Robert Louis Stevenson's
Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde

adapted for Classics Illustrated
by John K. Snyder III
(Berkley Publishing Group, 1990)

There is an unhappy truth about a lot of the classics. They often aren't much fun to read.

Classics Illustrated is a series of glorified comic books which attempt to address that problem by mixing the story -- adapted for the format and often abbreviated, to be sure, but still very true to the original -- with art in a comic book setting. One such effort is Robert Louis Stevenson's Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde.

The story is familiar. A respected doctor, Henry Jekyll, has concocted a potion which transforms him into the beastly Edward Hyde. As Hyde he is free to indulge baser passions than his position as a London doctor would allow. But gradually Hyde crosses the line into genuine evil and violence, and Jekyll finds himself no longer able to control the changes. Finally, unable to recreate the potion at all, he realizes that Jekyll will eventually be lost entirely, replacing him for good with the villainous Hyde.

John K. Snyder III adapted the work for Classics Illustrated and provided the artwork as well. What a combination! For this project Snyder chose a stark style of illustration, sparse in details, thickly lined and wild in colors. What he lacks in detail he makes up in emotions easily read on the faces of Stevenson's cast of characters. And Snyder's Hyde is truly horrific, his depiction of the transformation is startlingly vivid. Acts of violence are carried out under a screen of bloody redness. There is a touch of madness in his art.

I would not suggest replacing a library of classics with cartoon reproductions ... and yet at the same time, I applaud the successful translation of the book from one medium into another. The Classics Illustrated series is a good substitute for those not moved to read the classics in their original form, and Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde is an excellent example of the collection.

[ by Tom Knapp ]