Guest blogger: Rob Davis – stories within stories

Aside from the central tale of ‘mad old man as knight’ and ‘fat buffoon as squire’ there are a number stories within the main story of Don Quixote in volume one. Some are self-contained and some overlap with each other and filter into Don Quixote’s adventures. I wanted to keep all of these stories in my version, but in the end I had to drop one.

Towards the end of volume one things get complicated as various storylines collide and characters from earlier in the book make a reappearance. To keep things simple as possible in this section I chose to drop the Convict’s Tale from this section of the book. This meant I could lose two new characters and the lengthy tale that they tell. The only problem is that The Convict’s Tale is semi-autobiographical, Cervantes having been a convict himself. But if you’re going to turn a 500 page novel into a 150 page graphic novel something has to get cut! Then it dawned on me that I had already decided to have Cervantes represented by a cell window with his narration coming from between the bars, so in a sense there was a convict’s tale in my version after all. I’d like to claim that this was part of a masterplan but I was just following my instincts and happy accidents sometimes follow.

I wanted the short stories I retained to feel self-contained so worked to fit each one into a single page and give it a style distinct from the look of the overall book. I saw them as short ‘funnies’ like cartoons in a Sunday paper and gave them their own title within the main book.

As I descended further into madness of the book, ambition took hold and caution went out the window. I saw the potential for using the colour schemes of these short stories as a form visual punctuation.

The most successful example of this can be seen in the first short story, The Goatherder’s Tale – it’s told around the camp fire at night and the story is entirely green in stark contrast to the bright orange of the fireside scene. First we have the goatherder telling his tale in the orange light of the fire.

Then the leap to green for the single page tale itself.

We return to the fireside when the tale is complete.

The Goatherders invite Don Quixote and Sancho Panza to meet characters from the tale next morning and when the next day dawns it is as green as the Goatherder’s Tale.

Gradually, as events in the chapter are played out, the orange and green balance themselves out as the world of the Goatherder’s tale and the world of Cervantes’ tale also balance out.

The one story within a story that isn’t restricted to a single page is the novella contained with the book, The Novel of the Curious Impertinent.

This fills 60 odd pages in the original text, so I gave myself 4 pages to fit it in. This one really looks like a separate book within the book. Compressing it so drastically makes the story funnier and the madness of the characters is even more stark than Cervantes probably intended.

In fact ‘compression = funny’ was something of a Godsend for me, things were bound to get squeezed so the fact they got funnier for being squeezed fitted what I had planned for the book. This is a funny book. The original is a funny book. There’s nothing wrong with funny books. It doesn’t mean they don’t have any pretensions towards depth and asking big questions about life.

I sometimes detect a ‘fear of funny’ in so-called ‘serious Graphic Novels’, as if being funny reduces the merit of the book. Funny comics have associations with kids’ comics of old, maybe that’s the root of that fear.

In truth laughter can carry the reader, it can carry the story the same way a tune can carry lyrics in a song. And at the end of the day if you don’t laugh you go mad. Heh.


You’re reading the story the behind-the-scenes of Don Quixote – vol 1 exclusively on the SelfMadeHero blog. Lucky you! Join us on Monday for the third guest post by Rob, where he’ll be talking about narrative, narrators and meta-narrative in his adaptation, well la di da!

Don Quixote – vol I by Rob Davis is published by SelfMadeHero yesterday! If you live somewhere remote or heaven forfend… abroad, you may like to consider purchasing Don Quixote from our online store, powered by the mighty Amazon. But, if you live or work near a comics or bookshop, we ask that you consider supporting them first as it is widely stocked.

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2 Responses to Guest blogger: Rob Davis – stories within stories

  1. Rob Deas says:

    What fantastic use of colour, love the orange and greens coming together like that, brilliant!

  2. Pingback: Guest blogger, Rob Davis: Don Quixote – The self-made hero | SelfMadeHero