UDON Entertainment and Morpheus Publishing released the first two volumes of their new Manga Classics line last week, adapting great works of literature as full-length manga. Manga Classics: Les Miserables, based on the novel by Victor Hugo, features art by SunNeko Lee, with an adaptation by Crystal Silvermoon and a script by Stacy King, while Manga Classics: Pride & Prejudice is illustrated by Po-Tse and adapted from Jane Austen's great novel by Stacy King.

UDON sent us a preview from Manga Classics: Pride & Prejudice that showcases both Po-Tse's gorgeous art and the wit and romance that makes Pride & Prejudice one of the most celebrated works in the English language.

The Manga Classics line should appeal to fans of the original works who might enjoy seeing these stories and characters adapted in a new format -- but the books also provide an excellent opportunity to put these stories in front of readers that may otherwise be reluctant to engage with classic texts.

For that reason, UDON previewed Manga Classics at the America Library Association (ALA) Annual Conference in Las Vegas last month, where they proved a huge hit with librarians and educators.

"The reception at ALA was fantastic, much better than we'd even hoped," said writer Stacy King. "Librarians really got what we were going for with the line and there was a lot of excitement about the books. We sold out of Pride and Prejudice, which was fantastic!"

"We even had some straight-up anime fan-style 'squee-ing!' at the booths for Jane Austen, which was an amazing, and welcome experience," said Chris Butcher, UDON's director of marketing. "Admittedly, between ALA and [San Diego] Comic-Con, we've run into a few people that have been suspicious of adapting these classics into manga format... or just straight up befuddled. But when the hold-outs hold the books in their hands, feel the heft of them and realize we've attempted a substantial adaptation, and then read a few pages to see that it really has the feel of these classics, their objections tend to melt away."



King admits that adapting a work as famous as Pride & Prejudice was a challenge. "Where to even begin? Jane Austen is one of my favorite writers for so many reasons: her subtle wit, her wonderful insights into human nature, and the delicate way she develops her characters and stories. Trying to capture the whole scope of her work in a graphic adaptation was a huge challenge, but I was especially concerned to make sure that her humor was conveyed.

"Austen's wit is one of my favorite things about her writing, and I think it can be hard to modern readers to get her humor right off the bat, or to feel like it's okay to laugh at these 'serious novels'. The visual aspects of manga make it very easy to see that yes, it's okay to laugh at Mr. Collins!"

Respecting the original text was a priority for UDON. "[We] checked in with librarians and teachers to make sure that our adaptation was on the right track," said Butcher. "We have a lot of confidence in our ability to put together a good looking commercial project, but in this case making sure that it's also useful in a classroom or library setting? That's an entirely different challenge, and we're grateful for all of the assistance we received from the library and education fields."

"We definitely have a teen readership strongly in mind, since we're focusing on a lot of required reading titles as we launch the line," says King, "although we're hoping the books will have cross-over appeal to general manga readers and fans of the original novels.

"Our main goal is to create compelling versions that will help readers who might otherwise be daunted by the dense prose of these classic books to discover the fantastic characters and plots they offer, and hopefully to excite them to read the originals as well!"

The next three adaptations in the line will be Charles Dickens' Great Expectations, Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, and Jane Austen's Emma, as announced at San Diego.

Manga Classics: Pride & Prejudice and Manga Classics: Les Miserables are available in stores now in hardcover and softcover editions.

(Note that the preview should be read right-to-left, manga-style!)