A Return to ‘Pride and Prejudice’ with Illustrator Janet K. Lee [Back Pages]
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a comics fan in possession of a good fortune must be in want of new illustrations. Or so the saying almost goes. Jane Austen's novel Pride and Prejudice remains one of the most loved and widely-read books of all time, and this year Silence in the Library Publishing will be collaborating with Eisner-winning artist Janet K. Lee for a new edition of the story.
Having headed to Kickstarter earlier this month, the illustrated Pride and Prejudice will collect together Austen's story with a series of illustrations from Lee. You'll know her work from Archaia's award-winning The Return of the Dapper Men and her earlier comics adaptations of Austen's Emma and Northanger Abbey with writer Nancy Butler for Marvel, and this new project sees her return to the world of the formal dance and long, uninterrupted bouts of unspoken pining. ComicsAlliance spoke to Lee about her work on Pride and Prejudice to find out how it all came together.
ComicsAlliance: What can you tell us about the project?
Janet K. Lee: If you don’t already know Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, you’re in for a treat. Think BBC period drama goes retro. One hundred years before Downton Abbey, there was Pemberley. Proud, successful “uptown” boy falls for intelligent, feisty “downtown” girl, despite all the social forces against them.
CA: What was the genesis of the project? How did the book come together?
JKL: It’s the first time I’ve really made a stab at non-sequential illustrations. So, in that sense, it’s a much more classical take on an illustrated text, with the author’s original prose punctuated with dozens of black & white or color images.
Jane Austen is my favorite author and arguably Pride and Prejudice my favorite book. I probably started envisioning how I would draw these scenes back in high school. I think getting the opportunity to work on two Austen adaptations for Marvel clinched it. So when the folks at Silence in the Library Publishing approached me last year at SDCC with a proposal to for Pride and Prejudice, I jumped at the chance!
CA: What was it about this story which made you want to tell it?
JKL: I’ve gotten to draw adaptations of Austen’s Emma and Northanger Abbey. I love those books, but they aren’t my favorite story. My degree is in Literature, and I’m pretty much evangelical about introducing great stories to new people. Hopefully, Illustrated Pride and Prejudice will broaden the circle of Austen devotees even more. Doesn’t every artist dream of illustrating their favorite book someday? Doesn’t every reader want to help other readers love their favorite book as much as they do?
CA: Why take this to Kickstarter?
JKL: I’ve been involved with some very successful Kickstarter projects, like Womanthology and Reading with Pictures’ Graphic Textbook. It’s a wonderful platform for taking a project directly to the consumer, directly to “the people,” as it were. A book like Pride and Prejudice is already available in multiple formats and editions --- Kickstarter lets us make the case for why our edition is special, and make a connection with other folks who love the book as much as we do.
CA: What stage are you at with the project?
JKL: Unless we overfund, and I get to draw more, I currently have about 25% of the color images and about 20% of the smaller black & white images drawn. I’m concentrating on the color pieces first since I’m doing them in a variation of the cut-paper technique I used for Return of the Dapper Men. I’m also drawing 72 letters; 60 for use as drop-caps to open each chapter, and 12 additional to produce a complete alphabet. Those I’m doing in the “between” times.
I planned to be a bit farther along but a delightfully unexpected offer to do a Vertigo story came up, and I couldn’t say no.
CA: If you achieve your goal, what’s your estimated delivery on the final comic?
JKL: Happily, the wonderful people at SitL Publishing have taken care of the printing arrangements. Since we’re offering everything from extremely posh leather editions to ebooks, there will be a range of delivery times. Things like the ebook and the art rewards will arrive in late 2015, with every edition of Illustrated Pride and Prejudice shipped by early 2016.
The Illustrated Pride and Prejudice will run on Kickstarter until 7 May 2015, and is seeking a $20,000 target. You can find more of Lee's work on her website.