Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Bloch, Lansdale & Lansdale quadruple shot

Over the summer, during one sale or another, I grabbed two graphic novel adaptations of Robert Bloch short stories. Both were adapted by Joe R. Lansdale and John Lansdale (I don't know their relation.) I thought October would be a good time to pull them out, and compare them with their source material.

"Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper" (original appearance, Weird Tales, 1943)

There are murders in Chicago, and an eccentric Englishman believes they are the work of Jack the Ripper. Why did Jack murder and then disappear in the 1890s? How could an old, old man physically commit knife murders now? Because Jack is an immortal sorcerer who must kill to maintain his eternal life. He wanders the world, springing up in various cities over the years, committing murders and then moving on. The narrator, a psychiatrist by trade, gets pulled along in the grisly hunt.

It's a classic for good reason, though the twist is a bit predictable.

Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper

The twist at the end of the original story, and the original story's first-person point-of-view, undoubtedly made this adaptation a challenge. Having read the short, I knew who the villain was, but Lansdale made changes that helped obscure (in a good way) where the tale was going - even from someone familiar with the original short story.

One clever change was to make the murderer a monster, albeit under control of the true criminal. It keeps the reader guessing. It made me wonder how many changes were made and would the "whodunit" be changed?

The minimalist take on the art extended to the cast of characters - there aren't very many. I did find it odd that there really aren't many suspects offered. There is a quick throwaway scapegoat near the end, but he comes in awfully late.

This is a good graphic novel and a very good lesson in stretching a tight short story into a longer tale, and a very good lesson in adapting to the comic form.

"That Hellbound Train"

(original appearance, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, 1958)
Great tale, though more fantasy than horror. Martin lives a hobo's life until that Hellbound Train and its devil Conductor offer him a deal. I have to believe Rod Serling tried his best to get the rights to adapt this one. It would have made a classic Twilight Zone episode.

That Hellbound Train

Very faithful adaptation of the story. Closer than Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper. The only main change was the Devil tempting Martin with Eve, whereas in the original story, the Devil just lets Martin do himself in. Bonus points for including Robert Johnson in the passenger car splash!

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