REVIEWS OFHORROR CLASSICS: Graphic Classics Volume Ten
MIDWEST BOOK REVIEW
Horror Classics is a graphic novel anthology that brings to vivid life those great tales of terror by Edgar Allan Poe, H. P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, and others. Each individual story is skillfully rendered into comic book format by a different artist, who uses black-and-white imagery to perfectly capture moments of terror. An engrossing introduction to the classics of horror for those new to the literary experience, and an exciting fresh take on great stories for those who have read them a hundred times before.
The Graphic Classics series has been improving our cultural literacy by presenting zippy comics-styled renderings of those stories most people read in school, or at least know they shouldve read. The formula works particularly well in this collection of 12 classic horror stories, which includes short works by Edgar Allan Poe, Ambrose Bierce, Jack London and Honoré de Balzac, among others. The book begins with a stylish depiction of Bierces mummy as a cool cocktail-lounge character wearing a fez, before settling down to business with a very effective adaptation of Lovecrafts "The Thing on the Doorstep." The vivid black inks and woodcut style of illustrator Michael Manning enhance the original tales creepiness. Poes "Some Words with a Mummy," by contrast, is drawn in a cartoonish manner, with a touch of humor that suits this feather-light tale thats far more social commentary than spine tingler. Balzacs "The Thing at Ghent" is all style, with no words at all; those not already familiar with the work may be left in the dark by artist Mark Danceys version. "The Monkeys Paw," however, illustrated by John W. Pierard, retains all the eerie detail of W. W. Jacobs original. Jack Londons "Keesh, Son of Keesh," drawn by Ryan Inzana, is another moody work, while Bret Hartes "Selina Sedilia," admirably adapted by Antonella Caputo and rendered by Nick Miller, is as silly as it should be. Perfect pacing make this another home run from the Graphic Classics team.
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This is the tenth volume in an excellent set of graphic adaptations of the work of famous writers. In each, a number of differ-ent graphic artists interpret one particular tale or poem in their own unique style, so that each volume presents a varied and sometimes fascinating new look at the author's work. This time multiple authors are involved, including Clark Ashton Smith, H.P. Lovecraft, Jack London, and Edgar Allen Poe. The styles range from comic book to sophisticated, Most of the stories are quite well known, and Lovecraft's "The Thing on the Doorstep" is probably the best single entry, although all of them are interesting
THE TOMB OF DARK DELIGHTS
The best horror stories never lose their ability to terrorize the reader, and this new collection from Graphic Classics contains tales that have shocked, horrified, delighted and amazed readers for a century and more. Represented here are the titans of terror: Edgar Allan Poe ("Some Words with a Mummy"), H. P. Lovecraft ("The Thing on the Doorstep"), Clark Ashton Smith ("The Beast of Averionge") and many more tales of spine-rattling horror brought to life by the finest illustrators of our time: Brandon Ragnar Johnson, Milton Knight, Gabriel Bell, Nick Miller, Mark Dancey, Jackie Smith, Mark A. Nelson and others. I'm happy to report that the first horror story I ever read is included here: "The Monkey's Paw" by W. W. Jacobs, which is brought to horrific life by artist John W. Pierard. I was also happily surprised to find story brand new to me, the charmingly creepy "Professor Jonkin's Cannibal Plant" by Howard R. Garis, whimsically illustrated by Onsmith Jeremi. Chills and terrors abound in this skillfully crafted volume of graphic darkness.
COMIC WORLD NEWS
When I reviewed the Graphic Classics volume that covered Robert Louis Stevenson, I remember being struck at how simultaneously entertaining and educational the anthology was. The variety and quality of artistic styles used in adapting Stevensons work made the book a lot of fun while the inclusion of lesser known Stevenson pieces introduced me to some great stories and poems by this legendary author that I otherwise would never have read. So, when I picked up the next volume of the series, entitled Horror Classics, I hoped that the experience would be repeated.
I love horror and though I certainly havent exhausted the complete library of horror short stories in the world, I think Im fairly well read in the genre. So I was thrilled that, once again, editor Tom Pomplun had gone out of his way to include some real surprises in his horror volume as well as some old favorites and that all were as remarkably illustrated as the Stevenson volume.
