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Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation - A Stunning and Powerful Visual Story of Slavery and Time Travel

Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation - A Review

Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation is a stunning and powerful rendition of Octavia E. Butler's bestselling literary science-fiction masterpiece, Kindred. The graphic novel, adapted by Damian Duffy and John Jennings, faithfully captures Butler's mysterious and moving story, which spans racial and gender divides in the antebellum South through the 20th century. In this article, I will review the graphic novel and discuss its significance, summary, analysis and evaluation.

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Kindred is a novel by Octavia E. Butler, published in 1979. It tells the story of Dana, a young black woman who is suddenly and inexplicably transported from her home in 1970s California to the preCivil War South. As she time-travels between worlds, one in which she is a free woman and one where she is part of her own complicated familial history on a southern plantation, she becomes frighteningly entangled in the lives of Rufus, a conflicted white slaveholder and one of Danas own ancestors, and the many people who are enslaved by him.

Kindred is widely regarded as one of Butler's most celebrated, critically acclaimed and influential works. It is considered an essential work in feminist, science-fiction, and fantasy genres, and a cornerstone of the Afrofuturism movement. It has sold over 500,000 copies and has been adapted into various media forms, including a stage play, a radio drama, an opera and a film project.

Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation is one of the latest adaptations of Kindred. It was published in 2017 by Abrams ComicArts. It was adapted by Damian Duffy, a cartoonist, scholar and New York Times bestselling author, and John Jennings, a professor of media and cultural studies and a prolific comics artist. The graphic novel powerfully renders Butler's story with stunning illustrations and faithful dialogue. It also adds some new elements to enhance the visual storytelling.

Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation is an important and relevant work in today's world. It offers an unflinching look at our complicated social history, especially the violence and loss of humanity caused by slavery in the United States, and its complex and lasting impact on the present day. It also explores themes such as race, gender, history, identity, power, resistance, survival and love. It challenges us to confront our past and present realities, and to imagine alternative futures.

Summary of the Graphic Novel

The graphic novel follows the same plot as the novel, but with some minor changes and additions. The graphic novel begins with a prologue that shows Dana in a hospital bed after losing her arm in one of her time-traveling episodes. She is surrounded by her husband Kevin, a white man, and some police officers who are suspicious of her injury and her interracial marriage. The graphic novel then flashes back to the events that led to Dana's situation.

The graphic novel is divided into six chapters, each corresponding to a date and a place. The first chapter is June 9, 1976, Los Angeles, California. Dana and Kevin are moving into their new apartment when Dana suddenly feels dizzy and faints. She wakes up in a forest near a river, where she sees a young white boy drowning. She rescues him and performs CPR on him, but is then confronted by an angry white man with a gun, who accuses her of harming the boy. The boy's mother arrives and calls the man Tom Weylin, and the boy Rufus. Dana realizes that she has somehow traveled back in time to the early 1800s, and that Rufus is one of her ancestors. She also notices that the man has shot her in the arm. As she bleeds, she feels dizzy again and returns to her own time.

The second chapter is March 1976, Los Angeles, California. Dana recovers from her wound and tries to make sense of what happened. She tells Kevin about her experience and shows him a book that traces her family tree. She finds out that Rufus Weylin is the son of a plantation owner in Maryland, and that he fathered a child with Alice Greenwood, a free black woman who was later enslaved. That child, Hagar Weylin, is Dana's great-grandmother. Dana wonders why she was drawn to Rufus and what she is supposed to do.

The third chapter is June 9, 1976, Maryland. Dana is pulled back to the past again, this time with Kevin holding on to her. They arrive at the Weylin plantation, where they see Rufus as a young teenager. He has set fire to the curtains in his room after a fight with his father. Dana and Kevin put out the fire and try to calm down Rufus. They pretend to be free blacks from New York who are looking for work. Tom Weylin hires them as a tutor for Rufus and a cook for the house. Dana and Kevin meet some of the enslaved people on the plantation, such as Sarah, Carrie, Nigel and Luke. They also meet Alice Greenwood and her mother, who are free but live nearby. Dana learns that Rufus has a crush on Alice, but Alice dislikes him.

The fourth chapter is May 5, 1976, Los Angeles, California. Dana returns to her own time without Kevin, who was unable to follow her. She finds out that she has been gone for eight days in her time, but only a few hours in the past. She is worried about Kevin's fate and hopes that he can survive in the antebellum South.

The fifth chapter is July 4, 1976, Maryland. Dana travels back to the past again, this time alone. She arrives at a time when Rufus is an adult and the master of the plantation. He has married a white woman named Margaret, but he also has an affair with Alice, who is now enslaved by him after being captured by patrollers years ago. Alice has two children by Rufus, Joe and Hagar. Dana is shocked and disgusted by Rufus's behavior, but she also feels obligated to protect him and Alice for the sake of her own existence.

The sixth chapter is June 15-18, 1976/July 4-7,

1976, Maryland. Dana travels back to the past for the last time, hoping to find Kevin and bring him back. She arrives at a time when Rufus is dying from a wound inflicted by Alice, who has committed suicide after being whipped by him. Dana tries to save Rufus, but he begs her to stay with him and threatens to harm Kevin if she leaves. Dana realizes that Rufus has become a cruel and selfish man who only cares about himself. She decides to kill him with a knife, hoping that this will not erase her existence. As she stabs him, she feels a sharp pain in her arm and returns to her own time. She finds Kevin waiting for her in their apartment, but she also discovers that she has lost her arm, which was stuck in the wall as she traveled. The graphic novel ends with an epilogue that shows Dana and Kevin visiting Maryland to learn more about their ancestors and their history.

