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The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Book 1 (Millennium Trilogy) Hardcover – November 13, 2012
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Q&A with Denisa Mina
Q: Denise, you've had tremendous success writing crime novels for over a decade. What about the comic book industry or medium keeps you coming back?
A: I'm lucky enough to get to do what I call a "joy project" once or twice a year. Writing novels is hard work and can feel a bit of a grind sometimes so usually I write a play or a comic or a documentary and I was just thinking about how I'd love to do some more comics when this came up. It's such a different form of storytelling from prose, it really refreshes me.
Q: What is different between writing a crime graphic novel, such as The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, versus crime novels?
A: Well, comics are such a stripped back from of narrative, there's nowhere to hide shoddy plotting or confusion. No character can go off and have a realization when you haven't plotted properly, no character can suddenly change their mind, everything has to be on the page and shown in action. That's very different. In this instance The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo wasn't my story either so I already knew what was going to happen, which I don't usually when I'm writing a novel. It's much easier!
Q: What type of obstacles, if any, did you face in adapting such a popular and iconic book in modern literary fiction?
A: I think you have to forget how much people love these books and just get on with trying to make it work for you and your editor. They are the fresh pair of eyes that can tell you when something is tedious or doesn't work. That sounds arrogant but you'd be paralyzed otherwise.
Q: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo has more than a few scenes of graphic violence, especially toward women. Has it been difficult writing these types of scenes for the graphic page as opposed to the printed one?
A: I think it's easier actually. I tried to use panels that show the attack from the woman's point of view and use the visual language or graphic scenes—the bum shots, the twisted face into camera, the full body shots—only during the attack on the male character. It was a way of disorientating the reader and making them uncomfortable because visuals of sex are so familiar [...] that they often appear in visuals of sexual attacks. From the victim's point of view there's nothing sexual about that sort of thing.
Q: Lisbeth Salander is one of the most complicated and fascinating fictional characters in the last decade. What do you feel is the most essential aspect to her?
A: She has a hundred different defense mechanisms: disguise, aggression, hacking, etc., and she has finally found a way to make them work for her in the world.
Q: Do you find yourself adapting your writing differently to each artists on The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Andrea Mutti and Leonardo Manco, and to their their creative strengths?
A: Not really. I can only describe the images in my head but they always do visuals that surprise and delight me. I'm not really that visual, I tend to think in words.
Q: You've worked on a monthly comic book (John Constantine: Hellblazer), as well as a few graphic novels. What is the difference between the two?
A: Well, a monthly has to have a narrative arc that spans twenty-two pages and then adds up to form another distinct arc for six episodes for the trade paperback. The graphic novels are a scoosh compared to that, believe me. Also the monthly comics have to be written to a very strict episodic schedule and graphic novels, not so much.
Q: So far, you've worked on a few projects for Vertigo, including John Constantine: Hellblazer, as well as the Vertigo Crime original graphic novel A Sickness in the Family. Could you ever envision yourself working on something for the mainstream DC Universe?
A: I'd give anything a go, with the proviso that if I make a hash of it they don't use it. Comic editors can be pretty straightforward and I think they'd tell you!
Q: What do you hope that part one of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo communicates that the novel or film did not?
A: In the book Salander's mother has been beaten half to death by her father and is brain damaged because of it. This didn't really come over in the films (in the American version her mother isn't in it). I think this is hugely significant and she cannot let herself be a victim, which is what makes her a hero.
The two pages Leo Manco has done for this are the best pages of graphic art I think I've ever read. I can't even imagine how that could be done in any other medium, either.
A Look Inside The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
No successful franchise is complete without its comic book, and here Larsson’s staggeringly successful novel, which spawned both Swedish and American film adaptations, comes full circle with a full-color graphic novel. The choice of Mina as scripter is key, however, to keeping this from being just one more piece of merch. The respected Scottish crime writer (The End of the Wasp Season, 2011) does an admirable job of distilling Larsson’s wordy prose to its essence while still putting her own stamp on the story with a slightly warmer Salander. The art, by Manco (Hellblazer) and Mutti (The Executor, DMZ), works well, conveying the various layers of story line effectively (if not entirely elegantly: some of the figuring has a weird photorealism that may not appeal to all tastes). The problems, if there are any, aren’t really the fault of the creators. But with two filmed, phenomenal Salanders in many readers’ minds, this latest version can only be seen in comparison—and, frankly, she’s one step away from becoming a visual cliché. Any readers who felt uncomfortable about Larsson’s brand of feminism in the novels won’t have anything to cheer about here. Mina adds full-page panels with harrowing statistics about violence against women, but, like so many comics, this one trades in male readers’ interest in the female form—and seeing Bjurman’s vicious rape of Salander interleaved with much happier couplings may not be the best way to make the point. Does this work on its own merits? Yes. Readers who don’t know the story, if there are any, will be intrigued by Blomkvist’s investigation on Hedeby Island. And those who have consumed both the novel and films will be intrigued by what’s been left out or tweaked here. But the question remains: How many versions of the same story do we really need? HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: With a $500,000 media budget, DC’s crime imprint is betting that the public wants more. Each book in the Millennium Trilogy will be told in two volumes. --Keir Graff
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Top customer reviews
Stieg Larsson's Millennium Trilogy gets the graphic novel treatment in this adaptation penned by Denise Mina. The first of two volumes (each book is to span two graphic novel collections) THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, BOOK 1 covers the first book in the series. A murder mystery slash rape revenge story, THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO is not for the faint of heart: there's quite a bit of violence (including violence of a sexual nature) and not a little sex and nudity. (I prefer to think of the series as The Men Who Hate Women Trilogy; after all, the series' focus isn't independent journalism, but MISOGYNY. Consequently, rape - or the threat of it - is present throughout the series.)
