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Graphic Novel Review: The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

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If graphic adaptations of classic literature are effective ways of introducing youngsters to the joys of reading, the Campfire Graphic Novel Classics Series offers a catalogue of literary gems likely to do the job. Not only have they chosen books with literary merit, like Frankenstein and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, but they have chosen the kinds of stories that have traditionally been attractive to the young male reader. More often than not they are stories that focus on mystery or adventure; they are the world’s great horror stories, the tales of the supernatural. These are the kinds of stories that have captured the young adult imagination, in most cases for over a century now.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s 1901 novel, The Hound of the Baskervilles, is one of the latest classics to be published in the series. Doyle, who had introduced his brilliant detective Sherlock Holmes in A Study in Scarlet in 1887, had apparently killed him off when he and his arch enemy, Professor Moriarity, locked in mortal combat, hurtled over the Reichenbach Falls in a story called “The Final Problem.” Public outcry however convinced the author to bring his hero back from the brink, and The Hound of the Baskervilles marked his return. Although it seems that Doyle always considered his Holmes stories less important that his other literary endeavors, few readers have agreed with him. In the supreme rationalist detective, Doyle has created the kind of archetypal character rarely managed by even the greatest of writers.

The Campfire adaptation by J. R. Parks is fairly straightforward, following the story line as closely as one would expect. It begins with the legend of the hound and goes on to explain how Holmes and his sidekick Dr. Watson become involved. It follows Watson, as Holmes sends him out to the moors ostensibly to protect Sir Henry Baskerville, the new heir to the Baskerville property. It makes sure to illustrate Holmes’ legendary deductive powers as he glances at a threatening note Sir Henry received at his hotel. While the introduction of some of the characters seems abrupt—Stapleton, for example—the narrative flows clearly and moves rapidly.

Vinod Kumar’s Illustrations are typical of the Campfire style. Characters are drawn with an intensity that emphasizes strength rather than good looks. The women especially are not portrayed with the characteristic comic book glamour. Given some of the more recent manifestations of the great detective, Kumar’s version of the iconic detective is quite traditional. Most of the time he appears with the trademark deerstalker and pipe, and, to my eye at least, he bears a remarkable resemblance to Basil Rathbone. Kumar’s Dr. Watson, however, looks nothing like Nigel Bruce. I’m not sure that the images of some of the other characters are always those described in Doyle’s story. The artist does manage to capture the dark sense of foreboding that dominates the atmosphere of the novel and its setting.

As with other Campfire editions, The Hound of the Baskervilles includes a short introductory essay on the life of the author. Although it doesn’t go into some of the strange ideas that dominated the later part of his life, it does give some background about basis for the creation of Holmes, which is probably more to the point in this context. Since the story features a hound as a central plot point, an appendix discussing a variety of breeds of dogs called “Collectible Canines” is also included. While the specific breeds mentioned—Afghan Hound, Newfoundland, Komondor, etc.—seem to have little to do with the terrifying beast described in the story, the information may be welcome to dog lovers. Perhaps they could have found something more closely related to the story with a little more thought.

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About Jack Goodstein