Monday, 4 February 2008

Is he dead, then? Poke 'im with a stick to find out

Hhrmmhm! Oh, sorry, I must have dozed off. Now, where was I?

Oh, yes, Judy Drood, girl detective.

(panel from Mad Night by Richard Sala, Fantagraphics Books, 2005)

In issue 287 of The Comics Journal, Bill Sherman writes of Judy Drood in his review of The Grave Robber’s Daughter that “her name evokes both Nancy Drew and ancient Celtic rituals”.

It took that issue of The Comics Journal a month to cross the Atlantic, and it has taken me a few weeks to get around to reading it all, so by now Bill Sherman is probably fed up with people reminding him of Charles Dickens’s final, unfinished, novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood.

So far as I know, Dickens made up the name “Drood”. Certainly, if you Google it, you’ll find no real people in the first couple of hundred hits. His manuscript notes show that he started with the name “Brood”, and played with variants such as “Brude” and “Drude” before settling on “Drood”.

None of which means that Sherman (or Sala, for that matter) can’t come up with his own associations, of course.

Incidentally, the cover illustration reproduced above is probably more pored-over than any other picture drawn to accompany any of Dickens’s works, in the hope that it might provide clues to how Dickens would have finished the story. It is by Luke Fildes, who shortly thereafter gave up illustration work to concentrate on portrait painting, ending up as a member of the Royal Academy and a Knight to boot. But I have to say that his illustrations are generally very stiff and bland, and hardly deserve to be considered alongside the work of his predecessors on Dickens’s novels, Cruikshank and Phiz. Indeed, next time you find yourself wondering why a first-rate comics writer like, say, Grant Morrison, is so often lumbered with second-rate artists, remember that it happened to the most successful novelist of the nineteenth century, too.


Charley Wag said...

The most interesting examination of Luke Fildes Drood cover was in a little expensive book I once read in a bookshop published circa 1902. I can't recall the title but the author was certain that the guilty person illuminated by the lantern was a woman.

Steve Flanagan said...

I suspect that he may have been misled by Fildes's doll-like faces!