Book 1 covers the events of THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO from the time Henrik Vanger summons disgraced journalist Mikael Blomkvist to his estate on Hedeby Island, to the sexual assault and brutal rape of Lisbeth Salander at the hands of her court-appointed guardian, Nils Bjurman. By the end of this collection, Blomkvist has begun to serve his jail term for slandering businessman Hans-Erik Wennerström (another hater of women) while Lisbeth exacts revenge (in an equally brutal fashion) on her rapist. I won't delve into the plot any further; I assume that, if you're reading this, you're already a fan of the books. (No? What are you waiting for?!)
The difficulty inherent in distilling such a long and complex story into just 312 pages of artwork is on display here, as Mina omits some scenes and combines others, sometimes changing the characters' personalities in fundamental ways. For example, Cecilia Vanger propositions Blomkvist within hours of meeting him. As a result, comic book Cecilia seems like a woman who sleeps around, rather than a lonely, would-be divorcee who eventually finds her way to Blomkvist's bed for some much-needed casual sex. Not that there's anything wrong with having lots of sex, but that's not who Cecilia is. And when she dumps Blomkvist at the beginning of his stint in jail, she seems much needier than Book Cecilia. Book Cecelia is much more reluctant to help him solve the mystery of Harriet's disappearance, thus making her more ambivalent about Blomkvist in general.
Likewise, after the rape, Lisbeth is shown interacting with other people, most notably girlfriend Mimi. Book Lisbeth mostly went into hiding, at least until her visible wounds healed and she was able to formulate an action plan. Fiercely protective, Book Lisbeth didn't want to be subjected to anyone's questioning or pity, hence the seclusion. Comic book Lisbeth, while she still refuses to confide in anyone, seems much too comfortable displaying her vulnerabilities to others.
(For what it's worth, I had the same problem with the American film adaptation: by story's end, Lisbeth was telling a naked, post-coital Blomkvist about "all the evil" when, in the books, the audience was left to guess about Lisbeth's childhood until well into THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE. Simply put, Lisbeth would NEVER do that!)
While I understand the need to condense certain parts of the story, some of the changes are downright puzzling, since they don't move the plot along any more quickly. Case in point: Lisbeth's tattoo, which is changed from a small band around her ankle (reminiscent of the restraints Bjurman used during the rape) to the word "BYE" superimposed over a rose. The scene is actually a bit more drawn out in the graphic novel, as Lisbeth must spend several panels convincing the tattoo artist that this is not, in fact, a suicide note. Weird, right? Given the importance placed on tattoos throughout the trilogy, the alteration is not just confusing, but also doesn't ring true.
(Bjurman's minor tattoo change, on the other hand, is totally understandable: "I am a sadistic pig, a pervert, and a rapist" is shortened to the more manageable "I am a rapist.")
The story, while recognizable, also lacks much of the suspense and sense of discovery of the original. I've seen episodes of Investigation Discovery that are more gripping in this regard.
As far as the artwork goes, it's dark and moody, and well-suited for the book. My only complaint is that Lisbeth is much taller than she should be. In the books, she's described as quite short, seemingly frail and almost childlike in stature. This is important because Lisbeth's physical appearance impacts both her behavior (i.e., because she was constantly bullied as a child, she went on the offense in order to stave off attacks) and life circumstances (perhaps if she looked the part, the court might have rescinded Lisbeth's guardianship when she became an adult). Yet, in one panel, Lisbeth appears to be nearly as tall as both Dragan Armansky and Dirch Frode.
Overall, I'm a little disappointed by the adaptation, but not enough so that I'll stop reading it. I already own Book 2, so that's moot; but neither have I cancelled my pre-order of THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE, BOOK 1. This is a series that deserves much thicker comic books - but hey, I'll take what I can get! Those who've never read the books might enjoy the comics a bit more, but that's only because you're not hip to the original materials. Seriously, check `em out.
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Vol. 1 is a graphic novel adaptation of Stieg Larsson's bestselling book by the same title. It follows a murder mystery from decades past with the socially inept computer genuis Lisbeth at center stage. This volume covers half of that novel, with a second volume to be released in the future.
+I have to say, this book is beautiful, from cover to cover. The character that sticks out as consistently awesome looking is the cover girl, Lisbeth. She looks amazing in every frame. This fact makes up for a lot of other little flaws in this volume, because Lisbeth is my fictional girl crush.
-That being said, the rewriting of her character was, well, bad. She was given cheesy quips and remarks that "real" Lisbeth would have kicked her ass for even thinking about saying. She was softened up, and I don't like that at all. TGWTDT is one of the few books with a strong heroine out there that gets the hype it deserves, but it doesn't reflect in this rendition.
-+The plot is a bit scattered and choppy. It's not necessarily a bad thing, because I felt way about the novel at times too. But because of a lack of actual chapters, it was a bit hard to keep up. Doable, but a bit flustering if not paying super close attention. This book should NOT be read in place of the novel. It acts as an illustrated guide, and the summarized plot is basically effective. However, it is like reading the Sparknotes without reading the book. You will be missing out. PLEASE read the novel first, and read this after.
I recommend it for fans of graphic novels and fans of Lisbeth. People who are going to compare tiny details to the book should pass this up, it won't be for you. Thank you to Goodreads for my copy- I will definitely be picking up the other volumes in the future.