The Graphic Adaptation of The Cask of Amontillado

Joe Sacco, born October 2, 1960, is an American journalist and illustrator who is well known for his art-comics, most notably being Palestine: Refugeeland. Refugeeland recounts Sacco’s experience in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, highlighting the difficult and unpleasant conditions that the Palestinian people were facing regarding the Israeli occupation of Palestine and the Gulf War in the early nineties. Joe Sacco’s writing focuses upon the day to day experiences of a Palestinian from an outsider’s perspective.

His meticulous drawings and eyewitness reporting style combine to create a very compelling and complex visual. Edgar Allen Poe was an American author, living from January 19, 1809 – October 7, 1849, Poe is best known for his thrilling and macabre short stories. His final short story, The Cask of Amontillado, is a gloomy tale of murderous revenge, set in the catacombs of Italy, and embedded with symbolism told from a first-person narrative. Poe is a master of allegorical writing, his eerie works compel the reader to explore hidden meanings and ideas concealed within his works.

Fantographics Books should strongly consider combining the artistic and literary talents of both Joe Sacco and Edgar Allen Poe to create a graphic novel, the detail filled drawings and intellectually stimulating narrative are guaranteed to appeal to the sophisticated and cultured readership of Fantographics Books. Context: Graphic novels are very important to literature. They can illuminate and expose parts of a story to a reader that would otherwise be hidden within the text.

Through the use of visual imagery, the reader can gain more information and decipher parts of the story from a graphic novel that would other wise be assumed or lost in the text alone, such as the author’s intent. Graphic novels can also be read by a much larger audience than text stories, this is due to the fact that graphic novels do not solely rely on the text to tell the story. This would be most beneficial for publishing a story in an international market where the story would have to be translated to different languages. The reader can view the images and interpret the overarching idea of the story without having to read the text.

An example of this can be seen in Robert Crumb’s visual interpretation of Franz Kafka’s short story, A Hunger Artist. The text version of the story was originally written in German, the story was then translated to English and many other languages around the world. Because of the difference in translations, some of the original meaning behind the story may have been lost. The difference between the text and illustrated versions of the story are very noticeable. An example can be seen in the different descriptions of artist himself. In Kafka’s version, the hunger artist is described as “…

a pale figure with enormously protruding ribs…. nodding politely…. answering questions with a forced smile… ” (465). In the graphic version of the story, Crumbs depiction is very different from realistic. While it makes no textual description of the hunger artist, it illustrates him as a very disturbed and reclusive man sitting in the back of an animal cage, he is not nodding politely or smiling, and he also appears to be on the verge of death (927). The visual depiction from the graphic novel aids in transforming the readers understanding of the text, otherwise the reader may be lost in translation.

Why “The Cask of Amontillado” and Joseph Sacco: The descriptive details of a captivating story should be at the forefront of importance when beginning to create a graphic novel. It will eventually become the foundation for the drawings. Without such detail, the graphic novel will be unappealing to most readers, and because of this, the sales of the novel will suffer. For the best possible outcome regarding readership and sales, Fantographics Books should publish an illustrated version of Edgar Allan Poe’s short horror-story, The Cask of Amontillado.

Poe’s dark and eerie narrative depicts the death of a person by being buried alive from a murder’s perspective. The story is overflowing with vivd imagery and detail. One such example from the story would be when the main character Montresor begins to lead Fortunato down the stairs into the catacombs of Montresor, “I took their sconces two flambeaux, and giving one to Fortunato, bowed him through several suites of rooms to the archway that lead into the vaults.

I passed down a long and winding staircase, requesting him to be cautious as he followed. We came to the length to the foot of the descent, and stood together on the damp ground of the catacombs of Montresor” (724). It is clear to see how much detail is bound into one small paragraph, his choice in adjectives and his use of first-person pronouns such as “We” and “I” allow the reader to envision them selves in the story, which is an excellent starting point for developing a drawing.

