REVIEWS OF GRAPHIC CLASSICS: ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON

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HITCH Magazine
Review by Rod Lott

GRAPHIC CLASSICS: ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON is the ninth edition in the GRAPHIC CLASSICS series, which adapts famous short literature into comic book form. Naturally, a good chunk of the volume is taken up by perhaps Stevenson's most enduring and influential work, THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL & MR. HYDE. True to the novella's theme of duality, it's uniquely presented in two parts, with the first illustrated by Simon Gane, with Michael Slack taking over for the second half, in which Jekyll confesses all. Noted short stories like "The Bottle Imp" and (better yet) "The Suicide Club" translate well, with their cleverness still intact. The book's most eclectic section has 14 different artists tackling some of Stevenson's brief fables, often with dark humor (and one doubling as an effective "Dennis the Menace" parody). This is followed by an amusing five-page comic bio of the author, from Tundra's Chad Carpenter, as well as Maxon Crumb's tribute to TREASURE ISLAND, supplemented by his brother Robert's comic version of how the pirate novel affected their childhood. Obviously there's no space to touch on Stevenson's lengthy KIDNAPPED, but what's here is an affectionate and reverent tribute to the man, rendered in a wonderfully irreverent style.

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COMIC READERS.COM
July 2004
Review by Dana Tillusz

Graphic Classics: Robert Louis Stevenson is volume nine in Eureka Productions' ongoing comic adaptation of classic literature from popular authors. From H.P. Lovecraft to H.G. Wells; Bram Stoker to Jack London-- Graphic Classics is attempting to make the classics household names once again.
Like all of the previous GC, this collection features the hard work of many professional cartoonists and illustrators. This time around we get adaptations from Hunt Emerson, Rico Schacherl, Tom Neely, Lance Tooks and countless more. Plus, expect a few goodies from the likes of Johnny Ryan, Robert Crumb and brother Maxon.

The opening tale (and my favourite), "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde", was adapted by book editor, Tom Pomplun, and divided evenly between artists Simon Gane and Michael Slack. The first part is drawn in traditional comic book style, and delightfully captures the gruesome Mr. Hyde and his evil actions. The second chapter is text heavy and is laced with cover artist Slack's spectacular paintings.

Another lavishly illustrated gem is "The Suicide Club" by Pedro Lopez. A great adaptation of another Stevenson classic.

Eureka Productions is one of the finest publishers in the business. Their Graphic Classics line is affordable, tactfully put together and carefully edited. These books should be in every school and public library throughout the land-- these books are an easy and great way to get today's youth reading the stories that previous generations grew up reading-- classic tales that shouldn't be
forgotten in these days of electronic entertainment.

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MIDWEST BOOK REVIEW
August 2004
Review by James A. Cox

Graphic Classics is a deservedly acclaimed series of graphic novel treatments of famous literary works. The latest volume is dedicated to timeless stories by Robert Louis Stevenson and includes graphic novel adaptations of "The Bottle Imp", "The Suicide Club", and an original two-part interpretation of "Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde", along with a fantasy by Fannie Van de Grift Stevenson, a special feature by Maxon Crumb, and a collection of R.L. Stevenson's short fables and poems enriched by some of the best and most provocative artists working today. The Graphics Classics anthology edition of Robert Louis Stevenson is confidently recommended to the attention of graphic novel enthusiasts and underground comix fans.

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THE TOMB OF DARK DELIGHTS
http://www.countgore.com/tomb.htm
Review by J. L. Comeau

There be treasures abounding in this volume, TombRats, so settle yourselves down for a mighty fine read. Even if you've read Treasure Island a hundred times, you'll find the tale told anew from several perspectives in GRAPHIC CLASSICS' grand illustrated collection of masterworks by Stevenson. It seems that the famous Crumb brothers were enchanted by the story as children, and they have represented their family interest in the oddest and most wonderful ways, with illustrations and text from Maxon and Robert in strange and loving tribute to their late brother, Charles. You'll also find great illustrated adaptations of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, the Suicide Club, The Bottle Imp, The Nixie and many more! Editor Tom Pomplun has assembled yet another magnificent ode to literary greatness with this collection of illustrated verses, fables and stories from the entertaining and subversive pen of Robert Louis Stevenson. Each page is a delight, illustrated by the finest artists working today. TombKeeper's highest recommendation.

