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IDW Publishing has announced a graphic novel adaptation of Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. I think the question that all of us are wondering is what took so long? The wild, twisted, and occasionally macabre descriptions that Thompson provides of his drug-addled journey to Sin City are practically designed for illustration. Long before Terry Gilliam and Johnny Depp teamed up for the now classic film adaptation, Thompson was working side by side with award winning cartoonist Ralph Steadman to create visual counterparts to his hazy and grotesque writings of modern America. The rest is history, and in some circles, Steadman is every bit as well known as the infamous trailblazer of Gonzo journalism.
According to IDW, the release date and creative team have yet to be announced. Although Hunter Thompson is no longer with us, Ralph Steadman is still very much alive. His unique and occasionally disturbing style have become every bit as connected with Thompson’s legacy as is the bucket hat, aviator sunglasses, and knee-high shorts that we know so well. I’d be surprised—not to mention greatly disappointed— if IDW didn’t attempt to hire the famous caricature artist for this ambitious project. No one knows the trials of Raoul Duke and Dr. Gonzo quite like Ralph Steadman, whose psychadelic drawing of the two, blazing down the highway in their red convertible, has become the iconic cover of the novel. In that red convertible, Duke and Gonzo are heading to Las Vegas to find the American dream or die trying.
Ted Adams, IDW Publishing’s CEO, has come out and claimed a personal connection with Thompson’s writing. “I’ve read Thompson throughout my entire life,” he claimed, “[and] I’m very serious about doing this novel right.” The likeliest challenge will be capturing Thompson’s energy in a different format. How will the narration lend itself to a graphic novel? Will they retain the long passages of explanation about things that can’t necessarily be shown without a surplus of resourcefulness? The adaptation will be a challenge in more ways than one, and there are plenty of die hard fans to upset other than Ted Adams. However, they probably aren’t sweating over the challenge too much. IDW has developed a track record of adapting famous works of literature into graphic novel format. This is just one more in an ongoing effort to repackage old works for a new audience.
Here’s hoping that Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is every bit as good as it potentially can be. Without Steadman— which at this point it may or may not be— it will be different. Whether or not the difference is good, it can’t yet be said. At this stage, we can only anticipate what is to come, and hope that Ted Adams and IDW Publishing are up to the challenge.