The Best Graphic Novel Spin-offs

The two new titles this week on the New York Times Graphic Books Best Seller list both have strong ties to other media: Star Wars: Legacy Tatooine is a spin-off of the Star Wars films, speculating on the future of Luke’s bloodline. The Invincible Iron Man collects together the new stand-alone comic book series and is rocketing up in popularity due to the recent film franchise (Iron Man 2 arrives in theaters on 5/07).

Graphic novels connected to other media can be a double-edged sword. On one hand, they enhance a known universe and engage fans with a new format. On the other hand, they can be subpar in production, from art to writing, and depend too heavily on their source material to lure in new fans. A few creators have balanced the mix of homage and new storylines well.

Here are some of the best recent reboots.

Naoki Urasawa’s Pluto started as a retelling of the famous Astro Boy novella, “The Greatest Robot on Earth“, published in 1964 by the legendary Osamu Tezuka. Within the first few pages, however, readers are swept away into a world far more detailed and uncertain. Urasawa follows the basic plot of Tezuka’s world-renowned series, but he redirects focus away from Atom (aka Astro Boy) and concentrates on the Europol robot investigator Gesicht. Gesicht, called in to investigate the murders of both robots and humans, uncovers a trail of clues leading back to the tragedies of a recent war and long-simmering hatred. Urasawa investigates complex questions of prejudice, international conflict, politics, and artificial identity through eight volumes, and with the final volume due out on April 6th, it’s an excellent time purchase the complete run.

Pluto: Urasawa x Tezuka, Vol. 8
Naoki Urasawa
Retail Price: $12.99
Paperback: 200 pages
Publisher: VIZ Media LLC – (2010-04-06)
ISBN / EAN: 142153343X / 9781421533438

Jim Butcher’s novel series The Dresden Files is a long-time favorite of urban fantasy fans, and while a recent TV show based on the books only aired for one season, the prequel graphic novel Welcome to the Jungle and adaptation of first novel Storm Front entered the New York Times Graphic Books Best Seller lists in April of last year. Featuring rich art and Butcher’s familiar mix of noir and magic, these are fine examples of adaptations and spin-offs done well.

The Dresden Files: Welcome to the Jungle
Jim Butcher
Retail Price: $19.95
Hardcover: 160 pages
Publisher: Del Rey/Dabel Brothers – (2008-10-14)
ISBN / EAN: 0345507460 / 9780345507464

The Dresden Files: Storm Front (Dresden Files (del Rey))
Jim Butcher
Retail Price: $22.95
Hardcover: 128 pages
Publisher: Del Rey/Dabel Brothers – (2009-06-02)
ISBN / EAN: 0345506391 / 9780345506399

On the younger side of storytelling, one could not ask for a more charming reinvention of a classic story than Shannon and Dean Hale’s Rapunzel’s Revenge and the latest adventure Calamity Jack. Rapunzel’s Revenge starts with the familiar elements of Rapunzel: girl in a tower, endless coils of hair, and a paranoid, overprotective witch in control. Within a few pages, however, Rapunzel has gotten herself out of the tower, slyly misdirected the prince coming to her rescue, and started off on her own adventure to rescue her land from the witch’s iron control. Calamity Jack takes off from the end of Rapunzel’s Revenge, this time zeroing in on the charming con-man Jack (of the Beanstalk). Jack and Rapunzel return to the city of Jack’s birth to find it overrun with giants, at war with a mysterious ant-race, and in desperate need of two clever, spunky heroes to set matters straight.

Rapunzel’s Revenge
Shannon Hale, Dean Hale
Retail Price: $14.99
Paperback: 144 pages
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children’s Books – (2008-08-05)
ISBN / EAN: 1599902885 / 9781599902883

Calamity Jack
Shannon Hale, Dean Hale
Retail Price: $19.99
Hardcover: 144 pages
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children’s Books – (2010-01-05)
ISBN / EAN: 1599900769 / 9781599900766

Serenity: Those Left Behind and Serenity: Better Days helped mollify fans still disappointed by the abrupt cancelation of the quirky Joss Whedon science fiction western Firefly. As a television series, the show had no ending even with the spin-off film Serenity, but this accomplished graphic novel series contains all of the humor, character development, and heist-driven adventure that marked the series. Joss Whedon’s other beloved series, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, got its own vivid stand-alone spin off in Fray: Future Slayer, a graphic novel showing the adventures of a slayer in the far future who is unaware of what vampires or slayers even are.

Serenity, Vol. 1: Those Left Behind
Joss Whedon, Brett Matthews, Will Conrad

Retail Price: $9.95
Paperback: 104 pages
Publisher: Dark Horse – (2006-02-08)
ISBN / EAN: 1593074492 / 9781593074494

Serenity, Vol. 2: Better Days
Joss Whedon
Retail Price: $9.99
Paperback: 80 pages
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics – (2008-09-26)
ISBN / EAN: 1595821627 / 9781595821621

Joss Whedon
Retail Price: $19.95
Paperback: 216 pages
Publisher: Dark Horse – (2003-12-09)
ISBN / EAN: 1569717516 / 9781569717516

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