FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE, so beware yon spoilers!

Dec 16, 2009

wednesday comix: CLASSICS ILLUSTRATED: DRACULA

When I was only small, my elementary school would have these fucking rad events called Book Fairs. A few times a year, a small room off the cafeteria was filled with books books books you could buy buy buy. They were open late-ish so you could come back after dinner with your mom or dad and...you know, buy some books. As a nerd, I really looked forward to these fairs, and my mom always obliged my nerdish tendencies (she still does, by the way). We'd go and I'd come home with a small armful of gems: some Judy Blume, some Beverly Cleary (Ramona Quimby for the win)...and certainly anything horror-related. As the books were aimed at grade-schoolers, the pickin's were slim, unless you count Bunnicula (which I do). One particularly magical year- of course it was 1981- they had the Classics Illustrated edition of Bram Stoker's Dracula. As you can imagine, young Final Girl snatched that shit up. I mean, who could resist Dracula in a purple suit- complete with see-through purple cape!- floating around in front of his green castle? Certainly not I, and thankfully not my mom, either.

The story was adapted by Naunerle Farr and Nestor Redondo. As I grew up to be a fairly well-read comics fan, I've become familiar with the late Redondo's fantastic work through the 70s and 80s on titles like House of Secrets, The Witching Hour, and Conan. He concentrated heavily in horror-based comics, for which his gothic flair is particularly well-suited. Of course, when I was poring over Dracula again and again, my opinion on his amazing draftsmanship wasn't one that would...well, include words like "draftsmanship", but I still knew beautiful art when I saw it. Seriously, You couldn't count on 3456892358984292 hands the number of times I've gawked at this book. The linework and inks are so good, I kind of want to eat them.




Many comics have become about detail, about cramming as much crap into a panel as possible; of course there are big exceptions to this (Mike 'Hellboy' Mignola is the first that comes to mind), but to me there's simply an overabundance of unnecessary information on the pages. I don't know where this came from- the Image boom in the 90s, from editors or from the artists themselves- but it's resulted in artists not being able to maintain a monthly schedule. Working together, Jack Kirby and Dick Ayers could crank out 8-9 pages a day, in no small part thanks to the fact that there's not a lot of extra stuff on the page. You get everything you need as a reader and it's creative and gorgeous, but it's simple.

This is all my big old lady complainy-way of saying that the panels in Dracula have atmosphere to spare and lush environments, but it's streamlined. Take, for example, one of my favorite pages:

The back of the book also has some sweet WORDS TO KNOW:
  • ancestors
  • bloodthirsty
  • chapel
  • howling
  • ignorant
  • superstition
  • vampire
and some reading comprehension questions:
  • What is a blood transfusion? What good was a blood transfusion after being attacked by Dracula?
  • What animals could Dracula change into?
  • How can a person protect himself from a vampire?
I certainly hope for the sake of all teeny tiny nerds out there- especially the horror nerds- that book fairs are still alive and well and they sell amazing comics like Dracula. How else are kids supposed to learn about words like "bloodthirsty", or know what sexy vampire ladies look like? Won't someone think of the purple suits?

22 comments:

B.E. Earl said...

I had the pleasure of briefly meeting Nestor Redondo prior to his death (Zombie Nestor has thus far eluded me) back in 1990 or so.

Agreed. Incredible artist.

MaxTheSilent said...

OH WOW!!!

I used to borrow that book all the time from my local library when I was a wee lad.

oneofthelivingdead said...

I remember that book!I think there was a series of them.

oneofthelivingdead said...

http://www.tkinter.smig.net/ClassicsIllustrated/list.htm

GypsyBlue said...

I remember book fairs!! they took all the good shit out of school now.

rob! said...

I loved the book fairs we had in elementary school--they sold those Pocket Books editions of Hulk and Spider-Man comics and I snapped them all up.

I guess since they had the little Pocket logo, they were considered actual "books", and not comics, and therefore could be sold with the approval of the school.

Fooled 'em!

Bill Walsh said...

I had that. Or read it. I can't remember. So much fun. The juxtaposition of the set type with the artistically pages always seemed jarring.

Ormsby said...

My local library had this and I checked it out all the time, until I was old enough to read the real book by myself.

Stacie Ponder said...

I love how many people had or read this book! I never saw the CI edition of Frankenstein- anyone have it?

Bill, I agree- the typeface, while maybe kid-friendly, is horrible and doesn't fit the artwork at all.

GAWD I'd love to get my greasy mitts on one of these original pages.

EFC said...

Damn, I didn't know they stopped having book fairs at school, that sucks. Still have an old CI edition of Murders at the Rue Morgue I've yet to return to the school library some 18-20 years ago. That late fee is gonna be a bitch.

Tim Butler said...

My school had Bookmobile. If I saw a bookmobile today, I would run it off the road, jump out of my car and hug the side of it. It was chock full of monster mazes books, dinosaur books, CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE BOOKS!! God, I loved Bookmobile.

