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Derek Parker Royal Sequential Poe-try: Recent Graphic Narrative Adaptations of Poe It would be dimcult to find an American author whose work has seen more multimedia adaptations than Edgar Allan Poe. From video games to cartoons, from CDs to action figures-Poe’s stories, poems, and general persona have found expression in a variety of popular forms. In film and televisionalone,accordingto TheIntenzd Movie Database,there have beenwell over150adaptations of Poe’swork and/or life,includingSherlockH01me.s in the GreatMurderMystery (1908),a stringof 1960s B movies by Roger Corman, and a Poe-inspired episode in the recent Showtime television series Masters of Hmr0r.l In comic books, another visual medium and the focusof thisessay,exampleshave ranged from the reverential to the parodic. Classics Illustrated, a series of comic books based on canonical works of world literature, has devoted no fewer than five issues to the poetry and tales of Poe. Their adaptations of such works as “The Pit and the Pendulum,” “The Fall of the House of Usher,”and “TheTell-Tale Heart”are more or less true to the original storylines without much graphic flourish or narrative ambiguity.*And before it became a magazine,Mad comicspublished a parody of “TheRaven”that included the poem in full accompanied by absurdly exaggerated illustration ~.~ In fact, according to comicsscholar M.Thomas Inge, there have been well over two hundred instancesof Poe’swork appearingin the medium, making him the American writer most often adapted to comic-bookform. Suchan abundance of materialisindeed staggering ,givingpause to almostanypopularculture critic. As Inge scrupulouslydocumented, comicbook translationsof Poe’swork have appeared under avarietyof seriestitlesfrom the 1940sand into the 1 9 9 0 ~ . ~ Butrecentlythere havebeen severaln e table examplesof Poe-relatedcomicsthat takethe adaptation of his work in curious new directions. Earlier comic book versions were more-or-less straightforwardand static representations of the material.Their fidelityto the originaltexts was of centralconcern;thewritersfollowedthe storylines closely and left little room for narrativevariation. However,sincethe late 199Os,severalcomicshave given a new twist to Poe’s stories and poetry by opting for nonliteral translations through differentiated contexts, ahistoricalsettings,unresolved endings,iconicor evencartoonyillustrations,and ambiguoustones that leave open the possibilities for comic irony. These recent adaptations betray what could be called a more postmodern distancing technique that not only pays homage to the content of Poe’s narratives but, perhaps more significantly,translatesthe complexfm of the narration . In other words,instead of being primarily concerned with “gettingthe story right,” several contemporarycomic-bookwritersand illustrators have attempted to capture the romanticallyironic spiritof Poe’saesthetics. The comicsdiscussedhere arelimited to those that strikesomekind of balancebetweenword and image-interdependent combinationswheretext and picture create meaning in ways that neither could alone-r in some cases comics that give primacy to pictures. Of particular significance to my analysis is Linda Hutcheon’s recent work on adaptation theory, which addresses issues of creative reception and appropriation-or how individuals deliberatively translate, manipulate, and criticallyrevisit a particular text. One way in which Hutcheonapproachesadaptationisthrough a “receptioncontinuum,”determining the extent to which authors,at one end of the spectrum,aim to be theoretically “true”in their translations of an originaltext (eventhough such fidelityis real- 56 Poe Studies/Dark Romanticism istically impossible) or, on the other end, loosely contextualize the prior text through expansiveaddenda or diffuse“spind’f~.”~ In the latter category, we find three recent comic book series that adapt the work of Edgar Allan Poe with great liberty:Jason Asala’s Poe, Roman Dirge’sLenore, and the DC Comics miniseries Batman: Two other “spin-offs”of Poe’s life and work take the form of graphic novels, In the Shadow ofEdgar Allan Poe (2002) and Ravenous (2005).’The first is a fumetti (anovel in sequential photographs) and considers the possibilitythat Poe’sbizarre art may have been inspired not by alcoholism or depression but by supernatural demons. The latter is a modernday detectivestory (ala TheX-Files)inspired by such stones as “The Tell-TaleHeart,” “The Masque of the Red Death,”and “WilliamWilson.”*Although all five of these narrative offshoots-the three comic book series aswell as the two graphic novels-are intriguing extensions of Poe and his works, none directly engages or “faithfully”adapts Poe’s original texts. As such, they are of marginal interest to...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1754-6095
Print ISSN
1947-4644
Pages
pp. 55-67
Launched on MUSE
2014-01-07
Open Access
No
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