Sunday, February 07, 2010

Masterpiece Comics: The Crypt of Brontë - A Review

Masterpiece Comics
R. Sikoryak
Drawn and Quaterly (September 1, 2009)
# ISBN-10: 1897299842
# ISBN-13: 978-1897299845
Colour, 64 pages, Hardcover
R. Sikoryak's Masterpiece Comics is a collection of adaptations of classical books belonging to the Western opus using several iconic comic styles of the latest century(1). The result cannot be considered a parody of the original novels (which in general are treated with great respect) but more like a sort of post-modern recreation within the self-imposed aesthetic parameters and internal codes of well- known American comic creators.

The tensions between the original stories and comics resolve in an enjoyable dialogue between them that sometimes turn into an ironic reading of the novel but mostly the object of the ironies are the original comics. The case that interests us here is The Crypt of Brontë, the adaptation of Wuthering Heights read as a Tales from the Crypt EC Comic(2).

At sixteen pages long it is the longest adaptation of the collection and probably the one where the story and the comic framework are more corresponding(3). Up to the point that the adaptation sometimes reads even as a legitimate comic adaptation (not far from the Classics Illustrated adaptations more or less contemporary to the Tales from the Crypt series). The adaptability and richness of motives of the original work by Emily Brontë obviously helps. The coordinates of this approach are the Gothic elements of the novel which are conveniently sorted out and highlighted. We have a Nelly Dean surprisingly well suited as the Crypt-Keeper now aptly renamed the House-Keeper(4). Heathcliff is revamped as a dark-skinned (in a way like Siku's latest comic adaptation(5)) unwanted boy who turns into a sadist eager for revenge, Catherine appears as the spoiled brat she is and Linton is no more than a parody of himself.

As Mr Sikoryak tells us at the end of the story in the final Masterpiece Queries, the adaptation has shifted towards those elements prominent in the Tales from the Crypt comics:
[T]hose gruesome morality tales always emphasized wickedness (even when thwarted) over goodness (which was considered tedious). Besides as those stories were eight pages ore less, it was vital to carefully choose of events: the punching, the dying, the apple-sauce-tossing, the violent kissing, and the grave-tampering. (Professor Scholar)
And the illustrations stress those points with plenty of wide open and blood-stained eyes and abundant sweating drops.

The final result is less hilarious than it is funny. In all probability, it could have been more shocking if the novel by Emily Brontë had been adapted into a less obvious style. Like Hester Prynne's The Scarlet Letter adapted as a Lulu comic or the amusing Action Camus covers where Albert Camus meets Siegel & Shuster's Superman comics. But, as it is, it reveals once again the almost fractal ability of Emily Brontë's only novel to embrace all kinds of approaches.

Notes
(1) The comics appeared previously in several publications. The Crypt of Brontë was first published in Drawn and Quarterly Anthology Vol. 5 (2003).
(2) Tales from the Crypt was a bi-monthly horror comic anthology series published by EC Comics in the early 1950s. Al Feldstein devised the Crypt-Keeper's origin story and Jack Davis illustrated many of the issues.
(3) Being respectful to the eight-page length of the original Tales from the Crypt stories. The Crypt of Brontë is divided into two consecutive stories: The Heights! and The Depths!
(4) The Governess and The Tenant are the equivalents of the original Old Witch and Vault Keeper.

(5) "Wuthering Heights": The Graphic Novel by Adam Strickson (Author), Siku (Illustrator), Bradford Metropolitan District Council (2006)

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