Poe establishes a very absorbing and thrilling tale through his use of such imagery, and this is precisely why Fantographics Books should strongly consider publishing an illustrated graphic version of The Cask of Amontillado. The artist who could best illustrate the graphic version of The Cask of Amontillado would be Joe Sacco. Joe Sacco has a background in journalistic reporting, a career that requires serious attention to detail to clearly and accurately relay all of the facts in a news story.

In his artistic renderings, Joe Sacco uses an exorbitant amount of detail, which would mesh well with the many details and symbolisms within Poe’s writings. One such example would be from Joe Sacco’s graphic novel Refugeeland. The illustration in particular is on the second page of the story. It is a two page spread that depicts an arial view of a city. The graphic weight of the image leads the viewer’s eye around the drawing, the primary source being Sacco’s use of crosshatching to fill the different spacial grounds.

It is filled with all of the normal things one would see in a city, such as buildings, cars, and people, except every possible space in the spread is filled with the tiniest detail. There are no text boxes or areas for dialogue on this spread, allowing the viewer to contemplate all of the details in the scene. Sacco makes every part of the image important, he doesn’t focus on a particular object or person, which allows for different symbols or elements to be incorporated into the drawing.

Poe is an author who uses symbolism is all parts of his writings, including character names, settings, colors, and diction. All of these symbols work together to create an intellectually stimulating story that causes the reader to pause and reconsider certain aspects hidden within the writing. The aura of mystery surrounding the setting of Edgar Allen Poe’s writing combined with the first-person perspectives in the illustrations of Joe Sacco would make this an exceptional pairing for Fantographics books to publish. Preview:

In the middle of the story there is a scene where Montresor and Fortunato are in the catacombs, it is filled with various complex details describing the ambience of the crypt while the men carry out their vain attempt at finding the Amontillado, “We passed through a range of low arches, descended, passed on, and descending again, arrived at a deep crypt, in which the foulness of the air caused our flambeaux to glow than flame… the walls had been lined with human remains… ” (725). In this scene, Joe Sacco will illustrate a two page splash capturing the entire crypt.

In this splash, he will capture the intricate details of the catacombs by using hatching technique done with pen and ink. He will show the men descending past the different arches of the crypt from their perspective to make the reader feel like they are walking into the catacombs with the men too. When he illustrates this scene he will use a range of values to establish the fore, middle, and background, this will encapsulate a very important moment in the story that will lead the reader’s eye across the page and provide an opportunity to place symbols that Poe is known for into the drawing.

His use of contrasting values in the scene will also convey the tone, which will be very grim and foreboding. Joe Sacco’s elaborate adaptation will be ideal for Poe’s mysterious short story. Challenges and Unknowns: Although it may be argued that Joe Sacco’s background as a journalist is not appropriate for such a monstrous fictional tale like The Cask of Amontillado, especially considering all other artistic possibilities, Joe Sacco is the most qualified artist for the job.

Attention to detail is a major necessity for any artist who is thinking about taking on such a detail-rich story like The Cask of Amontillado, which is brimming with symbolism and subtle details. Joe Sacco’s background as a journalist is perfect for The Cask of Amontillado. In his career he focused upon depicting the perspective of the Palestinian people, his eyewitness style of writing is very fitting for the firsthand narration that Montresor delivers to the readers, which is evidence of Sacco’s ability to transform Poe’s writing into a graphic novel.

Honorable Mention: Another artistic and literary combination that Fantographics Books could have possibly considered would be the pairing of Art Spiegelman, author and illustrator of Prisoner on the Hell Planet, with A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Spiegelman’s simplistic illustrations integrated with the magical realism of Marquez would have made for a very interesting combination. Visually, it would be very stimulating.

Spiegelman has a sort of crazed intensity to his drawings, I think it would have been fun to see the bizarre happenings of A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings portrayed in a woodblock printing style. Ultimately, I decided to work with Sacco and Poe because visually and allegorically there is so much more to work with. I enjoy the macabre and thrilling nature of Poe’s writing more than magical realism that Marquez is known for. I also enjoy the realistic and complex style that Joe Sacco has as compared with Art Spiegelman, whose drawings are rather flat and disorganized.

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