The cover of the graphic novel adaptation of Octavia E. Butler’s science-fiction masterpiece “Kindred.”
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The Institute of Contemporary Art’s “artful book club,” ICA Reads, has selected “Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation” as its 2017 pick for a book of critical and societal importance. A reinterpretation of Octavia E. Butler’s science-fiction masterpiece “Kindred,” the book was adapted by School of Information Sciences at Illinois alumnus and adjunct lecturer Damian Duffy and illustrated by John Jennings. A New York Times bestseller, the novel tells the story of a young black woman’s time-travel between her home in 1970s California and a plantation in the antebellum South.
Self-described as “huge Octavia Butler fans,” Duffy and Jennings answered a call for entries for an earlier attempt to adapt the novel in 2009 but didn’t get the job. By chance, that adaptation fell through and they were offered the project again in 2012. Duffy and Jennings have been working together for about 12 years, making comics and curating comics art exhibitions concerned with issues of identity and representation.
“We both felt like the critical examinations of race, gender and representation that permeate “Kindred” were very much in line with the original comics work we’ve done. Also, we felt that making a graphic novel version provided a chance for new readers to discover her work, as well as a chance for fans to revisit her most famous novel through a new lens,” Duffy said.
Duffy’s interest in comics started at the age of six when he read his first Spider-Man comic. His first attempt at becoming a professional comics creator was in 2001, when he and his friend Dann Tincher self-published three issues of a science fiction/crime comic series called “Whisp.” Duffy and Jennings have published another graphic novel, “The Hole: Consumer Culture,” and a horror comic, “Urban Kreep.”
After working at the University of Illinois Law Library for six years, Duffy decided to pursue an advanced degree in library and information science. “Witnessing firsthand the impact of information access, communication and preservation, as well as the role of library and information science scholarship in the growing inclusion of comics in cultural discourses, I felt like the profession had the potential to overlap with my creative/artistic pursuits,” he said. “I always wish more people thought of comics as a medium of communication, as capable of telling many different kinds of stories to many different audiences as prose or film.”
Last spring, Duffy completed his Ph.D. degree and received the Berner-Nash Memorial Award for outstanding doctoral dissertation. He is now an adjunct lecturer at the School of Information Sciences at Illinois, teaching Computers and Culture and Social Media and Global Change.