Jan 28, 2010

Nevermore: A Graphic Adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe's Short Stories

Nevermore: A Graphic Adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe's Short Stories

Nevermore collects some of Edgar Allan Poe’s more well-known tales, adapted and illustrated by different comics writers and artists: “The Raven”, “The Pit and the Pendulum”, “The Facts in the case of Mr Valdemar”, “The Murders in the Rue Morgue”, “The Fall of the House of Usher”, “The Black Cat”, “The Oval Portrait”, “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “The Masque of the Red Death”.

Most of these writers and artists chose to update the stories’ original settings, and most added enough changes for Nevermore to be more accurately described as an anthology of graphic retellings of Poe. This was a surprise, but by no means an unpleasant one. I’ve always been interested in retellings – in how a familiar tale, told from a different angle, can tell us entirely new things. If this is valid for myths and fairy tales, why not for Gothic classics? (Did I ever tell you I used to dream of one day retelling Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla from her point of view? I’m no writer, but I really hope someone will do it someday.)

One of my favourite retellings was “The Pit and the Pendulum”, which updates the story in the light of modern-day fears of terrorism, hasty arrests, and use of torture. “The Black Cat” managed to leave out certain scenes from the original story and still be dark and make complete sense—for which I’m incredibly grateful. I confess I was dreading this particular story, because bad things being done to cats is one of my big no-go areas, and I'm afraid the original tale was enough to traumatise me for life.
The Murders in the Rue Morgue

The modern-day version of “The Oval Portrait” is still a story about obsession and art-versus-life, but this time it involves a photographer and a celebrity. And Alice Duke (a debut artists, no less), whose art was my favourite in the whole book, brings “The Tell-Tale’s Heart” claustrophobic and guilt-ridden mood completely to life.

The art, which is in black and white for all the stories, accurately captures the eerie atmosphere of Poe’s world, and often also adds a new twist: the art in “The Raven”, for example, put me in mind of noir detective stories; “The Pit and the Pendulum” of science fiction classics, and “The Masque of the Red Death” of super hero adventures (interestingly enough, this version of the story takes place at a comics convention). I’m sure these choices were not accidental, and I had a lot of fun paying attention to how casting them in new genres subtly changed these stories.

The Masque of the Red Death

It took me some time to decide what to read for the January Graphic Novels mini-challenge, but I ended up going with Poe because I wanted to read an adaptation of something I was already familiar with (much like I always try to read the book before watching the movie). However, I don’t think those who haven’t read Poe’s original stories would be lost at all, especially as each story is preceded by a short introduction. Also, there was a graphic mini-biography of Poe at the end that made me smile—not because of the overall content, as the poor guy’s life was so ghastly, but because it includes the story of the Poe Toaster. I don’t believe in ghosts, but I love ghost stories, and I think this is one of which Poe would be proud.

19 comments:

  1. Oh, this looks like something I'd like. I haven't read Poe's stories in years and revisiting them in a graphic novel sounds like fun.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Uh, how cool is this?!? I need to check this one out. Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I want to read this! It looks so good. I am as always astounded by the beautiful graphic novels you keep finding. Your just like a magician pulling a white rabbit out of your hat.

    ReplyDelete
  4. After my last "updated" graphic novel, I think I'll be a little more cautious with this one, trying to read a little bit of it in-store rather than getting it to own (I highly doubt it's available at my library, whose GN section I'm more disappointed with daily).

    ReplyDelete
  5. I remember reading The Tell-Tale Heart in school and really enjoyed it! I normally wouldn't go for a graphic novel, but this seems really interesting. It's always great to see things from another point of view. I just might check this one out!

    Emidy
    Une Parole

    ReplyDelete
  6. My son loves Poe's work and graphic novels, so this sounds like the perfect book for him. Thanks for your review!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Ooooh, I want, I want, I want!!! But instead of buying it for myself, I ought to buy it for Annie. She loves Poe so much (except for The Black Cat, which disturbed her greatly), and I think she would absolutely adore this!

    *sigh* This makes me think about all the books I'll have to one day buy for myself though...when she moves out and takes all hers with her.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I love hearing which books work for graphic novels and which don't. Poe seems like a natural, but you're right - there's a lot of potential for events that are TOO "graphic" for graphic rendition! :--)

    ReplyDelete
  9. Very cool! I would be especially excited to see the adaptations of "The Tell Tale Heart" and "Masque of the Red Death." Those are two of my favorites.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Ooh, I agree with Andi on The Tell-Tale Heart!

    I haven't read Poe in quite some time, but his writing style is so EERIE and atmospheric that I don't know if I'd appreciate a switch to GN form. It feels like EVERYTHING is being switched to graphic novels now (I even saw a 9/11 report in the store yesterday in GN format) and while it's cool, it's getting a little excessive. Like the classics with vampires and sea monsters and all the rest...

    ReplyDelete
  11. I read this one a couple months ago and my favorite adaption was "The Raven". I liked how this collection represented various artists and adaption styles; but that meant I liked some more than others.

    ReplyDelete
  12. With a name like Lenore, it looks like I should get this one :)

    ReplyDelete
  13. I'd never heard of this one but you know I'll be looking for it! I love Poe's stories and would love to see some different takes on them.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Oh my goodness! I am so excited about this find. I love Poe. His life was so tragic and his writing so exquisite.

    ReplyDelete
  15. This looks awesome, not just because it's a graphic novel but because it's EAP! (Speaking of which, youtube Mr. Raven by MC Lars, it's a rap about Edgar Alan Poe)

    I haven't read as much EAP as I should, only the Cask of Amontiadillo (oh I know the spelling is off), the Raven - thank you The Simpsons, and the Tell-Tale Heart, which again was due to the influence of The Simpsons.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Mrs B: It was a lot of fun! I haven't read Poe in ages either... I need to reread the originals sometime.

    Amanda, you're welcome! Enjoy :D

    Vivienne: lol! That actually made me laugh out loud :D

    Amanda: I guess the more one knows about GNs, the more disappointing the library's selection becomes :\ One day! One day I'll changed that somewhere :P

    Emidy: Would it be weird if I made it my mission to find you the PERFECT graphic novel, the one that will change your mind about the medium and introduce you to a brand new world? :P

    Kathy: I hope he enjoys it!

    Debi: I'm with Annie about The Black Cat :\ But yes, this sounds PERFECT for her :D

    Jill: I think they countered any potential situations like that really nicely, though. None of the art is too gruesome!

    Andi, they did a great job with those!

    Aarti: I actually don't think it's excessive. Maybe you just get that impression because you're seeing so many reviews due to the mini-challenge? :P

    Valerie: Yes, that's one of the risks of using such a variety of approaches.

    Lenore: lol, yes :D

    Iliana, I hope you enjoy it :)

    Christina: It was..poor guy :\

    April: ha, my very first contact with The Raven and Tall-Tale Heart was through The Simpsons too :D I see sort of envision The Raven as Bart :P

    Naida: Then you'd probably enjoy it :)

    ReplyDelete
  17. Oh this sounds great. I really really dislike Poe, but mostly for the awful writing (sorry to all those fans....) so maybe this retelling version is a nice way to approach it. When will Halloween be here again?!

    ReplyDelete
  18. Awesome review! Will have to add this on my list. Thanks for participating in the challenge :)

    ReplyDelete

Thank you so much for taking the time to comment - interaction is one of my favourite things about blogging and a huge part of what keeps me going.