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KLIATT
September 2004
Review by George Galuschak

This Graphic Classics volume contains adaptations of Stevenson's poems, short stories and novellas. The bulk consists of adaptations of three stories- "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," "The Bottle Imp," and "The Suicide Club." Unfortunately, "Treasure Island" is not adapted, but is ably represented by a Robert Crumb comic and an essay by his brother, Maxon Crumb, detailing their boyhood obsession with Long John Silver.

"Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" is, of course, famous; many will find the actual novella disappointing, as most people know the story's epiphany "The Bottle Imp" is about a man who buys a bottle with a demon inside, and then must sell it if he wishes to save his soul. My favorite story is "The Suicide Club," which is about Prince Florizel of Bohemia and his confidant (translation: babysitter), Colonel Geraldine. The Prince joins an exclusive London club whose members are all suicidal. Every night they gather round a table and deal cards; the man who gets the Ace of Spades dies. The Prince is bored and jaded, and he finds the situation rather thrilling... until he gets the Ace of Spades.

This title is easy to recommend. Stevenson is a literary figure, after all, which makes his work literature; the adaptations, illustrated by a number of artists, are more than competent; and defenders of graphic novels in libraries can point to works such as these as proof that graphic novels have literary merit. However; there is another reason to recommend this graphic novel: it's a good, entertaining read.

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POOPSHEET
poopsheetreviews.blogspot.com
September 30, 2004
Review by Mark Campos

This is the latest in a series featuring public domain – er, classic works by great authors, illustrated in a variety of ways by cartoonists both well-known and obscure. This time around it's Robert Louis Stevenson, and as expected, the adaptation of "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde", here illustrated by Simon Gane and Michael Slack, is impenetrable. Same for "The Suicide Club", illustrated by Pedro Lopez; if you're going to put your eyes to this much work, better to read the original stories. The third long story, "The Bottle Imp", is illustrated by Lance Tooks in a light and eye-pleasing style, and though the story sort of wobbles to a conclusion, it doesn't hurt to read it through.

The real fun is in the "Verses and Fables" section, featuring poems and short tales adapted by a number of folks (Frank Stack! Anne Timmons! Hunt Emerson! Johnny Ryan, for God's sake!) in a number of styles ranging from decorative to irreverent. There are four new pages from Shary Flenniken here, always a cause for celebration.

The revelation here is that RLS was not merely a writer of stirring adventure tales. A number of the shorter pieces show his darker, more philosophic side. "The Distinguished Stranger", illustrated by Rico Schacherl, depicts a visitor from another planet mistaking trees for the dominant life form on Earth; introduced to men who are described to him as "the people of the greatest nation in the world", he says "They scarcely look so." The Flenniken-drawn story, "The Yellow Paint", is a scathing satire, as a doctor promises that his yellow paint will shield a man from pain and suffering, and when it doesn't work comes up with ingenious rationalizations for its failure. And then there's "Now Bare To the Beholder's Eye", a saucy poem (illustrated by Michael Manning, every corset-strap carefully delineated), which describes how the ladies armor themselves up with "beribboned battlements" during the day; but at night they shed the "inhumanities", and "forth leaps the laughing girl at last".

And, on the subject of "Treasure Island", both Maxon and Robert Crumb weigh in with reminiscences of the effect Robert Newton's portrayal of Long John Silver in the Disney film had on their brother Charles. Bob's "Treasure Island Days" is a reprint, but it's good to see it again, and there's a page from one of the Crumb brothers' "two-man" comics featuring Squire Trelawney and Doctor Livesey.

