Thursday, December 20, 2012

'Merry Christmas, Uncle!' | Classical Comics (2008)



The Classical graphic novel adaptation runs through the scene capably, but without much additional insight. I do like how it communicates Fred's quickness in approaching Scrooge though. It has Fred peeking in on his uncle from the doorway in one panel, then looming over him in the next. That ability to play with time and pacing is an advantage that comics has over film, but it's the only advantage this version makes use of. Mostly, the scene plays out as Dickens wrote it, with various shots of the characters talking to each other. Scrooge never gets up from his desk and Fred stays put beside him, so there's not even any motion to keep things interesting.

The graphic novel is almost true to its "Original Text" claim, but it does make some minor dialogue cuts: especially during Fred's speech. It's one of the more complete versions around, but as light as the trimming is, it still takes away from the overall tone of the speech. In Dickens, Fred completely deserves the "powerful speaker" compliment for all the rhetorical flourishes and parenthetical asides he makes. It's exactly those supposedly extraneous elements that most adaptations choose to cut out though, so Scrooge's compliment doesn't make as much sense. I'm used to that, but it's disappointing to see it happen again in a book that markets itself as being true to Dickens' original text.

Another disappointing cut is Cratchit's applause after Fred's speech. There's no humor to it at all. He simply claps and Scrooge threatens his "situation." Cratchit's widened eyes are in the foreground as Scrooge does that, but even though Cratchit is surprised, it's impossible to tell anything more about his relationship with Scrooge from the interaction.

Deviating again from the text, Classical has Scrooge respond to Fred's dinner invitation with, "I will see you, but I'll see you damned first!" That's an interesting interpretation of Dickens' explanation that "Scrooge said that he would see him - yes, indeed he did. He went the whole length of the expression, and said that he would see him in that extremity first." I read that as a colorful way of saying, "I'll see you in hell first!" and I like my briefer interpretation better. But adding a literal "I will see you" to the front is also a valid way of reading it.

The last thing I'll comment on is Scrooge's muttering after Fred exchanges Christmas greetings with Cratchit. The graphic novel represents this with a dotted line word balloon, which is typically read as whispering and just sounds weird in the context of the scene. Muttering is better represented by smaller text, perhaps in a balloon with squiggly edges. The whispering makes it sound like Scrooge has actually gone crazy and needs to retire to Bedlam, but that's not the reason Dickens had him make the comment.
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