Two graphic novel adaptations of Robert Louis Stevenson’s legendary tale arrived for me to review simultaneously. The first, published by Campfire Classics, was adapted by C. E. L. Welsh and illustrated by Lalit Kumar Sharma. This is a fairly straightforward version with studied fidelity to the source. This adaptation of the dark tale highlights a central theme of the mad scientist running amuck. The publisher includes two pages of additional material on other “mad scientists” following the story to hit this message home to the reader. Neither the text nor the illustrations balk on presenting the dark aspects of the story to the reading audience. The characters are illustrated as dour, unhappy, and filled with pain, angst, and in the case of Mr. Hyde, manic evil. The setting is equally dark and unappetizing; this is a world where madness can and does exist. While evil runs rampant on the page, there is very little blood and gore. The sinister atmosphere, wicked characters, and Dr. Jekyll’s unconquerable struggle are effectively captured and enhanced with the colour palate and panel arrangements to offer a satisfying visualization of the tale.
The second adaptation, a re-visioning rework of Stevenson’s tale, was published by Dark Horse and written by Cole Haddon and illustrated by MS Corley. Originally published as a four issue miniseries, this version of Stevenson’s tale is blended with that of Jack the Ripper and other literary chronicles of evil, such as The Silence of the Lambs and H.G. Wells’ The Invisible Man, to explore the major theme of human morality. Thomas Ayde, the protagonist of the Invisible Man is also the main character for this adaptation. Unlike many other adaptations, and unlike the source material itself, the physical manifestation of Mr. Hyde is not deformed or visibly evil. This is a character that can be very affable for both Ayde and the reader, one that can be considered almost accommodating.
Is this the same Hyde? Or has he learned from his past experiences? Here, the dual character of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde has been imprisoned and hidden away in the depths of a London prison for over five years. In his quest to discover the identity of Jack the Ripper, Detective Ayde sidesteps authority and arranges a visit with the prisoner. The interactions between these two literary characters provide the overall foundation for the story, with Jack, a rather mythical if not a totally literary character, being the catalyst.
This world is even darker than the first adaptation. The Victorian landscapes and sensibilities are shadows, mysterious and malevolent. In opposition to the rather bloodless illustrations of Campfire Classics, blood is a common occurrence on these pages, signalling that the intended reader for this adaptation is older. This is not one that would be recommended for school collections but, at the same time, is highly recommended for its skillful reworking of the tale, broadening of the story line, and bringing it further in time to echo Gothic films and settings.
Two Strange Cases of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
by Cole Haddon
Art by MS Corley
Dark Horse, 2012