Stacie Ponder said...

Arrgh, I always wanted a Bookmobile to come around! Or the RIF truck, but I think that was maybe just for kids who had no library access...? Meh.

Every once in a while we'd get an order sheet from Scholastic, too- you ordered whatever you wanted (for $$) and it would be delivered to the classroom some time later. This was how I stayed current with all my issues of Dynamite and Bananas.

perchingpath said...

Book fairs still happen in plenty of places. Unfortunately, the concept is pretty much monopolized by the censorship-loving homophobes at Scholastic. I'd much rather schools organized outings to public libraries.

The typeface is actually sufficiently ugly and awkwardly placed/shaped that I wonder whether there's a Tagalog version that this was reprinted from. Redondo's page on Wikipedia implies not, but who knows.

The character design for Dracula looked a bit silly in the thumbnails, but up close I quite like the way he's made him an ultra-civilized, Price-y kind of guy except for his grabby inhuman hands.

Bill Walsh said...

I had—and maybe still have—Frankenstein. I don’t know if it‘s exactly the same edition—mine is in black and white, not the colored one on the website. I seem to recall it had very similar art to Dracula’s.

It was a small-format paperback (light blue cover?) with really crappy paper that I probably got from the Scholastic Book Club or the like.

If I can dig it up, I’ll scan some pages for you.

spazmo said...

Since you mentioned Dick "The Eyeball" Ayers, I was wondering what your feelings are toward those gloriously trashy Eerie Publications horror mags put out by the Fass brothers in the 70's.

whaTever1964 said...

This was after my time (I've got a few years on you, Ponder), but I remember the book fair and loving Beverly Cleary (especially the "Jeezus, Beezus" incident)... this illustrated classic puts me in mind of those adorable & frightening Jack Chick tracts that my cuh-razy uncle used to (and still may) hand out, especially the awkward juxtapostiton of text and picture... if I recall correctly, the best ones were always drawn by Latin artists... always chock full of beautifully drawn winged demons dragging some poor sinning bastard to a drippy hell with lots of stalagm/stalact -ites (too lazy to Google).... scary shit to be sure... oh, and thanks for reminding me of Dynamite (shudders)...

Stacie Ponder said...

I actually love this Dracula- he's sort of like the lovechild of Christopher Lee and Vincent Price. Regal, but intimidating.

I dig the Eerie stuff! I'm definitely going to be doing a piece on those at some point. They're another example of loving something as a kid, then going back as an adult and really soaking in the art.

It's funny, I started Wednesday Comix mostly to review the new stuff that DC has been sending me...yet all I REALLY want to do is talk about horror comics from the 70s.

Fanboyl said...

I've got the CI "Frankenstein." Mine is from an earlier era: it's in color, and is in actual comic-book format, not a "book." Oddly, I first saw it in school, when I was in about the 3rd grade (early '60s). It was the last day of school, and we were all told to bring comics to class, pile 'em on the teacher's desk, and share. There was a comic with a missing cover: the first page showed a pair of grabby, ragged hands snatching the page itself, with blood-drippy letters warning the reader what a shocking and terrible story he was about to read. Some other kid grabbed it before I could, and I never caught up with it again that day; since its cover was missing, I didn't even know what it was. Not until several years later did I get CI's "F'stein," the cover of which shows the monster being pursued across the Arctic. And when I opened it up and saw the first page, there were those grabby hands and bloody letters. Kewl! The artwork is solid but not as beautiful as the "Dracula" you've showed us, and the monster is rather unimaginatively given a flat-topped head and electrodes in his neck.

Rob Marvin said...

Yes, book fairs are alive and well, and still offering some pretty cool stuff. I still regret not having buying my 6-year old that copy of "Encyclopedia Horrifica: The Terrifying TRUTH! About Vampires, Ghosts, Monsters, and More by Joshua Gee." It wasn't the content, but rather the price that put me off.

Slyde said...

holy shit!

i have that book! i got it when i was a wee slyde... i think its still in my attic somewhere...

Dave Linder said...

Thanks for the memories - that book scared the shit out of me when I was in elementary school in the 70s - It's one of the only book fair books that I can remember buying to this day...

sabinoson said...

Loved the Classics Illustrated Dracula. Had it when I was 11 back in 1981, but I lost it!

I sort of "rediscovered" it by way of the same work being published a few years earlier by Marvel Comics in their Marvel Classics Comics (1976.)

Found it literally last week (for $1.00!) and as I looked through the issue, I was stunned and pleasantly surprised to see that it was the same adaptation that I had (and lost) when I was 11!

There are some differences between the Marvel release and the later Pendulum release.

The Marvel release is in color and is missing a full page splash of Dracula "overseeing" our heroes in their hunt for him, which was in the Pendulum release.

Anyway, it's a fun (if wonderfully scary) memento from my childhood.