I have to admit, I’ve never read any of Jack London’s novels or short stories. Sure, I had heard of such classics as White Fang, but I had never as much as cracked open one of his books. Nor did I know that London was a prolific writer who created tales in several genres including adventure, horror and science fiction. If nothing else, this graphic novel adaptation of some of London’s works has opened my eyes to the depth and breadth of his writing.
Eureka’s collection tackles a variety of London’s stories and pairs them with an equally diverse set of artistic styles. Some artists chose to adapt London’s work in a realistic manner while others took a more cartoon-like approach; still others merely added illustrations to Jack London’s prose, letting the words stand largely on their own. Being unfamiliar with Jack London’s works as they originally appeared, it is difficult to tell with the cartoon-like adaptations if the original tale had an element of silliness to it, or if the artist decided to change the story in order to accommodate their style as well as bring something new to the adaptation. Sometimes these versions work, but some come across as just too silly.
Graphic Classics, Vol. 5: Jack London
It should be said that this is definitely not a book meant to be read all in one sitting. Rather, each story should be enjoyed on its own, particularly since the art style from story to story is so varied and different. Trying to read one story to the next can be a very jarring experience: just as you are used to one visual style, a radically different one is introduced, and this can be disconcerting. It is, however, nice to see just how different people’s take on Jack London’s stories can be, both in tone and visual style. He comes across as an eclectic writer, and rather than sticking with a single genre or style, merely writing whatever he wants, whether it be an adventure story, a horror story, or an essay on how he became a Communist. It is interesting to read these stories and wonder why Hollywood has never adapted some of these works, as some would make great movies, including the opening story, “The Red One”, which is very much in the vein of H. Rider Haggard’s Allan Quartermain stories.
One of the more interesting elements of Jack London’s writing is the violence. It is possible that the adaptations made the stories grittier and more violent than the source material, but somehow I doubt this. It is ironic that despite the constant threat of censorship of sexual and violent material—particularly in products meant for kids—that lurks today, London’s work shows that things have not changed as much as some may think and society’s values haven’t taken such a steep downturn. In fact, many of Jack London’s works are required reading for teenagers and possibly even younger kids.
Returning to the art, there is no doubt that the artists in this collection are skilled at their craft, as each story is well drawn and easy to follow. There are some artists who create very detailed and crowded panels, which, because of the black and white format, can sometimes be a bit confusing at first; but, it does not take long to realize what is going on within the panel. There is definitely something here for everyone, from the outrageously cartoonish, to the very dramatic and realistic. I would hope that people become not only interested in Jack London’s writing after reading this graphic novel, but also become interested in the artists and writers who are featured within.
Those looking for a collection of short story comics and perhaps something a little different than what is out there can not go wrong picking up this book. I cannot say if it is a good replacement for Cliff’s Notes if anyone needs to do a book report on any of the stories contained within the collection, but they are for the most part done fairly well and are entertaining.
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