LONDON: A British publisher has scored a hit with manga comic book versions of Shakespeare s classic plays – and this week unveiled plans for more.
Publishing house SelfMadeHero presented seven titles from its unusual Manga Shakespeare collection, which have already been hits in both Britain and Asia, to the London Book Fair which wound up last week.
When the historic English playwright s tomes were combined with the iconic Japanese comic book style, Shakespeare s characters took on features for which manga is best known – big, shiny eyes and small noses.
Each of Shakespeare s works is abridged and illustrated in its own style.
For example, Romeo and Juliet has been altered into a modern drama, where the warring Capulets and Montagues are represented as Yakuza clans in present-day Tokyo.
Scenes in which Juliet calls out to Romeo from her balcony run alongside samurai-style combat sequences where protagonists shout Kang! Thnk! Whud!
Some keep to more traditional settings: illustrator Patrick Warren drew Richard III rooted in Gothic medieval England.
The books have managed to interest a wide audience, with teachers integrating them into their curriculum.
Seven works were released in 2007 as part of the Manga Shakespeare series – Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, The Tempest, Richard III, A Midsummer Night s Dream, Macbeth and Julius Caesar.
Adaptations of Othello and the comedy As You Like It are due out in autumn of this year.
The books have been a roaring success in Britain, where a new print-run was ordered after the first ran out in six months, while also flying off the shelf in Japan, said Metro Media marketing director Doug Wallace.
Each of the books will now be subject to an 8,000-copy initial print run for sale in Britain.
It started as something fun, something you can enjoy and something educational as well, said Emma Hayley, SelfMadeHero s director.
We don t want it to be boring. It s a way of telling a very dramatic story but in an imaginative way.
She added: The text has been especially abridged but it s the real text.
The books have been published in English, and have also been translated into Korean, Italian, and distributed in the United States and Asia, including Malaysia, Singapore and India.
The British Council, a cultural body which promotes Britain abroad, has also hosted several workshops in Asia to encourage young English-speakers there to read Shakespeare.
Competing publishing houses have also moved to take advantage of the market for adapting classical works of literature into illustrated editions, such as Classical Comics, which published a three-part graphic novel inspired by Macbeth in February.