With so many vampire comics, books and films doing the rounds these days, it’s hard to know where to start with what’s good and what’s bad. That’s why I decided, this Halloween I would look at the comic adaptation of one of the finest and most original vampire tales from the last century.
I am Legend by Richard Matheson has been one of my favourite novels ever since I read it in my early teenage years and as such I have always wondered what a good visual adaptation would be like. After going through three film adaptations, each varying in quality, I happened upon the 1991 comic version by Steve Niles (of 30 Days of Night fame) and Elman Brown, an artist I had never heard of. Being a big fan of Steve Niles, I thought I’d give it a go and see if it did the original novel justice.
From the get go we have some great line art that instantly echoes the haunting quality of the story. The dark shadows help portray mankind’s fall into darkness as our hero Robert Neville simply tries to survive. The art is frankly stunning and far better than I ever expected. Elman Brown has truly captured the spirit of the characters from the story, while adding enough individuality to make them even more special.
The writing is just as exceptional as the artwork. It would have been easy for Steve Niles to strip down the story and rely on action set pieces to tell the story (like the films ended up doing), but he hasn’t. Niles has kept so much of the dialogue and internal monologue from the original story intact, which works on every level. One of the things that make the story special is watching Neville’s descent into his own internal madness. The fact that all of this remains intact makes it just as intriguing tale as the novel. The graphic novel is also very text heavy which is rarer and rarer these days (although to be fair this was written 23 years ago). There are whole pages of detailed and thought provoking text which echo the horror comics of the 50s and 60s.
For all those who have never read the book or have only seen one of the film versions, it’s still a definite must. Its story is deep and powerful, with a constant feeling of dread lurking through every page. Where most stories have light at the end of the tunnel, here we only have darkness.
So if you feel like a good old fashioned tale featuring vampires, survival and one man’s ever depleting sanity this Halloween, look no further.