26 October 2009

Book of the Week (35): "Edgar Allan Poe's Tales of Death and Dementia" illustrated by Gris Grimly

It’s tough to re-imagine a classic. Even tougher when that classic has images already firmly established in the popular imagination. Artists as diverse as Aubrey Beardsley, Édouard Manet, Gustave Doré and John Tenniel have illustrated versions of the Gothic and grim stories. Filmmakers too have tried to put Poe’s words into images – the British Hammer Horror series being particularly fond of filming them (often starring Vincent Price). The Alan Parsons Project made a concept album based on them, The Simpsons TV show has referred to Edgar Allan Poe at least four times in different episodes and more books than there’s room for here have referenced either Poe or one of his stories. So how do you approach such a well-worn subject and make it fresh? The answer, according to Gris Grimly, is to turn up the gruesome button and re-create the stories as half-text half-graphic novel.

Having wondered whether a name such as ‘Gris Grimly’ could in fact be real (hmm...), and then subsequently pondered if, having been born with (or created) such a name, illustrating Poe was a foregone conclusion (and working with Neil Gaiman – they collaborated on The Dangerous Alphabet) I checked out his website – well worth doing, though quite adult (bet that put you off...) – and found that maybe it was. Though whether sent by fate or accident it has to be admitted that this is a match made in Heaven (or possibly Hell, of course).

Gore, blood, dismembered limbs, misery, corpses, coffins and madness – they’re all here; in the words of Poe and in Grimly's gloriously anarchic and bloody illustrations. If you have a taste for the macabre, love being scared, and think Darren Shan is ideal bedtime reading, go and find a copy of this – you’ll relish every page.

Recommended by Leonie Flynn

  • More Poe – the complete Tales of Mystery and Imagination are fabulously chilling reading. Look out for the ones illustrated by other authors too – the one by Arthur Rackham is brilliant.
  • Or some Darren Shan? The closest to this in terms of splatter is undoubtedly The Demonata, starting with Lord Loss.
  • Or more classic illustrated horror? Try The Tomb of Dracula by Marv Wolfman and illustrated by Gene Colan.

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