Monday, October 28, 2013

The worst Classic Comics/Classics Illustrated adaptation of all time--"Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" (1943)


Yes, the worst of all--and I love it.  The above images were scanned from my copy.  Not sure, offhand, what edition I have--the HRN (highest reorder number) is 28.  There's a copyright year given, but the fourth digit is illegible--1944?

Anyway, this 1943 inanity is often cited as the first-ever horror comic (or first stand-alone horror comic, or something like that), and it's great fun throughout, and I love Arnold L. Hick's gorgeous artwork, but... fangs and fright wig on Mr. Hyde?  A lovesick Dr. Jekyll?  Hyde making like Batman across rooftops?  Dialogue like (see above) "Get away from me!..." "I can't!... I AM YOU!"?  Or the priceless, "He's swinging up on something!" (Cop, watching Hyde scale a building)? Or, "Kill!... Yes... Kill!"?  A chapter entitled, "Murder Rampage"?

And Jekyll's written confession: "I discovered that by taking a certain drug I could change to the evil being you know as Hyde.  Temptation became too great.  I tried again, then couldn't stop myself"?

William B. Jones, Jr. (Classics Illustrated: A Cultural History) reports that Evelyn Goodman was responsible for this laughably bad adaptation, which he describes as "an overstated clunker afflicted with the endemic crudeness of the early issues." True.

The 1953 revision, drawn by Lou Cameron, is infinitely better, though I still like the carefree stupidity (and highly entertaining artwork) of this one.  But, as an adaptation, it really is the worst of all CI/CC adaptations, just utterly divorced from the source and less linear in its narrative than some of the comics I drew as a child.  But, somehow, classic in its own outlandish way.



  1. I would dearly love to have a scan of that whole thing to use in an ESL class I'll be teaching in the spring. (The theme is horror, and I'll be having my Japanese students read nothing but American and possibly British horror comics for the whole semester. I want to start in the Golden Age and work my way forward to the present.) On the off chance that you have more important things to do than rush to comply with the wishes of complete strangers on the Internet, I will keep looking. In a pinch I suppose I could use the 1953 version I bought from Comixology, but this one sounds vastly more fun. Anyway, thanks for the great post. Perhaps the publisher should have made the catch copy "Stories by the World's Greatest Authors Rendered by the World's Worst Hacks."

  2. Hi, Matt. I think I can do that, but not as a post (copyright issues!). But I can get it to you in zip form. Email me at hartstfeld (at sign) Thanks!

  3. Wow! Thank you so much, Lee! Message sent!