Ashley Marie Witter is no stranger to the challenges of adapting the work of novelist Anne Rice. In 2012, she wrote and illustrated Claudia’s Story, a graphic retelling of Rice’s classic Interview with the Vampire told through the perspective of child vampire Claudia. Now, in The Wolf Gift, Witter turns her talents to bringing Rice’s werewolf tale to comic book readers.
Reuben Golding is the pampered youngest son of successful and financially comfortable parents. An introspective budding journalist with a poet’s soul, he is summoned to the forests of northern California to write a story on the upcoming sale of Nideck Point, a gorgeous old estate on the coast filled with priceless archaeological treasures and vast libraries. The Point’s owner, Felix Nideck, has just been declared legally dead twenty years after his disappearance, and the beautiful Marchent, his niece and heir, seeks to generate interest in the sale of the house and free herself from the past.
Reuben becomes infatuated with both the house and Marchent, but his idle fantasies come to an abrupt end after only one night when a brutal attack ends with Marchent’s death and his own grievous injuries, including mysterious bites from the unseen creature who killed the attackers and saved his life. Healing rapidly from wounds that should have been fatal, Reuben discovers that the attack has left him changed, not only in spirit but in body. He’s stronger, taller, his hair is growing, and his senses are more acute, but these changes are only heralds. Reuben is becoming something more, something that only fully manifests the night his body shifts from man to beast, from ordinary human to the extraordinary Man-Wolf. Soon he can hear the cries of the innocent as they beg for help and smell the scents of the guilty as they commit their crimes. The voices cannot be easily denied, and Reuben is quickly driven to acts of vengeance as he seeks to destroy the evil that plagues his city. Animal attacks are not subtle and, before long, the Man-Wolf is the subject of a popular media frenzy and a law enforcement manhunt. Desperate to understand what he is becoming, Reuben seeks answers in the hidden corners of Nideck Point and in the rich histories of werewolf lore and legend. Supported by the lovely Laura, a young woman he meets while roaming Muir Woods in man-wolf form, Reuben’s desperate quest to understand his new self will lead to both joys and sorrows, and to a new family that is unlike anything he might have previously dreamed.
Unlike Claudia’s Gift, The Wolf Gift is a direct adaptation of the original novel, not a new interpretation. Witter works directly from the source material, often using Rice’s phrases to give the characters voice. Her own black and white illustrations are a superb compliment to the storytelling, allowing her to show what Rice had to tell. The story is one that works well in graphic format; the artistry captures both the beauty and drama of the original, with art that enhances the reader’s sense of the Man-Wolf’s form and power. The wolf forms are seductive, captivating, and dangerous, yet they are monstrous in their vicious acts. Preternaturally pretty and often androgynous men, beautiful women, and elegantly captured settings draw the reader into the story, showcasing the exotic nature of the man-wolves. Showing rather than telling helps Witter to condense the larger novel into a smaller and more focused graphic work, one that moves at a steady space from beginning to climactic resolution. Wittner’s work captures the excitement and dramatic tension of the original, but it moves away from some of the more introspective and philosophical elements of the novel. The questions of good and evil, vengeance and justice remain, but they are less obviously explored in this shorter adaptation.
Just as Rice’s novel was written for adult readers, so Witter’s adaptation is most appropriate for mature readers. Yen Press rates the book for older teens, but it would likely work well in adult collections. Although the violence is understated rather than gratuitous or exaggerated, The Wolf Gift is a story about avenging werewolves, and the violence is clearly present. Numerous man-wolf attacks, including multiple beheadings, are clearly drawn. Another scene shows pitiless scientists beginning to autopsy a still-living werewolf in human form. The lack of color does help to blunt the impact of those scenes, as blood is less dramatic when it isn’t red. Sexual situations are also present, including moments in which Reuben in man-wolf form is intimate with the human Laura which may appear as bestiality to some readers. These intimate moments also include some female nudity, including images of bare breasts and buttocks. Like the violence, the sexuality is understated, but it is still very much part of the tale.
Existing fans of either Witter and Rice are likely to appreciate The Wolf Gift graphic novel, while werewolf aficionados may appreciate this new approach to the existing mythologies.
The Wolf Gift
by Anne Rice, Ashley Marie Witter
Art by Ashley Marie Witter
Yen Press, 2014
Publisher Age Rating: Older Teen