As a long running series of comic art adaptations, Eureka Productions’ Graphic Classics books are approaching their twenty-third volume (the upcoming seasonal collection, Halloween Classics, though one way editor/publisher Tom Pomplun has strived to retain school and reader interest in these modern “Classics Illustrated” has been to issue fresh editions of earlier collections in between new sets. Graphic Classics: Robert Louis Stevenson is the most recent collection to receive a new face-lift, and as with other new editions, Pomplun has added new material to the set, foremost of which is a 49-page adaptation of Stevenson’s Treasure Island.
Pomplun’s practice may drive more anal retentive collectors crazy (there are four editions of Eureka’s debut volume, Edgar Allan Poe, though I don’t know if all of these have slightly different contents), but those who came to this series late probably won’t be bothered by it, nor will those school libraries, I suspect, with earlier editions that have been much thumbed by young readers.
For most moderately literate Americans, Stevenson is primarily known for his rousing boys’ adventure books (Island, Kidnapped), his children’s poems and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Both Long John Silver and the villainous Edward Hyde are given their due in this book, alongside a series of short verses and fables illustrated by the likes of Maxon Crumb, Shary Flenniken, Hunt Emerson, Roger Langridge, and Johnny Ryan, plus an exquisitely rendered version of “The Bottle Imp” by Lance Tooks. The fables prove especially fascinating as they show the writer in a much more witty and cynical mode than his Child’s Garden of Verses voice.
Tales like the Langridge illustrated “Sick Man and the Fireman” almost read as if they fell out of Graphics Classics’ Ambrose Bierce or Mark Twain collections. The fables are all fine, though to my eyes the peak pieces belong to GC regulars Langridge, Flenniken, Emerson and Tom Neely, whose rubbery art recalls some of the classic screwball comic strip artists of earlier decades. Two fables, interestingly, hinge on characters punished for either being a fool or consorting with fools. For a certain breed of Victorian intellectual, apparently, being a fool was a greater character deficit than being a sinner.