ADVENTURE CLASSICS: Graphic Classics Volume Twelve


June 15, 2005
Review by Michael May

I know I’ve written this before in reviews of Graphic Classics, but I’ve come to expect two things every time I pick up a new volume of the series. First, I expect to be entertained. Editor Tom Pomplun always picks a diverse group of artists to bring the “graphic” to his title. From the silly cartoons of Hunt Emerson and Nick Miller to the pulpish realism of Mark A. Nelson and Don Marquez, each of Pomplun’s anthologies contains a smorgasbord for readers with eclectic tastes.

The other thing I’ve come to expect is to learn something. Pomplun usually highlights one or two popular stories in each volume, but the books are mostly filled with obscure, but no less amusing stories that readers probably haven’t been exposed to yet.

The twelfth volume, Adventure Classics, is no exception. Most of the Graphic Classics volumes have focused on a particular writer, but Adventure takes the opportunity of using a specific genre to sample a variety of classic authors. Pomplun has assembled a pantheon of adventure writers here, including the creators of Long John Silver, Fu Manchu, the Three Musketeers, Captain Blood, Mowgli and Baloo, Zorro, Sherlock Holmes, and the Cisco Kid. In keeping with Pomplun’s goal of introducing readers to new material, the only one of those characters to appear in the anthology is Captain Blood, but that makes the book no less worthy of attention. On the contrary, in light of the easy availability of stories about D’Artagnan and Holmes, Adventure Classics is much more worth checking out for the obscurity of its material.

Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Crime of the Brigadier” sounds like it could be the title of a Sherlock Holmes mystery, but is actually a humorous account of a clueless French officer who doesn’t understand how he managed to offend so many Englishmen. You don’t usually associate Doyle with comedy, but he’s very funny here and the humor is enhanced even further by Nick Miller’s brilliant cartooning.

“The Mystery of the Semi-Detached” by children’s novelist Edith Nesbit is as much horror as mystery and Mark A. Nelson makes it chillingly oppressive with heavy inks and dark linework.

But the introduction of hidden treasures shouldn’t overshadow the fact that there are also excellent adaptations of old favorites here. As a huge fan of Rafael Sabatini, I was thrilled to find “Blood Money,” a Captain Blood story, included. Kevin Atkinson’s illustrations are whimsical and cartoonish without being overly exaggerated. The effect is perfect for a romantic, larger-than-life, swashbuckling story.

Zane Grey’s “Tigre” is another favorite of mine and Don Marquez’s cool, pulp illustrations do a lot to bring out the menace and danger of a young couple being pursued by a vicious jaguar sent after them by a jealous husband. Michael Manning’s illustrations on “Un Bal Masque” by Alexandre Dumas fully captures the grotesque depravity of Paris’s jaded rich.

There’s more. Much more than I can go into. Rod Lott and JB Bonivert’s wonderfully creepy adaptation of Sax Rohmer’s Mummy-esque “In the Valley of the Sorceress,” for example. Or Milton Knight’s awesome, burlesque version of Fitz-James O’Brien’s “The Man Without a Shadow.” Each story has something to recommend it. If it’s not a favorite classic author or story, it’s the graphics that accompany it. Most of the time though, it’s both.


Review by Tim Lasiuta

Repeat the mantra. "Graphics Classics are awesome. Graphics Classics are awesome."

Okay, now that we are in the proper state of mind, let’s crack the spine of Volume 12, Adventure Classics. The best writers since the late 1800's are here . Sax Rohmer contributes "Valley of the Sorceress”, while Alexandre Dumas ("The Masked Ball"), Zane Grey ("Tigre"), Robert Service ("Shooting of Dan McGrew"), Rafael Sabitini ("Blood Money"), Johnston McCulley ("The Stolen Story"), and O Henry ("The Roads We Take") are only a few of the tales therein.

