Rafael Sabatini was am extremely popular author in the early part of the 20th century. His “Captain Blood” books were best-sellers in their time, and Sabatini had a fruitful career in Hollywood for a time, creating epic adventure stories for the likes of Errol Flynn. Now the Graphic Classics series visits the work of Sabatini. Unfortunately, while there are nods to the action and excitement of the worlds that Sabatini created, his stories are a little slow when published in comics form in this book. I wanted to go crazy over this volume, but instead I just enjoyed it.
The problem is that Sabatini was a very verbose writer, as was the fashion at the time, and his writing doesn’t translate well into comics form. He simply loved words too much, and his stories had too many twists and turns, for them to emerge as graphically compelling narratives in comics. For instance, Rich Tommaso’s adaptation of Sabaini’s story “The Dream” should have been an exciting story of murder, hypnotism, and a love triangle. Tommaso had 32 pages to translate the story into comics, but even at such length, the story feels tremendously wordy. It’s simply too dense and introspective a story to fit in such a length; instead, the piece feels overwhelmed by its narrative.
Carlo Vergara’s adaptation of “Captain Blood” has a similar problem. The story is famous as a rollicking sword and sorcery adventure yarn, but even at 40 pages, the piece feels a bit wordy. Perhaps I was looking for a Hollywood take on the story rather than the more literary take that this book provides, and therefore I was looking for fewer words and more pictures. But the wonderful high adventure of the story seemed to be lost in the long expository pieces.
Not every story has this problem, though. Mort Castle and Kevin Atkinson’s biography of Sabatini, “Desperately Seeking Sabatini”, is a clever and intriguing biography of the writer that helps add perspective to the book. Meanwhile, Roger Langridge’s adaptation of “The Spiritualist” zips along nicely despite its wordy style, and Milton Knight’s odd and baroque adaptation of “The Fool’s Love Story” is full of a wonderful high energy style.
Overall, this book is a nice collection of high adventure and twist ending yarns. It’s a bit wordy and literary, but Graphic Classics: Rafael Sabatini is also a nice introduction to a wonderful, and unjustly forgotten, writer.