As Ramsey Campbell states in the foreword to this collection, the ghost stories of M.R. James “are a British institution… he can convey more spectral terror in a single glancing phrase than most authors manage in a paragraph or a book,” but despite being an author whose work relies so heavily upon the eloquence of the writing, James’ tales have frequently been adapted for the visual medium (most successfully by the BBC, in their A Ghost Story for Christmas series) with his short story Casting the Runes proving a particular favourite – not only did it provide the basis for the much-loved 1957 feature film Night of the Demon, it also inspired Sam Raimi’s underrated Drag Me to Hell and Glenn Standring’s woefully overlooked The Irrefutable Truth about Demons.
But how does M.R. James fare in the world of graphic storytelling? The good news is, very well indeed.
Leah Moore and John Reppion have adapted four of the stories from James’ famous collection Ghost Stories of an Antiquary and have managed to strike a successful balance between retaining M.R. James’ original voice while convincingly reimagining the tales and subtly elaborating upon them for the graphic medium. Admirers of James’ prose have nothing to worry about – Moore and Reppion have treated the source material with considerable understanding and respect – and even if you’re familiar with the original tales, you’ll still be pleasantly surprised and unpleasantly chilled by what Moore, Reppion and their artists have accomplished.
So let’s talk about the artists for a moment: Aneke’s deceptively simple take on Canon Alberic’s Scrap-book subtly ramps up the tension while ending on an effectively hellish final panel; Kit Buss’ shadowy interpretation of Lost Hearts not only underscores the fairy-tale elements of the text, it also presents us with a child-ghost who is as sad as she is ghastly; Fouad Mezher’s blocky sepia-tinted art adds a fascinatingly creepy new aspect to The Mezzotint; and Alisdair Wood brings a brooding and horrendous realism – and some marvellous, mesmerising artwork - to The Ash-Tree. With each story so beautifully retold and rendered, we can only hope that Volume 2 will be on the shelves very soon.
GHOST STORIES OF AN ANTIQUARY: VOLUME 1 / AUTHOR: M.R. JAMES / ADAPTED: LEAH MOORE, JOHN REPPION / ARTIST: ANEKE, KIT BUSS, FOUAD MEZHER, ALISDAIR WOOD / PUBLISHER: SELFMADEHERO / RELEASE DATE: OCTOBER 27TH