Thursday, April 8, 2010

Review - Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
by Robert Louis Stevenson
Adapted by Jerry Kramsky and Lorenzo Mattotti
2003 Eisner Winner for Best U.S. Edition of Foreign Material

I was surprised to find out recently that Classics Illustrated is still around. If you've never heard of them it was a comic book series that started in the early fifties and adapted works of literature to a comic book format. They varied the length a bit over the run but generally they tried to fit a novel into around forty comic book pages. The original U.S. publication stopped in the early 1970's but other spin offs from around the world continued sporadically and it is currently being reprinted each month in the U.K. The quality of the adaption was never very good but often the illustrations were usually better than most. This adaptation of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde isn't from the Classics Illustrated line but it would have fit in without any trouble since like their older, American counterparts the quality of the writing isn't the best but the artwork is incredible.

There is a man by the name of Dr. Jekyll. Jekyll is a well off man who dabbles in chemistry and wonders about the nature of morality and if a human being's mind could be divided. Then there's Mr. Hyde who runs wild in the town at night satiating his vast appetites as the id run wild. Jekyll's friends look for the link between them and are shocked by what they find.

A problem with a direct adaptation of Stevenson's novel is that the identity of Hyde is the novel's major plot twist. It's a plot twist that has become so ubiquitous that trying to treat it as a plot twist would be confusing to someone who has not read the novel. So most people who adapt the story wind up restructuring it entirely and that is exactly what Kramsky has done. He reworks the novel so the focus is on Jekyll's loss of control and unleashed passions rather than the mystery of who Hyde is. This aspect of the adaptation is fine; transforming the character into a sex crazed serial killer is bit blunt but it does filter the themes through an appropriately modern lens.

Unfortunately when it comes to the actual prose (and this may not be Kramsky's fault since this is a translation) it is tough going. It's been a few decades since I read the novel but it felt like the translation was copying and pasting bits of Stevenson's writing into the word balloons and descriptive captions. The slow pace of nineteenth century writing runs headlong into the fast pace of the modern comic and the writing comes across worse for it. Clipping out overwritten sentences and reassembling them to match the artwork made it tough to read. And if these were edited from Stevenson's own words then the translator was attempting a similar style. Either way this book cried out for a livelier pace in the actual prose.

The art on the other hand is about as lively as you can get. Mattotti uses an almost cubist style for the book with strange perspectives and angular, flattened faces dominating. Colors are handled in huge blocks create stunning contrasts. I can't call it a beautiful book because the artwork isn't beautiful; it's glaring, sharp, and twisted. It's also astounding to look at which makes me thing that Mattotti has achieved exactly the effect that he wanted with it.

It's best to think of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde as an art book that happens to follow a plot. The plot itself isn't presented very well but the artwork is something that is memorable. I may leave it out on my coffee table just to flip through from time to time because of that.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The 2010 Hugo Nominees

Is it that time of year again already? It seems like just yesterday that the 2009 Hugos were handed out.

There were some ugly shocks for me on the ballot this time:

Best Novel
Boneshaker by Cherie Priest
The City & The City by China Miéville
Julian Comstock: A Story of 22nd-Century America by Robert Charles Wilson
Palimpsest by Catherynne M. Valente
Wake by Robert J. Sawyer
The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi

Best Novella
“Act One” by Nancy Kress
The God Engines by John Scalzi
“Palimpsest” by Charles Stross
Shambling Towards Hiroshima by James Morrow
“Vishnu at the Cat Circus” by Ian McDonald
The Women of Nell Gwynne’s by Kage Baker

Best Novelette
“Eros, Philia, Agape” by Rachel Swirsky
The Island” by Peter Watts
“It Takes Two” by Nicola Griffith
“One of Our Bastards is Missing” by Paul Cornell
“Overtime” by Charles Stross
“Sinner, Baker, Fabulist, Priest; Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast” by Eugie Foster

Best Short Story
“The Bride of Frankenstein” by Mike Resnick
“Bridesicle” by Will McIntosh
“The Moment” by Lawrence M. Schoen
“Non-Zero Probabilities” by N.K. Jemisin
“Spar” by Kij Johnson

