PENGUINCLASSICS.COM The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Penguin Classics On Air

Classics are officially cool, with top graphic artists designing Deluxe editions for the first time with a riot of vibrant, strong, provocative and inspiring covers. Already collectors' items, these Deluxe editions bring together the best of the graphic art world with exciting new translations and literary Classics. Paul Buckley, Penguin's art director, shares his thoughts on the artistic process.

Recently, I was asked to write a few words on my experience with our most recent round of Penguin Classics Deluxe. Generally this sort of thing would have me muttering like a 5 year old, some weak, exasperated "oh..ok..if i must..", all the while staring at the floor, kicking at my feet, and thinking to myself ".. I am never going to get to design my covers." But this was different - in my 18 years with Penguin, this project created the most humor, wit, fun, and of course, "comic" moments I've ever been witness to. While this series of books does not have an official name, I am of course talking about the deluxe classics done by (mostly) famous graphic novelists:

1. Chester Brown - D.H. Lawrence's Lady Chatterly's Lover

2. Charles Burns - Upton Sinclair's The Jungle

3. Roz Chast - Stella Gibbon's Cold Comfort Farm

4. Tomer Hanuka - Marquis de Sade's Philosophy in the Boudoir

5. Jason - Jack Kerouac's Dharma Bums

6. Frank Miller - Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow

7. Anders Nilsen - Hans Christian Anderson's Fairy Tales

8. Thomas Ott - Shirley Jackson's We Have Always Lived in the Castle

9. Seth - The Portable Dorothy Parker

10. Art Spiegelman - Paul Auster's The New York Trilogy

11. Yoshihiro Tatsumi - Ryunosuke Akutagawa's Rashomon

12. Chris Ware - Voltaire's Candide

What also made this the most enjoyable project I've yet to work on was very simply that everyone involved was into it in all the same ways, for all the same reasons. There were no differences of opinion, or visions, just a complete agreement as to what this could be. When our publisher saw our cover for Candide, she instantly saw the potential for more and agreed to let the artists loose. Publicity and marketing went above and beyond in promoting these books and our artists and sales went on full-tilt support.

A year after our first edition came off press, we now have twelve books in the series and it has been a kick to work with some of the world's most incredible artists—including Art Spiegelman, Frank Miller, Charles Burns, Roz Chast, Yoshihiro Tatsumi, Tomer Hanuka and Chester Brown.

In our business, in any business, it's hard to take risks, to have some fun, and to stay the course long enough to see what comes of it. I'm pretty confident that by the very simple act of letting these extremely talented artists take this classic material, and do exactly what they do best, we are reaping the rewards - sales-wise, and just as important, for the basic value of injecting some always needed levity in our 9 to 5.


Rashomon and Seventeen Other Stories
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