leader, so they wanted to split it into two 24 page comic books, saddlestitched. I said no (for several reasons), and that was the end of that.
Somewhere in my files I still have the script, breakdowns, and 10 finished pages. But as a born again believer I don't believe that such a story would be edifying to anyone it (it opens with a crazed looking narrator saying directly to the reader, "I'm a sick man... a mean man..." And this is the good guy? Some may find it entertaining, I suppose.
Kind regards in Christ Jesus,
This is really well designed and depicted. Great stuff, Alec!
Interesting quote, though I disagree with it. I was a huge Dostoyevsky fan in my early to mid '20s, just before surrendering my life to Christ. His work is pretty dark and grim. If you're looking for the light of Christ in Crime and Punishment, you'll have to turn to the last page (where the protagonist surrenders his life to Christ)---and that's where the story should really begin!
Back in 1990 I drew a three page adaptation of the "The Onion", a short excerpt from Dostoyevsky's novel The Brothers Karamazov. It was published (of all places) in the January, 1991 issue of Heavy Metal magazine. In retrospect I have to say that the folk tale is not theologically sound (the only way to avoid hell is to be born again in Jesus Christ---no 'good works' done on our part have any merit in the sight of a holy God; that is why Jesus had to pay the price for our sins on Calvary's cross with His broken body, His shed blood, even His very life---which He took up again after three days).
As for Don Quixote (I read both of Cervantes' novels many years ago), I agree with Steve's pithy assessment.
Agape in Christ,
Don Quixote? A "perfect" literary character?
I guess... if you like characters that are borderline insane, and apt to draw blood from their delusions.
Letter written by Dostoevsky on January 13, 1868 to his niece, Sophia Ivanova.
Jotham David Parker said:
What's this quote from?