Friday, October 16, 2009

the man in the iron mask

This is the third in the series of Marvel’s Illustrated line, basically the Classics Illustrated for the Noughties, and I have to say I was bitterly disappointed. Not by the artwork by Hugo Petrus and Tom Palmer, which is fairly standard comics fare (perfectly good draftsmanship, but very regular panel arrangements, made for telling a long story rather than wowing with the artwork). By the story!

I’ve never read any Dumas. I had The Three Musketeers sitting on the shelf next to Les Misérables for years, but I never got to it, it was such a massive tome. I’ve seen the Wishbone episode though! :-D I know most people agree that the book is always better than the movie, but I’m one of those weirdoes who often find the reverse to be the case. I know the Randall Wallace Man in the Iron Mask was a huge flop, but I saw it many times with my sister (going through one of her Leonardo DiCaprio phases; I preferred Gabriel Byrne!) and we loved it. I thought the story from Dumas’ original was going to be like that. Turns out it’s convoluted and much less heroic, probably truer to history, and the swashbuckling is actually kept to a minimum. Obviously I can’t judge a book on its graphic novel (!), so I will read the original one day (in French if I can). But I am still seriously disappointed.

There are too many differences (improvements?) to name. Still, you can see why it would be difficult for anyone to adapt the story of the three musketeers plus D’Artagnan. Unbeknownst to me until now, The Three Musketeers is the first part of a trilogy ending with The Man in the Iron Mask, known as The Viscount of Bragelonne; or, Ten Years Later . The middle volume has the dull title of Twenty Years After. Now I know from my mother who remembers having read one or all of these many years ago that despite the sprawling quality it’s quite good. I have read abridged versions of The Count of Monte Cristo in French (for French class) but that hardly gave me a good idea of Dumas’ style. Now, I’m indebted to Dumas—he and Victor Hugo helped give us the Romantic, French historical novel, no doubt inspired by Sir Walter Scott (and, if my instincts on parts of Man in the Iron Mask are correctly, Maturin). But again, I can’t say how well it was emulated without reading the final product.

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