Vampires are all the rage these days, with Twilight and True Blood, and no doubt Johnny Depp will make his mark on the genre next month with Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows. But everyone knows there would be no vampire tales today if not for the granddaddy of them all, Dracula.
Now, Harper Design has released a new illustrated edition of Bram Stoker‘s 1897 novel with art by illustrator and comic book artist Becky Cloonan (American Virgin, Conan The Barbarian). This illustrated classics edition is not a mash-up or an redo — this is the full version as written by Stoker, the words are exactly the same, nothing has been changed or deleted. What is different about this version of the novel is that it is now a 384-page hardcover book which contains more than 50 original illustrations by Cloonan and it’s damn gorgeous.
Cloonan was given the freedom to choose which scenes she wanted to render, and her selections were spot-on. The artwork appears throughout the text as side panels, as well as top and bottom panels; 2-page spreads; borders, and spot illustrations. She appropriately chose dark tones, working mainly with black, red, and shades of pale blue and gray. While Cloonan has been doing great interior art and covers for many comic books series, including Dark Horse’s current Conan The Barbarian run and her self-published mini-comic Wolves, she’s elevated her artwork to another level in Dracula. There’s still a hint of her comic book influence here, which is a bonus, but she’s taken a more fine art approach for this book. Since she’s unfettered from the usual small panels of a comic book issue, she’s really able to shine.
Having read Dracula many times, as it’s a favorite of mine, when I browsed through the book for the first time to get a feel for the art, I was immediately delighted to see depictions of classic moments from the story like Dracula’s lack of reflection in the mirror, the Count scaling down the castle wall, the seduction of Jonathan Harker by the vampire Sisters, and the Captain of the Demeter at the wheel of the ship (you can see this last one here just below). Those few moments are only from the beginning of the novel before Count Dracula even makes it to his final destination, where — putting it lightly — you ain’t seen nothing yet.
The original story is told through a series of letters, journal entries, and ship logs, so if this is your first time reading Dracula, then the illustrated edition is a great way to be introduced to the characters and story. If you’ve already read the novel, this new edition will entice you into revisiting this classic tale. I had a great time re-reading Dracula and experiencing it again through Cloonan’s eyes. This attractive hardcover would also make a great gift for someone who’s already a fan of the novel. With ebooks becoming more popular and decreasing the amount of physical space needed to store your books, this new illustrated hardcover edition of Dracula will compel you to add a new printed book to your collection.
Note – this new illustrated edition is also available for the Kindle. I received an advanced copy of the hardcover book, so I didn’t get to preview the Kindle version. I think that if you have a full-color ebook reader or device, like the Kindle Fire or an iPad, then you’ll be able to appreciate the new artwork in ebook form as well.
Below are two samples of the artwork from Dracula. You can check out a few more pages from the book over at Cloonan’s site.