This series is popular with librarians, who imagine that it'll open young readers' minds to classic literature. A more likely effect will be some young library crawler's first exposure, through this volume, to Crumb and Roger Langridge and other great cartoonists. (Not to mention Manning. Woo!) The volume-after-next in this series will be stories of O. Henry, and it's a lead-pipe cinch it'll be a darb.

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COMIC WORLD NEWS
http://cwn.comicraft.com
October 8, 2004
Review by Michael May

When the press release came out about the first Graphic Classics collection, I remember its stressing that these books were NOT an updated version of Classics Illustrated. I also remember being skeptical. You mean to tell me that you’re adapting the work of literary giants into comic format, but it’s not like Classics Illustrated? How do you do that exactly? There can only be so many ways to adapt this material, right?

Nuh uh.

The old Classics Illustrated comics had a house style that all their titles were illustrated in. It was functional and realistic and boring. Graphic Classics has chosen some unique and talented illustrators who have something they want to say about the pieces they’re adapting. The difference is profound. Graphic Classics Volume 9 isn’t a straight retelling of Robert Louis Stevenson stories (although precious little if any of his words have been altered); through their visuals the Graphic Classics artists interpret Stevenson’s work.

Take Lance Tooks’s contemporary version of “The Bottle Imp.” I love reading how the hero “drew rein” while seeing the picture of him in his convertible or reading about his being “in the ship’s forecastle” with the accompanying illustration of his riding in a commercial airliner. Take Hunt Emerson’s Mad Magazine-esque adaptation of “The Sinking Ship,” in which a captain calmly and ridiculously tries to reassure his mate that there are more important things to consider than the fact that their boat is going down. Take any number of the deliciously illustrated stories in this collection – not a one of them dull; all of them putting the illustrator’s unique spin on Stevenson's stories and poems.

The adaptation of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde cleverly uses two different illustrators: Simon Gane to illustrate in comics style the events leading up to the finding of Jekyll’s letter and Michael Slack to illustrate the prose letter itself. I’ve always grown bored with Jekyll’s letter in Stevenson’s story and this was no exception, but Slack’s illustrations are anything but uninteresting. They look like something you’d find in a very macabre children’s book and I found myself looking at them and skipping the text that accompanied.

There’s an entire section devoted to Stevenson’s fables and poetry that shows a sense of irony and humor I didn’t realize Stevenson had. This irony and humor is amplified by the illustrators, but it’s there even in the text by itself. Consider the short poem “The Angler:” The angler rose, he took his rod. He kneeled and made his prayers to God. The living God sat overhead. The angler tripped, the eels were fed. Now imagine the scene as if Kim Deitch had illustrated it (he didn’t, but Neale Blanden’s work bears a resemblance) and you get an idea of what Graphic Classics is like.

It would have been impossible to fit a faithful adaptation of Treasure Island in this anthology, but the greatest pirate story of all time receives it’s due attention via maps and double-page homage to “Yo Ho Ho and a Bottle of Rum” and Maxon and Robert Crumb’s hilarious recollections of how watching the movie version changed their childhoods.

To round out the project, there’s also a Stevenson biography by Mort Castle and Chad Carpenter and a spot illustrated version of a short story by Stevenson’s wife. And it’s pieces like these as well as the inclusion of some of Stevenson’s lesser known work what make this volume almost as educational as it is entertaining. But you have to kind of give it a break there on the “almost.” With the level of cartoonist talent involved, it’s entertaining indeed.

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BOOKLIST
Review by Tina Coleman

Gr. 9-12. This illustrated collection, the ninth volume in the Graphic Classics series, uses visuals by many artists to highlight and retell some of the nineteenth-century writer's novels, poetry, and short fiction. The adaptation of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, though abridged, follows the basic story line. It's the art that surprises. Although the realistic style used in the first part of the story, with its heavy line work and ornate backgrounds, contrasts starkly with the softened, more modern style employed in the second, both convey the underlying darkness of the tale. In stories such as "The Distinguished Stranger" and "The Yellow Paint," the pictures allow Stevenson's humor and wit to shine through. Added bonuses include an illustrated tribute to Stevenson by the infamous Crumb brothers, Maxon and Robert, which recalls their childhood fascination with Treasure Island, and a short, comical biography of Stevenson. A good choice to help introduce Stevenson, with enough humor and irony to grab teens addicted to the likes of Mad magazine.

Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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SF SITE
Review by Susan Dunman

When someone mentions a "classic" author, what's your first reaction? Do you sparkle with pleasant memories? Or, do you duck out of the conversation entirely, remembering painful English classes and equally painful trips to the library? If your "literature appreciation" meter tends to waver toward the negative side of the scale, then you might want to consider giving Graphic Classics a try.

This ninth volume in the Graphic Classics series features Robert Louis Stevenson, highlighting some of his most popular works, as well as more esoteric short stories and poetry. Editor Tom Pomplun has assembled a cast of 25 illustrators and writers to create an engaging look at Stevenson's work and his influence on readers of all ages. Adaptations stay true to the original text, creating an abbreviated form of these stories that keeps the original language and style.

"The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" is the featured story and this familiar tale is told in two parts. The first section is in traditional comic book form, drawn in a somewhat blocky style that imparts a Victorian feel to the drama. The second half of the story is more of a picture-book style with single-page illustrations accompanied by text.

Revisiting the original source of a legendary tale is nearly always a revelatory experience and reading about Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is no exception. The story is about much more than a drug-induced multiple personality disorder and it is well worth the effort to take a second look at what Stevenson was trying to tell his readers.

Another excellent short story included in this collection is "The Bottle Imp." Here, Stevenson relates the predicament of Keawe, a young man from Hawaii who buys a magic bottle. Unfortunately, there are numerous strings attached to the mysterious bottle. It seems that an imp from hell resides in the bottle, and although he grants any wish the owner may make, if the owner happens to die with the bottle in his possession, he is doomed to eternal damnation.

It's not just the story, but the contrast between the illustrations and the original test that makes this piece so appealing. Images are from our modern era, but the language sounds more like an ancient fable. The resulting incongruence between words and pictures forces readers to take a closer look at both forms of communication, which adds a nice twist to an already clever tale.

Another ingenious story is "The Suicide Club," which tells of a unique organization whose members have taken an unconventional approach to the problem of second-guessing their decision to end it all. In this case, illustrations and text go hand-in-hand to produce another satisfying story-telling experience.

In addition to these fairly substantial stories from Stephenson, the editor has included a haunting tale entitled, "The Nixie," written by Fanny Van de Grift Stevenson, the wife of Robert Louis. The story line would fit well into an episode of The Twilight Zone, and although Fanny has a different writing style than her acclaimed husband, her work stands on its own merit and is a nice addition to the overall collection.

An assortment of shorter stories, fables, and poetry make up the rest of the volume, with illustrations in a variety of styles reflecting emotions ranging from humor to horror to artistic respect for Stevenson's work. As an added treat, Robert and Maxon Crumb offer their own tribute to Treasure Island using both words and drawings to reflect on the impact which one high-seas story had on the lives of two young brothers. Maxon's full page illustration of a completely wooden Long John Silver offers an imaginative representation of this enduring pirate adventure.

If you're not familiar with Stevenson's work, this is a painless, enjoyable introduction to an author with whom everyone should have at least a passing acquaintance. If, on the other hand, you grew up with Stevenson's stories, but it has been awhile, then use this entertaining graphic novel to refresh your memory. Perhaps it will even inspire you to go back and re-read some of the original literature. And even if it doesn't, it's still fun to take this snapshot tour through one man's amazing imagination.

