Monday, April 2, 2007

Goosebumps & The Thief of Always

Goosebumps: Creepy Creatures, stories by R.L. Stine, adapted and illustrated by Gabriel Hernandez, Greg Ruth, and Scott Morse (Scholastic Graphix)

R. L. Stine has sold over 300 million books worldwide and has been called the world’s #1 best-selling children’s book series author by the Guinness Book of Records. There are 180 Goosebumps books in print in over thirty languages. TV shows, DVDs, it’s a whole empire! The smart folks at Scholastic Graphix have given well-known comic artists the opportunity to adapt some of the amazingly popular Goosebumps stories into the comic format. There are three stories in each paperback book – the first collection includes The Werewolf of Fever Swamp by Gabriel Hernandez, The Scarecrow Walks at Midnight, by Greg Ruth, and The Abominable Snowman of Pasadena, by Scott Morse.

When I was in about fifth grade, I discovered horror as a genre. I can remember reading late at night and scaring myself silly – and coming back for more the next night. Honestly, I can’t remember the names of any of the books, but I distinctly remember the feeling of being scared and loving it. If the first issue is any indication, lots more kids will get the opportunity to scare themselves (just enough) with Goosebumps from Graphix.

In the first two stories, Gabriel Hernandez and Greg Ruth’s semi-realistic, shadowy styles create a very eerie feeling that fits the stories perfectly. The last story, by Scott Morse, has a much more cartoon feel to it, which undercuts the scare factor by quite a bit, but the story isn’t as terrifying as the first two so it works. It’s a good lesson for budding artists in matching the tone of your art to the tone of the story. The only thing I might have done differently as an editor is put Scott’s story first, to get young readers comfortable before they go into the really scary stuff.

And scary it is! In The Werewolf of Fever Swamp, the werewolf takes a nice bite out of the young protagonist, and Ruth manages to make scarecrows terrifying. These are really great stories for kids who like to be scared, but not for the faint of heart. Shelby flipped through the book and refused to read it – she’s never liked to be scared. Sarah, however, absolutely loved it. It’s interesting that she wasn’t in love with Hernandez’ art in Thief of Always, but seemed to enjoy his somewhat tightened up work in this book.

In the back there’s a nice page about each artist that explains the process they used to adapt the stories – it’s great for kids to see that people can go about doing something in many different ways and all achieve outstanding results. The solicitations for the next two books look amazing – Jill Thompson draws One Day at Horrorland, Kyle Baker does The Horror at Camp Jellyjam, Ted Naifeh adapts Ghost Beach – I am really looking forward to the next two collections.

Sarah says: I really like Goosebumps because the stories are very different but have the same feeling – a monster of some kind trying to attack kids. The first story about a werewolf ends in a different way, because it doesn’t really end. What I mean by that is that it doesn’t really feel like it’s the end of a story, or even a middle, more like the beginning. The second story about scarecrows is a little mixed up – sometimes I could understand what’s going on and sometimes I couldn’t. There were too many names in the story so I couldn’t really remember who’s who. The art was the most realistic. The first two artists sort of have the same idea of realistic, but one uses more shadows and the other uses more lighting. But the third artist thinks weird shapes all day. I like that kind of thinking! I liked this book. Kids who like to be scared would like this because it has good art and because it doesn’t have as many big words as the regular Goosebumps. That makes it easier to get scared.

The Thief Of Always, by Clive Barker, Kris Oprisko, Gabriel Hernandez (IDW)

Clive Barker for kids? Hmmmmm. I mean, he’s done some pretty graphic horror stuff, right? I wasn’t sure about this until I read the first book, but I really enjoyed it. This graphic adaptation of Barker’s book, The Thief Of Always, isn’t for timid readers, but for those who like a bit of creepy, it’s excellent. I thoroughly enjoyed the storytelling, but I think what turned the girls off was the art. They seem to want clean lines – I think the loose style and subdued color palette are just a bit beyond their appreciation. They also love some humor with their fright, and Barker just doesn’t do funny. Despite the girls’ lukewarm reactions, I think it’s a wonderful piece of literature translated very well into the graphic medium, though it’s best suited to those with slightly more mature tastes.

Shelby says: Sorry, but I didn’t like it very much. The story is about a house that seems perfect but it’s not ‘cause it’s really a person and it steals time and it’s evil. It wasn’t really very action-packed and it wasn’t funny. The art made it scarier because it’s dark and creepy. It’s too scary for little kids.

Sarah says: I sorta liked Thief Of Always. It starts out about a boy who goes into this magical house behind a magical wall. He doesn’t know it’s magical because it seems like 31 days, but it’s really 31 years that he’s been there. He even doesn’t get older. He leaves and he finds his parents 31 years older than they were when he left them. He has to go back and fight Mr. Hood (which is actually the house) to get back his time. My favorite part was when the big flying monster went into the real world and was dying. He looked cool. The art looks kinda dirty, like the artist drew the pictures and splattered the paint. Probably little kids would be too scared.


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