Best Related Book
Canary Fever: Reviews by John Clute
Hope-In-The-Mist: The Extraordinary Career and Mysterious Life of Hope Mirrlees by Michael Swanwick
The Inter-Galactic Playground: A Critical Study of Children’s and Teens’ Science Fiction by Farah Mendlesohn
On Joanna Russ by Farah Mendlesohn (ed.)
The Secret Feminist Cabal: A Cultural History of SF Feminisms by Helen Merrick
This is Me, Jack Vance! (Or, More Properly, This is “I”) by Jack Vance

Best Graphic Story
Batman: Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?; Written by Neil Gaiman; Pencilled by Andy Kubert; Inked by Scott Williams
Captain Britain And MI13. Volume 3: Vampire State; Written by Paul Cornell; Pencilled by Leonard Kirk with Mike Collins, Adrian Alphona and Ardian Syaf
Fables Vol 12: The Dark Ages; Written by Bill Willingham; Pencilled by Mark Buckingham; Art by Peter Gross & Andrew Pepoy, Michael Allred, David Hahn; Colour by Lee Loughridge & Laura Allred; Letters by Todd Klein
Girl Genius, Volume 9: Agatha Heterodyne and the Heirs of the Storm; Written by Kaja and Phil Foglio; Art by Phil Foglio; Colours by Cheyenne Wright
Schlock Mercenary: The Longshoreman of the Apocalypse; Written and Illustrated by Howard Tayler

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form
Avatar; Screenplay and Directed by James Cameron
District 9; Screenplay by Neill Blomkamp & Terri Tatchell; Directed by Neill Blomkamp
Moon; Screenplay by Nathan Parker; Story by Duncan Jones; Directed by Duncan Jones
Star Trek; Screenplay by Robert Orci & Alex Kurtzman; Directed by J.J. Abrams
Up; Screenplay by Bob Peterson & Pete Docter; Story by Bob Peterson, Pete Docter, & Thomas McCarthy; Directed by Bob Peterson & Pete Docter

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form
Doctor Who: “The Next Doctor”; Written by Russell T Davies; Directed by Andy Goddard
Doctor Who: “Planet of the Dead”; Written by Russell T Davies & Gareth Roberts; Directed by James Strong
Doctor Who: “The Waters of Mars”; Written by Russell T Davies & Phil Ford; Directed by Graeme Harper
Dollhouse: “Epitaph 1″; Story by Joss Whedon; Written by Maurissa Tancharoen & Jed Whedon; Directed by David Solomon
FlashForward: “No More Good Days”; Written by Brannon Braga & David S. Goyer; Directed by David S. Goyer; based on the novel by Robert J. Sawyer

Best Editor, Long Form
Lou Anders
Ginjer Buchanan
Liz Gorinsky
Patrick Nielsen Hayden
Juliet Ulman

Best Editor, Short Form
Ellen Datlow
Stanley Schmidt
Jonathan Strahan
Gordon Van Gelder
Sheila Williams

Best Professional Artist
Bob Eggleton
Stephan Martiniere
John Picacio
Daniel Dos Santos
Shaun Tan

Best Semiprozine
Ansible edited by David Langford
Clarkesworld edited by Neil Clarke, Sean Wallace, & Cheryl Morgan
Interzone edited by Andy Cox
Locus edited by Charles N. Brown, Kirsten Gong-Wong, & Liza Groen Trombi
Weird Tales edited by Ann VanderMeer & Stephen H. Segal

Best Fan Writer
Claire Brialey
Christopher J Garcia
James Nicoll
Lloyd Penney
Frederik Pohl

Best Fanzine
Argentus edited by Steven H Silver
Banana Wings edited by Claire Brialey and Mark Plummer
CHALLENGER edited by Guy H. Lillian III
Drink Tank edited by Christopher J Garcia, with guest editor James Bacon
File 770 edited by Mike Glyer
StarShipSofa edited by Tony C. Smith

Best Fan Artist
Brad W. Foster
Dave Howell
Sue Mason
Steve Stiles
Taral Wayne

Two nominations for Robert J. Sawyer?! If you missed his second it's part of the television show nominees. And in that category there are three episodes of Doctor Who which might have had its weakest year since being revived. While the short form dramatic presentation aren't that great the long form might be the best it's ever been. When Star Trek and Avatar are the worst nominees it says a lot about just how good of year we had for theatrical SF. And what is Frederik Pohl doing in the "Fan Writer" category? Okay, I never really understood those fan categories but that's really odd.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Brian Bolland's Eisner Winning Covers Part 2

In 1993 Bolland won a second Eisner for his Animal Man covers. That year he also provided covers for Wonder Woman: