Graphic Classics: Ambrose Bierce
To set your wisdom (holding not a doubt of it,
The 19th century American satirist Ambrose Bierce is still quoted in the press today. His epigrams are a convenient short cut for writers who can't think up their own introductions, and his works are conveniently and gratifyingly timeless. This adaptation presents a selection of them with illustrations that, for the most part, work well enough to be laugh-out-loud funny, proving that the heart of the zeitgeist is timeless - it only has to be reinterpreted.
Bierce is recognised as one of the greatest modern satirists and his work stands up well enough on its own. But as its name suggests, the Graphic Classic series of books renovates the work of immortal authors and presents it to comic book readers who, the venture implies, might otherwise not come across them.
It is a worthy cause but, thankfully, not one that produces well-meaning tosh. Bierce himself, this book's introduction tells us, appreciated the power of illustrated satire, was in awe of those who produced it and would have done so himself if he had the talent to draw as well as write.
No fewer than 42 artists have contributed and Bierce would have been particularly pleased with their take on 28 of his fables. Some of the work has, nevertheless, been straight-jacketed by artists who appear either unable to overcome their deference for the author or are unable to make the most of a comic book adaptation without a writer's direction.
When Bierce is at his most concise - as with the fables - the creative freedom afforded the artists pays dividends and most have done little more than illustrate Bierce's words. Responsibility for this lies more with the art direction than the artists themselves, as it appears the aim was a variety of styles. Some of the untouched texts have been illustrated superbly, such as the one by Florence Cestac. And though in general the art is good enough to justify the compilation, Bierce fans might be disappointed by some of the literal adaptations. Special mentions should nevertheless be given for the work of Carpenter, Emdin, Ghermandi, Miller and Smith.
The alternative to buying this book, is to read Bierce's work for free online at Project Gutenberg. But Bierce's writing will henceforward seem naked without illustrations, especially his fables.
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