Saturday, December 24, 2011

Old Sinner: Christmas Classics (2010)

Eureka’s Christmas Classics anthology (Volume 19 in their excellent Graphic Classics series) lives up to its name by including comics and illustrated adaptations of other Christmas stories and poems like “A Visit from St Nicholas” and the Sherlock Holmes holiday classic, “The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle.” It’s a great collection and I wish I was here to give it a full review, but let’s just focus on its lead (and cover) story.

Unlike the other comics adaptations we’ve looked at, Alex Burrows and Micah Farritor’s adaptation doesn’t spend any time on Marley up front. In fact, the scene we’re covering this year is done in three, dialogue-free panels over a page-and-a-half. The first page is a splash with an icy Victorian street. We know it’s cold because all the buildings have icicles hanging from them and we can see the breath of everyone on the street, but there’s no snow. And though text explains that it’s “The City of London, Christmas Eve, 1843,” there are no decorations to give the scene that feel. Except for the gray sky, the color palette is all brown, orange, and yellow, giving the street a rich, warm feel, but not exactly festive. I’m reminded of the gloomy opening of the 1935 film. We’re told it’s Christmas, but no one’s feeling it. This isn’t that kind of story. At least not at first.

The first panel on page two continues the mood. It’s another street scene, but more faces are in the foreground and it’s clear that no one’s happy. In fact, they look nervous and paranoid. There’s no clear reason for their fear, but the next panel takes us inside one of the buildings where an elderly man and his clerk sit, working silently. The dialogue will begin in the next panel when someone intrudes on their solitude, but for now that’s all we have.

Burrows and Farritor could be counting on readers’ familiarity with the story, but we’ve seen from a couple of other adaptations that it’s a reasonable choice to allow Scrooge’s personality and Marley’s death to come out in later dialogue. Scrooge and Cratchit’s coal argument is fun, but it’s not necessary to the sense of Scrooge as a despicable tightwad. That will come out shortly enough.

I might suspect that Burrows and Farritor trim this scene way down to save room, but this adaptation is 46 pages, about the same lenght as both Classics Illustrated and Marvel’s versions, give or take a page or two. Since those both take a couple of pages for the prologue, this version’s choice feels deliberate. It’s not as concerned with giving the reader the vicarious experience of reading Dickens as it is finding a new way to tell the story. Which is what I’ve come to expect from the Graphic Classics series.

This entry wraps up our 21 different adaptations of the first scene of A Christmas Carol. I hope it was fun, because I enjoyed doing it and am already looking forward to next year and the visit of Scrooge’s nephew. Hope everyone has a Merry Christmas if you celebrate it. Starting Monday, we'll do something different for a couple of weeks.

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