Thursday, November 12, 2009

I.ii. Enter Hamlet - Classics Illustrated

The Original
As previously mentioned, there is no wedding banquet in the original Classics Illustrated. Weddings are for GIRLS! Consequently, the comic ignores Hamlet's confrontation with the royal couple. We do get the famous first speech though, and here it is in one efficient panel.Not a lot of artistry to it, is there? While there isn't much to say about the staging here, we can still look at what the rather large cuts do to the play. In this version of the story, Hamlet isn't reacting to anything immediate. He's alone in the castle, brooding. Nothing in the text truly suggests the immediacy of just having confronted one's parents, but such a cut would probably undercut an actor's attempt to provide context for his emotional outbursts. In such a straight and actor-less translation of the speech, such things are not particularly relevant. However, as the funeral and wedding are not represented in the comic except as a caption on the spash page, it doesn't help with clarity.

The Berkley version
Tom Mandrake gives a lot more room to this sequence, thankfully. Hamlet DOES confront his parents, in this case appearing from a shadowy staircase. He wasn't necessarily present at the previous scene's posturing, hypocrisy and disrespect for his status (above Laertes'). Regardless, this is an angry Hamlet more reminiscent of Maloney's in A Midwinter's Dream. Since comics feature static images, Mandrake must choose a single expression for any given chunk of dialogue. Hamlet's is anger as he delivers his first puns. Claudius is also angry as he asks about his prevailing grief, while Gertrude is obviously concerned.

The characters don't really shift from those expressions panel to panel. The result is that Hamlet is angry both at his uncle AND mother, and that Claudius' "unmanly grief" accusations are stern indeed. It also means that when Claudius leaves the stage, he does so impatiently. Her concern for Hamlet remains, and she is led away perhaps before things are satisfactorily resolved to her mind. An interesting direction I haven't quite seen from filmed versions.

Hamlet starts his soliloque before other characters are entirely out of the room, which is a little off-putting, but it does get four panels to the original's one.
The first pictured here (actually the second) is interesting because it almost looks like a silent panel. The monologue is actually on top of the next panel and the speech bubbles completely cut off from the character. I don't know if it's done on purpose, but it does make the speech somehow more internal. As if by a disembodied voice, a bit like the voice-over in certain films. In keeping with his anger, Hamlet kick a bench.

Now you'll excuse me for this, but I can't help but think of those old Charles Atlas ads at this point, especially since it's done on the Hercules line (Hercules/Atlas... some relationship there). "Mac" in those ads is so angry at having been bullied at the beach and losing his girl to the bully kicks a chair when he gets home. He vows to work out using the Atlas method and goes back to the beach to kick the bully's ass. I'm afraid there IS a certain parallel with the play...

The very end of the speech is on the next page in yet another panel, but since Horatio enters in that same panel, I'll have to save it for next time.

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