Well, Steve, I went into the City again this weekend, picked up a book that you might find interesting. The book is called Masterpiece Comics, by R. Sikoryak. This features various classics of literature re-told in the formats of various comic strips and comic books. The cover really caught my eye, it's in the style of an old-school super-hero comic, with Dante Alighieri, Emily Brontë, William Shakespeare, Voltaire and Oscar Wilde racing towards the reader as thought they were a super-team.

The book includes several pieces of varying length. In addition to the stories, it includes mock letters pages and ads (including a spot-on replica of a Golden Age DC house ad). The stories include:

"Blond Eve" - The story of the Fall, re-told in the style of the "Blondie" comic strip, with Dagwood and Blondie cast as Adam and Eve, and J.C. Dithers as God (!).

"Inferno Joe" - Dante's Inferno re-told as a series of "Bazooka Joe" comics.

"Mephistofield" - Marlowe's Doctor Faustus re-told in the style of the "Garfield" comic strip.

"Mac Worth" - Shakespeare's Macbeth re-told in the style of "Mary Worth".

"Candiggy" - "Candide" re-told as a "Ziggy" comic.

Wuthering Heights re-told in the style of an EC horror comic.

"Hester's Little Pearl" - Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter re-told in the style of "Little Lulu".

"Dostoievsky Comics" - Featuring "Raskol" in a re-telling of "Crime and Punishment" in the style of the Golden Age Batman comics

"Little Dori in Pictureland" - The Picture of Dorian Gray re-told in the style of "Little Nemo in Slumberland".

"Good Ol' Gregor Brown" - Kafka's "Metamorphosis" re-told in the style of "Peanuts"

"Action Camus" - The Stranger re-told as a series of Golden Age Superman covers.

"Waiting to Go" - Waiting for Godot re-told in the style of Beavis Butt-Head.

I really enjoyed this - I've already re-read it several times. Sikoryak really captures the styles of the various comic writers and artists here, at the same time not being "untrue" to his literary sources. This is - I think - really well-done.

My personal favorite was "Little Dori" - it's surprising how well McCay's style matches up with Wilde's story. The Dostoievsky/Batman story was really quite good, as well - really captures the feel of those stories. One of the "Action Camus" covers stays in my mind, for some reason - It shows the Stranger lying in bed with a Lois Lane look-alike, who asks him, "Do you love me?" His answer: "Well, it's a meaningless question, but I suppose not." I don't know why, but that cracks me up. Almost makes me want to read some Camus.

The only proviso I would offer is that there is a small amount of nudity in the book. In the Blondie/Genesis story, Adam and Eve before the Fall are drawn naked, and with no strategically-placed shrubbery to spare their blushes. It's not done pruriently - at least, in my opinion - and it's not as though they weren't naked in the Bible. It certainly didn't stop me from enjoying the book immensely, but, it is there, and I thought it only fair to mention it, in case there's anyone out there not prepared to view the Bumsteads', um "personal areas" with equanimity.

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Comment by The Baron on September 16, 2009 at 2:08pm
I picked Masterpiece Comics at the Borders next to MSG* when I went into the City last Saturday.

*Stands for "Madison Square Garden"
Comment by Jeff of Earth-J on September 16, 2009 at 2:00pm
According to my retailer, Masterpiece Comics hasn't shipped yet from Diamond. He further speculates that your retailers may have ordered directly from Drawn & Quarterly, which would ship weeks in advance of Diamond. Darn! I was looking forward to reading it this weekend!

I've read Crime and Punishment twice... two different translations. The first time I read it in paperback form, but when I upgraded to hardback I didn't like it as much as I had the first time. Then I compared the translations. The only other time that's happened to me was First Comics' Lone Wolf and Cub in comparison to Dark Horse's. (In that case, Dark Horse had the superior translation.) A good translation can make all the difference!
Comment by Figserello on September 16, 2009 at 3:07am
Brontë is brilliant, but maybe you have to be a teenager to enjoy it! All that passion and screaming. It's the opposite of tedious. Overblown even.

Dostoyevsky amazed me when I read him first. I couldn't believe that fiction could capture 'seedy' things like shame and embarassment so well. My first brush with realism.

I haven't read this book, but it sounds brilliant. I too thought that Wuthering Heights and EC seemed like a perfect match-up when I saw he'd brought them together.
Comment by The Baron on September 15, 2009 at 5:33pm
Yeah, I read Crime and Punioshment when I was in school, when I was way too young to really understand it. I remembered enough to see what Sikoryak was doing, however. And I've read enough Golden Age Batman stories to appreciate what he did with the art. (was there ever a better Batman artist than Dick Sprang?)

I noticed the lack of belly-buttons, too, that was nicely done.

Never read any Brontë - I always had a suspicion that I would find it tedious.
Comment by James Grant Goldin on September 15, 2009 at 5:14pm
I missed your blog but posted on this on the What Are You Reading? site yesterday. You know one cook thing about the Blondie/Dagwood nudity? No belly-buttons!

It's interesting that I recently sat through (in my car -- California, long commutes) audiobook adaptations of "Crime & Punishment," "Scarlet Letter" and "Wuthering Heights" and I found them -- maybe heretically -- to be kind of dreary and wacky. And the adaptations didn't change my opinions. But the silliness of the originals is never overtly exposed, as would be the case with a Mad parody. Rather, narrative strengths and weaknesses of both forms are highlighted. (When "Raskol" bows before Sonny's representation of all suffering humanity, it's ridiculous - and yet the parody panel is sublime.)

C&P really came at me like something from an alien world, (though one with familiar anti-Semitic overtones) and one I wanted little part of. It's also much less of a "Columbo" episode than most adaptations give you an idea of. Sikoryak did EXACTLY the kind of narrative trimming that's usually done, eliminating several major characters and plot points. And, of course, it's brilliant to have "Commissioner Gordon" playing this cat-and-mouse game with "Batman," who embodies the "good" side of Raskolnikov's theory of the extraordinary man. Reading that, you realize that, of course, all the pulp and comic book heroes who are not working for the government are potential criminals who are kept in check by their own moral compasses.

"Wuthering Heights" is, IMHO, great as long as you stick with Heathcliff and Cathy (as the 1939 movie version did) -- as with every other story I can think of from the Odyssey on, it loses interest when you get to the second generation. (Why IS that?) Again, Sikoryak's adaptation takes the traditional snippets of the long narrative. As I wrote elsewhere, what amazes me is how some panels don't seem like parodies at all -- the frenzy of Bronte is sometimes a perfect match for the EC style.

Another small detail I like: The black blood in "Mac Worth."
Comment by Cavaliere (moderator emeritus) on September 14, 2009 at 10:15am
I just checked and my local library system doesn't have it...darn!
Comment by Jeff of Earth-J on September 14, 2009 at 9:34am
I pre-ordered this one and noticed it on the "Comics for September 9" post, but it didn't ship to my LCS last week for whatever reason. I expect it to be there this week. After reading your blog entry, I'm now more eager than ever to read it. It reminds me a bit of the Star Trek parody Treks Not Taken, short stories written in the prose style of classic authors. MAD magazine used to do this kind of thing all the time, but I doubt they do so much anymore. I'll weigh in in a week or so.


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