The heart of darkness

The heart of darkness
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First Published: Sat, Jan 19 2008. 12 27 AM IST

Secret lives: A retelling of the Jack the Ripper story.
Secret lives: A retelling of the Jack the Ripper story.
Updated: Sat, Jan 19 2008. 12 27 AM IST
This column has gotten off to a good start in 2008.
Early in the year, your favourite columnist managed to lay his hands on a bunch of Phantom comics—he convinced the owner of a library in Chennai to part with it on very generous terms. Denkali is called Bengali in these books, and experts (there are several as far as the Phantom is concerned) have it that the Phantom’s author Lee Falk did get his geographies mixed up a bit because he did start off with Bengali and then changed the name to Denkali. In one of his famous Old Jungle Sayings, Falk says: “Cold voice of angry Phantom can chill tiger’s blood.” Africa doesn’t have tigers, say experts (and they are right). So, it would seem like Falk mixed up Africa and India while writing the Phantom books
Secret lives: A retelling of the Jack the Ripper story.
This column isn’t about the Phantom, though. That will have to wait till your columnist thinks he has enough of the Phantom books.
This version of CF is about From Hell, Alan Moore’s retelling of the Jack the Ripper story.
It is also about the darkness that lives in all of us.
In Moore’s telling of the story, Sir William Gull, one of the people actually suspected of being the ripper, is the person going around killing and mutilating women of the night, but the book isn’t as much about the killings themselves as it is about the reasons why Gull does what he does.
Moore’s story, illustrated by Eddie Campbell in a style that first strikes the reader as unfinished and then grows on him or her, is, in parts, an architectural history of London, a look into the secret lives of the Freemasons, and, at the core of it, an attempt to understand a core of darkness in the heart of a man who had no reason to go around killing (and eviscerating) people. From Hell is also a historical crime story because Moore tries to stick as close as he can to the actual facts and investigation of the ripper killings. One of the things about graphic novels, or comics, is that they sometimes deal with subjects and stories that cannot be told through any other media. From Hell is one such book—pure prose would have killed it. And celluloid, as that disastrous movie version of the book starring Johnny Depp and Heather Graham proved, almost certainly did.
From Hell isn’t an easy book to read—the references come thick and fast and it is easy to miss them, especially if, like this columnist, you do not like to read annotations—but most good books aren’t.
Write to Sukumar at cultfiction@livemint.com
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First Published: Sat, Jan 19 2008. 12 27 AM IST
More Topics: Books | Comics | Phantom | Novels | Media |