Cover Reveal for The Iliad by Gareth Hinds
My graphic novel adaptation of The Odyssey was first published in 2010. Since then it’s gone on to be (without question) my best-selling book, used in classrooms throughout the country and lauded for its respectful treatment of the text and for bringing the story to life for many thousands of readers. Teachers have a lot to do with that success, and I am hugely grateful to all of you. Probably the question I’ve been asked the most in those ensuing years is, “When are you going to do The Iliad“? I was usually noncommittal in answering because I knew that The Iliad would be an undertaking of a very different scale, and like many readers, when I first read it I didn’t immediately love it the way I loved The Odyssey. But I finally decided to take on the challenge, and my opinions about The Iliad have transformed.
I’ve now read The Iliad at least a dozen times in different translations and spent over two and a half years illustrating it. I believe that it is an even richer and more important book than The Odyssey. With each reading I appreciated it more, and found it to be a timeless and completely relevant story about the social and psychological forces that drive individuals and societies into conflict. It is also our best window into life in the Bronze Age over three thousand years ago. It tells us not only about the physical culture of that era and some of its pivotal events, but also the social context and dynamics governing the characters and cultures who fought to rule the Mediterranean and spread their ideas across the world and into the future.
I know The Iliad is a difficult book to teach. Even if young readers can get past the phrase “epic poem” (which itself may fill many of them with dread) they are likely to find the text long and intimidating, dense with details and asides that slow the story down. With this adaptation I hope to give them a much more positive experience. I’ve tried not only to use illustration to clarify the “who, what, when and where” of the action, but also to streamline the story and add important contextual information about the Trojan War and Bronze Age society to help the reader understand the “why’s” of the characters’ actions. As foolish and petty as Agamemnon’s and Achilles’s actions may seem, they become virtually inevitable under the circumstances (even without the meddling of the gods). And we need to understand that, if we want to grapple with the ugly, bloody side of human nature in our “civilized” modern world. We’re not going to achieve peace and understanding if we can’t see how we trap ourselves and each other into cycles of conflict just like those on display in The Iliad.
I’ve learned a great deal from The Iliad, and I’m excited to share those things and my great love for this book. I’d also love to hear from you — do you teach The Iliad? What are some of your favorite approaches or lessons from the text? How do students respond?
I think in many classrooms today, teachers feel they must choose between The Iliad and The Odyssey, or just excerpts, to fit the limited amount of class time they have. In graphic novel form, when students can more quickly and easily read, understand, and get beyond the surface level of the story, I hope it will become possible for more teachers to teach both The Odyssey and The Iliad, helping more students understand and appreciate both of these monumental works, and all they have to teach us about our own history and culture.
I can’t wait until March 2019 when this book sets off on its own epic journey — into stores and libraries everywhere, and (I hope) into the hands, hearts, and classrooms of another set of epic heroes: educators like you, and the students you serve.
Gareth Hinds is the acclaimed creator of the graphic novels The Odyssey, Poe, Beowulf, Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, The Merchant of Venice, and King Lear. He lives near Washington, D.C.
THE ILIAD. Copyright © 2019 Gareth Hinds. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.