Graphic Classics #11: O. Henry,
edited by Tom Pomplun
(Eureka, 2005)

An interesting reoccurring theme of O. Henry's work is the "twist/surprise" ending. While almost everyone is familiar with the twist ending of "The Gift of the Magi," the majority of the stories (including, but not limited to "The Caballero's Way," "After Twenty Years," "The Marionettes" and "The Furnished Room") presented pull a switcheroo in one form or another. Of course, this is an intentional choice by editor Tom Pomplun et al., especially in the trade dress ("TALES with a TWIST! Stories from the all-time master of the surprise ending"). While the reader expects to be surprised going in to the story, it's a testament to O. Henry's lasting abilities that each story survives on its own merits and avoids becoming formulaic.

Well, another interesting "twist" -- or at least "surprise" -- is how innovative and fresh these stories seem, thanks to creative storytelling by the writers and illustrators adapting O. Henry's short stories for this collected adaptation.

For an example, let's take "Roads of Destiny." The premise is familiar: a traveler comes upon a three-pronged fork in the road. What follows is a story for each potential future. The interesting manner in which this story is told, as only a visual medium such as the graphic novel can do, is further distinguish these potential futures via three different illustrators. Each illustrator is very distinguishable from the others, yet the central character is given distinguishing features for ease of recognition. This masterfully links the separate tales back to the base structure, providing a sense of connectivity.

"A Madison Square Arabian Night" is another interesting adaptation. Mort Castle and Michael Slack portray an odd evening of a man interviewing artists to determine a woman's true character. While the story itself is interesting and unusual, the presentation is even more so. It is presented as a silent picture with accompanying framed text. It adds another layer to the story, establishing the pacing as well as contrasting the shaded pictures from the stark text frames (white letters and border on black background).

Graphic Classics proves that the graphic novel can take existing material and re-present it as if it's new. The versatility of illustrators, mixed with the myriad methods of re-telling the source material, offer an engaging visual exploration of O. Henry's short stories. Graphic Classics #11: O. Henry should appeal to a broad audience (even those that have already read these stories).

- Rambles
written by C. Nathan Coyle
published 9 July 2005

Buy it from