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  • Graphic Classics: Edgar Allan Poe’s Tales of Mystery ed. by Thomas Pomplun
  • M. Thomas Inge (bio)
Graphic Classics: Edgar Allan Poe’s Tales of Mystery. Edited by Thomas Pomplun. Mount Horeb, Wisc.: Eureka Productions, 2011. 144pages. $17.95

Publisher Thomas Pomplun of Eureka Productions has long had a love affair with Edgar Allan Poe. When he decided to launch his now acclaimed Graphic Classics series devoted to comic book adaptations of classic works of fiction in 2001, Volume 1 was devoted entirely to thirteen new and reprinted stories and poems by Poe as adapted and illustrated by some of the best writers and comic artists in the field. Not satisfied with the first effort, Pomplun would return in 2004, 2006, and again in 2010 with three new editions of that first volume. Each time, while some stories were retained, new hands and drawing pens were put to work on fresh selections. As if such unparalleled devotion were insufficient, he has now produced an entirely new title as Volume 21 devoted to Edgar Allan Poe’s Tales of Mystery.

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The volume includes fifteen stories and poems by Poe ranging across an interesting cross-section of his most popular works. Probably the best known is “The Tell-Tale Heart,” surely the most frequently adapted from the Poe canon in all of comics literature and a version of which appears in all the earlier anthologies by Pomplun. One would think that the ways of visualizing the story have been exhausted by now, but not so here. Seasoned comic book artist Ronn Sutton changes the game entirely by making the usual male narrator into a woman, but not just any woman—a neo-Nazi punk rock [End Page 212] one. Everything else looks different there on out. Sutton alternates purely horizontal panels with vertical ones to create a reading experience that captures the increasing madness of the narrator. The art is stunning. This is a powerful piece of comic art that makes this overfamiliar story seem new again.

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Another frequently adapted story is “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” many of which fail because they seem unable to reserve the solution to the murder mystery until the last part of the narrative. Writer Antonella Caputo and artist Reno Maniquis avoid that problem. In a semi-realistic style, with effective use of brown and olive colors, Maniquis provides a richly detailed re-creation of Paris in the 1880s, and Caputo uses literary, print, and intellectual references of the time to enrich the theoretical framework of this first detective story. [End Page 213]

“Berenice,” by Pomplun and illustrator Nelson Evergreen, uses pastel colors to a surprising effect in a basic horror story. But the colors darken as we move across the twelve pages, from a gloomy realism, to an increasingly frenzied set of displaced images, to conclude with a jarring bloody ending. You will not want to visit the dentist again anytime soon.

“Hop-Frog,” as adapted by Rod Lott and drawn by Lisa K. Weber, moves to caricature and comic exaggeration to tell the story of the crippled dwarf who served as the court jester to a cruel and corpulent king and body of lords. The lively images and panel arrangements create a sense of watching an animated film as the jester renders his violent but well-deserved justice on them.

Artist Brad Teare’s “The Man of the Crowd,” adapted by Rich Rainey, combines a ragged wood-cut style with cartoon caricature to capture the strange story about crowds of people who seem to go nowhere. We are forcibly pulled along as the narrator pursues one man in particular for no one knows what reason.

“King Pest,” written by Antonella Caputo and illustrated by Anton Emdin in grand cartoon style, is a wild and raucous romp relating the adventures of two none-too-bright seamen during the plague in London. Emdin’s weird style and visual hyperbole fit the perverse mood of Poe’s story exactly.

Additional stories, and their writers and illustrators, include “The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar” by Pomplun and Michael Manning...


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pp. 212-215
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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