Graphic story offers chance to explore the 'fun, crazy' plot choices Shakespeare rejected
A choose-your-own-adventure version of Hamlet featuring jokes, ghosts and the previously unseen pirate fight scene, has raised more than six times its goal on Kickstarter in less than a week.
Ryan North, a Canadian comic book writer, launched his appeal on 21 November. In three-and-a-half hours it had raised its goal of $20,000 (£12,500), and today is at almost $150,000 and counting. His version of Hamlet will be called To Be Or Not To Be, and will be an illustrated, chooseable-path adventure story.
Readers will be able to opt to Hamlet ("an emo teen in his early 30s"), Ophelia ("She's got a +1 science stat, but she's also got a -1 weakness against water") or the King, Hamlet's father, "who (SURPRISE) dies on the first page and becomes a ghost. And then we make fun of you for dying on the first page, but you can become a ghost and must INVESTIGATE YOUR OWN MURDER that you TOTALLY SLEPT THROUGH because you got SLEEPY IN AN ORCHARD. ("Shakespeare wrote this part," said North.)
Readers can opt to follow the same choices as Shakespeare's characters, with "little Yorick skulls beside the 'canonical' choices", but North points out that "Shakespeare's choices didn't lead to the best ending for the characters. Not by a long shot." And although the story is told in modern language, there is the option to see the "big speeches" in Shakespeare's "original beautiful and fancy language".
"I've used the story of Hamlet as a starting point, but a) that's already a great story because it ends with pretty much everyone in it getting stabbed in the body and b) the story can go in all sorts of fun, crazy directions when you make a choice that Shakespeare didn't," said North. "Also unlike Shakespeare I didn't skip over the pirate scene in Hamlet. You get to fight PIRATES. With SWORDS. And yes OF COURSE you can choose which body part you cut off. Why would you write a book where you can't do that is my question."
The more money that is raised on Kickstarter by the appeal's end-date of 21 December, the more North will add to the book, including new illustrations by a range of artists – "the more money we raise, the more deaths get illustrated, until we have all 110 deaths done" – and a mini prequel adventure called Poor Yorick. The book will be published with Breadpig, which will donate 100% of its share of profits to the Canadian Cancer Society (North's wife was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma earlier this year).
"While we've been lucky enough to have a cancer that's been responding to treatment, cancer is still a terrible, terrible disease. By supporting this book, you're also supporting research for a cure. That is really cool," said North. "But all that aside, I've worked to include every amazing thing possible in a book like this. There's loops, alternate endings, secret paths and things that I'm pretty sure haven't even been done before in the medium."
As of Tuesday morning, 4,353 readers had pledged money to find out more.