Rarely seen, "The Valley of the Sorceress" by Sax Rohmer (Fu Manchu) is haunting, "Tigre" hails back to an almost Al Williamson style-and Zane Grey lives again. Graphic poetry fans will not be disappointed in either ‘Dan McGrew" or "Gunga Din". Somewhat obscure stories like "Two Men Named Collins" and "The Crime of the Brigadier" are the buried jewels here.

Tom Pomplun is having fun with this series. You will too. Guaranteed!


August 2005
Review by James A. Cox

The twelfth volume in the "Adventure Classics" series of graphic novels and short story collections, the reader is treated to some of the finest adventure writing by some of the most talented authors, and adapted to the graphic novel format by illustrators and artists of matching caliber. The stories comprising this issue include: "In the Valley of the Sorceress" by Sax Rohmer, ill. by J. B. Bonivert; "The Masked Ball" by Alexandre Dumas, ill. by Michael Manning; "Two Men Named Collins" by Damon Runyon, ill. by Noel Tuazon; "Tigre" by Zane Grey, ill. by Don Marquez; "Blood Money" by Rafael Sabatini, ill. by Kevin Atkinson; "The Stolen Story" by Johnston McCulley, ill. by Chris Pelletiere; "Gunga Din", by Rudyard Kipling, ill. by Mary Fleener, and more. Thrilling tales of the past century brought to life in a wide variety of bold, black-and-white styles make Adventure Classics Volume 12 as exciting, wild, and spooky to read as its predecessors.


September 2005, Issue 539
Review by David LeBlanc


ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON, The Wind Blew Shrill and Smart, illustrated by Skot Olsen — a one page poem to serve as introduction opposite the contents page

SAX ROHMER, In the Valley of the Sorceress, adapted by Rod Lott and illustrated by J.B. Bonivert — the cover story. Searchers for the tomb of an ancient Egyptian queen meet a women seeking their aid. When things go wrong with the dig could it be the influence of a sorceress?

ALEXANDRE DUMAS, The Masked Ball, adapted by Tom Pomplun, illustrated by Michael Manning — a young noble is haunted by the memory of the lady behind the mask

ZANE GREY, Tigre, adapted by Tom Pomplun, illustrated by Don Marquez — intriguing tale exploring the nature of relationships between people and animals — which is the more dangerous — a blind tiger or a jealous man?

ROBERT W. SERVICE, The Shooting of Dan McGrew, Illustrated by Hunt Emerson — Illustrated in a cartoonish fashion like something out of Mad. A western saloon is the setting for a man who comes back for his cheating girlfriend.

DAMON RUNYON, Two Men Named Collins, adapted by Tom Pomplun, illustrated by Noel Tuazon — A war story about two men in the same unit that have the same name. One is a hero and one a coward. In the end one has to choose how the other will be remembered.

RAFAEL SABATINI, Blood Money, adapted by Tom Pomplun, art by Kevin Atkinson — a tale of Captain Blood complete with betrayal, ambush, a beautiful maiden and a clever escape.

RUDYARD KIPLING, Gunga Din, illustrated by Mary Fleener — the classic poem of the water boy who became a hero.

FITZ-JAMES O'BRIEN, The Man Without a Shadow, as pictured by Milton Knight — another humorous jaunt about a man haunted by his own shadow.

EDITH NESBIT, The Mystery of the Semi-Detached, adapted by Antonella Caputo and illustrated by Mark A. Nelson — a man sees a future murder but can he prevent it?

JOHNSTON McCULLEY, The Stolen Story, adapted by Tom Pomplun, illustrated by Chris Pelletiere — a would-be writer can't resist stealing a story to get his first break. He gets more than he bargained for.

ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE, The Crime of the Brigadier, Adapted by Antonella Caputo and illustrated by Nick Miller — the title makes you wonder what it could be, in a story of a war between British and French. The ending is a winner.

