These titles constitute two of the three titles in Enslow’s Dark Graphic Novels series (the third being Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, which I have not seen). Suitably attired in a dark cover, both titles contain adaptations of short stories originally crafted by masters of the horror genre. Both volumes were originally published in Spanish and have been recently translated for the English reading market. Playwright and theater director Denise Despeyroux and illustrator Miquel Serratosa adapt three tales: “The Gold Bug,” “The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether,” and “The Fall of Usher” in Dark Graphic Tales by Edgar Allan Poe. Displayed in sombre tones, the settings in the first and third tale are moody and atmospheric with caricature-style characters that are exaggerated, cartoony, and at odds with the more realistic backgrounds. The middle tale becomes infused with colour as the story becomes more and more of a farce, signalling to the reader that all may not be what it seems. The adaptations are steadfast with the originals, told with a plethora of black narration boxes, white square dialogue balloons, and effective panel layouts. There is nothing really terrifying in any of the stories for readers, although thinking about the tales afterwards may offer rewards of another kind! A brief list of recommended readings and websites finishes the book.
One of Poe’s stories, “The Black Cat,” makes an appearance in the second volume of tales, Chilling Tales of Horror, bringing the anthology of seven stories to a close. As in the previous volume, the book was originally published in Spanish. Unlike that volume, the author and illustrator of these tales are done by one person, Pedro Rodríguez. Each of the tales begins with a brief sardonic introduction to the authors of the original tales, which include “The Hand” by Guy de Maupassant; “Sir Dominick’s Bargain” by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu; “The House of Nightmare” by Edward Lucas White; “The Vampire” by John William Polidori; “House B on Camden Hill” by Catherine Crowe; “The Body Snatcher” by Robert Louis Stevenson; and, previously mentioned, “The Black Cat” by Edgar Allan Poe. In this volume the narration boxes and the dialogue balloons are both white with the latter being of a more traditional shape. The text, while adapted for the comic book format, has not been updated, retaining the charm and authenticity of the originals. Some of the authors may be more familiar to contemporary readers than others, but all use a wider palate of colour than the previous volume (and all pages are enclosed by an attractive framing device). While the characters are illustrated in a cartoony-style, they are not as jarring, to this reviewer at least, as the characters done by Serratosa. A brief list of print and web resources completes the collection.
As with the former volume, the stories are not sanitized as such, but are all suitable for the younger, intended reader. Suitably atmospheric and scary without being terrifying, both volumes are effective introductions to the short story format and the horror genre of an earlier era. The most contemporary of all the tales in both volumes would be Edward Lucas White’s “The House of Nightmare,” which is an introverted version of the traditional tale of the Vanishing Hitchhiker.
Dark Graphic Tales by Edgar Allan Poe
Author: Denise Despeyroux
Illustrator: Miquel Serratosa
Chilling Tales of Horror: Dark Graphic Short Stories
by Pedro Rodrigues
Publisher Age Rating: 10+