CLOSE
Original image

From Classics to Graphics: 6 Literary Masterpieces Turned Into Graphic Novels

Original image

Abridging classic novels for younger readers is nothing new. But in recent years, classic literature has been graphic novel-ized, making it more accessible for readers young and old while preserving the plot, themes, and sometimes even the author's voice. English class will never be the same, thanks to these classics gone graphic.

1. The Picture of Dorian Gray

Oscar Wilde's only novel, about a man who sells his soul to maintain his beauty, was just begging for a more visual makeover. The 2009 graphic novel written by Ian Edginton and illustrated by I.N.J. Culbard abridges the text, but still keeps much of Wilde's original prose. Marvel's 2008 version has better graphics, but it reads more like a copy of SparkNotes. Both books are recommended as a supplement to—not a substitute for—the original work. In the words of Dorian Gray himself, "How sad it is! I shall grow old, and horrible, and dreadful. But this picture will remain always young. If it were only the other way!"

2. The Metamorphosis

The Incredible Hulk. Wolverine. Gregor Samsa. All of these characters undergo major transformations, but only one of them might appear on an AP English exam. Franz Kafka's 1915 novella about a traveling salesman who wakes up to find he's turned into a huge insect makes for a compelling graphic novel. Peter Kuper's 2004 adaptation looks like an enjoyable read, but it goes against Kafka's wishes. When the cover of the first edition was being designed nearly a century ago, the author asked that Gregor not be drawn as an insect. Instead, he hoped readers would conjure their own image of "horrible vermin" when picturing the creepy-crawly protagonist.

The Trial, Kafka's dystopian novel about the perils of bureaucracy, has also been adapted into a graphic novel. And if you want to learn more about the man behind the stories, check out Kafka's graphic biography by R. Crumb and David Zane Mairowitz.

3. Ulysses

Ulysses is one of those works that comes with a few barriers to entry. For starters, the Penguin Classics version is 1040 pages long. Then there are the 18 unstructured chapters that James Joyce boasted "[have] so many enigmas and puzzles that it will keep the professors busy for centuries arguing over what I meant." (Thanks, dude.) But Robert Berry's "Ulysses 'seen'" makes the modernist masterpiece more modern—and accessible—than ever. The graphic novel is available for free online or $7.99 on the iPad. Like the original, Berry's adaptation is serialized and raised a few questions of obscenity—Apple required nude images to be removed. Unlike the original, each chapter comes with a handy reader's guide.

4. Pride and Prejudice

Plenty of readers all over the world have no trouble reading Jane Austen's most popular novel. But what do you do after you've devoured the text and the six-part BBC series with Colin Firth as, omg, Mr. Darcy? Here's an idea: Get another fix with this 2009 graphic novel version from Marvel. The story's abridged, but reviewers on Amazon say it's more true to the novel than some film adaptations. The women's-magazine-style cover with headlines like "Bingleys Bring Bling to Britain" is fun, too.

And if you like this Marvel graphic novel, there are many others adapted by author Janet Lee, including Sense and Sensibility and Emma.

5. The Diary of Anne Frank

Image Courtesy The JC.com

Anne Frank couldn't have imagined that the diary she started two days after her thirteenth birthday in 1942 would ever become a best-selling memoir, a Pulitzer-Prize winning play, and an Academy Award-winning film. The diary's latest incarnation: a 2010 graphic biography written by Sid Jacobson and illustrated by Ernie Colón. Commissioned by the Anne Frank House Museum, the biography depicts many years before and after Anne's time in the Secret Annex, from her parents' early lives to the publication of her diary to her father's life as the family's sole survivor.

6. A Wrinkle in Time

Image Courtesy GoodOKBad.com

It may not be part of the canon, but Madeline L'Engle's 1962 science fiction fantasy novel is a young-adult classic. While the original work contains a few illustrations, the graphic novel by Hope Larson published October 2 is the first to fully depict Meg, Calvin, Charles Wallace, and the rest of the characters as they journey through space and time. And c'mon, you know you want to see how Larson draws the tessering process.

Which classic would you like to see adapted next?

Original image
iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
technology
arrow
Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
Original image
iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

Original image
quiz
arrow
Name the Author Based on the Character
May 23, 2017
Original image
SECTIONS
BIG QUESTIONS
BIG QUESTIONS
WEATHER WATCH
BE THE CHANGE
JOB SECRETS
QUIZZES
WORLD WAR 1
SMART SHOPPING
STONES, BONES, & WRECKS
#TBT
THE PRESIDENTS
WORDS
RETROBITUARIES