Graphic Classics #12:
Adventure Classics

by various artists & authors
(Eureka, 2005)

In spite of the title, it's the original stories themselves that are the classics in Graphic Classics #12: Adventure Classics, the latest offering in Eureka Productions' Graphic Classics series. The stories appear in new adaptations that range from Mary Fleener's illustrations for Rudyard Kipling's "Gunga Din" to the full comics adaptation by Tom Pomplun of Rafael Sabatini's "Blood Money," illustrated by Kevin Atkinson.

The treatments vary widely, from J.B. Bonivert's highly stylized, almost abstract renderings of Rod Lott's adaptation of Sax Rohmer's "In the Valley of the Sorceress," a bizarre little "mummy's tomb" sort of tale, through the classic comic book style of Michael Manning's graphics for Alexandre Dumas' "The Masked Ball" (adapted by editor Tom Pomplun) and Don Marquez' approach to Zane Grey's "Tigre" (Pomplun again). Hunter Emerson's illustrations for Robert W. Service's "The Shooting of Dan McGrew" tread a raucous ground somewhere between R. Mutt and Looney Tunes.

The stories seem for the most part to fit into the strange and/or supernatural realm, although there are enough down-to-earth pieces that I can't call this a "Weird Tales" sort of collection. Sometimes there's nothing supernatural at all, just the strange twists of Fate. I can't say that I enjoyed all the stories equally -- that would be an unrealistic expectation, at best -- but part of the fun of an anthology is that you'll most likely run across something new. It's like the combination plate at a Chinese restaurant. Neither am I really a comics "fan" by any measure, although I will confess to a childhood crush on Superman and a thorough enjoyment of the likes of Neil Gaiman's Sandman. One of the things that fascinates me most about comics (or "graphic novels," if we are to adopt the slightly more dignified term) is the interface between word and image, which is something that makes its appearance in high art from time to time. It is an area that comic books mastered a long time ago, and this volume is a good example of the ways in which they have done it. By all relevant criteria, this is good stuff, even if I don't always agree with the artistic decisions.

The collection includes adaptations of "The Wind Blew Shrill & Smart" by Robert Louis Stevenson, "In the Valley of the Sorceress" by Sax Rohmer, "The Masked Ball" by Alexandre Dumas, "Tigre" by Zane Grey, "The Shooting of Dan McGrew" by Robert W. Service, "Two Men Named Collins" by Damon Runyon, "Blood Money" by Rafael Sabatini, "Gunga Din" by Rudyard Kipling, "The Man Without a Shadow" by Fitz-James O'Brien, "The Mystery of the Semi-Detached" by Edith Nesbit, "The Crime of the Brigadier" by Arthur Conan Doyle and "The Roads We Take" by O. Henry.

by Robert M. Tilendis
21 January 2006

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