Jack Londons "Keesh, Son of Keesh" is a story about Native American courting rituals and the effect of Christianity on Native American culture, but it takes a nasty and horrifying turn. It certainly qualifies as a horror story, even though London isnt a name that one usually associates with the genre. Its a typical example of how far out of the box Pomplun is willing to go. And Ryan (Johnny Jihad) Inzanas primitive, wood-cut style artwork is a typical example of how the perfect artist finds the perfect technique for adapting these stories.
Another example is a Little Shop of Horrors-like story by childrens writer Howard Garis, whom you may or may not know as the creator of Uncle Wiggly and contributor to such series as The Bobbsey Twins and Tom Swift.
Even when selecting a bigger, more typical horror name in Edgar Allan Poe, Pomplun pulls out a surprise in the out-of-the-way "Some Words with a Mummy" instead of a more familiar work. Its true that theres already a Poe edition of Graphic Classics and several popular stories were already adapted there, but certainly not all of them; "The Pit and the Pendulum," for instance. But "Some Words" shows a humorous, satirical side of Poe that isnt often thought about and is another great illustration of the kind of edification one comes to expect from Graphic Classics.
There are popular works here too to be sure. Lovecrafts "The Thing on the Doorstep" and W.W. Jacobs "The Monkeys Paw" are a couple of my personal favorites. But theres just enough of the familiar to draw you in and make you at home that when Pomplun hits you with Western author Bret Hartes melodramatic "Selina Sedilia" (with hilarious, over-the-top illustrations by Nick Miller) youre comfortable giving it a try.
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Another terrific entry in Tom Pompluns Graphic Classics series, Horror Classics alters the winning formula of great-stories-plus-great-artists slightly. Instead of focusing on a single author as in previous volumes (Edgar Allan Poe, Mark Twain, etc.), it collects horror stories from diverse writers such as W.W. Jacobs, who created the creepy classic The Monkeys Paw.
The book starts off with H.P. Lovecrafts The Thing on the Doorstep. I happen to think Lovecraft is one of the great horror writers of all time, and Doorstep is proof of it. Other writers have explored the central idea an evil wizard projecting his mind into an innocent victim but none have given it such a genuinely disturbing outcome. The story is illustrated by Michael Manning, most noted for elegant erotica such as the beautiful Spider Garden. Mannings work here is not as symmetrical or detailed as Garden, but suits the grisly story just fine, retaining most of Lovecrafts distinctive prose.
Other stories combine horror with humor, including those by Saki, Bret Harte, and Edgar Allan Poe, of all people. (Not someone you usually associate with whimsy!) These alternate with tales of full-on horror, including John Pierards version of The Monkeys Paw and Jack Londons Keesh, Son of Keesh. That latter story, adapted in scratchboard by Ryan Inzana, is one of the books artistic highlights, comparing favorably with the work of Eric Drooker. Another is Marc Danceys one-page adaptation of The Thing at Ghent. In a mere fifteen panels, without captions or dialogue, Dancey presents Balzacs story of avarice and murder with an economy that can only be admired.
Theres not much bad to say about the Graphic Classics line. If I did have a complaint, it would be with the almost-total lack of female authors in the series. How about some Virginia Woolf, Tom?
COMIC BOOK NETWORK ELECTRONIC MAGAZINE
This collection of horror classics is one of the better anthologies you will find. While the average reader may only recognize a few of the authors or stories you can be assured they are all worthy to be included in this volume. The reason is they each represent an aspect of the horror genre and the artists present them with equal detail and mood as the original stories intend. This is a remarkable piece of editing and a real bargain at the price.
"The Mummy" by Ambrose Bierce, illustrated by Brandon Ragnar Johnson - a brief poem that serves as a introduction opposite the contents
"The Thing on the Doorstep" by H.P. Lovecraft, illustrated by Michael Manning - a great lead story by the master of horror. What would you do if your friend said his wife was an evil being that periodically took control of his body to carry out ancient rituals? What would it take to convince you the soul inside the body was not him?
