Classics Illuminated

Who needs Cliffs Notes when you’ve got the web? Recently I stumbled on two webcomics based on classic books, each completely different but each well worth a look. Somehow I made it through college and grad school without reading the originals, but the comics versions are so entertaining I’m tempted to pick them up.

The War of the Worlds: This is a straightforward adaptation by Ian Edginton of H.G. Wells’ novel of the same name, rendered with a smooth, very readable look by artist D’Israeli. The story is straightforward: Aliens arrive from Mars and terrorize the populace for a while but ultimately are dispatched in a surprising and satisfying way. For a story about aliens terrorizing the earth, this comic is strangely soothing. Maybe it’s the glimpses of pastoral English countrysides.

Captain August: About a year ago, Dutch artist Roderick Leermakers decided that his sci-fi webcomic was going nowhere and that maybe he should take a break and let someone else do the plotting: Herman Melville. Over the past year, he has produced a slightly warped version of Moby Dick, mapping the novel’s characters onto his own motley crew (Captain Ahab becomes Captain August, Starbuck becomes Starnuch—like that). This works for two reasons. One is Leermakers’ flat pen-and-ink style, which is well suited to the subject. His drawings look almost like woodcuts or old-fashioned illustrations, evoking the atmosphere of the period. The other is his pacing. The comic moves pretty quickly but keeps enough of the original dialogue to retain an authentic feel.

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