Troy Little is an Eisner-nominated artist who took on the monumental task of adapting the American counterculture classic Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, written by world renowned Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson, into a graphic novel. Teaming with Top Shelf and IDW, Little has crafted a comic that sticks to the storyline of the book while visually bringing the world to life in a way that only comics can.
The original was a surreal adventure into the drug-fueled insanity that often propelled Thompson’s writing accompanied by the LSD tinged art of the great Ralph Steadman. It was almost a comic in and of itself. But Little has done the unimaginable and he has done it superbly. His graphic novel perfectly captures the outrageous spirit of Thompson’s seminal work without pulling any punches.
The comic makes its debut in October and Little will be at the New York Comic Con promoting it. He recently sat down with The Comics Beat for a chat about the graphic novel, the work he put into it, and about Hunter S. Thompson himself.
Seth Ferranti: When and why did you decide to adapt Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas into a graphic novel?
Troy Little: I was contacted by Ted Adams of IDW while working on the re-launch of The Powerpuff Girls comic for them. Fairly random, but I guess I have my editor Denton Tipton to thank for suggesting I pitch them (Thanks, Denton!). Needless to say I jumped at the chance; I’m a massive Hunter fan.
Ferranti: Was it daunting to take on the task of living up to the original?
Little: Beyond daunting! I had many a freak out in the early stages before I had to accept that all I can do is my best and hope I’m not lynched in the process. Thompson fans are savage beasts and viciously protective of his work. I know because I’m one of them.
Ferranti: The artwork looks awesome. How did you capture the mood?
Little: Thank you! My intention in adapting the book was to bring my manic, expressive visuals to the text. I have a hybrid cartoony-realism style I guess, so I used that to push and exaggerate the action, hopefully underscoring and complimenting the text.
Ferranti: How true to the book did you stay?
Little: As true as you can get – every word in the graphic novel is taken straight from the novel! My job was to edit that down into something I could draw. The initial draft came out to around 143 pages. When it came down to actually drawing the pages, I kept adding things back in – I didn’t want to lose any of the book!
Ferranti: Was Ralph Steadman’s art an inspiration?
Little: You can’t experience Fear & Loathing and not recognize his brilliant contribution to the whole Gonzo vibe. I love Steadman’s art but we decided from the get go to stay away from his particular brand of visual chaos. The last thing I’d want to do is look like a poor substitute for a master, and I’m not even sure that his style would translate well into sequential narrative. It would be damn interesting to see, but I’m in no way the guy to attempt it!
Ferranti: How did you get permission to adapt the book?
Little: That aspect stems from a time long before I came onto the project. Ted has been a long time fan of Hunter’s work and this was his pet project. He secured the rights from the Thompson Estate and worked with them on the search for the right person to adapt the novel. I’m grateful for the opportunity and humbled they felt my pitch worthy!
Ferranti: When does the book come out?
Little: The book makes it’s debut from Top Shelf Productions at the New York Comic Con this October! I’m super excited to be there for the event, plus I’ve never been to NY before! Win-win, as they say. The book should be in stores later in October or early November, I’m not sure if there’s a set street date.
Ferranti: Were you always a fan of Hunter S. Thompson?
Little: Oh HELL yes! I’ve been reading his books for years – as such my standards and expectations were through the roof. I’m sure if I had enough time I’d re-draw the whole thing again and again in an attempt to “get it right”, but as it stands I had one shot. I’m trying to cope with that, I wouldn’t want to let any fans down but I also know you can’t please everyone.
Ferranti: Sell us on your adaptation of Fear and Loathing.
Little: Fear & Loathing is like no other book. It’s rocket fuel on paper. A black humoured drag race through the neon fakery of The American Dream. It’s a book that allows you to vicariously behave like there are no rules. Buy the ticket, take the ride.
Ferranti: What do you think Hunter would think of the book?
Little: I’m torn on that. In a sense I would hope he’d understand the book was made with reverence of the source material, and that it’s existence in no way diminishes the importance of his words. That this book might act as a gateway drug to hook new readers and draw them to his other books. Then there’s the part of me that thinks he’s going to foist a savage haunting upon me.
For more info check out Troy Little’s website.
Seth Ferranti writes for VICE, The Fix, Don Diva and other media outlets. He runs www.gorillaconvict.com, www.thegr1nd.com and has 8 true crime books out, one of which, The Supreme Team, is now being adapted into a graphic novel with Stache Publishing.