When I read of Ray Bradbury’s passing yesterday, I thought about my first memory of reading something he wrote. In junior high I had an elective class called “Reading for Fun” which was basically a free period to read. A lot of kids took it just to have time to slack off, but for me reading was fun and I loved it.
I picked up a book titled Something Wicked This Way Comes, intrigued by the poetic title (I didn’t know MacBeth) and the weird cover illustration of the kid on a carousel. I don’t know what I was expecting, but the story of a dark carnival run by the Illustrated Man terrified me and thrilled me. People lost in mirror mazes, a carousel that could make people younger or older, the power of laughter and good.
Over time, I came to love Bradbury’s writing — the short stories and the novels, the sci-fi and the horror and the stories that were just about a kid in a small town in the summer. I find it distressingly hard to pick favorites of anything, but Bradbury was easily one of my favorite authors. It was fantastic to see him at Comic-Con a few years ago, and although I didn’t get to interview him myself I did get to watch an interview with him at a panel.
I thought it was about time to read two graphic novel adaptations of his books: The Martian Chronicles, illustrated by Dennis Calero, and Something Wicked This Way Comes, illustrated by Ron Wimberly. Both books were published by Hill and Wang last summer, and I confess I just hadn’t gotten to them yet.
I started with The Martian Chronicles. Ray Bradbury wrote a brief introduction for each book, and the one for The Martian Chronicles actually tells the story of how it got published, which is a pretty great story. Unfortunately, I didn’t feel that Calero’s drawings and layout really his prose justice. (I’ll admit the typo on the first page of the comic — “widow” for “window” — probably biased me against it, even though I didn’t spot any other obvious errors.) The visual style changes a little bit from story to story, but most of them have that sort of Photoshopped-photos look rather than a drawn comic book. Sometimes that style can be used to great effect, but it also tends to make everyone look frozen and posed, rather than like snapshots of people in motion.
The layouts also use a lot of all-caps in the text, and quite often you can’t tell the order that you’re supposed to read the speech bubbles. It doesn’t hide the fact that the source material is wonderful — much of Bradbury’s original prose is included verbatim — but I couldn’t help but be a little disappointed. I think you’re probably better off just sticking to the text-only paperback for this one.
Something Wicked This Way Comes was a better experience. The illustrations are in black and white only (as opposed to the full color of The Martian Chronicles) but I liked the style a lot more — and I don’t feel the cover is a great representation. The characters are a little bit cartoony but not overly so, and Wimberly does an excellent job of conveying the eeriness of this circus that shows up in the middle of the night. It’s been a long time since my junior high class, but reading this adaptation brought back memories of that first experience, holding my breath as the boys hid from Mr. Dark in the library, wondering how things could possibly end in a way that’s okay.
The difficult thing about horror in comics is that perhaps it’s always scariest when it’s in your own mind. What creeps you out may look different than what the artist envisions, and with text every reader is free to dream up the scariest possible appearance. (I found this also with the graphic novel version of Coraline — it’s just not quite as spooky as the original.) But I did enjoy reading this version of Something Wicked, too — just don’t get rid of your paperback version yet.
There is also an adaptation of Fahrenheit 451 illustrated by Tim Hamilton that was published in 2009. I may need to pick that one up myself.
I’m sure many of the other GeekDads have their own stories to tell about Ray Bradbury, and so do you. Be sure to tell your own memories of Bradbury on the GeekDad Community site!
What was your first experience reading Ray Bradbury? Do you have any favorites of his books and stories?
We at GeekDad are sad to hear of his passing, but celebrate the life of this amazing (and prolific) writer.
I read All Summer in a Day when I was little and it really affected me. A later class had us read Fahrenheit 451. After that I was hooked.
Tonight, I wrote about the time Ray Bradbury sent me a letter: http://johnbooth.wordpress.com/2012/06/07/hail-and-farewell-ray-bradbury-thank-you/
And I wrote this list of some of my favorite Bradbury stories a few years ago on his 86th birthday:
- “Tomorrow and Tomorrow” This one I found in a 1967 anthology called Time Untamed – which includes a jaw-dropping collection of authors: Isaac Asimov, Robert Bloch, Clifford D. Simak, John Wyndham, Theodore Sturgeon, L. Sprague DeCamp and Fritz Leiber – and it’s fantastic.
- “The Toynbee Convector”
- “The Town Where No One Got Off”
- “A Sound of Thunder”
- “The Small Assassin”
- “The Lake”
- “The October Game” The penultimate paragraph begins: “Everyone sat in the dark cellar, suspended in the suddenly frozen task of this October game;” and damned if just re-reading the ending of this story to type that sentence didn’t raise goosebumps on my arm. The. Darkest. Bradbury. Ever.
- “Fever Dream”
- “The Veldt”
- “Night Meeting”
- “Kaleidoscope” Only Bradbury could take the premise of astronauts perishing after a rocket explosion and make it equal parts uplifting and heartbreaking.
- “The Long Rain” If you don’t feel soaked to the bone after this one, you didn’t read it slowly enough. Throw the real world version of Venus out the window – Bradbury’s is what it should be like.
Disclosure: GeekDad received review copies of the graphic novel adaptations for review purposes.