Monday, August 27, 2007

Dr. K's Guide to British Literature

Another school year has started, and once again I am teaching the survey of British literature, a class that one student in particular managed to pass despite frequent complaints about the lack of face kicks in the British literary canon.

Because I now have tenure, I have decided to teach works only if they have been adapted into comics form. Getting tenure was hard, and now I need a break from reading difficult literary works, especially poetry. I feel this is a nice compromise: it's still reading, after all, and I could be just watching movie adaptations if I were really lazy.

Luckily, I normally begin the Brit Lit survey with the Old English heroic poem, Beowulf, a work that is not lacking in comic adaptations. Gareth Hinds has done a nicely illustrated version that uses a limited amount of prose to tell the story. Speakeasy published a Beowulf series by Brian Augustyn and Dub, but that one imagines the hero in a contemporary setting, so I can't really substitute it for the original. And Jerry Bingham did a great, straight-up adaptation for First Comics back in 1984, but I don't have access to that book.

What I do have access to, however, is the 1970s DC series by Michael Uslan and Ricardo Villamonte, so this will have to do.

Okay, that looks like Beowulf is fighting the monster Grendel, so this looks like it will be a good, faithful adaptation. However, I don't remember there being a blonde in a bikini in the version of Beowulf I read, but maybe that was just a flaw in the translation.


Again, "The Slave Maid of Satan" does not appear in the translation I read, but I like how the phrase captures the alliterative qualities of the Old English verse. And it looks like Beowulf is fighting a dragon here, so that goes along with my memory of the poem.


So, the blonde woman's name is "Nan-Zee"? And she carries a sword? Man, I really must have stopped paying attention at some point when I read the original.


Wait a minute! Dracula?! Now I'm starting to suspect that this isn't just me, that this comic adaptation may not be very faithful to the original. I know I would remember if Beowulf fought Dracula, because that would be awesome.

Crap! Now I'm going to have to go back and read the poem after all. I hate it when comics let me down.

7 comments:

mikescholtz said...

It's too bad that Godzilla was a Marvel property in the 70s. Because "Godzilla vs. Beowulf" would be something to see...

Siskoid said...

I can't wait til you do Canterbury Tales. What you don't know about Middle English CAN hurt you.

The Wife of Bath in a chainmail bikini...

The Pardoner punching at reality's walls...

The Knight is really a Skrull...

Dr. K said...

Mike--I think if you mix and match Godzilla or Beowulf with anything, it comes out awesome. Consider these random examples taken from the 1970s:

Beowulf vs. Bruce Lee--check!

Godzilla vs. Smokey and the Bandit--check!

Beowulf vs. Reggie Jackson--check!

Siskoid--Oh, how I wish there were a comic adaptation of the Canterbury Tales--especially the Miller's Tale.

mikescholtz said...

Godzilla vs. Smokey AND the Bandit?

That hardly seems like a fair fight.

Unless Smokey IS the Bandit...

Bret said...

Yeah, but Big G don't play fair.

Ginger Yellow said...

It seems a bit odd to name a comic "Beowulf - Dragon Slayer", given that he died right after killing the dragon.

Dr. K said...

Ginger Yellow--Plus, he had help from Wiglaf while taking the dragon down. Clearly, this should be "Beowulf: Dragon Slayer*"