The two versions of this graphic novel are worthy adaptations of J. B. Priestley’s play of the same name, one in a simplified and contemporary text and the second containing all of the original script. The illustrations in both volumes are identical. The play, set in 1912, was first performed in 1945 in Moscow. Its first British production was in 1946, it toured Britain again in the early 1990s, and yet again in the last few years. The play has been adapted into one film, two television mini-series, several radio dramas, and a full-cast unabridged audio CD set.

The graphic novel, like the play, is divided into three acts, all of which take place during a dinner party at the home of the Birling family. They are celebrating the engagement of their daughter to Gerald Croft, the only non-family member present at the party with the exception of the servant Edna. Inspector Goole enters the scene to interrogate the family members regarding the death of Eva Smith, also known as Daisy Renton, a working class female who had connections to all members of the family, unbeknownst to any of them.

Inspector Goole’s unprofessional and unorthodox examinations of all the characters takes the reader on a journey of discovery and contemplation, a journey effectively brought to life through the realistic illustrations, panel arrangements, and muted colour palate of the graphic novel. As the drama unfolds, the narrowing palate of browns and greens is alleviated only by the pink of Sheila Birling’s dress and in flashbacks relating to Eva Smith.

The three acts are prefaced with a full page of Dramatis Personae, character vignettes accompanied by the character’s name and family affiliation. These characters are easy to recognize within the story itself as they are portrayed in a consistent manner. The story is followed by a two page essay on J. B. Priestly and two additional pages that briefly demonstrate the various steps in creating a graphic novel: script, character designs, pencils, coloring and lettering.

Because Priestley’s work is a play, the character’s facial expressions, body language, and vocal nuances — as interpreted by the actors — are essential to the building drama of the play. This is where the graphic novel is particularly successful. The reader gradually discovers the tantalizing family secrets, personality quirks, and political and social beliefs of the people involved, not to mention the original author’s own opinionated principles. The twisted ending is also portrayed in a very satisfying manner. Highly recommended.

An Inspector Calls: the graphic novel
by J. B. Priestley, Jason Cobley
Art by Will Volley, Alejandro Sanchez, Jim Campbell
Original Text ISBN: 9781907127236
Quick Text ISBN: 9781907127243
Classical Comics, 2012
Publisher Age Rating: 15

  • Gail

    | She/Her Professor, Library and Information Studies, University of Alberta


    In addition to teaching at the School of Library and Information Studies (University of Alberta) where she is an adjunct professor, Gail tells stories and conducts workshops on a wide variety of topics across Canada and the United States. Each year she teaches the following courses for the University of Alberta. All of her courses are delivered online: Storytelling, Comic Books and Graphic Novels in School and Public Libraries, Canadian Children’s Literature for School and Public Libraries and Young Adult Literature. She also teaches a course on Indigenous Literature for the ATEP program (Aboriginal Teacher Education Program) at the University of Alberta. Gail is the award-winning author of nine books on storytelling and folklore in popular culture.

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