Posted by Don MacPherson on October 1st, 2007
Graphic Classics: Bram Stoker trade paperback
“Dracula” – adapted by Rich Rainey/illustrated by Joe Ollmann
“The Vampire Hunter’s Guide” – adapted by Tom Pomplum/illustrated by Hunt Emerson
“The Judge’s House” – adapted & illustrated by Gerry Alanguilan
“The Bridal of Death” – adapted & illustrated by J.B. Bonivert
“Torture Tower” – adapted & illustrated by Onsmith Jeremi
“The Wondrous Worm” – adapted & illustrated by Evert Geradts
“Lair of the White Worm” – adapted by Tom Pomplum/illustrated by Rico Schacherl
Cover artist: Mark A. Nelson
Editor: Tom Pomplum
Publisher: Eureka Productions
Price: $11.95 US/$14.50 CAN
From the late 1940s through to the early 1970s, kids discovered classic literature through comic-book adaptations in the long-running Classics Illustrated series and specials. Eureka Productions has picked up on that tradition and is attempting to carry it on, but it’s approached it in a different way. Instead of focusing on a single story, this series of trade-paperback anthologies features comics adaptations of a classic author’s work. Bram Stoker is the star of this seventh volume. I’ve read Dracula but was largely ignorant of the gothic author’s other writing, so on that level, this book was informative and eye-opening. Overall, I think the editor of the volume made a misstep in the choice of artists. Those handling the line art in this book perform well; I take no issue with their craft. But many of the artists — who boast simple, indy-press approaches to comic art — have styles that don’t pair well with the dark, eerie tone of the stories.
The first feature is appropriately a straightforward, abridged adaptation of Stoker’s Dracula in comic form. The script certainly captures the gothic tone of the source material quite well; mind you, if memory serves, I think it’s quoting directly from it, accounting for the accurate impression. The problem lies not with the adaptation of the story but rather with the visual representation. Ollmann’s style is a solid one; I’ve love to see if on a small-press, slice-of-life or humor comic. But his art just doesn’t suit the dark, creepy atmosphere that’s called for in a presentation of the classic Dracula tale.
The most intriguing piece in the book is Gerry Alanguilan’s adaptation of a lesser known Stoker work. Alanguilan, a writer/artist from the Philippines perhaps best known by North American comics fans as an inker on such titles as Silent Dragon and Superman: Birthright, offers up his vision of “The Judge’s House,” which is something of a classic ghost story. As such, it’s more than a bit predictable, but it’s entertaining nonetheless. Alanguilan’s approach to the piece put me in mind of the classic EC horror stories of the 1950s. His realistic approach to the art is impressive, and it also captures a classic and traditional look. Alanguilan’s contribution is the stand-out of this anthology and the most professional and polished effort one will find in these pages.
The rest of the stories are like the Dracula adaptation. They boast simple or unusual visual styles that aren’t in keeping with the gothic appeal of Stoker’s work. But that doesn’t mean they don’t boast their own individual appeal. Onsmith Jeremi (AKA Jeremy Smith) provides artwork for “Torture Tower” (an adaptation of a Stoker story entitled “The Squaw”) is quite cartoony and basic on the surface, but he’s able to pack a lot of panels and storytelling on a single page without making it look cramped or rushed. His style actually reminds me a bit of Johnny (Angry Youth Comix) Ryan’s artwork.
Overall, I think Graphic Classics: Bram Stoker is an experiment that doesn’t quite work, for the main reason I’ve already stated. However, it does serve another purpose. This is a great showcase for the sort of comics storytelling one might find in better small-press and independent comics, as well as mini-comics. I don’t know if these artists have that sort of background, but their work is certainly in keeping with that aspect of sequential storytelling. 5/10