Friday, January 22, 2010

I.ii. Ghost Stories - Classics Illustrated

The Original
The original Classics Illustrated spent a lot of time on the first Ghost scene, and so little on Scene 2, that it felt no need recaping Horatio's story a mere two panels after it happened. (In fact, all of Scene 2 is reduced to 2 panels.)The gist of the scene is told in a caption, with Hamlet's short soliloquy featured in a thought bubble - the equivalent of the voice-over technique. Economical, even if it removes any nuances in the Hamlet-Horatio relationship.

The Berkley version
Conversely, Mandrake spends two pages on this part of the scene, with Horatio and Bernardo (Marcellus is not in this adaptation) seeming to come out of the water-colored fog that often serves as the moody backdrop of the story. Though much of the text is used, the "test" is not. Hamlet believes immediately, but the period pictured is conducive to such beliefs (and the comic book form is replete with the supernatural, so there is that built-in suspension of disbelief). I especially appreciate the way Mandrake nuances the lines by fiddling with the lettering. For example, Horatio's first line is rendered as "Hail to your [change bubbles and in a small font:] lordship*". The asterisk and drop in volume make Horatio suddenly stop, perhaps realizing he has caught Hamlet in a private moment. He's awkward around the prince and later has much hesitation in his speech: "My lord, the... king... your... father..." It's a good line reading, and we could speculate about why Horatio is so awkward. Is it a natural class-based timidity? Is he self-conscious about Hamlet's grief, uncomfortable as many people are in such situations? Or did Hamlet embarrass him with his funeral/wedding crack?

I'm less enthusiastic about one line change: "I think I saw him yesterday." Is "yesternight" so difficult a word to understand from the context?

One thing that is a little off-putting about Mandrake's work in this adaptation is the way he moves the "camera". We go from close-ups, to "spy" shots where the characters are in silouette behind windowpanes, to oddly angled top shots. This may be to create the sense of a disjointed Denmark, and on the second page of this scene, he creates an edgy panel layout that works in the same way.
Hamlet has just heard about his father risen from the grave and suddenly, the panels are anxious and broken. His world is being shattered. It is a panel structure that does not recur again in the book. Mandrake has chosen it to be the pivotal moment upon which everything turns. After this point, there can be no turning back. I haven't really heard this discussion before, but one could say that if Horatio had kept the ghost story to himself, the tragedy would not have happened. Meta-textually, there is something interesting about the character who will become its teller in the last scene CAUSING it to happen in the first place.

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