Sunday, December 07, 2014

"If Quite Convenient, Sir" | A Christmas Carol: The Graphic Novel (2008)

Index of other entries in The Christmas Carol Project

A couple of things have marked Sean Michael Wilson and Mike Collins' adaptation so far. First, though Classical Comics labels it as the "Original Text Version," it does make cuts. That's also true in this year's scene and I'll try to stop bringing it up every year from now on. Especially since this year's scene uses the edits to correct a problem I had earlier on.

In the introduction to Scrooge, Wilson's adaptation edited out some of Dickens' text, but still used a great deal of it when Collins' art was already communicating the same thing. As the charitable solicitors leave Scrooge's office though, the comic devotes a whole page - mostly wordless - to following them into the street and seeing the celebrations going on outside. The page ends with a caption about the intense, biting cold, but the majority of the page is just street scenes, including the "ragged men and boys" warming their hands around a brazier.

People on the street don't appear to be either especially joyous or miserable. Most of them are just going about their business, although the brazier men are appropriately scowling at their condition. The text makes no overt comment about the dichotomy between rich and poor celebrants, but the message is still there in those men's faces.

Though the Classical version cuts some text, it faithfully includes all the story beats, including the little boy singing "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen." Scrooge even grabs a ruler like he does in Dickens and the Marvel version, and the boy's reaction to that is pretty funny.

The second thing I've noticed in the Classical adaptation so far is that it's been hard to get a read on Scrooge and his relationship with Cratchit. I've enjoyed the extra space that this version gives the story, but Wilson and Collins haven't used it for character development. That changes a little with this scene. As in Dickens, Scrooge doesn't close up shop immediately after the caroller incident, but when it does become time to go, he's the one who makes the move.

Dickens mentions that Scrooge announces closing time, but he doesn't provide any dialogue for it. The first quote Dickens gives Scrooge in the scene is to ask if Cratchit needs the whole next day off. Wilson doesn't create dialogue where Dickens didn't, so it plays out a bit differently in this version. Instead of Scrooge's announcing the time, he just gets up, puts on his hat, and asks about the day off. That makes it seem like this is something Scrooge has been thinking about for a few minutes, as opposed to an off-handed comment. Collins draws Scrooge's face from the side and rear in this panel, so I can't tell what he's thinking, but it's possible to read a touch of sadness in him there, like he's been dreading this conversation.

For Cratchit's part, the clerk responds with chipper innocence. He seems almost clueless to Scrooge's grumping. There's no sense that he's incompetent - as suggested in the George C Scott version - but he may be dim-witted enough not to take Scrooge personally, even when Scrooge clearly means for Cratchit to. Or maybe Cratchit's just mature enough not to rise to to Scrooge's bait. It'll be interesting to see how this Cratchit behaves later in the story. Is he an idiot or just thick-skinned?

Whichever it is, Scrooge doesn't like that he's not getting his employee's goat and he gets angrier as the conversation progresses. By the end, he's impotently scowling as he orders Cratchit to "be here all the earlier next morning." It's an interesting power dynamic, because Scrooge clearly has all the power, but Cratchit is so not bothered by it that Scrooge doesn't actually benefit.

Like in Dickens, Cratchit gets to go home right after Scrooge and Collins draws Scrooge still skulking off down the street as Cratchit locks the front door. There's also a final panel of Cratchit's joyfully joining a couple of boys in a slide, further emphasizing how little effect Scrooge's mood has on him.


Wings1295 said...

I like the fact that Crachit just lets Scrooge's digs slide right off of him. Shows the side of him we see later, when he still wants to toast to Scrooge whereas his wife wants to condemn him.

The art here seems so clean, though. At least for Crachit. He seems young, hale and hardy!

Michael May said...

That's a lovely observation about the toast. I'll have to remember that when we get there.

And yeah, Cratchit's really young in this one. I haven't peeked ahead to see his family, but that'll be interesting.


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