Sunday, January 19, 2014

Graphic Classics - H.P. Lovecraft

Yeah, I know that I've been doing a lot of posts reviewing the Graphic Classics series, but c'mon!

Cover art by Giorgio Comolo

I already reviewed what the Graphic Classics series was in my Bram Stoker one, so I'm just going to use that passage.

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!

Thus we start off our review rather well.

A Memory
Poem (from Fungi from Yuggoth)
Gerry Alanguilan (illustrations)

A creepy poem with an even creepier illustration. A wonderful opening.

The illustration for the poem without the text.

The Shadow Over Innsmouth
Alex Burrows (script) - Simon Gane (illustrations)

The spawn of Dagon haunts this decaying backwater in a classic tale of terror.

The tale of a man's visit to Innsmouth (where he makes a terrifying discovery of his heredity and encounters a few Deep Ones along the way) is a true goodie from Lovecraft. Alex Burrows impressively makes his adaptation here, seeing as how the story is rather long. But the terror of the original tale is caught while being suitably adapted. The final couple of pages...haunting!

Simon Gane is a wonderful artist, and his fractured illustrations perfectly capture the "Innsmouth look" - otherwise known as the appearance of the Deep Ones. AWESOME art, Simon! I do believe that this is one of the better illustrators in the wide Graphic Classics repertoire. He was the perfect illustrator for this tale.

Gane's entire comic version of Ambrose Bierce's The Policeman and the Citizen (from Graphic Classics - Ambrose Bierce).

You can see my point, I am sure. The fractured format is perfect for fishy Deep Ones. Five out of five for The Shadow Over Innsmouth.

The Dreams in the Witch House
Short Story
Rich Rainey (script) - Pedro Lopez (illustrations)

The classic tale of witchcraft, math, and hellish man-rats! Also, the debut of Elder Things!

Guys, I don't know if YOU know, but I'm making a film of this. And Mike Dalager (with the other producers/composers) has agreed to let us use their music! Don't tell me you haven't visited Azablog!

The original tale is very convoluted - but still awesome. And Rich Rainey's adaptation helps - very well. It keeps all the major and small plot points of the tale while making the narrative less confused. I did notice an atrocious spelling error - Father Iwanicki was spelled "Iwanick."

So I can be a spelling freak. Who cares?

As for the art, I might've done J.B. Bonivert (his swirls and slashes of ink would be so good for the angles) or Stan Shaw (always dark, eerie illustrations best seen in Moxon's Master from Graphic Classics - Ambrose Bierce), but Pedro Lopez was a nice choice for the art. He actually does pretty well. His adaptation of The Cask of Amontillado in one of the Poe editions was good, but his work here is better.

The first page of Lopez's Cask of Amontillado adaptation.

The illustrations are mood filled, usually darkness. Lopez's illustration of the Elder Thing statue is chilling. Keziah is wonderfully done, as she alternates from beautiful to witchy in seconds. Brown Jenkn is done well, Gilman is done better, Elwood done poorer. The Crawling Chaos appears in his form as the Black Man - a form which I never found particularly good (it's kind of racist - make him the Black Pharaoh, that's better), and thus I couldn't fully appreciate the art. Two creepy art pieces? A page in the Necronomicon (depicting a sacrifice to Azathoth) and the gruesome murder of Gilman where Brown Jenkin emerges from the poor student's chest.

Five out of five. Great adaptation and great art (to a slightly greater extent).

Sweet Ermengarde (or; The Heart of a Country Girl)
Short Story (presented in eight "acts")
Rod Lott (script) - Kevin Atkinson (illustrations)

Considered the best of the few comedic tales that Lovecraft wrote, this was fairly pleasing.

Sweet Ermengarde has a plot that seems at first convoluted but ties up at the end. It's very funny, and, while it features no tentacled monsters from other dimensions, the artist Kevin Atkinson has taken a little liberty with it. Now, listen...

The script by Rod Lott is okay. The thing is presented like a play, but the audience is made of Lovecraftian characters (Innsmouth man, Keziah and Brown Jenkin, Herbert West, Nyarlathotep, etc.) while your typical Lovecraftian monsters change the scenery. Lovecraft himself narrates the tale. The story is presented in eight acts, but there are really NINE scene cards - TWO of them are labeled seven!

So I can be a grammar freak. Who cares?

The art is your average comic art - I'm not a big fan of Atkinson. He's okay, don't get me wrong, and he's all about references to the author's other works (read his adaptation of Some Words with a Mummy by Poe), but I don't love it.

About three stars here - a good, fun story, but it's out of place. And I don't like Atkinson's art.

Herbert West - Reanimator
Episodic Short Story (presented in four chapters)
Tom Pomplun (script)

First off, this is an awesome story that is unjustly criticized yet ironically is the most infamous of all Lovecraft tales as a result of Stuart Gordon's cult classic film of it.

Secondly, I didn't include the artists because each chapter is illustrated by a different artist.

Thirdly, the original was six chapters. They got rid of the third chapter because it was so freakin racist AND the fourth chapter because they had to keep the comic under 144 pages.

