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Three New Pop-Up Books to Make Any Season Spookier

Books Crosspost Entertainment Reviews

Recently, a friend on Facebook proposed that, since Independence Day marks the last major commercial holiday between summer and autumn, July 5 is the true start of the Halloween season—at least among true diehards. While I typically reserve my own official All Hallows activities until a little closer to October 31st, I can’t really fault the math on this one. And, as someone who routinely dabbles in the macabre all year round, I’ve decided to lean into it.

Ok, so that decision may have also had something to do with the timely arrival of three iconic tales of terror in a wonderfully accessible new format. Just this week, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes’ The Hound of the Baskervilles were each released as entries in publisher Canterbury Classics’ new Classic Pop-Up Tales line, blending the visual appeal of the graphic novel with the wow factor of the pop-up book.

These Classic Pop-Up Tales are ideal examples of what USC film professor Dr. Rebekah McKendry often refers to as “gateway horror”—properties (be they novels, comics, films, or television series) with just enough shades of visceral fright to cultivate young fans without alienating them. Think of existing kid-friendly fare like Goosebumps, The Twilight Zone, or the Godzilla series.

Illustrated by DC, Marvel, and 2000 AD alum Anthony Williams and with pop-ups designed by paper engineer David Hawcock, each book combines the groundbreaking (if heavily abridged at a tight 14 pages in length) source narratives with eye-catching visuals sure to capture the imaginations of horror fans young and old.

Classic Pop-Ups: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Classic Pop-Ups: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Pop-Ups by David Hawcock | Story by Claire Bampton | Art by Anthony Williams | Color by: Rob Taylor

Number of Pop-Ups: 21 (7 double-page spreads, 14 smaller pop-ups in the book’s fold-out side panels—plus a bonus slide feature as the creature looks on in horror as Dr. Frankenstein destroys his bride… before fleeing into the night)
Standout Scene: The creature’s creation scene is amazingly complex and really captures his scale and ferocity.
Plot Summary: Genevan nepo baby Victor Frankenstein creates a flawed but thoughtful creature from dead tissue. Said creature goes on an extended European killing spree culminating in the murder of Victor’s wife and adopted sister. (Spoiler: both those characters are the same person.) Victor chases the monster Benny Hill-style into the arctic wastes only to meet his own demise, and we, the readers, are left to ponder the inherent folly of ambition, the poison nature of revenge, and the precariousness of rogue ice flows.
Overall Grade: This one is a solid A-. My only complaints are that a couple of the folded paper features obscure a bit of the underlying text and, despite looking spectacular, the final big pop-up (which features the creature emerging from a burning Castle Frankenstein) doesn’t actually happen in the book.

Classic Pop-Ups: Dracula by Bram Stoker

Classic Pop-Ups: Dracula by Bram Stoker

Pop-Ups by David Hawcock | Story by Claire Bampton | Art by Anthony Williams

Number of Pop-Ups: 8ish (7 double-page spreads and a pair of rather dinky bonus panels of the captain’s log in one of the side panels)
Standout Scene: The scene of an undead Lucy Westenra stealing through the graveyard with a misappropriated infant in her arms is not only the best in the book, but it’s also probably the single coolest-looking pop-up in the entire series.
Plot Summary: Rookie solicitor Johnathan Harker makes a bad real estate deal with an ageless, blood-drinking count. After relocating to London, Count Dracula proceeds to vampirize both Harker’s fiancée Mina Murray and her best friend Lucy. Lucy goes full vampire and has to be put down, but Harker and Lucy’s various bereaved beaus manage to defeat Dracula with the help of one Professor Abraham Van Helsing who just happens to know all there is to know about vampires.
Overall Grade: Sadly, I have to ding this one a couple of points because it excises my favorite sub-plot, that being Dr. John Seward’s asylum antics with Mr. R. M. Renfield. Still, this volume manages to capture the rich shadows and evocative angles of the EC horror comics that clearly inspired it, so I’ll let it squeak by with a B.

Classic Pop-Ups: Sherlock Holmes' the Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Classic Pop-Ups: Sherlock Holmes’ The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Pop-Ups by David Hawcock | Story by Claire Bampton | Art by Anthony Williams

Number of Pop-Ups: 8 (the scene of Watson in the old stone hut has two separate pop-up features)
Standout Scene: The sight of the hound looming above the moors as Dr. James Mortimer relates the legend is picture-perfect!
Plot Summary: A demonic hound haunts the estate grounds of Baskerville Hall, methodically stalking and killing the Baskerville heirs. That is until Detective Sherlock Holmes swoops in to dispel all this old-time superstition with a healthy dose of skepticism and deductive reasoning. It was actually an unknown, illegitimate Baskerville the whole time. And he would’ve gotten away with it if it wasn’t for that meddling, middle-aged “consulting detective.” Yeah, this one is your basic Scooby-Doo mystery plot, only this time Scooby’s been painted with phosphorus and trained to kill.
Overall Grade: Despite the fact that I’m no Holmes scholar, I really enjoyed this book. The art, particularly the backgrounds, is beautifully rendered and the prose moves along at a nice clip. Best of all, the pop-ups are universally well done, netting this book a coveted A+.

Available at an MSRP of $24.99 each (though, at the time of this writing, Frankenstein is currently listed for a cool $14 on Amazon), I wholeheartedly recommend Classic Pop-Up Tales for fans of comics, weird fiction, and classic literature alike.

Each does a great job of making these well-worn stories accessible to newbies and appealing even to middle-grade readers. The pop-up designs will likely attract an even younger audience, though they may need a little extra help navigating from panel to panel and being reminded to treat the pop-up and slider features with care.

Minor gripes aside, you can’t go wrong with any of these fine volumes. So pick up one (or more) and add it to your seasonal spooky reading list today.

Review materials were provided by Canterbury Classics. This post contains affiliate links. Why does Dr. Watson always have to do the grunt work?

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