- Posted by Johanna on May 31, 2007 at 5:13 pm
- Category: Graphic Novel Reviews
- CREDITS: Edited by Tom Pomplun
- PUBLISHER: Eureka Productions; $11.95 US
The cover proclaims this book to be Five Great Tales of Ghosts, Vampires, Haunted Castles & Forbidden Love… and so it is. Some of the greatest gothic writers of the 19th century are represented with comic stories in this fourteenth volume of the Graphic Classics series.
These stories are considered foundational to the genre of the romantic mystery with their strange family secrets and touches of dusty horror. They’re talked about but rarely seen these days, so it’s a pleasure to get to read these classics in illustrated form. They all have in common young women with at least one missing parent who ponder the supernatural events they experience by candlelight in gloomy castles.
First is J. Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla with art by Lisa K. Weber. Le Fanu has been called the father of the modern ghost story, and his piece here is a vampire tale that influenced Bram Stoker’s Dracula in which the young Laura is befriended by a strangely attractive woman, the demonic Carmilla of the title. The shading of the black-and-white art demonstrates pencil marks, a handmade touch that reinforces the diary-style narration. It’s used to particularly good effect in the scenes where a ghostly Carmilla visits Laura in her bed.
Next comes Ann Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho, drawn by Carlo Vergara. His crisp linework is a pleasure to read, capturing happiness and despair equally well. The realistic art makes the fantastic events more plausible, even though the heroine has a disconcerting habit of fainting any time she receives bad news, which is often.
Edgar Allan Poe’s The Oval Portrait is a short four pages, with art by Leong Wan Kok. Like the much longer Northanger Abbey that follows it, it explicitly makes reference to the Udolpho author in establishing its spooky atmosphere. At its length, it’s merely an incident, but it’s the most explicitly creepiest in the book.
Jane Austen’s gothic parody is perhaps the most famous story of those included, and it’s beautifully illustrated by Anne Timmons. After the overheated (but enjoyable) emotions of the previous pieces, her matter-of-fact tone is a welcome diversion, and due to Timmons, it’s the highlight of the book. The conversation sparkles and Timmons’ art enhances it with just the right expressions and looks.
The book concludes with Myla Jo Closser’s At the Gate, a dog ghost story drawn by Shary Flenniken with a charming message about devotion. In all of these, tone is more important than showing the supernatural in detail, which is what gives them power still to disturb and involve the reader. This anthology is an overview of a timeless story type, and it’s a lot more fun than reading dusty old books.