"Rejoice, my son, for thou hast chosen the Amulet of Right o'er the Sword of Might! Therefore, let there be beauty and strength--power and compassion--honour and humility, mirth and reverence--within you... Be one with thy brothers of the Round Table--with Arthur and Lancelot, Gawain and Galahad, with them all... Be thou what they were--a hero! Strive forever to maintain the rule of right--of law and justice--against those who live and rule by might."

Chris Claremont, "From the Holocaust--A Hero!" Captain Britain No. 2 (20 Oct. 1976)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Thoughts on Lee and Hart's Excalibur: The Legend of King Arthur

With apologies in advance to the authors, Tony Lee and Sam Hart's graphic novel Excalibur: The Legend of King Arthur (Candlewick, 2011) arrived in today's mail, and I really wanted to like it but, ultimately, could not (at least not yet). As with their Outlaw: The Legend of Robin Hood, the book offers an innovative (yet also derivative) take on the Arthurian story, and one wonders what the publisher means by "a faithful retelling" of the legend. The primary conflict lies in the struggle between the good and evil powers of the Faerie realm (the Seelie and Unseelie, respectively), and many characters are presented as half- or full-fey. That said, there is little new material here, though, as the authors acknowledge no sources (though Malory is misquoted once), one wonders if the borrowing is intentional. Most clearly, Boorman's Excalibur is evoked many times and quoted at least once. The portrayals of the Faerie realms (though patriarchal here) recall both the Avalon of Marion Zimmer Bradley and John Matthews's own recent graphic novel The Chronicles of Arthur: Sword of Fire and Ice (2009), and the Faerie blood of many characters is also reminiscent of Bradley while Matthews may be the source for the inclusion of Bercilack (here a somewhat unsupernatural figure and the initiator of a very disappointing version of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight) in Avalon. Also, the dissociation of some of the Arthurian cast from their usual roles in the story resembles similar approaches in other twenty-first century texts, like King Arthur (2004) and BBC1's Merlin, and Guinevere's presentation as a warrior surely reflects her portrayal in that role in both King Arthur and Matt Hawkin's comic book series Lady Pendragon, which also saw Guinevere succeeding Arthur upon his death. Lastly, Arthur's love for Viviane, the Lady of the Lake, which is the nexus of the story, was featured prominently in the cartoon Camelot (1998) as was his ultimate fate to spend eternity with her in Avalon. The creation of Mordred is more unique though his training resembles scenes from NBC's Merlin (1998). There are also some truly original touches, as in the representation of Ulric and in Arthur's training in Avalon as cheat (time, of course, flows differently in Faerie), but these seem few in number (at least upon my initial reading). The story is also safely bowdlerized for its young readers (aged 10 and up, according to the website), though the dialogue, except at times when colloquialisms are tossed in, would be acceptable to older readers as well; however, although I appreciate its attempts to deviate from from Norris J. Lacy has termed, the "tyranny of tradition," one wonders of the value of this very nontraditional account of the legend as most graphic novel retellings are designed to supplement or enhance canonical versions of the tradition. In summation, this is not a Classics Illustrated version of the Matter of Britain, as are Gareth Hind's Beowulf, The Odyssey, and Shakespeare from the same publisher, though perhaps it will inspire readers to seek out more stories of the Once and Future King.

A final note on the artwork: Hart's style (as was also Mike Collins's for Matthews's book) is not typical of most contemporary comics and is, at least for me, difficult to get used to. Most of the characters seem too elongated and thin, and, at times, details are totally or partially lost. The result is not a "pretty" book that one expects would appeal to the target reader.

Michael A. Torregrossa
Co-Founder, The Virtual Society for the Study of Popular Culture and the Middle Ages

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Review of Arthur: The Legend Vol. 1

Dalen Books will be publishing David Chauvel and Jerome Lereculey's Arthur: The Legend Volume 2 later this year, and I just came across an extended review of the first volume on ComicBitsOnline.com. Additional reviews can be accessed from the product page at Dalen Books.

Dracula vs. King Arthur Continued

Adam and Christian Beranek's Dracula vs. King Arthur continues to spread out into other media. The series is now a web comic--with individual pages posted several times a week--on DraculavsKingArthur.com and some of the posts include annotations by Adam Beranek. Enthusiasts can also find the series as an iPhone app from Comixology and a motion comic from Comflix Studios (click menu and scroll to your left). These manifestations are of course in addition to the original comic book series, the collected editions, and digital comics released previously.

I append below a trailer for the webcomic as found on YouTube:

There are also a number of interviews available from the various creators (such as Adam Beranak and artist Chris Moreno), and these can be conveniently accessed from our links menus in the sidebar.