From the Dark
Illustrated by Richard Corben

The first chapter of Reanimator is presented pretty well by Corben. And it's a pretty creepy chapter! The final page is greatly done. Corben's art is almost made of dots - reminds me of a plague or perhaps rashes. It is with this diseased atmosphere that Reanimator is filled, so I guess Coren did a good job. Four and a half stars for this chapter.

The Plague Daemon
Illustrated by Rick Geary

A great chapter with a poor illustrator. Not only does this make reference to the Red Death, it also features a very creepy line. I quote: "...where it beat it's head against the walls of a padded cell for sixteen years." Very creepy - and that panel is the best one in the book. But Geary's art is passable and that's why I give it three stars.

The Horror from the Shadows
Illustrated by J.B. Bonivert

A redeeming artist in a good place. Set during the Great War (World War I to us), this chapter is wonderfully done. J.B. Bonivert is particularly good at illustrating the various stages of dismemberment the soldiers are in, showing us the real horrors of a very terrifying war. This one is five out of five, partially because of the art and partially because it references the cut fourth chapter.

The Tomb-Legions
Illustrated by Mark A. Nelson

The haunting finale. I do believe the scene where the morbid results of West's experiments tear him to pieces is particularly terrifying. The art is the most...shall we say...sophisticated of all the chapters. There are several chilling moments, all well illustrated. I'm gonna give it five stars.

The adaptation by Tom Pomplun is good. And, seeing as the goods far outnumber the bads in Reanimator, this one is getting a five.

The Cats of Ulthar
Short Story
Tom Pomplun (script) - Lisa K. Weber (illustrations)

A whimsical yet chilling fairy-tale of dark wanderers, murdering cotters, and the powers of felines is great here. It doesn't seem like Lovecraft wrote it, but he did. And it doesn't necessarily mean it's bad - it's good! Just listen to the names in there...Ulthar! Skai! Nith! Menes!

Tom Pomplun does a good adaptation as always.

Lisa K. Weber is known for her Burtonesque art - most notably seen in J. Sheridan le Fanu's Carmilla (from Graphic Classics - Gothic Classics). She has also done several adaptations of Hop-Frog (Poe editions!) and an adaptation of Oscar Wilde's Faustian novel The Picture of Dorian Grey (Graphic Classics - Oscar Wilde).

The terrifying final illustration from The Picture of Dorian Grey.

She was the right artist for The Cats of Ulthar, as her cats are done beautifully. She works better in black-and-white as opposed to colour.

Five out of five.

The Terrible Old Man
Short Story
Onsmith Jeremi (script - illustrations)

Oh Onsmith, your comicy art is so wonderful! And while this adaptation doesn't feature a lot of the original text, it still rocks!

The first page from Jeremi's adaptation.

A chilling story of criminals and their encounter with a (as the title implies) terrible old man, Onsmith Jeremi's rendition of the yellow eyes heightens the creep factor. It appears that the drawings are done with brush, as well as the writing, which is very neatly done (as with all Jeremi's comics).

Five out of five! GREAT adaptation.

Wow, I feel like I'm trying to make short, to-the-point observations. Sorry they aren't longer!

The Shadow Out of Time
Matt Howarth (script - illustrations)

Body-switching with time-traveling aliens that lived before human life had developed is a pretty interesting idea, and the adaptation is great.

But the art is...okayish. Not a good sign.

The Shadow Out of Time is a tremendous, terrifying piece of cosmic horror, considered second only to At the Mountains of Madness. I would particularly note it's haunting conclusion.

I like Matt Howarth - adapting a novella to about 26 pages is a daunting task - and here his art is okay. But he was the wrong person to illustrate The Fall of the House of Usher (Poe edition). Ahem? Roderick Usher does NOT have hair like that (I'm sorry - but to me, that isn't Usher).

What the heck? A man whose life is a living hell doesn't have a virtual afro!

His art for The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari (Graphic Classics - Halloween Classics) is pretty bad, too. He was the wrong illustrator. 

What is with these almost-afros? Cesare does not have an almost afro!

But maybe I'm being too comparative. Perhaps Howarth's art is better here.

It is better than his usual work, but it is still below average. And yet, this is a pretty good adaptation. I would give it three and three quarters.


The Shadow Over Innsmouth
The perfect illustrator for the perfect tale (one of a virtual infestation of a decaying, back-water fishing town). A chilling script couples the equally chilling art. Bravo to Simon Gane - his best work yet.

Herbert West - Reanimator
While it has it's problems, the multi-illustrator tale actually works better than you'd expect - considering how you might favor one artist over another and want them to do the entire thing. This is the one that Graphic Classics showcases the most, seeing as how it's unique. Definitely something they should be proud of.

The Dreams in the Witch House
An unjustly overlooked story with pretty awesome art and a faithful yet different adaptation of Lovecraft's story. Cosmic horror is the main focus (more than the other two above) but it is also the only story where Lovecraft embraces Christianity and faith - a point made by Mike Dalager. A memorable comic adaptation, and definitely one to read. With such characters like Mazurewicz, Gilman, Elwood, Keziah, Nyarlathotep, and (especially) Brown Jenkin, you can't really go wrong!

By the way, my birthday is on February 2nd! I'll be in Florida, and we'll have a celebration here at Red Death Productions!

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