Illustrated Edgar Allan Poe

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EDGAR ALLAN POE REVIEW I must confess that as I sat down to read Rosebud Graphic Classics: Edgar Allan Poe (Issue 1, 2001), a compilation by various artists and illustrators of classic Poe stories and poems, my attention was not undivided. The comic book had competition from the TV. I was about to turn it off when ABC's latest prime time game show, The Chair, came on. John McEnroe, the most tortured of tennis' great champions, has found a second career tormenting contestants as they vie for $250,000 in prize money by answering questions while strapped into a supercharged dental chair that measures their heart rate. In order to win, contestants must not only answer all questions correctly but also keep their beating hearts under control while subjected to the host's awkward banter calculated to unnerve, flames that emerge from the floor, bursting balloons and even a live alligator dangled inches from the face. In the ordeal, contestants are revved like engines, their palpitations monitored and displayed like a red-lining tachometer. Each time a human heart flutters too fast, prize money drains away like blood from an embalmed corpse. How, I wondered, could the lowly medium of comic art or Graphic Classics with its pen and ink sketches in glorious black and white compete with The Chair, a game show that seems to be hatched from the mind of Poe himself? How, for example, could Rick Geary's capable but unremarkable storyboarding of "The Tell-Tale Heart" compete with a show that makes the murmurs of anybody's tell-tale heart visible on screen and throws in "The Pit and the Pendulum" no extra charge? It may not exactly be a fair comparison but it may be an inevitable one, and it may also be one that is invited by this new compilation. Graphic Classics finds itself in the surprising position of being a representative of a slightly stodgier pop cultural medium, an instrument of pop canonization—like a new edition of collected stories—while the horror of Poe may be conveyed through the crasser vehicle of a game show. However, as Poe was the arch-theorist of that class of compositions "not to exceed in length what might be perused in an hour," it is still altogether fitting that a medium such as the comic book that has either rightly or wrongly been accused of catering to the minimal attention span would continue to promote Poe. In his introduction to Graphic Classics, "The East Texas Po' Kid Finds Poe and Hopes You Will Too," Joe R.
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