Graphic Novel to Novel: Mary Jane

There has been lots of talk lately on the blog about how novels are being transformed into graphic novels, for example young adult books like Twilight to Shakespearean classics. However, no one has pointed out how it can go the other way too.

I can only think of this one example, but I am sure that there are many others as far as fanfiction goes: in Mary Jane, by Judith O’Brien, the comic figure of Spiderman’s girlfriend is made into the novel’s protagonist. These novels are targeted at young adult women, and talk about things that would probably make pretty dull comics (at least in comparison to actual Spiderman comics), but as novels fit in well with the category young adult. In the first book, Mary Jane tackles issues with her parents getting a divorce, getting cut from the ballet team, eating disorders, and thinking Peter Parker is cute. I know, super cliché young adult novel. But I think that’s why it works; by using a character that the audience is already familiar with, the author can send these messages to females that might otherwise never read that sort of thing because they prefer action or fantasy. In that way, it acts as a bridge between different genres and can lead to a diversity of interests.  It can also go the other way- people that pick up this novel might take an interest in the Spiderman comics, and then appreciate the graphic novel more*. Either way, I think that this seemingly “backwards” transition from graphic novel to novel has the ability to spark an interest in on variety of subjects and also to draw in a large audience.

I know, I LOL’d too. Love Peter’s little smug face… anyway, I suppose that I should clarify that there are illustrations inside the book, like the one above, but there aren’t any traditional comics.


Also, the gap between graphic novels as “acceptable” literature is growing slimmer, but I think that novels appeal to a larger audience. While throwing her hat into both graphic novels and novels might just be an attempt to make money, (or maybe she really wanted to tell the story but couldn’t get anyone to draw…), making Mary Jane about a graphic novel character but placing her in a medium without images makes that gap a little bit smaller. Also, that sparked interest I just talked about might encourage a shift from reading just Spiderman comics into other comics as well, which just encourages the gap to disappear even more.

*This is not to say that I think that Spiderman is not interesting to many girls. I just think that girls might identify better with Mary Jane’s issues, and therefore become more invested in her as a character.


Image from:

  1 comment for “Graphic Novel to Novel: Mary Jane

  1. Lindsay Bennett
    February 21, 2013 at 10:04 pm

    I think this brings up an awesome point about the graphic novel connection to movies and novels. When I first think of comic books I often, and judgementally, think of a genre that boys are most involved in. I picture teenage boys reading spiderman and batman and knowing every villian that exists. It is a cool point that was made about a comic books that pertain more to women. The same way that comic books can speak to struggling teens with violence and drugs, they can connect to social gender issues as well. It is important that this issue is brought to the forfront of comics aswell so that it is accessable by everyone no matter what type of media they are fans of.


Comments are closed.