Local artist brings new life to classics with his graphic novels
By EMILY STRAB — On a quiet block in Hyattsville, in an unassuming brick house, classic literature is getting new life through the art of Gareth Hinds.
Hinds has combined his passion and profession of drawing with a love of classic literature that goes back to when he was studying art in college. Through his most recent work of “The Iliad” and its sequel, “The Odyssey,” Hinds’ work has found its way into numerous classrooms, libraries, and Hyattsville homes.
And now, Hyattsville has a special chance to get a glimpse at the process of bringing three-millennia-old epic poems to the format of the modern graphic novel.
On Friday, March 15, Hinds will be hosting a launch party for his “Iliad” at Vigilante Coffee. There, attendees will be able to enjoy snacks (some of which may be “Iliad”–themed), a live drawing presentation, insight on his process of adapting ancient texts for a graphic novel format, and a show of some of the original art from “The Iliad” — which will not happen at any other event, according to Hinds.
Hinds and his wife, Allison, came to Hyattsville after living in Takoma Park because they wanted to buy a house and knew from friends that Hyattsville was a city permeated with arts and artists. Despite the integral role the arts play in Hyattsville, Hinds did not expect quite so many young fans of his work, despite the growing success of his books.
While Hinds knew that Hyattsville was a center for arts, he did not realize that it is also at the center of a resurgence in classical learning. St. Jerome Academy is at the forefront of schools that have adopted a classical curriculum and focuses on classic texts starting in first grade. There are also many homeschooling families in Hyattsville that have discovered Hinds’ books in the Hyattsville library and are looking forward to the prequel to his much-loved “Odyssey.”
When first marketing his books, Hinds did not find overnight success with the audiences of comic conventions. However, once he started attending English teacher conventions, he found an audience who were thrilled to have his book be a tool in their classrooms. Since then, Hinds says he has found more success with books that teachers use in their high school curriculum, like “Beowulf,” rather than less popular choices like “King Lear,” which “gave me permission to continue in that vein to really share my love of classics,” like his favorite, “The Odyssey.” His success with high schoolers and English teachers reading these books led to his relationship with his publisher, Candlewick Press.
In Hyattsville, he has found an even younger audience for his books.
Having a younger audience means sensitively dealing with some of the difficult content of these texts, which have been traditionally read by teenagers or adults. Because Hinds is also illustrating the action in the books, he is mindful not to create images that might “get teachers in trouble,” but he does not edit the story’s content. He consults many translations, but “uses [his] intuition to distill the text to the heart of the story.” What results is a graphic novel that is compelling for adults and accessible to children.
By coming out to “The Iliad” launch party, attendees will not only be supporting the artist; but also Vigilante Coffee, Tanglewood Works and Robert Harper’s My Dead Aunt’s Books, which will have copies to purchase and have signed by Hinds.
Like his books, the event is appropriate for all ages.