What is it about Shakespeare that inspires creators to meddle and muck about, marking their territorial trail through Will's work much as a dog marks his own territory?
Today, I received three more volumes in the Puffin Graphics series of young-reader-focused literary classic adaptations; this selection includes Macbeth, The Wizard of Oz, and Treasure Island. Tim Hamilton's adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson's adventure is appropriately moody and action-oriented, with a confident ink-line that sometimes reminded me of Al Williamson or early Jeffrey Jones (although his layout lacks the inventive vitality of those creators). Michael Cavellero's The Wizard of Oz shows an animation influence, with boldly energetic lines and exaggerated energy that virtually leaps from the page.
And then there's Macbeth, adapted by Arthur Byron Cover and Tony Leonard Tamai. It's rare to find such a jarring disconnect between content and style; for some reason, Cover thought about it and apparently said to himself, "I know what Shakespeare forgot. Robots 'n' dragons and manga, that's what!" And then, compounding the error, Cover proceeded to shoehorn all of these elements into Shakespeare's play, creating an embarrassingly bad adaptation that trivializes Shakespeare while doing absolutely nothing to clarify the storyline for young readers. Cover doesn't adapt, he excerpts; once he contributes his misguided science fiction elements, he does little more than choose which Shakespearean lines to keep in. Many panels convey nothing of the meaning of the prose that will remain impenetrable to the younger readers towards whom this book is purportedly targeted. This is ponderous reading for a young reader; I taught Macbeth to high school juniors and seniors, and it was ponderous reading for many of them until the language could be broken into digestible segments, explained within context, and then re-read with an educated understanding. This version of Macbeth explains nothing, educates no one, and ultimately contains prose and pictures so isolated from one another that readers might be left wondering if this is some cynical comic book version of What's Up, Tiger Lily?
Rarely has such talent drifted so far astray...