Graphic Classics: H. G. Wells

Graphic Classics: H. G. WellsSummary: Graphic Classics: H.G. Wells is a completely revised second edition of the third volume in the Graphic Classics series. It features three new comics adaptations: “The Time Machine” by Antonella Caputo and Seth Frail, “The Invisible Man” by Rod Lott and Simon Gane, and “The Inexperienced Ghost” by Tom Pomplun and Rich Tommaso. Plus returning stories adapted by Dan O’Neill, Skip Williamson, Milton Knight, Brad Teare and Nick Miller, including the story of Orson Welles’ 1938 radio broadcast of “The War of the Worlds”.

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Graphic Classics: H. G. Wells, by H. G. Wells, adapted by various authors and artists 5.25

As with the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle anthology, ‘Graphic Classics: H. G. Wells’ is a collection of some of the legendary author’s many works, adapted by various authors and artists. Once again, it’s in black and white throughout and it’s a second edition, which was published by Eureka Productions in 2005.

And maddeningly enough, as with the Conan Doyle book, it excises some of the shorts from the previous book and replaces them with “95 new pages”. Now, I don’t know why this was done, but boasting of having added material to the book is disingenuous if you’ve also removed a whole bunch as well.

..but make no mention of it anywhere.

So, for the record, here’s a quick list of what’s been added and removed:

Removed
A moonlight fable
In the abyss
The truth about Pyecraft
The desert daisy : an excerpt from the childhood book

Added
The Inexperienced Ghost

To complicate things, they also rejigged the order in which the stories are offered. AND the page count remains the same (hence “95 new pages”, instead of “95 extra pages”). So you effectively have two very different collections, yet they carry the same title and suggest that this is a more complete one.

Hmmm…

1. The Invisible Man: I’d never read the story or seen a proper adaptation, so this was interesting to me. It finds a stranger coming to town one day, all wrapped in bandages. Not knowing who he is or what his condition might be, he’s soon distrusted by most of the locals. And rightly so, as it happens: In no time flat, he’s run out of town and gets help from a doctor in a nearby town. That’s when we discover what led him to this fate.

This tale didn’t thrill me, but it was okay; it satisfied my curiosity. The art was an unusual touch, though, in that it was fairly cartoony for something serious and science-fictiony. I like the style, I really do, but I just wondered how appropriate it was. Maybe by making it cartoony, they were playing up the campiness of the concept. Maybe. Not sure. 6.75

2. The Inexperienced Ghost: Is this a joke? A guy meets a timid ghost who has no idea how to be one? WTF. He needs help doing the hand gestures that take him in and out of the mortal plane, so our protagonist helps him with that. His friends, to whom he’s recounting this story, are a bit skeptical, but one of them is a Mason and recognizes the hand gestures. So he helps him recreate them in full – to unfortunate effect. The art was cartoony, the story was silly, and I can’t fathom anyone taking this seriously. 4.0

3. The Man Who Could Work Miracles: A man is discussing the nature of miracles with his friends in a pub, when he realizes that he’s imbued with the power of will; he can now do anything his mind wishes. But he wastes it on mediocre things like growing flowers on a cane, turning a tobacco jar into a fishbowl, banishing a police officer to San Francisco, …etc. And then wracking his brains over it. He eventually decides to stop the rotation of the Earth – to stop time, so that he can spend his evening with a friend a while longer. Seriously. The impact is devastating, but he survives – and undoes everything. WTF? Between the nonsensical story and the really sketchy art, this was a bit blah. 4.5

4. The Temptation of Harringay: This one is all text with a few drawings to embellish it. And it’s easy to see why: it would have been tedious to adapt. It basically tells of an encounter that struggling painter Harringay has with a painting he’s making of an organ grinder – which somehow takes on a life of its own and begins to torment him. So he proceeds to destroy it with his paints as it tries to bargain with him. It’s an interesting concept, but it comes off more comical than anything else. 5.5

5. The War of the Worlds – The Story of Orson Welles’ 1938 Radio Broadcast: This one was cool from a conceptual standpoint: why redo ‘The War of the Worlds’ for the umpteenth time, when you can do the story of Orson Welles’ legendary radioplay instead? That’s clever.

But the artwork, lovely as it was, was rife with discrepancies. Not only did the artist use a likeness of Welles from when he was much older, but much of what was described in the tale didn’t match the art – like the descriptions of the Martian crafts and the Martians themselves. WTF. There’s no excuse for this. Do your homework, man! 7.0

6. Le mari terrible: This is a text entry with one single piece of art at the onset. It tells the story of a young man’s encounter with the spouse of a woman he is coveting during a tea party. It’s mercifully brief, as there’s nothing really spectacular about this encounter other than the impression our protagonist has that the man is trying to poison the atmosphere – which, ironically enough, is enough to do exactly that. It’s a bit cynical and darkly humourous. 6.5

7. The Man with a Nose: Two men are sitting on a bench. One of them, cast in shadows, starts to talk to the other and proceeds to whine about his monstrous, deformed nose and the impact that it’s had on his life. Maybe it was intended to be absurd, but the humour was lost on me. And the art wasn’t stellar – the nose was just a twisted grotesquery that suggested that the artist didn’t take this seriously. 4.5

8. The Time Machine: Wow. This was nothing like I’d imagined it. Having seen the 1960 movie version, I expected our protagonist to go through time, visiting history. But, instead, he goes over 800 thousand years into the future and finds just two kinds of humans: the childlike, pretty Eloi and the sinister, creepy Morlocks. He comes to the conclusion that the class system had created such a disparity between peoples that it got entrenched and permanently split the race.

I found it weird that Wells would blame this future on capitalism, and naïve that the outcome would be that the underground-dwelling Morlocks preyed on the Eloi; it was as though he were sending a message to the upper classes (well, if so, it doesn’t seem as though anyone paid him any mind…). The art, b-t-w, was super rudimentary, and nothing worth mentioning. So the end result was interesting but no more. 7.0

9. The Star: This one’s completely textless save for the last panel, showing a star tearing across the night sky and devastating Earth in its passage. Finally, a couple of aliens, not seeing any damage beyond the Arctic, look at its impact and reflect that it did far less than they’d anticipated. Is it satirical? Seems like it. But it’s hard to say without the original text. The art is nice though. 6.75

The amount of satire and absurdity in this collection surprised me, because I’d always taken ‘The War of the Worlds’ and ‘The Time Machine’ at face value. But I wonder if that should be reconsidered: perhaps Wells wrote those with his pen planted firmly in cheek (Ouch!). I really wish I knew.

In any event, though I didn’t find the stories that funny or clever I found the experience interesting, if not revelatory. It certainly paints a different portrait of Wells in my mind – much like the other book shook up my notion that Conan Doyle was a literary genius, something I’m no longer sure of.

So, from that perspective, it was worth some of the tedium.

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