Between the Panels: Literary Lookers By Lance Victor Eaton (October 2009)
Tom Pomplun, owner, publisher, and editor of Eureka Productions has had a productive and impressive year. He's added two new volumes (Volume 16: Oscar Wilde and Volume 17: Science Fiction Classics) to his growing Graphic Classics collection of literary graphic adaptations while also releasing a second edition of a previously published title (Volume 6: Ambrose Bierce) with some seventy pages of added material.
Volume 17: Science Fiction Classics is the most noteworthy since it is the series' first foray into color. Up to this point, Pomplun has stuck to black and white art (quite successfully, mind you). Now he has produced an excellent colored anthology with an interesting mix of coloring and artistic styles that is engaging but also invokes other legacies. The structured and artistic style of H. G. Wells' The War of the Worlds (done by Rich Rainey and Micah Farritor) invokes the old Classics Illustrated series that so many baby boomers grew up reading in lieu of the actual books. However Pomplun, Johnny Ryan, and Kevin Atkinson's adaptation of In the Year 2889 by Jules Vernes amusingly invokes the visual iconography of the Jetsons. Rob Lottl and Roger Langridge render Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Distintegration Machine in the tradition of Hergé's Tintin while Antonella Caputo and Brad Teare turn Lord Dunsany's Bureau d'Echange de Maux into a colorized wood-cut novel in the tradition of Frans Masereel and others of the early 20th century. If this is where Eureka Productions has set the bar for their color adaptations, one can only look forward to future editions.
As mentioned, Volume 6: Ambrose Bierce is a revised second edition with added material. It's an impressive collection of Bierce that strays away from some of his more famous stories (Chickamauga, An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge) in favor of his more macabre (The Damned Thing, Oil of Dog) and lesser known works (Devil's Dictionary, The Monk and the Hangman's Daughter). The collection offers a cornucopia of artistic styles and approaches to visually capturing literature. Included are Bierce's Fables, some twenty re-imagined fables much in the tradition of Aesop but with more cynical and humorous twists. The individual pieces are done by many different artists, each using very distinct methods to execute these 1-2 page stories. The variety leaves readers truly not knowing what to expect with each page turned. More so than in previous collections, the art seems to match each story perfectly. For instance, the charcoal drawings of The Monk and The Hangman's Daughter create a brooding atmosphere that correlates with the gothic themes of the story. Some of the pieces are particularly text-heavy (Devil's Dictionary, The Hypnotist) but that shouldn't dismay the reader since they are still fantastic tales.
Finally, Graphic Classics Volume 16: Oscar Wilde includes four comic-book length stories including The Picture of Dorian Gray, The Canterville Ghost, Lord Arthur Savile's Crime, and Salome. This is surprising since these anthologies usually pack many more stories. But given their interesting range of genre, plot, and tone, these represent Wilde's writings well. Here again, the different artistic styles work with particular stories. Lisa K. Weber's dark-focused water-coloring helps provide a haunting and sinister atmosphere for Dorian Grey. Meanwhile, Nick Miller uses simple and thin lines in a cartoon style, which adds to the more jubilant and bemusing tone of the Canterville Ghost.
Any one of these volumes would be a worthy investment and their total value speaks exceptionally well of Eureka Productions' continued development as a publisher of tasteful, impressive, and ingenious publications.
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