A Criticism on Fahrenheit 451 (The Comic Book adaptation)
10 Mar 2017
So I had read the book version of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 (I think it was a Turkish translation of the novel but it was definitely the novel itself in an unabridged form) all the way back in high school, 10 years ago or something and its more recent comic book adaptation was assigned at a class I’m taking, and after re-reading the thing, I have a few words to say about them (Both the novel and its comic book adaptation).
Although I don’t completely agree with the chorus of the Rachel Bloom song “Fuck me, Ray Bradbury” - as in, with the lines “Fuck me Ray Bradbury” (Would agreeing with that be Necrophilia considering that Bradbury died since the release of that song) and “The greatest Sci-Fi writer in history” (As it’s quite obvious that Douglas Adams, in fact, is the greatest Sci-Fi writer in history) I agree with the line “You’re a prolific author Ray Bradbury” in a bridge. I can’t deny the fact he is one of my favorite Sci-Fi authors of all time. Just that I find it odd that Fahrenheit 451 is, by far, his most popular work.
The Comic Book
So, starting with the comic book; a lot of the comic books I’ve read (Sin City being the most recent example, I read a volume just last week) seemed to be suffering from movie-itis. As in, they were using too little dialog, and preferring to use subtler visual methods in order to convey its original message. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing. Those subtler methods might be more efficient/more fun than directly writing out your message. I mean, that’s kind of the reason why comic books exist. However, in my opinion, there should be a balance between writing and other visual arts in a comic book in order to achieve its correct flow. In such cases, I generally lack the necessary imagination to complete the closure, and the result feels like just disconnected frames from a movie, whereas the intention of the artist was the comic book feeling like a movie.
Now, obviously, there’s the opposite problem as well, which I’ll call novel-itis which sometimes occurs especially in comic book adaptations of prose (The comic book adaptation of the Communist Manifesto being the ultimate example - and yes, that exists). IMO, this comic book adaptation of prose seems to be fit that description as well. There are several sections of the book where the dialog would be totally OK in a novel, but were clunky for a graphic novel. As in, I shouldn’t have to go back in order to refer to another balloon in the previous page. This kind of thing just breaks the flow of the graphic novel.
And finally, isn’t it a bit ironic that it’s explicitly referred to that the traditional books were set aside in time for being “boring”, while the comic books survived and here we are reading a comic book adaptation. Though I’m not sure if ‘ironic’ is the correct word to use here, but this sure is notable.
Now here we get to the original novel. I get that the point of this book isn’t to be realistic, or pretty much any Sci Fi book isn’t trying to be realistic but just as we do with many, I’m going to go with that. Fahrenheit 451 being a dystopian novel, there has to be a comparison to both 1984 and Brave New World. I’m going to go ahead and say that I get a more 1984-like vibe from the book. There’s very obvious government opression against books and speech in general. There’s also attempts to control reality as we see when Guy Montag’s escape “fails” and when people seeming to claim that all firemen ever did was burning books. This kind of strikes me as not really plausible.
Another aspect is that what exactly is banned. We know that novels are obviously banned. But obviously the society in general is literate. There’s no mention of movies and other fiction being banned either. Plus, there are non-fiction books being burned as well. So we know that the ban is related to books, not related to fiction. In the comic book, it’s explicitly mentioned that comic books survived. Then, what is the difference between a book and a comic book? Where do we draw the line (you can still include a lot of text in a comic book)? In such a scenario, wouldn’t all forms of formerly-prose media revert to being comics, including holy texts? Do we see Super Jesusman comics? Banning all print media is also out of the question as we see printed-but-not-book stuff.
And, finally, we get to the politics of the novel. In 1984, it’s explicitly mentioned that that is a socialist regime. In Brave New World, what we have isn’t explicitly mentioned but they heavily try to drug people off of every kind of critical thought, including political consciousness and keep themselves out of sight. And it’s hinted that it is a corporate dystopia. In V for Vendetta, the exact nature of the oppressive government but it’s quite obvious (from the party symbols and slogans etc.) that it’s a nationalist/conservative leaning one. In Fahrenheit 451, the exact policies of the oppressive government is curiously missing. I get that the author might not want to explicitly portray a political ideology as “oppressive” (1984 is kind of an outlier in this case, since labeling Stalinism as oppressive was George Orwell’s thing) but in such a totalitarian regime (totalitarian enough that they try to control reality) there’s just no way that the party isn’t engrained in people’s everyday talks or their small talk.
In conclusion; I’m bad at writing at conclusion paragraphs. However, I can recommend Fahrenheit 451 the novel despite its shortcomings and also avoid the comic book before reading the original novel.