Gothic Classics: Graphic Classics Volume 14
by Ann Radcliffe, Jane Austen, Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, Edgar Allan Poe, Myla Jo Closser
Edited by Tom Pomplun
Cover Artist: Lisa K. Weber (Front), Trina Robbins (Back)
Review by Gayle Surrette
Eureka Productions Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9780978791902
Date: 29 May 2007 List Price $11.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Once again Tom Pomplun has produced a wonderful volume of classic literature in a form that is both visually satisfying and entertaining. Gothic Classics Volume Fourteen starts off with a strange little poem by none other than Jane Austen, illustrated by Molly Kiely -- the sharp witticism is not lost in either the poem or by the art -- while the artwork does add a bit of drollery. Then we're off to some of the true classics of Gothic literature: Carmilla, The Mysteries of Udolpho, "The Oval Portrait", Northanger Abbey, and "At the Gate".
Carmilla by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu is one that just about anyone who likes vampire novels and lore has heard of but few have actually read. Now, adapted by Rod Lott and illustrated by Lisa K. Weber, readers get a rendition of the tale that while true to the original story, has some lovely artwork that seems to play with the tropes and expectations of the time period. The facial expressions alone should bring Weber resounding applause.
Next up is The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe, adapted by Antonella Caputo and illustrated by Carlo Vergara. I've had a copy of this book hanging about in my library since college but for some reason I've never gotten the urge to get past the first five pages. Since reading this version, perhaps I'll dig it out and read it the next time I wander across it. Ann Radcliffe was a notorious writer of "novels" that turned the heads of young women and gave them nightmares and vapors. Since our heroine seems to pass out at the drop of a hat it's no wonder that young, impressionable women sought to emulate those effective swoons. The artwork here is quite realistic and less stylized, the characters sharply defined -- melding with the narrative in a smooth whole that keeps you interested and entertains.
"The Oval Portrait" by Edgar Allan Poe, adapted by Tom Pomplun, illustrated by Leong Wan Kok, in which a driven, obsessed, artist is so taken with his art that he misses the life about him to disastrous results. As strange and depressing a tale as is usually found among Poe's works and fittingly Gothic in sensibility.
What can I say but that putting Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen (adapted by Trina Robbins, illustrated by Anne Timmons) after The Mysteries of Udolpho is inspired placement. Jane Austen, in Northanger Abbey, set out to write a Gothic romance as a riff on those popular in her day. Catherine is reading The Mysteries of Udolpho throughout the novel and as a result, her imagination adds color and excitement to her surrounding and her view of them. I have read Northanger Abbey several times and enjoyed this rendition immensely. The artwork was lovely and put me in mind of many of the scenes from my favorite movie version. If this story doesn't cause you to go out and read the original now that you have the art to set the scene, I don't know what will.
Last is a short story called "At the Gate" by Myla Jo Closser, adapted by Tom Pomplun and illustrated by Shary Flenniken. I found this a bit too maudlinly sweet for my taste but it's a well told tale of a dog awaiting his master's return -- there are multiply levels of meaning and it's even more striking for the art and narrative meld -- just not my cup of tea.
Overall, a great volume, and well worth reading, viewing, and enjoying. And as usual, there is a section with short bios of all the artists and writers.