Graphic Classics: Bram Stoker

Graphic Classics: Bram StokerSummary: Graphic Classics: Bram Stoker is completely revised, with an all-new comics adaptation of Dracula by Rich Rainey and Joe Ollmann. Returning from the first edition are “The Judge’s House” by Gerry Alanguilan, “Torture Tower” by Onsmith Jeremi, and “The Lair of the White Worm” by South African artist Rico Schacherl. Also “The Bridal of Death”, an excerpt from “The Jewel of Seven Stars” by J.B. Bonivert and “The Wondrous Child” illustrated by Evert Geradts. With a sumptuous cover painting by Mark A. Nelson.

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Graphic Classics: Bram Stoker, by Bram Stoker, adapted by various authors and artists 7.0

Seriously, has Bram Stoker written anything else but his legendary ‘Dracula’? Given the status of his masterwork, you’d almost think that that’s all he’s ever done. Well, if one is inclined to find out, one would simply have to pick up ‘Graphic Classics: Bram Stoker’: the anthology consists of seven other Stoker stories adapted by various authors and artists.

As with the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and H. G. Wells entries in the long-running series, Eureka Productions published two editions: an initial run in 2003, and then a revised second edition in 2007 that boasts 48 “new” pages. As with the others, what it does is remove some of the original short stories and replace them with new ones, resulting to a similar page count.

Here are the changes:

Removed
The Dracula Gallery
Dracula’s Voyage
The Dualists
The Funeral Party

Added
Dracula

Yes, ‘Dracula’ was actually absent from the original edition. Go figure. It’s a wonder if the publishers didn’t cynically plan this reissue right at the onset, ’cause forgoing the big classic seems like no small oversight. Anyway, here it’s been bumped up to the opening spot and all the other remaining stories have been shuffled around in different orders.

1. Dracula: Though I’ve never read the novel, this seems like a faithful rendition of the original material (you know, as based on the movies that I’ve seen). I still find it interesting that Stoker consistently shifts protagonists, first with Jonathan, then Mina, then Dr. Seward, before looping. It’s an unusual approach that I don’t recall seeing elsewhere. I found that the adaptation took its time setting the stage but then wraps up in a fury – but perhaps the original did as well? Anyway, it read well. One thing I didn’t like, however, was the artwork, which has a juvenile quality about it that demeans the work. After having seen Coppola’s sumptuous motion picture, one naturally wants a more artistic ‘Dracula’. Not so here. 7.5

2. A Vampire Hunter’s Guide: Taken from Van Helsing’s notes in ‘Dracula’ (which were conveniently left out of this book’s first entry), it enumerates the 10 powers and 10 frailties of vampires, along with a few introductory and concluding notes by Van Helsing. It’s interesting to read because some of these rules (ex: not being able to cross a stream of water) aren’t usually applied in vampire fiction. But what really makes it fun are the silly cartoons that illustrate each one. Fun stuff. 8.0

3. The Judge’s House: This had a sort of Edgar Allen Poe quality to it, which I liked. In it, Malcolm Malcolmson goes to a small town looking for a quiet place to study for his exam. He rents an old house, but soon discovers that it has a terrible reputation with some of the locals: a sadistic judge once lived there and, ever since his passing, there are things that go bump in the night. Scoffing at superstition, Malcolm soon discovers the cause of these bumps and suffers the consequences of his nonchalance. 7.0

4. The Bridal of Death: “The Bridal of Death” is actually the final chapter of the novel ‘The Jewel of Seven Stars’, which was originally published in 1903. For some reason, it was rebranded from its original chapter title of “Powers – Old and New”. Anyway, it finds a group being led by Mr. Trelawny, a wealthy eccentric, through a ritual to raise the mummified corpse of Egyptian Queen Tera. Told from the perspective of Malcolm, one of the guests (and Trelawny’s future son-in-law), it recounts the events that unfolded during this “Great Experiment”. Frankly, I was neither interested by the subject, nor was the art competent enough to sustain my interest – nor was it contextually appropriate, sketchy and cartoony as it was. 5.25

5. Torture Tower: A couple are out on their honeymoon and happen to meet an American along the way. His larger-than-life personality distracts them from their arguments so they welcome his company. But he’s an idiot: one day, as they’re looking down from a castle rampart at a black cat nursing her kitten, he decides to toss a rock to startle them – and proceeds to brain the kitten. The cat freaks out, but can’t climb the wall to attack the numbskull. Later, however, when the trio visit the castle’s torture chamber, she’ll get her revenge. It’s an amusing tale, but it’s not told convincingly by the artist, who had a difficulty with depth of perception and proportions. For instance, there’s no way that the pebble he tossed could kill a kitten. And the whole staging of the incident in the torture chamber was ridiculous. It’s a nice drawing style, though. 6.75

6. The Wondrous Child: This one is a bit of an oddity in the company of so many eerie numbers – it’s basically an absurdist kid’s fantasy. It finds Sibold and May wandering into their favourite hiding place under a willow tree to have a nap. When they wake, they spontaneously go on an adventure where they find a little baby and then meet all sorts of animals who are all subdued by the baby, leading Sibolld and May to believe it’s an angel. Clearly, this is a dream, and it’s an amusing tale because it’s a bit wacky, but it probably plays better to younger audiences. 6.75

7. The Lair of the White Worm: Adam Salton has been called up from Australia to Great Britain to meet his Great Uncle, his only living relative. Once there, he becomes witness to a duel of wills between two groups: wealthy Edgar Caswall and Lady Arabella March versus Lilla and Mimi Watford. He also begins to notice Lady March’s ability to ward off snakes and provoke mongooses – which he speculates may have something to do with the local legend of the white worm, whose lair would have been beneath Lady March’s domain. It’s a creepy and fantastical story, which is unhampered by the simple doodling on the page (despite its annoying anachronisms). Though it traipses with the unlikely in its sloppy finale, I still enjoyed it. 7.25

Of the three books that I’ve read in the ‘Graphic Classics’ series, the Bram Stoker one was indeed the most enjoyable of the lot – it was far more consistent in tone and quality. Though there were no other stories that were even remotely as captivating as ‘Dracula’, it must be said that things do get lost in adaptation – heck, even ‘Dracula’ is weaker here.

In any event, these anthologies are a nice primer on the oeuvre of literary giants one may not necessarily take the time to explore, so I think that they’re a worthy read. After all, if one sort of enjoys any of these books, then it’s a new author that one has discovered and should explore. And there are maybe artists worth discovering along the way as well.

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