O. HENRY, The Roads We Take, adapted by Rod Lott and illustrated by Pedro Lopez — a terrific story about a train robbery and the fate of the robbers, with a typical O. Henry twist.

This volume has a great mix of style in both the art and stories that are being related. The couple that are done with very humorous art help keep things hopping while some are very deep and thought provoking. I particularly liked "The Stolen Story" as the author and adapters pace it well and reveal just enough at a time to keep it moving. Zane Grey's "Tigre" is one of the better ones as two people are stalked by a blind tiger sent to kill one of them.

Each story is unique with something to offer the reader. Some are longer, some are funnier, some have mystery others are just plain fun adventure. All are tied together nicely and the art is top notch, as are the works they illustrate.

This series is a great way to show the diversity of the comics medium. Not a super hero in the bunch and it entertains from cover to cover.


September 2005, #153
Review by Boyce McClain

Are you tired of the same old superhero slugfest seen in most modern comics? Do you yearn for a comic book/graphic novel that doesn't feature testosterone and hormone packed males and females dressed in skintight spandex? Do you hunger for stories illustrated in nontraditional styles and that are true classics? Then you've come to the right place.

Eureka Productions presents a classic compilation of stories from some of the greatest adventure writers in literature. Featuring beautiful full color front and back paintings, Adventures Classics: Graphic Classics Volume Twelve, is packed with such classic tales as In The Valley of the Sorceress by Sax Rohmer, Damon Runyon's Two Men Named Collins and Rudyard Kipling's Gunga Din and nearly a dozen more.

For some truly unique illustration interpretations of time-tested classics be sure to check out Adventure Classics: Graphics Classics Volume Twelve.


September 2005
review by Zack Davisson

Ripping good stuff! Tales of pirates, desert sorceresses, lusty women and dangerous men,


The mysterious desert. The high plains. The stormy seas. The dense jungles. These are the places where actions speak louder than words, where the sharp retort of a six-gun decides who is right and who is dead, and a blind tiger stalks with preternatural senses and determination. These are the settings for Adventure Tales, a genre of literature prominent in the 1900's, in which many of the finest authors of the period plied their trades.

In this, their 12th volume, Graphic Classics has assembled an anthology of some of the greatest adventure stories of the time, full of hot blood and cold nights, mystery and magic. These classic tales have been interpreted by a host of talented illustrators, lending their own unique insight into the authors' original stories. This is their second anthology book, like Volume 10 "Horror Classics," combining many workers in the genre rather than focusing on a specific author.

Some of the best authors are on display here. Robert Louis Stevenson, author of "Treasure Island," Sax Rohmer, creator of Yellow Peril villain Fu Manchu, Alexandre Dumas, creator of The Three Musketeers, renowned cowboy author Zane Grey, Damon Runyon, author of "The Idylls of Miss Sarah" which was adapted as the musical "Guys and Dolls," Rafael Sabatini, master of Pirate Tales and creator of Captain Blood, Johnston McCulley creator of the swashbuckling Zorro, Sherlock Holmes's creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and Rudyard Kipling, author of "The Jungle Books."

Finally, there is O. Henry, whom if it weren't for Graphics Classics, I might have known nothing more of than the sweet Christmas fable, "The Gift of the Magi," rather than met him as a scribbler of dark cowboy adventures.

This volume contains:

The Wind Blew Shrill and Sharp — A lusty sea poem by Robert Louis Stevenson. Skot Olsen provides an excellent and strong sailor to accompany the compelling verse.

In the Valley of the Sorceress — Egypt was a mysterious and magical place at the time, and Sax Rohmer weaves a web of desire and danger. An archaeologist attempts to open the hidden tomb of Sorceress Queen Hatasu, but finds his efforts daunted, and his soul beguiled by a beautiful Arab maiden. Illustrator JB Bonivert brings a unique and fanciful style to this classic adventure.

