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Wednesday, October 8, 2014

This Adaptation Isn't Scandalous

Adaptations of Sherlock Holmes stories, in any media, can be wonderful, wretched, or somewhere in between. I found the Czech writer-artist Peter 's Kopl's graphic novel of "A Scandal in Bohemia," which is combined with "The Speckled Band," to be one of the most delightful I've encoutnered.

Let's start with the art work, which is certainly key to any graphic novel. The exaggerated images of Holmes and Watson are a early tip-off that this isn't a a slavish retelling of the Canonical stories. It's more like a creative re-envisioning that at times borders on parody. Kopl plays with the source material, with which he is clearly familiar, and has a lot of fun doing it. I had fun reading it.

For example, when the King of Bohemia tells the story of his romance with Irene Adler, the steam from his coffee makes a heart shape. When Watson goes to Holmes's files, the drawer including C's and D's is labeled Conan-Doyle.

And then there's dialogue like this:

WATSON: "Oh . . . Mrs. Hudson you haven't changed a day."
MRS. HUDSON: "But you are getting fat. What do you want?
WATSON: "I missed your charm."

Clearly, we aren't supposed to take this seriously, and so I didn't take offense that Kopl takes the conclusion of both stories into new directions -- blood-curdling in the case of "The Speckled Band" and clever in "A Scandal in Bohemia."

Along the way Kopl livens the story with cameo appearances by Dorian Grey, Mrs. Hyde, the Frankenstein monster ("I am not a monster"), Phileas Fogg, the Solitary Cyclist, and Mata Hari.

The resulting graphic novel deservedly won the Fabula Rasa, a Czech award for the best screenplay, the best artwork, and the best comic book of 2013, as well as plaudits from the Czech Society of Sherlock Holmes.

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