1991: I Am Legend

I Am Legend (1991) #1-4 adapted by Steven Niles and Elman Brown from Richard Matheson’s novel.

Oh, I thought I’d done all the squarebound “prestige format” adaptation series, but I had forgotten about this one. It’s an adaptation of Richard Matheson’s 50s sci-fi novel which I’ve heard of, but never read. And it’s adapted by Steven Niles, who’d done a couple of Clive Barker short stories, and they didn’t suck, so I was hopeful. And these are 4 60 page volumes, which should give ample space to do the adaptation without overwriting.

Oops.

Double oops.

I know I’ve said “this is more like an illustrated version of the novel” before on some of these Eclipse adaptations, but… this is less a comic book than an illustrated version of the novel.

The reams and reams of text here is just mind-boggling. It’s a story about a guy who tries to figure out a post-apocalyptic vampire/zombie world, and he has nobody to talk with, so he thinks a lot. And he’s not smart and he’s not particularly sympathetic, and it’s just… tedious.

But now and again Niles lets Brown draw some nice pages.

But mostly the artwork is more utilitarian than anything else. Brown’s artwork isn’t pretty, but it’s effective.

(And the most fantastic thing about Matheson’s alternative sci-fi world is that they haven’t invented masturbation there.)

Brown really likes his hatching, cross or otherwise. It has a kinda deranged obsessiveness about it that I enjoy, but his figures are all kinds of wonky.

Oh, and the zombie vampires are so… pathetic. Our Hero spends a lot of time pondering then and trying to work out just the rules that explains how come they don’t take a crowbar to his makeshift barricades but just stand out there and shout at him. (That’s why he needs the ear plugs.) In the end, I don’t really think that Matheson comes up with a good explanation, or explains why Our Hero lives in that house, anyway, when there are so many that would be more easily defensible.

Other than Our Hero being a moron, which he is, and then suddenly isn’t.

He’s got pretty much the same thoughts about the plot.

They’re so ineffectual that Our Hero can take strolls through gaggles of them without suffering any major discomfort.

I mean, he has to run a bit, but then he can just shove them away and lock his door. These are so much less scary than Romero’s zombies.

But at least Niles finds the room to add a couple of pages of honest-to-goodness comics in between swathes of verbiage.

And just when you things can’t get any more yawnworthy, he meets a dog.

*sigh*

But it does pick up slightly towards the end. The end makes no sense whatsoever beyond “that’s deep, man”.

So what do others think of it?

My opinion of this graphic novel is that it is completely unnecessary. It is very text heavy and so I think you might as well just read thr novel instead.

And I’m not a fan of the artwork, a few of the more detailed pages are really nice but the majority are quite basic and look a bit “scratchy’.

I’ve rated it 3 stars just because of the story itself.

Somebody on Amazon gives it five stars and says:

As others have mentioned, this is perhaps more of an illustrated novel than a comic book, as it frequently has very long blocks of text to go with only a few panels. Perhaps even more significant, all of the actual language, or at the very least almost all of it, is lifted directly from the novel. Stuff is cut out, of course, but nothing is added in, as far as I can tell.

And here’s and interview:

IAL Archive: The adaptation itself is extremely faithful to the novel – I’ve described it to people as a very heavily illustrated version of the novel. I think this speaks very highly of you and the job you did – how did you approach adapting a novel that had such a large following?

SN: Unlike other books/stories I’ve adapted I wanted to preserve as much of the text as possible. Like I said, I was so in awe of the material I wound up ADDING to the novel instead of condensing. I think, for I AM LEGEND, a novel known by so may, it was the way to go.

[…]

IAL Archive: Were you pleased with the finished project? Is there anything you’d do differently if you had the chance?

SN: Well, a lot of years have passed. I think if I did an adaptation today I would cut down on the text and allow the visual story to come through.

IDW published a collection of this in 2005 because Steve Niles is a big name these days.

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