Adaptation Round #1: Book vs Comic
This post contains Spoilers for the Neil Gaiman stories The Price and The Daughter of Owls A running theme across many of my blog posts has been adaptation. Mostly this has looked at book to film and the success so I thought today I would look at a slightly different form of adaptation. In 1999 author Neil Gaiman published his short story collection Smoke and Mirrors. Five years later in 2004 he released Creatures of the Night, a comic book adaptation of two of the stories from Smoke and Mirrors: The Price and The Daughter of the Owls. Which version do I prefer the stories in, see below the break for your answer!
Of the two stories I prefer The Price as I find it the more interesting tale full of brilliant images, both glory and beautiful. Sadly these images don’t translate to the comic. A great example is the first description of the Devil:
The figure flickered and changed as it walked up the drive. One moment it was dark, bull-like, minotaurish, the next it was slim and female, and next it was a cat itself, a scarred, huge gray-green wildcat, its face contorted with hate.
Sadly Michael Zulli‘s art can’t compete with the description above. The images don’t carry the strangeness that Gaiman‘s words create. When I first read Creatures of the Night I thought that The Price was the kind of story where the addition of images would reduce the power of the story. However, I then saw the image on the right drawn by Dave McKean for the new edition of Smoke and Mirrors. I think you’ll agree that McKean captures the strangeness of the description above perfectly. However, I still feel that the Price works better as a prose story rather than a comic book.
The Daughter of Owls
I prefer the comic book version of this story as it removes all the ye olde English Gaiman uses in the prose version. For example:
The old wyves of the Town sayed as follows: that the girl was daughter of Owls, and she should be burnt to death, for she was not borne of woeman.
I have a low thresh hold for writing that is overly complicated. While I understand that Gaiman is trying to create the sense of old England where a tale like this would be told, I feel it gets in the way of the story by keeping the reader at arm’s length from the story.
The comic book version doesn’t have this problem with all the text in modern English. Also as the story is told from one man to another the style of pictures with captions suits the story perfectly and this time Zulli‘s art really adds to the story. The panel that moves us from our narrative meeting his friend to the world of the story he is going to tell is a brilliant transaction. The first half of this image can be seen on the right but to understand its full beauty you’ll have to find the comic book.