Potterglyphics: Harry Potter, encapsulated
Just in time for the final installment of the Harry Potter movie series (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part Two, in theaters Friday 15), Chicago cartoonist Lucy Knisley has finished and unveiled her complete Harry Potter condensed comic, aptly titled The Summharry. As you’ll see if you download the poster at her site, Knisley does an amazing job of condensing the complete series into a humorous, witty, good-natured parody, rife with inside Potter jokes. TOCK caught up with Lucy to get the details.
The hardest part, she recounts, was condensing the whole series into the eight comics. (As with the films, Knisley split J.K. Rowling's last book into two parts; the eight parts were released over time, and can now be read individually or as part of one huge poster.) “There are, obviously, so many details in the books,” she said. “I forgave every director and screenwriter of a book-to-movie that I've ever criticized for leaving out a scene from the book. But condensing down the plot while trying to keep all the parts that were important is a really good writing exercise, especially for a comic-book artist who has to balance images and words to tell stories.”
You don’t have to be Hermione Granger to deduce that the artist is definitely a giant Potter fan. Of course Knisley, who moved here eight years ago to study at the School of the Art Institute, will be at the midnight screening Friday, dressed in costume with all the other Hogwarts boosters.
“I read the first book when it came out, when I was 13—which is pretty close to the exact age of Harry and his friends in the first book. My sixth grade teacher, Ms. King, gave it to me,” she says. “I've grown up alongside the characters in the stories and loved the whole trip. I have a lot of fondness for the book series, both because it's great and because it’s spanned my adolescence.”
Her comic-book condensation is filled with funny little quotes and captions. “I was drawing these for fun, so I might as well make it funny to me!” Knisley says. “It's not just a retelling of the plot of the books; it's a parody comic, so there's plenty of jokes, commentary and insider humor.”
With her cartoonist’s perspective, Knisley brings comic relief (no pun intended) to some of the darker elements of the story. The serious parts become less dire, a little more whimsical and humorous. For example, in her version of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One, when Voldemort’s pet snake Nagini hides in the body of Bathilda Bagshot before attacking Harry, it says “What up? Let’s hang out.”
“When you're reading on your own, it can be intense,” opines Knisley, who’s about to move back to her native New York to be closer to family. “It's funny to discuss the books with friends and joke about it. It can make you realize how seriously you’ve been taking this story about a kid wizard!”
A rising star, Knisley has maintained her own web site since 2005. It’s no surprise that, thanks to The Summharry, her web traffic has spiked. For the time being, you can download a poster of the comic for free; visitors can also choose to make a donation.
In recalling how The Summharry started, Lucy explains: “I was teaching a series of workshops for kids to make comics. The first short comic we make involves everyone choosing a story they love from a book or movie, and then drawing it as a comic. I thought, ‘If I assign this project, I should have to challenge myself to do the same, only harder.’ ” We’re all glad she did.