Analysis of the Graphic Novel

The graphic novel is a faithful and effective adaptation of the novel, but it also adds some new elements and perspectives to the story. The graphic novel uses visual techniques such as color, contrast, framing, perspective, symbolism and expression to convey the mood, tone, theme and emotion of the story. For example, the graphic novel uses a sepia tone for the scenes in the past, and a full color palette for the scenes in the present, creating a contrast between the two worlds. The graphic novel also uses different angles and distances to show the power dynamics and relationships between the characters. For instance, the graphic novel often shows Rufus from a low angle and Dana from a high angle, suggesting his dominance and her vulnerability. The graphic novel also uses symbols and metaphors to illustrate the connection and conflict between Dana and Rufus. For example, the graphic novel shows Dana's arm as a visual motif that represents her link to Rufus and her loss of agency.

The graphic novel also explores some themes and issues that are not explicitly addressed in the novel, such as sexuality, violence, trauma and memory. The graphic novel depicts some scenes that are only implied or mentioned in passing in the novel, such as Alice's rape by patrollers, Dana's sexual assault by a white man in a hotel, and Rufus's sexual abuse of Alice. The graphic novel also shows some scenes that are not in the novel at all, such as Dana's nightmares about slavery, Kevin's experiences as a white man in the past, and Dana's visit to a museum that displays slave artifacts. These scenes add more depth and complexity to the characters and their situations, as well as challenge the reader to confront the harsh realities of slavery and its aftermath.

The graphic novel also compares and contrasts with other adaptations of Kindred, such as the stage play by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, the radio drama by Robert Eversz, the opera by Toshi Reagon and Bernice Johnson Reagon, and the film project by Ernest Dickerson. Each adaptation has its own strengths and weaknesses, as well as its own interpretation and vision of Butler's story. Some adaptations focus more on the historical and political aspects of slavery, while others emphasize more on the personal and emotional aspects of time-traveling. Some adaptations use more realistic and naturalistic styles, while others use more fantastical and experimental styles. Some adaptations follow more closely to Butler's original text, while others deviate more from it or add new elements to it. The graphic novel adaptation is unique in its use of visual language and its combination of fidelity and creativity.

Evaluation of the Graphic Novel

The graphic novel is a successful and impressive adaptation of Kindred. It achieves its purpose and goals of bringing Butler's story to a new medium and a new audience, as well as honoring her legacy and vision. It also overcomes some of the challenges and opportunities for graphic novel adaptations.

One of the strengths of the graphic novel is its ability to capture Butler's voice and style. The graphic novel preserves most of Butler's original dialogue and narration, as well as her tone and pace. The graphic novel also respects Butler's intentions and messages, as well as her complexity and ambiguity. The graphic novel does not simplify or sensationalize Butler's story, but rather enhances it with visual elements.

Another strength of the graphic novel is its ability to appeal to different types of readers. The graphic novel can attract readers who are familiar with Kindred or Butler's works, as well as readers who are new to them. The graphic novel can also appeal to readers who are interested in different genres, such as science fiction, fantasy, historical fiction, horror, romance and drama. The graphic novel can also appeal to readers who are interested in different topics, such as race, gender, history, identity, power, resistance, survival and love. The graphic novel can also appeal to readers who are interested in different forms of expression, such as literature, art, music and film.

One of the weaknesses of the graphic novel is its limitation in scope and detail. The graphic novel cannot include everything that is in the novel, such as some of the characters, events, descriptions and thoughts. The graphic novel also cannot show everything that is in the story, such as some of the sounds, smells and sensations. The graphic novel has to condense and omit some parts of the story, which may affect the reader's understanding and enjoyment of it.

Another weakness of the graphic novel is its potential for controversy and criticism. The graphic novel may face some challenges and objections from some readers or critics who may not agree with or appreciate its adaptation choices. The graphic novel may also face some difficulties and risks in dealing with sensitive and complex issues such as slavery, racism, sexism and violence. The graphic novel may also face some competition and comparison with other adaptations of Kindred or other works by Butler.


Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation is a remarkable and memorable work that deserves praise and recognition. It is a faithful and effective adaptation of Kindred, one of the most important and influential novels by Octavia E. Butler, one of the most brilliant and visionary writers of our time. It is also a creative and original work that adds new elements and perspectives to Butler's story. It is a work that challenges us to think critically and creatively about our past, present and future.

Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation is a work that I highly recommend to anyone who loves reading, writing or creating stories. It is a work that will inspire you, move you and change you. It is a work that will stay with you for a long time.


  • Q: Where can I buy Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation?

  • A: You can buy it from or other online or offline bookstores.

  • Q: Who are Damian Duffy and John Jennings?

  • A: They are the adapter and illustrator of Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation. They are also academics and comics artists who have collaborated on other projects such as Black Comix Returns and The Hole: Consumer Culture.

  • Q: What are some other works by Octavia E. Butler?

  • A: Some of her other works include Parable of the Sower, Parable of the Talents, Wild Seed, Dawn, Bloodchild and Other Stories, Fledgling and Unexpected Stories.

  • Q: What are some other graphic novel adaptations of literary works?

  • A: Some examples are The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood and Renee Nault, Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury and Tim Hamilton, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee and Fred Fordham, Maus by Art Spiegelman and Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons.

  • Q: What are some other resources to learn more about Kindred or Octavia E. Butler?

  • A: Some resources are Octavia E. Butler's official website (, Octavia's Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements edited by Walidah Imarisha and adrienne maree brown, Conversations with Octavia Butler edited by Conseula Francis, Strange Matings: Science Fiction, Feminism, African American Voices, and Octavia E. Butler edited by Rebecca J. Holden and Nisi Shawl.


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