This writer has always felt that Neil Gaiman (before you go “Oh no, not another column about that Gaiman fella”, Constant Reader, tell me, do you think it is possible to write about what’s happening in the world of tennis, circa 2008, without referring to Messrs Nadal and Federer or the amazing Williams sisters?) is a hybrid version of Stephen King and Roald Dahl in the nicest way possible and one of his early works of prose fiction, Coraline, has served well as Exhibit A (What? You’ve never read Erle Stanley Gardner?) in the case for this.
Mystery door: Coraline’s life changes one day when she opens the door.
Well, the case just got better, thanks to P. Craig Russell’s graphic novel adaptation of that novel. The enthusiasm shown by A-list comic-book writers and illustrators to adapt Gaiman’s works of prose is probably one indication of the man’s standing (just as it is an indication of the visual appeal of his stories, even when they are without visuals). Mike Carey adapted Neverwhere, a Gaiman book that began life as a BBC script. Now, it’s Russell’s turn with a 2008 release of Coraline the comic book. Now, Russell is no lightweight in the business. He is the man who did the comic-book versions of Elric, a character created by Michael Moorcock. And he is the man who did the comic-book version of Wagner’s The Ring of the Nibelung.
There is a sense of refinement about the typical Russell illustration that appears to suit Gaiman’s prose well — the two collaborated on one of this writer’s favourite Sandman stories, Ramadan. That sense of refinement works perfectly in Coraline, a book of such subtle terror that it is actually being pitched at children and young adults.
Coraline is the story of a young girl who moves into a new house in the country with her mother and father. One day, she opens a door in her house and finds she has another set of parents (only these have buttons instead of eyes). The new mother wants Coraline for her own. Coraline herself isn’t so sure. Then her own parents disappear. The rest of the book tells the story of how she outwits her “other” mother and rescues her parents.
Russell tells this simple but engaging story simply and engagingly. The result, though, could well be 2008’s comic of the year.
Write to Sukumar at firstname.lastname@example.org