Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Graphic Classics - Bram Stoker

A follow-up to my review of one of the Graphic Classics Poe editions.

Graphic Classics is a series that takes great pieces of literature and adapts them into comic book anthologies. I LOVE their work, and they have a wonderful selection of truly talented artists. If you want a good start with them, I recommend their Ambrose Bierce edition. It has a bunch of his stuff AND twenty short "fables" by him. Thus it has over thirty artists and gives you the big variety of wonderful people working with them. I personally love all of them, with Stan Shaw being a particular favorite. I also love Milton Knight, Lance Tooks, J.B. Bonivert...I LOVE ALL OF THEM!

This is the second Bram Stoker edition they've done - I don't have the first. So, here we go...

Rich Rainey (script) - Joe Ollmann (illustrations)

My favorite novel EVER is Dracula.

I will always know Joe Ollmann as the illustrator of The Premature Burial in one of the Poe editions. That was a goodie in the mix. His grotesque, big-headed caricatures are such a joy to look at.

A page from his adaptation of The Premature Burial (in one of the Poe editions).

Here, he pulls off a faithful adaptation of the highest selling horror novel ever. That book is infamous for being rather poor - but I think it is wonderful. The reason why people consider it the greatest horror novel written is particularly because of one suggestive, horrifically dark scene between Mina and Dracula in her bedroom. But I think all of it is great, chillling stuff.

The good ol' tale of vampires is greatly translated into art by Ollmann. I think I might've liked it a TAD darker, but, over all, I enjoyed this one very much. If I had one complaint, it would be that Mina simply wasn't what I imagined her to be - that was Winona Ryder.

It does keep the spirit of the original tale (with the letters, newspapers, journals and such). It is appropriately Gothic but not too dark. I enjoy this one very much; thus, I would give this one five out of five. A wonderful comic adaptation.

Prof. Abraham Van Helsing's "Vampire Hunter's Guide"
Excerpt (from Dracula)
Tom Pomplun (script) - Hunt Emerson (illustrations)

This is an excerpt from Dracula detailing the weaknesses and advantages of the vampire, with humorous illustrations.

The art is enjoyable but rather passable in this instance. Don't get me wrong - Emerson does a wonderful job. But I don't particularly enjoy this. You can read it, maybe smile. The art is very comicy, and humorous, but it isn't very good.

Three/two and three quarters here.

The Judge's House
Short Story
Gerry Alanguilan (script/illustrations)

Now, I have a mixed history with Alanguilan because of The Black Cat (in one of the Poe editions). It was wonderful art, but the adaptation? Shortening the story to about three pages is not my cup of tea.

Then again, it wasn't Alanguilan who did the adaptation...

The Judge's House is included in twenty million horror anthologies because it is written by Stoker, but this tale is pretty freakin' creepy. And the adaptation/art here is ASTOUNDING and truly captures the mood of the story. I LOVE the art here. I really do. It is the best of Alanguilan's work I've seen. The last two pages will GIVE. YOU. THE. SHIVERS.

Five stars out of five. One of the best.

The Bridal of Death
Excerpt (from The Jewel of the Seven Stars)
J.B. Bonivert (script/illustrations)

J.B. Bonivert hits home again!

A page from his adaptation of The Raven in one of the Poe editions.

He's done The Raven, Annabel Lee (Poe), Dame Fortune and the Traveler (along with others - Ambrose Bierce), a chapter of Herbert West - Reanimator (H.P. Lovecraft), and others. Now, he adapts the last two chapters from Bram Stoker's creepy mummy tale - The Jewel of the Seven Stars.

Of J.B. Bonivert's work, this adaptation is among the best - if not THE best. His cartoony, ink-blot-esque pennings are always wonderful, but here, he really hits home. His work on The Raven (as you can see above) is very different from the rest of his work, but it is still good.

He pulls off the adaptation admirably. This tale involves an experiment with the (mummified) corpse of ancient Egyptian Queen Terra - and how our narrator suspects that his girlfriend, Margaret, may be an astral phase of Terra herself (in simple terms, a reincarnation). The conclusion is VERY creepy, but the tale does leave a few odds and ends hanging. While Poe made this very subtle - best seen in The Fall of the House of Usher and The Purloined Letter - Stoker (here) leaves a bit TOO much mysteries left unsolved.

