Apr 14 2012: Cover Images from Comic Versions of The Odyssey and The Iliad by Homer (Classics Illustrated, 1960s)
How far does the value of a literary work reside in language and specific medium, how far in the story and broader ideas it contains? The question’s raised here by reductions (to around 25 pages each) of the two great epic poems of Homer, with each comic book acting more as a kind of compressed B-movie style trailer for the originals, emphasising a few set pieces from each in clunky Americanised dialogue and roughly rendered drawings rather than getting far into the substance. This isn’t about the relationship between the mediums of poetry and comic-strip, as writers like Alan Moore, Paul Auster and Marjane Satrapi have all, in different ways, created works in strip form (or in Auster’s case, an adaptation of his own New York Trilogy novel City of Glass) that easily rival written fiction for complexity, layering and nuance. On a lesser level, the epics of Iceland and the Nordic world have furnished characters for Marvel’s Thor series, and it seems unlikely that the comics world hasn’t yet attempted Milton’s Paradise Lost in one form or another, given the fact that the original is in essence a kind of Puritan-Baroque anti-hero tale on a scale that comics seem almost uniquely placed to capture. Behind the covers seen here, though, the relationship is more like that of Don Chaffey’s 1963 Jason and the Argonauts, a film whose saving grace lay in the employment of Ray Harryhausen, who set about investing its stop-motion special effects with more animation than the wooden live cast and the clunky script combined.