The six slight books in the Graphic Mythic Creatures series follow the same format in each of these twenty-four page hard cover books. Each book in the series focuses on one category of mythical creatures: dragons, giants, ogres, sea monsters, trolls and werewolves. All of the books are written by Gary Jeffrey but different illustrators were employed for individual volumes in the series: Dheeraj Verma (Dragons); Terry Riley (Sea Monsters); James Field (Trolls, Ogres); Nick Spender (Giants); and Gary Jeffrey and Rob Shone (Werewolves).
Conceived for elementary aged students, the books emulate the type of research material that hopefully the young scholar will encounter as an older student. Each book contains elements of non-fiction text books from the simple table of contents through to the concluding index. Unfortunately for the supplementary education of the young student, there is no attempt to provide source notes for the tales or any attributions for the illustrations and photographs within the body of the book.
Two pages of snippets of folklore, local history and several photographs or illustrations from popular culture depicting the subject matter are followed by one legend or folktale rendered in comic book format. The tale is told over about sixteen pages, each divided into two panels, in bright vibrant colours accompanied by caption boxes, often stating the action in the panel, and limited speech balloons. The main story is followed by a page that includes a brief comment on the story and four to five concisely annotated suggestions for other tales about the same types of creatures. A glossary and an index complete the package.
“Tom Hickathrift and the Ogre of Tilney Marsh” (Ogres) took place in ninth century East Anglia, Britain. Lazy Tom, of gigantic proportions, was lazy and greedy which set him up perfectly for an encounter with the nasty ogre who lived along the shortcut to market. Plenty of action in this tale as the two characters struggle until Tom kills the ogre, becoming “a legend in Tilney to this day,” but the text is accompanied static illustrations. “Thor in the Land of the Giants” (Giants) relates the adventures of Loki and Thor as they attempt to defeat a giant in several contests. The optical illusions that defeated Thor and Loki are explained with Thor vowing at the end of the tale to return to the land of the giants. The illustrations in this story are more fluid then those in the book on Ogres, the colors muddier and more expressive. Much in the same vein as the illustrations in Ogres, Fields’ illustrations in “The Trolls of Hedale Woods” are large, simple and filled with color. This tale relates the adventures of two brothers who, lost in a forest, defeat a family of trolls who share one eye. “Hercules and the Sea Monster” (Sea Monsters) is illustrated with flowing lines and plenty of very red blood. Unfortunately the story ends with a lame pun that is out of keeping with the antiquity of the setting portrayed in the illustrations. “Beowulf and the Dragon” (Dragons) is filled with action, darker colors befitting this darker tale and a satisfying battle scene. “”The Werewolf of Klein-Krams” however, has a major problem in its conclusion. After making sure that the reader knows that the young boy who turned into a werewolf was alone, the werewolf killed was the boy’s grandmother, a character who had not been introduced anywhere in the story line. Static illustrations and uninspired depictions of the werewolf resulted in this German werewolf tale being less effective then it could have been.
While all of the titles in this series indicate that the main emphasis is on the monsters, they all seem to be killed by humans or gods and are not the heroes of their own stories in any way, except, perhaps, for the giants who defeated Thor and Loki.
Graphic Mythical Creatures series
by Gary Jeffrey
Art by Rob Shone, Dheeraj Verma, Terry Riley, James Field, Nick Spender
Dragons: ISBN 978-1-4339-6031-4
Giants: ISBN 978-1-4339-6034-5
Ogres: ISBN 978-1-4339-6037-6
Sea monsters: ISBN 978-1-4339-6041-3
Werewolves: ISBN 978-1-4339-6049-9
Trolls: ISBN 978-1-4339-6045-1
Gareth Stevens, 2012
Publisher Age Rating: Grades 3-5