And yet, it is one of Stoker's best tales, marvelously illustrated/adapted by an artist who knows what he's doing. Five stars out of five.

Torture Tower
Short Story (adapted from The Squaw)
Onsmith Jeremi (script/illustrations)

I love Onsmith Jeremi's art. It is so much like a comic that you would expect. And his adaptations? He usually puts very funny lines in them. Here, Hutchetson says - and I quote - "We-he-hell!" L. O. L. And while that may not be funny to you, I find it very amusing.

A page from his adaptation of The Terrible Old Man (in the H.P. Lovecraft edition).

Now, out of ALL the wonderful comics in the edition, I was looking forward to THIS one the most. And my expectations were filled greatly. I absolutely LOVE The Squaw, not because it bears similarity to Poe's "The Black Cat." It is because it is truly creepy, very violent (for it's time) and has a chilling conclusion. I did not like the original title - does The Squaw sound scary to you? - and so I was happy that Jeremi has entitled it Torture Tower, which is a name that suits the tale much better (seeing how it is set in the torture tower of Nuremberg).

The tale of the cat that unleashes it's horrific revenge against a man who (accidentally!) killed her kitten has always been horrifying, and, though Jeremi's traditional comic art makes it hard to be creepy, it DOES capture the air of claustrophobia and fear (from the original tale) to some measure.

Definitely one of the BESTS in the collection. I must immediately give it five stars.

I feel like I'm being too nice! Oh, well - doesn't matter. Now let's see what's next...


The Wondrous Child
Short Story
Evert Geradts (illustrations)

The Wondrous Child is a nice story. It is a pretty fairy tale. But it isn't very good. It seems out of place - on the back cover it is listed under Torture Tower. It says: "Torture Tower: the power of feline revenge." And then it lists Onsmith Jeremi's name. And under THAT, it says: "The Wondrous Child: a land of flowers and angels."

See what I mean?

The art is passable. It isn't even a comic - just the entire story with illustrations...

...which is okay. But in here, okayish art paired with an okayish story DOESN'T work.

As the weakest story in the collection, I am giving it two and a half stars. Poor work.

Lair of the White Worm
Tom Pomplun (script) - Rico Schacherl (illustrations)

Monsters that haunt the old, decaying city of Mercia is a great concept and done very well here. Again - a lot of odds and ends left too unsolved for us to enjoy it a lot, but Lair of the White Worm is a form of Gothic fiction and it is good. Albeit it is a little less refined form of Gothic fiction - the explicit violence between the antagonist and certain animals - it is a GREAT tale. Another reason why it is less "refined?" Because of the use of monsters, which is not typical in such novels. But Lady Arabella? She's your archetypal Gothic villain!

Tom Pomplun does what he can with the tale, and he does it well. South African artist Rico Schacherl does his inkings in traditional comic style. I would have, perhaps suggested a different artist - Micah Farritor would be a treat - but his illustrations are decent and suit the story.

I've heard a few good things about this one, and I happily give this five stars. A fitting finale to a fitting anthology.



While Ollmann's illustrations here are immediately eclipsed by his far superior adaptation of The Premature Burial, the Gothic mood and tone of the original tale are captured better than I expected. My favorite novel and the most famous horror novel of all time is excellently done here.

Lair of the White Worm

Yep! This is a real treat to read - I'm afraid that my review of it was a bit understated. There are some truly creepy parts - the sun is setting and our protagonist (Adam Salton) enters the house of his uncle - who turns down the lights and says to be deadly quiet. Later, they see something really frightening in the woods...Lady Arabella killing the mongoose...ahem...mongooses is pretty well done. Definitely an enjoyment.

Torture Tower

I admit, I was having trouble deciding what to put here. But, in the end, I had to choose this one, because I was looking forward to reading it the most - and it filled my expectations the most. I love the man's art, the story is a classic chiller that I really love - all of this is set up! The light humor with Hutchetson's character assists - giving a little bit of enjoyment before the final horror begins. In fact, I would give this adaptation SIX STARS, but we're working in a five star radius. So this one is definitely a goodie. This is a great one, guys.

Up next, Gothic Classics...

Or Ambrose Bierce...

It depends...

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