The Masked Ball — By Alexandre Dumas. A short and dark tale of heartbreak and desire, accompanied by a hedonistic masked ball where people seek to drown their loneliness and hide their faces. Michael Manning provides a dark atmosphere, heavy with black spaces, as an appropriate accompaniment.

Tigre — The jungles of Mexico are the setting for this tale of lust and revenge. By Zane Grey, an old farmer is a master of wild animals, particularly his blind brutish tiger named Tigre. The only thing he can't tame is his young and pretty wife. Who stalks who in the dense jungle? A straight-forward but perfect comic book adaptation by Don Marquez, particularly of the lovely Senora.

The Shooting of Dan McGrew — A popular cowboy poem by Robert W. Service, adapted with humor and pathos by Hunt Emerson. A lonely miner, a dangerous gambler, and the lady that's known as Lou.

Two Men Named Collins — Damon Runyon gives us a sad and silently heroic story of two soldiers who share the same name. On is lonely and ugly, one is popular and handsome. But the one holds the secret of the other, and nobility is not always what it seems. Illustrator Noel Tuazon does a spectacular adaptation of this tale, lending even more weight and atmosphere to the yarn.

Blood Money — An adventure of Rafael Sabatini's celebrated rogue Captain Blood. A straight-forward comic book adaptation by Kevin Atkinson, this is a clever celebration of the key to Captain Bloods success: pure luck.

Gunga Din — Rudyard Kipling gives us a blood-rousing poem of an Indian water bearer and the Thuggee wars. The prose is amazing. "But when it comes to slaughter, you will do your work on water, an' you'll lick the bloomin' boots of 'im that's got it." Great illustrations by Mary Fleener, this was the first time I had read this classic poem.

The Man without a Shadow — An Irish short story author, this is a companion piece to Fitz-James O'Brien's "A Day-Dream" which appears in "Horror Classics." A whimsical adaptation by Milton Knight of a clever tale.

The Mystery of the Semi-Detached — I always knew Edith Nesbit as the author of the children's tales "The Railway Children," but little did I know she had this tale of murder and ghosts in her. With excellent Victorianesque illustrations by Mark Nelson.

The Stolen Story — Johnston McCulley is best known for swashbuckling, but this tale of fictional theft is equally gripping. A man's dreams are met, although they turn into a nightmare. With appropriately grotesque illustrations by Chris Pelletiere.

The Crime of the Brigadier — Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had many characters, one of them Brigadier Gerard, a teller of tall-tales and adventurer in Napoleon's army. This funny yarn is comically adapted by Nick Miller is a suiting style.

The Roads We Take — Another black tale of cowboys by O. Henry, a story of betrayal, and a man's true character. Outlaw Shark Dodson saw two roads ahead of him, both leading to the same ending. A bleak story, with a perfect adaptation by Pedro Lopez. So good I immediately read it again after finishing it.


Review by S. Fazekas

Adventure Classics, Graphics Volume 12 is an outstanding mix of classic adventure tales and superb artwork. Authors such as Sax Rohmer, Rudyard Kipling, Damon Runyon, Zane Grey, Alexandre Dumas, Robert Louis Stevenson and O. Henry provide the stoies as adapted for this genre by Tom Pomplun, Rod Lott, Milton Knight, and Antonella Caputo. Each one is brought to life by a collection of extremely talented graphic illustrators.

Some of stories will be recognized instantly, such as Kipling's "Gunga Din" illustrated by Mary Fleener and "Blood Money" by Rafael Sabatini with artwork by Kevin Atkinson. Readers will be pleased to see Chris Pelletiere's rendition of "The Stolen Story" by Johnston McCulley, writer of many Zorro adventures, as well as Fitz-James O'Brien's "The Man Without a Shadow" drawn by Milton Knight. Damon Runyon's "The Shooting of Dan McGrew" is well-crafted with some of this volume's best artwork by Hunt Emerson. Mark A. Nelson's amazingly detailed illustration of Edith Nesbit's "The Mystery of the Semi-Detached" gives this story an otherworldly feel. Nick Miller's brilliant artistic interpretation of Arthur Conan Doyle's "The Crime of the Brigadier" was as thoroughly entertaining as it was historically accurate.

I have had mixed experience with graphic novels in the past and was prepared to be skeptical with Adventure Classics. Once I finally did read it, I found myself unable to put it down. Classic stories handled adroitly by talented artists and editors made this a real treat in both a literary and artistic sense. Tom Pomplun's choices for this volume ranged from the supernatural to the classic train robbery, and fit the adventure theme pefectly. The only disappointment I felt came when I reached the end--I was ready for more!

Fans of the graphic novel will thoroughly enjoy this book, and lovers of classic adventure tales will be pleased with it as well. If you haven't read a graphic novel before, you would do well to start with Tom Pomplun's work.


Review by Alan Rankin

“We need you to review a four-star restaurant. Be sure to sample the world-famous filet mignon, the crème brulee that shiekhs and sultans circle the globe for, the gourmet coffees prepared by a chef so famous he’s got his own comic book. And then tell us if it’s any good.” That’s what I feel like whenever Ricko asks me to review the latest Graphic Classics.

Editor Tom Pomplun adheres to a policy of quality art and writing that compares with Kurtzman’s EC Comics and other high points of the form. I’m really surprised that the so-called “mainstream” media hasn’t seized upon this series, and made it a flavor-of-the-moment. (But then again, mainstream media has always been at least fifteen years behind the cutting edge. About ten minutes ago, Time magazine discovered, “Hey, comics can be about other things besides superheroes!”) I guess it’s no secret that I’m an admirer of Graphic Classics, but then, I’ve always gotten off on art that unites the highbrow with the so-called “lowbrow.” And that’s the very definition of “classic comics.”

Adventure Classics, like Horror Classics before it, adapts short stories in the genre from a variety of well-known authors. Unlike Horror, the stories themselves are not that famous. Other than “Gunga Din” (and maybe Service’s “Shooting of Dan McGrew”), you probably haven’t heard of most of these tales. And that works to the book’s advantage. The adventure story has traditionally been dominated by series characters – from Odysseus to Buffy the Vampire Slayer. This gives series adventure a built-in limitation; no matter how dire a situation the characters may find themselves in, you know in the back of your mind they’ve got to survive for there to be a next episode. Stand-alone stories about new characters have no such guarantee, and that increases the tension.

It’s educational, too. I’d never read stories by Sax Rohmer, Sabatini, or Johnston McCulley before, even though I’ve known about their most famous characters since I was in the womb: Fu Manchu, Captain Blood and Zorro, respectively. Rohmer’s and Sabatini’s are fun little tales, almost fairy tales in adventure drag. But McCulley’s is a real corker, a noirish thriller about the secret dangers of plagiarism. Makes me want to track down more stories by this early pulp master. Modern-day Hollywood producers could take a lesson from McCulley, too: sometimes you don’t have to show the explosion. Sometimes the ticking clock can be far more effective…

It’s always a treat to see new art by Mary Fleener, Hunt Emerson or Michael Manning. Emerson is a good match for Robert Service’s whimsical Alaskan fables. Manning likewise gets a tale that suits his sensibilities, at once erotic and sad, with a Bacchanalian revel at the center of it. By contrast, Fleener’s too-short adaptation of “Gunga Din” (four pages) barely gives her a chance to shine – although Din’s dying scene, appropriately, would be at home on the walls of a Hindu temple.

Many of the adaptations are scripted by Pomplun. It’s too bad the various industry awards, like the Harveys, don’t have a category for “best adaptation,” as the Oscars do. It’s a very hard thing to do right – and Pomplun & Co. have been doing it for years. Hopefully, the rest of the comics community, and the world, will eventually discover the best-kept secret of Mount Horeb, Wisconsin…