"Some Words with a Mummy" by Edgar Allan Poe, adapted by Rod Lott, illustrated by Kevin Atkinson - what if a mummy of ancient Egypt was buried intact and could be revived? Some gents do just that and have a long conversation with some interesting revelations.
"In a Far Off World" by Olive Schreiner, illustrated by Jackie Smith - a delightful bit of fancy about a girl who wants the best for the man she loves; another take on be careful what you wish for.
"The Thing at Ghent" by Honore de Balzac, illustrated by Mark Dancey - a one pager with no dialogue in which a dying woman reveals a secret
"The Monkey's Paw" by W. W. Jacobs, illustrated by John W. Pierard - who hasn't heard of this one (if only from The Simpsons!) three wishes may not bring you happiness
"The Open Window" by Saki, illustrated by Gabrielle Bell - a gentleman meets a woman and her daughter in a house with a window always kept open. The mother waits for her husband and sons to return from the hunt. The daughter says they died years ago. Which is the truth?
"A Day-Dream" by Fitz-James O'Brien, illustrated by Milton Knight - one gent, afraid to venture on the streets at night has wilddreams of what would happen when his friend offers him a gun toprotect himself. Are dreams our real desires?
"Keesh, Son of Keesh" by Jack London, illustrated by Ryan Inzana - in the frozen north it is often difficult to cope with Native American customs after the white man has made his mark. One man seeking a bride copes with rejection from her and her father in an unusual manner.
"Professor Jonkin's Cannibal Plant" by Howard R. Garis, illustrated by Onsmith Jeremi - Little Shop Of Horrors with a twist. Will the professor's bond with his plant lead to his end?
"The Beast of Averoigne" by Clark Ashton Smith, adapted by Rod Lott, illustrated by Richard Jenkins - a beast is terrorizing the countryside and an abbey in particular. Can a man of the mystic arts discover its secret?
"Selina Sedilia" by Bret Harte, adapted by Antonella Caputo, Illustrated by Nick Miller - a man and a woman are about to be married but each holds secrets of past murders they have committed. Will either survive to the wedding? The artist has a lot of fun with this one adding lots of visual gags.
This volume is available in book stores, from Diamond, and from the publisher directly at the web site above.
An adventure in literary discovery
Eureka Productions' Graphic Classics series have proved to have remarkably strong staying power in the industry, as publisher Tom Pomplum shipped the twelfth book in July. Adventure Classics is the second multi-author volume, a companion piece to last year's Horror Classics. Featuring stories by the likes of Zane Grey, Alexander Dumas, Rafael Sabatini and Arthur Conan Doyle, Adventure Classics is a trip back to a bygone era when the world offered adventure and dangers in both the civilized world and in pockets of unexplored territory.
For me, Adventure Stories was an eye-opening introduction to champions of the genre-- guys like the ones I mentioned in the first paragraph, whose names I recognized, but whose stories I was completely unfamiliar, other than Doyle, though its not a Sherlock Holmes tale told in this volume. Other stories introduced me to writers I'd never heard of before, like Damon Runyon and Robert W. Service, who are responsible for my favorite two tales in this volume.
Runyon's story is called "Two Men Named Collins" and it is an emotional piece of storytelling. I didn't expect to find such a slowly paced, character driven piece in a collection called Adventure Classics. I expected rousing tales of action and danger and dames in distress, and I got that indeed from the likes of Zane Grey, O Henry, Johnston McCulley and Rafael Sabatini, but Runyon's story knocked me back with its emotional denouement.
Robert W. Service's contribution is a witty poem of extreme cleverness, made even more so by some wonderfully playful illustrations by Hunt Emerson. The title is "The Shooting of Dan McGrew", and it had me laughing and smiling.
We've reviewed a number of books in the Graphic Classics series, and we'll continue to do so as long as Eureka Productions keeps printing new ones. The selection of stories, the adaptations and the illustrations combine to create complete packages that are adventures into a past era of literature. Graphics Classics is a great way for these old treasures to be rediscovered by new generations of readers.