Copyright © 2004 Susan Dunman

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SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL
March, 2005
Review by J.M. Poole

This series volume does not stand out, but it still makes a fine counterpoint to conventional graphic-novel themes. It includes some of Stevenson's longer stories as well as a section showcasing some of his short poems and fables. Clever rhymes juxtapose easily with the humorous, black-and-white artwork, and the combination invites repeated readings; "The Angler" is a fine example. The story of Jekyll and Hyde is divided into two sections illustrated by two different artists. The events leading up to Jekyll's confession comprise part one, and the confession itself forms the body of part two. Though each section stands on its own, the striking differences in the artistic styles make the transition from one to the other difficult. A brief biography by Mort Castle and a short story by Stevenson's wife, Fanny Van de Grift Stevenson, are included, as is "The Crumb Brothers on Treasure Island" by Maxon Crumb, a recollection of the impact the famous novel had on him and his siblings when they were children. These extra entries offer interesting perspectives on Stevenson's life and influence. There is no adaptation of Treasure Island, but scattered bits of verse allude to its existence.

© 2005 School Library Journal

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VOYA
February, 2005
Review by Geri Diorio

This ninth series entry tackles works by nineteenth-century author Stevenson. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is cleverly abridged in two parts. In the first, illustrator Simon Gane's squared-off Frank Miller-esque illustrations evoke the Victorian era of the story. In the second, artist Michael Slack uses only one drawing per page to illtrstrate the poor doctor's final journal entries. His many washes of gray over strong caricatures make Jekyll's descent into madness somehow lovely. The book also presents adaptations of various shorter Stevenson works. Some of these are only a page or two long, and the style for each varies. There is a wonderfully "cartoony" The Sinking Ship by British comic legend Hunt Emerson. Peter Gullerud contributes a dark yet somehow silly interpretation of The Two Matches. There is even a short biography of Stevenson illustrated in a Mad magazine style by Chad Carpenter. The collection wraps up with a terrific version of The Bottle Imp. Artist Lance Tooks does away with conventional comics panels and wildly strews Stevenson's words and his own highly stylized illustrations across each page. Far from being hard to follow, the layout rnakes it a clear and fast-paced read.

As with the other volumes of this series, this book is a good one to have on hand. Fans of Stevenson's work will appreciate the varied interpretations of it, and comics fans may get caught up in Stevenson's clever tales and seek out more.

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AMAZON TOP 100 REVIEWS
June, 2005
Review by Zack Davisson

All the old romance, retold

"Treasure Island" is probably the first thing that springs to mind from hearing the name Robert Louis Stevenson. "Kidnapped," "Black Arrow" and other classic tales of high adventure sprung from his pen, leading more than one child to desperately wish for a one-eyed Pirate to stroll into his life. But like his other famous creation, Dr. Jekyll, Stevenson had his darker face, and some tales not so happy.

It is this darker side at play in "Graphic Classics: Robert Louis Stevenson." In the same vein as the Edgar Allen Poe and HP Lovecraft collections, Stevenson is presented in his justifiable role as a master of the weird tale, at play in the fields of the human psyche. Fitting collaborators have been found for each story, lending new elements and insight to the already insightful tales.

Included in this volume are:

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde — The key tale of this collection, and a brilliant adaptation. Two artists are given reign, with a transformation of art as Mr. Hyde takes over. The basics of this story are as familiar as Dracula and Frankenstein, but I had never actually read the authentic original until now.

Verses and Fables — Taking from Stevenson's vast collection of poems and short stories, this is a showcase of erotic, fantastic and sometimes brutal fables. "The Land of Nod" is a poem I have loved since I was a child, but didn't know it was Stevenson. "Now Bare to the Beholders" eye is a seductive poetic striptease, with gorgeous illustrations.

A Brief Literary Life — As in other collections, a brief illustrated biography of Stevenson. Full of witty illustrations and references.

The Suicide Club — A dark tale of bored dilettantes seeking excitement, who wind up with more than they bargained for. An evil game of chance and men who seek death.

The Crumb Brothers on Treasure Island — Maxon Crumb tells the true tale of how Stevenson famously influenced the comic legends Robert and Charles Crumb. Included in Robert Crumbs "Treasure Island Days."

The Nixie — A beautifully illustrated fairy tale. Haunting and poetic.

The Bottle Imp — A sweet and dangerous cautionary tale about the dangers of getting what you wish for, and playing with magic. Illustrated to take full use of the Hawaiian influences of the story. Very enjoyable.

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