The Millennium Trilogy as graphic novels: would Stieg Larsson have approved?

DC Comics Girl with the Dragon TattooPunch! Kapow! Holy Salander!

The news that Stieg Larsson’s brother and father sold, to DC Comics, the rights to develop the Millennium Trilogy as graphic novels, had us wondering: What would Stieg himself have thought about this?

Graphic novels have proven to be one of the few areas of strong growth in print publishing. Larsson was a very graphics-oriented thinker, creating cover designs, cartoons, and illustrations for the early science fiction zines he published as a teenager and young adult, and always paying attention to graphics during his long stint at the TT news service and to the design of Expo during his many years with that important political publication. And all three of his books, particularly The Girl Who Played with Fire, are tinged with influences from the worlds of superheroes, SF, and graphic novel adventures. Indeed, one of his favorite series of stories was those about Modesty Blaise, a character created by British author Peter O’Donnell, which eventually became comic strips, action novels, and feature films.

So we tend to think that Larsson might have been interested in and intrigued by the idea of a graphic novel series. But it is not clear how the estate that controls the rights to his work, managed by the deceased author’s father and brother, has addressed the content-, character-, and plot-related issues Larsson would definitely have been concerned about.

We asked John-Henri Holmberg, Stieg’s friend since they were teens and both science fiction fans, and a co-author of our book, The Tattooed Girl, to give us his ideas about what Stieg Larsson might have thought.

Holmberg—whose fascinating 3-part mini-biography of Stieg is found in our book along with several other of his essays, puts it this way:

“I think Stieg well might have approved of a comics adaption of his characters. Though I also believe that in such a case, he might well have wanted to write the comic scripts himself, and partly or entirely separately from the novels. (Remember that Stieg was a huge fan of the “Modesty Blaise” action/adventure/spy fiction novels as well as comic strips written by Peter O’Donnell.)

“Also remember that Stieg was not only interested in and knowledgeable about comics, he was also a decent artist himself, at least while he worked at it (nothing evaporates as quickly with non-practice as your ability to draw reasonably well), and so I feel fairly confident in suspecting that it would have been a deal breaker had he not been given the final choice over the principal artist involved.

“But on the whole, he very well might have thought it fun, and challenging, to be involved in translating his characters to graphic art. But what I’m absolutely certain of is that he would never have relinquished control of his characters, story lines, or intellectual content. It’ll be interesting to see how those are handled. And what happens if the comic adaptions are a success – because in that case, there will be strong pressure to keep the characters alive in sequels.”

For the record, the first of the graphic novels will be based on The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and is scheduled for release in 2012, with the sequels following in 2013 and 2014. And for those who have not yet seen it, the graphic with this post is the promotional poster created by DC Comics for the announcement of the deal at the Frankfurt Book Fair, the world’s largest.

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