Sunday, October 30, 2011

OCTOBER COMICS Frankenstein by Steve Niles & Scott Morse

A few years back, Steve Niles started a series of “Little Books of Horror” through IDW. They were slim, 48-page adaptations of classic horror stories. Niles wrote the adaptations with a number of distinct artists providing illustrations. Ted McKeever provided art for “The War of the Worlds,” Richard Sala did so for “Dracula,” and Scott Morse drew the single volume I own, “Frankenstein.”

I re-read this book just the other night, and, although it was a quick read, I enjoyed it thoroughly. Niles manages to encapsulate the entirety of Shelley’s novel with an economical use of prose. True to the source material, he includes bits that are often overlooked in other adaptations, and I applaud him for this.

It is a great challenge to boil down a novel to a few hundred words, and yet, Niles manages to do just that. Obviously, readers do not get the nuance and more fully-realized narrative that can be found in Shelley’s novel through this 48-page graphic novel. But, if one is already familiar with the book, a faithful adaptation such as this ignites the memory of the original’s reading. And, if one has not read Frankenstein before, this is a great introduction to a classic of literature that could, very easily, spur one on to go and read the original.

The big draw for this book, though, is the lush painting of Scott Morse. He provides richly imagined pieces, full of color and design and symbolism, and adds so much to Niles’s adaptation. Between readings of this book, I have often pulled it from my shelf and slowly leafed through it, studying the artistry of Morse. Somehow, his animation style fused with his sense of color manages to evoke the very genuine emotions that are to be found in the source material.

And it is a very distinct book that feels and reads like little else in comics – or prose, for that matter. This is mainly why I appreciate Scott Morse’s work so much. He – like Paul Pope or Kate Beaton or James Owen – prefer to carve out their own niche in this medium doing challenging work that stands out among the soulless “house styles” found in many of the “mainstream” comics on stands today (not that this is unique to current comics). If you love great art and can appreciate the skill necessary to create such a faithful adaptation in so few words, then this is a book you should seek out.

And if you do choose to read this book in a dimly lit room as the moon falls behind the swaying trees outside your window, you just might hear the monster crying off in the distance, and you may need to pull another blanket up close to your chin, just to keep the cold away.


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