In an exclusive interview with Villain Media, writer Ted Adams talks about his essential graphic novel adaptation of The Great Gatsby (Clover Press). Find out how Adams and artist Jorge Coelho revisited the classic literary novel by author F. Scott Fitzgerald.
The Plot: The Great Gatsby: The Essential Graphic Novel Adaptation follows Nick Carraway as he becomes drawn to the Jazz Age on Long Island, near New York City. Nick narrates the interactions he has with the mysterious millionaire Jay Gatsby. Unfortunately, Gatsby’s obsession to reunite with his ex-lover, Daisy Buchanan will lead to dire consequences.
With the graphic novel now running on Kickstarter, Ted Adams opens up about his faithful interpretation, working on the time period with artist Jorge Coelho, and the book’s influence on pop culture. Join us as we head towards the writer’s room to discuss the craft of storytelling.
Villain Media: The Great Gatsby is a novel that has been adapted into movies, a musical, and into manga. Tell me about adapting the book into the graphic novel format.
Ted Adams: Our goal was to create a faithful and thoughtful adaptation of Fitzgerald’s classic novel. Every scene from The Great Gatsby is in our adaptation and all of the words are written by Fitzgerald.
VM: Directors such as Francis Ford Coppola and Baz Luhrman have attempted to visualize the text by F. Scott Fitzgerald but have taken liberties with the source material, especially with the music. What did you feel was missing beforehand and what did you want to achieve with your faithful tone/adaptation of the novel?
TA: I don’t think there’s anything wrong with those adaptations, but Jorge Coelho and I wanted to bring Gatsby to life as a graphic novel. For me, having the chance to work with Jorge Coelho and getting to watch him create his beautiful art was a dream come true. He’s captured both the glamour and the grittiness that Fitzgerald wrote about.
VM: Daisy Buchanan’s actions have been analyzed by actresses, psychologists, and literary critics. What were the challenges of adapting a character whose motivations seem somewhat unclear and her decisions change at a whim.
TA: I think Daisy is an unfulfilled person who wants more from life than her gender allowed in the 1920s. She says about her daughter: “I’m glad it’s a girl. And I hope she’ll be a fool—that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful, little fool.” Those aren’t the words of a happy person. She was born into wealth and, like everyone, wants to maintain her lifestyle. Her actions cause great harm, but I still have sympathy for her.
VM: The novel is set in the Jazz Age on Long Island, near New York City. Tell me how you and artist Jorge Coelho aimed to recreate the past in the comic book medium.
TA: The combination of Fitzgerald’s clear writing and Google’s image search tool
allowed me to provide Jorge with photo reference for the clothes and cars. I was even
able to find the house that may have been the inspiration for Gatsby’s mansion. With
that said, most of the visual look of our adaptation comes from Jorge’s wonderful
VM: Like many other students in America, I’ve had to write essays about The Great Gatsby in high school. Is it a challenge to adapt a literary classic to audiences, especially those who may have had to earn a passing grade?
TA: I spent more time on this project than I have on anything else I’ve written. Fitzgerald’s novel is 180 pages and the script I gave Jorge was 190 pages. It was important to me to treat the work with the seriousness that it deserves. I would
sometimes pretend that Fitzgerald was looking over my shoulder as I was working on it. If anyone had a negative experience reading the novel in high school, I hope they’ll give it another chance.
VM: How did adapting The Great Gatsby change you as a storyteller?
TA: Hunter S. Thompson (Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas) said one of the ways he
became a writer was by sitting at a typewriter and retyping The Great Gatsby in its
entirety. By doing that, he believed it allowed him to learn how Fitzgerald was able to
write so well. I essentially did the same thing with this adaptation and, while I rarely
write anything more than email, I try to treat words with the same respect that Fitzgerald (and Thompson) did.
VM: What are you working on now?
TA: I’m mostly retired. I work a couple of days a week at Clover and I volunteer for a
couple of non-profits in San Diego. There’s another great novel that will be entering the
public domain in a couple of years and I sometimes think about adapting it as a graphic
novel. But I’m also ok if our Gatsby adaptation is the last work I do in comics.
Readers can find out more about the Kickstarter page here.