Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Classics Illustrated??

When I was in 5th grade, poking around my school library, I discovered a treasure trove: Classics Illustrated. These wonderful books took all that dry 18th & 19th century literature (from authors like Herman Melville, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry James) and boiled it down to the basic storyline, and added so-so drawings. Some of those redone classics were so compelling that in later years I voluntarily read the originals (Moby Dick was forced upon me, tho).
Artist R. Sikoryak has taken that Classics Illustrated condensation approach and added a funny, grown-up twist to it in Masterpiece Comics. He has taken his world-renowned authors, such as Emily Bronte, Voltaire, Dante and Dostoyevsky and he has married them to more modern names: Garfield, Dagwood, Superman and Mary Worth. Beavis & Butthead are waiting for Godot, Ziggy is reassured that this is the best of all possible worlds, and Little Lulu asks her mother why she wears a scarlet letter A on her chest. Wuthering Heights is a much more lurid tale when redone in Tales From the Crypt style, but my favorite would have to be Dante's rings of Hell spelled out in individual Bazooka Joe comics (complete with fortune and dime-store-trinket advertisement!)
Sikoryak has drawn a bead on over a dozen classic works of literature, but has wisely kept it brief enough to keep from getting tiring or stale. If you're an English Lit major, you'll enjoy the stories. If you're a fan of the Comics section of the newspaper, you'll love the illustrations. And if you're under the age of 80, you'll have to use Google to find out more about the little boy who retells Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray.

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