S.E. Hinton and the time she got the whole squad laughing

Hello, readers of “Robbie’s Comic Corner.” It feels so good to finally be back in a world where a pandemic reigns over us all. 

However, as exciting as that might be, I come to you bearing gifts of something not-so pleasant – an ignorant take on Twitter, that, should I have not seen it prior to this Thursday morning, I would’ve been writing something on “Ghosted in L.A.,” in time for this column’s unofficial-yet-somehow-official Halloween celebration. 

Instead, I decided to pick a bone with the champion of being on so many middle school summer reading lists, which, as being someone who has been through middle school, is no small feat.

On Oct. 13, a teacher asked “The Outsiders” writer, S.E. Hinton, to “consider writing a graphic novel version of ‘The Outsiders,’” citing how her students “love [her] novel” and knowing that she “could engage more readers who are reluctant and striving with a graphic novel version.” 

Which, I believe – as I should – is a valid thing to ask for. Graphic novel adaptations of Young Adult books have been exploding in popularity in recent years, after all!

However, Hinton believed otherwise, replying with this … nonsense – “No. ‘The Outsiders’ is the first book many people read in their life and it shows them they CAN read a book. Not that they can turn the pages on a graphic novel.”

Reading that reply at 1 a.m. didn’t rile me up as much as it would’ve, say, three hours prior, but I knew that I was in the presence of something wack. Many comic writers, artists, and even editors from major comic/graphic novel publishing companies, dogpiled on her, and rightfully so! 

Now, I know that Hinton and the 1967 novel that we’re dealing with comes from an era where the graphic novel, let alone the comic book, was still in a state of infancy in the United States.

And while I may think that “The Outsiders” is utter garbage – or that’s what my middle school self thought, 10-or-so years ago – it has stood the test of time as a formative novel for young adults, especially when given out as a summer reading book.

No, I can’t believe that I typed that out, either, dear reader.

However, no matter how “iconic” her novel is, this “take” is beyond stale.

Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird,” one of my favorite books of all time, has a 2018 graphic novel interpretation by Fred Fordham, made long after the book’s initial popularity and shortly after the death of Lee herself, and, yet, it still manages to convey the original story perfectly, if not better.

Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451” is another favorite among young adults – and just among people, in general, still getting referenced in “Jeopardy!” clues to this day – and yet, it, too, has an authorized graphic novel adaptation by Tim Hamilton in 2009. The fact that it is “authorized” by Bradbury himself shows how true it is to the source material. 

And don’t even GET me started on the many, many graphic novel interpretations of Shakespeare’s works, or I’d be droning on all day about graphic novel versions of famous texts that are often read by young adults. 

So, now, it begs to question – why can’t Hinton just take a hint(on) and do the same?

In the 53 years since the original release of “The Outsiders,” young adults have been introduced to many new ways to interact with the things they read. They no longer have to zone out and read rows upon rows of words, they can get someone else – usually, some household name – to read it for them via audiobook.

For visual learners, like myself, who grew up on way too much television, graphic novels help alleviate the effort on the reader’s part of giving every character a face in their mind, and, instead, just giving the reader that information, outright. I shouldn’t have to read 100-plus pages to find out that my protagonist has hazel eyes and raven-colored hair.

Hinton disregarding the concept of having a graphic novel version of her most famous work is disregarding the strides that the Young Adult graphic novel has made in the past 20 years, as well as also reinforcing ableist rhetoric, in the sense that she wants readers of “The Outsiders” to “fight through” the novel to “properly” read it, and that’s just not right at all.

I’ll entertain any responses to this – that’s what the “Connect with” prompt at the bottom is there for, after all – but I hope this brings Hinton, or anyone who believes similarly, a change of heart.

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