Graphic Classics #14: Gothic Classics
by Tom Pomplun, various artists (Eureka, 2007)

Compared to our microwave world of 30-second hot dogs, much of the literature of the 17th and 18th centuries seems to plod. The plodding 14th volume in the Graphic Classics series is Gothic Classics, adapting four such novels and short stories from the past to comics. These are: The Mysteries of Udopho (Ann Radcliffe), Northanger Abbey (Jane Austen), "The Oval Portrait" (Edgar Allan Poe) and "At the Gate" (Myla Jo Closser).

If your first response to "gothic" is "oh, boy, horror stories!" you'll need to reconsider. Modern usage has changed the meaning of the word, and these tales are much more like modern romance novels with just an added touch of suspense. You'll have plenty of time to change your response; the two adapted novels are very, very slowly paced.

That doesn't mean The Mysteries of Udolpho and Northanger Abbey aren't well written and drawn. They are both. In addition, the adaptations seem faithful to the originals, although that's a guess. I haven't read the originals.

In particular, the two novels are relationship pieces, i.e., the study of the interactions and motives of human beings. In short, they are chick books. We call them soap operas today.

They are well written, but the dialogue sounds stilted to a modern ear. The depth of characterization is exceptional, but the plots are, well, mundane.

All of the art is interesting, if not exceptional, in technique and style. Personal favorites among the artists are Carlo Vergara and Anne Timmons.

So, if you have a long afternoon on a sleepy day to fill, and would enjoy a leisurely stroll down centuries past, fill it with Gothic Classics.

review by
Michael Vance

19 January 2008

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