Graphic Classics Volume 17: Science Fiction Classics
Published and Edited by Tom Pomplun
This is the first full colour volume of Graphic Classics and, although it looks smarter and brighter than ever, it also seems to have lost some of the impact found in earlier volumes (reviews here, here, here and here). Where before each volume I have seen contained a myriad of styles and mostly focused equally on short and long tales, Science Fiction Classics tells just seven stories. And in truth, although they are all competent and enjoyable, none of them really had the spark that was found in the other volumes, where I knew that somewhere in the book I’d find something that really impressed. It’s always the problem with anthologies, the variation in quality, but here all of the stories failed to ignite any real excitement in me. But ironically, despite the stories here not being up to scratch, much of the artwork is most impressive.
Science Fiction Classics starts ever so well, with a one pager from the great Hunt Emerson, funny and silly and beautifully drawn as we’ve come to expect. But after this it’s straight into the long form stories and very rarely do they do anything exceptional. HG Wells’ classic War Of The Worlds is given a cursory retelling, never really connecting despite some nice artwork from Micah Farritor. Perhaps it’s the adaptation at fault, perhaps it’s my over-familiarity with the story?
(The War Of The Worlds, illustrated by Micah Farritor. From Graphic Classics: Science Fiction Classics, Eureka Publications.)
But that accusation of over-familiarity can’t be levied at the other strips here; none of whose stories I’d read before, but all of which came across as cast off stories by authors better known for other works.
But there are three in particular which stand out as highly enjoyable for the manner in which the artists have thrown themselves into the slim stories. Despite not being happy with editor Tom Pomplun’s selection of stories here, I have to complement him on his choice of a diverse selection of quality artists.
(Johnny Ryan’s playful Hanna Barbera style on Tom Pomplun’s adaptation of Jules Verne’s In The Year 2889 . From Graphic Classics: Science Fiction Classics, Eureka Publications.)
Johhny Ryan’s Jetsons style cartooning of Jules Verne’s “In The Year 2889” is playful and reads effortlessly well, despite the source material once more being slight in the extreme. Similarly “The Disintegration Machine” by Arthur Conan Doyle is one of Doyle’s lesser works for a very good reason but the adaptation by Rod Lott plays up the ridiculous overblown nature of Professor Challenger and in the choice of Roger Langridge as artist were treated to 14 great pages, full of great artistic characterisation.
(The wonderful Roger Langridge illustrates Conan Doyle’s Professor Challenger in The Disintegration Machine. It’s all about the manic facial expressions. From Graphic Classics: Science Fiction Classics, Eureka Publications.)
And finally we have Ellen L. Lindner, who illustrates a very run of the mill story by E. M. Forster; The Machine Stops. It’s theme of society’s willingness to hand themselves over to first the convenience and then the control of the machines could have been genuinely chilling, but it’s handled almost pedestrianly here. A shame, since Lindner’s art, all bright, optimistic colours and art deco designs elevate it to enjoyment far beyond the pedestrian story.
(Pedestrian adaptation of the short story, but some lovely technicolour art by Ellen L. Lindner. From Graphic Classics: Science Fiction Classics, Eureka Publications.)
In the end, it’s a disappointment. I’d previously found much to enjoy with both the material selected in the Graphic Classics series and the artists chosen to illustrate each tale. But here, in all it’s full colour glory the series appears to have taken a misstep with both selection of stories and rather sedate adaptations that lack punch. However, it still delivers on the artistic front.