Nearly every high school student has studied Romeo and Juliet, but not many have read it as a graphic novel, featuring a multiracial cast of characters.
Local graphic novelist Gareth Hinds is changing that, though, with the release of his new adaptation of the Shakespeare classic, called ‘Romeo and Juliet.’
“I realized that it was a pleasure to work with these stories that are really old and really rich,” Hinds said. “And that there was a market for it, that there was an education interest. I just decided to continue to doing it.”
The term graphic novel refers to comic book-style content that tells a story and is published as a book.
The 42-year-old Takoma Park resident is one of nearly 100 authors who will be attending the Gaithersburg Book Festival this weekend. It is his first time participating and attending the festival.
Hinds takes the original text from pieces of classic literature, like Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet,’and illustrates panels of color comic book illustrations to accompany it.
“I’m not trying to dumb down the original stories at all... but just having the pictures there to provide context for the words makes it much easier I think,” Hinds said.
Hinds describes his style as “a mingling, a mix of Japanese and European,” and said he began adapting classics starting with the Old English epic poem Beowulf, deciding it seemed almost superhero-like, and fit for a comic. He initially had a career in the video game industry before choosing to self-publish and sell his work at comic book stores.
He has since gained more notoriety in the literary world, with the help of book publisher Candlewick. “I rarely do comic shows now, actually, I feel a little bit of a fish out of water at those shows,” he said.
Hinds has published graphic novel adaptations of Beowulf, King Lear, The Merchant of Venice, The Odyssey and Gifts from the Gods, a collection of Greek and Roman mythology. Romeo and Juliet is his latest work.
Hinds said he would like to write an original story at some point in the future, noting he has “a half a dozen projects [he’s] been chipping away at for years,” though none quite ready for publication yet. He’s also working on picture books with his wife, Alison.
Elizabeth Lewis, a member of the book festival’s author recruitment team, said she sought out Hinds personally after meeting him on a trip to Greece with a group that studied Greek literature. Hinds was the author-in-residence on the trip.
“Gareth has taken on these classics and he’s really enhanced them,” Lewis said. “I was really excited about Gareth and I contacted him directly and he was excited about the Gaithersburg Book Festival. He’s just a terrific guy and I hope a lot of people will come to see his work.”
Hinds will talk about his work, give a drawing demonstration and hold a question-and-answer session scheduled for 11:15 a.m. Saturday at the festival’s Ogden Nash Pavilion. His books can be bought at his website, garethhinds.com.
The fifth Gaithersburg Book Festival is scheduled to be held Saturday at the Gaithersburg City Hall grounds. Admission and parking are free for all who attend.