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Cover art by Lisa Weber

"Carmilla" as written by Rod Lot and illustrated by Lisa K. Weber and published in Gothic Classics in 2007 is a graphic novel adapted from J.S. Le Fanu's "Carmilla ," a novella introducing one of the earliest accounts of a female vampire. This vampire story in all of its Gothic tropes has significant undertones of female same-sex desire raising questions about sexuality as well as love and fear. 

What about this adaptation?Edit

What is so interesting about this particular adaptation or iteration of this text can be found in the choice of words, plot arrangement, and art style.


Text Choice- Edit

Most of the text is taken directly from the parent text or the original "Carmilla" by Le Fanu. This adaptation did not feel the need to update the 19th century language to appeal to a younger audience, which the style and publication suggests the works are directed at. This decision and the adapters' parts seems to suggest a move toward fidelity to the original text instead of a focus on updating the text for a modern audience. Thought the text is not "updated" for a younger audience, it is still easy to read and engrossing. For the sake of brevity, it is noticeable that some of the text is not directly from the novel, but there is no noticeable change in style between the two.


Plot Choice- Edit

This attempt to be faithful to the original text is also seen in the fact that the adapters did not take pains to alter too many plot sequences. Their play with plot comes with the insertion of the scene on page 23. While Laura is sleeping, she thinks she hears her mother warning her, and when she looks up she sees Carmilla covered in blood. This is an addition to the original text, and may be inspired by other adaptations that also insert this scene. This may simply be an omage to the adaptations that came before it, or Lott and Weber are attempting to add a little horror to a traditionally creepy tale that is more subtle than slasher horror films and texts may lend themselves to.


Even though this iteration of "Carmilla" is directed to a younger audience, the adapters decided the sexual tension was important enough for the narrative such that they kept the hint of sexuality as it is also subtle in the original. This is seen in the text bubbles as Carmilla whispers of love to Laura as well as the images of a shadow (Carmilla) kissing Laura in bed. Compared to other iterations of the tale which either play up the romance or ignore it entirely, the fact that this specific adaptation kept the subtle romance either speaks to the adapters' attempted fidelity to the original or the appeal that the original text still has for a modern audience.


Choice of Medium- Edit

The fact that this particular adaptation or iteration of "Carmilla" is in a graphic novel may also be due to the fact that this particular publication is directed at the previously mentioned younger audience which is more likely to watch a movie or read a graphic novel than read a book. The conventions of a graphic novel are that they are generally shorter than a novel and images can be used to show what the text would have to explain or describe, thus saving time and keeping the reader's interest.


Art style- Edit

What may be most amusing about this text is the style in which it is drawn and specifically the choice of smudgy pencil instead of crisp ink. Gothic tales understandably work well with stark contrasts of black ink against a white background using stipple techniques to create shading and depth, but Weber decided to use pencil and we can even see the strokes and the gray areas of shading. The effect is such that one may feel with the lack of strait-lined panels and the unfinished look of a pencil sketch on paper that we are viewing thoughtful doodles that a bored and talented student decided to complete over a few class periods. 
Images (1)

Example from graphic novel


What can we say about this sense? Does it make it seem childish, less finished? Does it help this particular adaptation stand in contrast to other Gothic graphic novels, or other graphic novels in general with their neat lines and solid ink? It can be argued that this artistic choice appeals to the audience of teenagers whom the anthology is directed toward by bringing the images into alignment with the audience's physical and daily reality of pencil on paper. It may even inspire students to practice their own art on paper.


This move from computer generated art and clean lines to a more physical and almost intimate and easily accessible medium of pencil on paper makes the reader feel closer to the art of graphic novels and stands separate from other illustrated works that graphic novel audiences are used to. 


The character style that Weber creates may also remind readers of other Gothic types of images that the more modern audience may be aware of such as Tim Burton. This easily situates "Carmilla" the graphic novel as part of a familiar community and helps support the Gothic and creepy tone of the text for the modern reader who is used to certain types of animated creepy tales.


Extra resources to considerEdit

Lisa Weber's work can be found at creatureco.com

Find out more information about the writer, Rod Lott, at rodlott.com


Some film adaptations:Edit

A list of other adaptations and allusions to "Carmilla" may be found at:Edit

Sources:Edit

Lott, Rod (w) and Lisa K. Weber (a)."Carmilla."Adapted from Joseph Seridan Le Fanu's "Carmila." Gothic Classics Vol. 14. Ed. Tom Pumplun. Eureka Productions. 2007.


Contributor(s): Alexis StephensonEdit