Ray Bradbury has been one of my favorite authors ever since I read “All Summer in a Day” in 7th grade. So I was thrilled to see that IDW is publishing Shadow Show, a tribute to the famed author made up of short stories by numerous writers. More accurately, Shadow Show is a comic adaptation of a book that came out shortly after Ray Bradbury’s death (though it was being worked on before he died, and even contains a forward by him).
The first issue of Shadow Show contained only one story: “By the Silver Water of Lake Champlain.” The second issue, however, has two: “The Man Who Forgot Ray Bradbury,” based on a story by Neil Gaiman, and “Backwards in Seville,” by Audrey Niffenegger. You might be forgiven for thinking that there are three stories in this issue, since the name Mort Castle is also displayed on the cover along with the other two. Castle is the editor of the prose collection, and adapted “The Man Who Forgot Ray Bradbury” for this one (Niffenegger did her own adaptation).
“The Man Who Forgot Ray Bradbury” is one of those titles that tells you exactly what it’s about. A man, speaking directly to the reader, explains that he keeps forgetting words, and in particular is troubled by his inability to recall a certain author. Castle makes a valiant attempt at adaptation, and Maria Frölich’s art is quite good (although that “forest” on page 10 really isn’t), but ultimately the whole endeavor feels like a fool’s errand. Gaiman originally wrote the story as a monologue, and quite frankly a lot is lost in the translation. You can listen to Gaiman recite the story for an audience here. In fact, I encourage you to do so, as this story really works best as a performance piece.
“Backwards in Seville” tells the story of a middle aged woman who reflects on a wasted life as she takes a European cruise with her elderly father. This one managed to be an even bigger disappointment than the first story, because while I would be hard-pressed to tell you how “The Man Who Forgot Ray Bradbury” could have been better-adapted, that is not the case here. Niffenegger could have adapted her story into an actual comics format with ease. Instead, she has given us walls of text interspersed with some pictures. Now, I actually liked the story. The Ray Bradbury influence was strong in this one. But somebody else should have adapted it. Furthermore, it should have had a different artist. I really hated the art in this story. The vast majority of it looked like it was made in MS Paint. I’m not joking. Other times, the artist, Eddie Campbell, used photographs. And the whole thing is put together more like a children’s book than a comic. The art of sequential storytelling makes no appearance here.
I liked Shadow Show #1. It was a good story and well-adapted. But as for this issue – skip it!
P.S.: If for some reason you do pick up this comic, don’t read the forward for “Backwards in Seville.” It completely spoils the ending. I don’t know why it wasn’t an afterward.