Ossus Library Index
Fantasy Index


by J.R.R. Tolkien
illustrated by David Wenzel, and adapted by Charles Dixon, with Sean Deming
(1989, Ballantine Books)

A reluctant adventurer goes in search of a dragon's gold, rescuing his Dwarven friends and getting his hands on a magic ring along the way.


-- Second reading (trade paperback)
July 21st to 23rd, 2001


An excellent rendition of the novel, with outstanding artwork.  But the condescending nature of the novel should have been written out of this adaptation, and there is way too much description, where the sketches could have stood on their own.

The artwork was truly spectacular.  I wonder if it is the effect of aging, but the artwork seems to be a little dull in terms of its coloring.  I seem to remember it being quite vibrant.  But it also looks to me like the author chose the colors I am seeing with care.  In any case, the attention to detail was astounding, considering how many text call-outs there were.  The edges of each page had a frayed border, as did the description boxes.  Vistas were not as well done, as the little things were barely drawn, but that is natural for most comic artists.  But the inside of Bilbo's house, and Smaug's treasure, were only a few of the great pages that I could have stared at for a long time, just soaking in the details.  If there is anything to praise about this book, it is the artwork.

The thing that always bothered me about The Hobbit was its condescending nature.  It was written for children, but you don't have to be condescending to speak to that age group.  And in a comic book, that tone can mean that a comic is never looked at again.  Instead of correcting it (by leaving out phrases like "...as you shall soon see..." and others), the authors keep it in, taking up valuable space that could have been given to telling artwork.  

The authors who adapted this from Tolkien's novel also didn't seem to edit much of it out.  The scene where Bilbo climbs up a short tree in a much taller forest to see if they were at the edge was noticeably missing, and I am sure there was much more that had been cut, as would be expected from a graphic adaptation such as this one.  But I do not expect to read a novel when I pick up a comic.  Most of the call-outs contain a narrative, which uses tones that I am sure I would see directly in the novel (very British, but also cluttered with words and words...).  I think the pictures should have been left to tell the story on its own, with only a little narrative for clarification, and lots more, revised, dialog.  Most of the dialog comes directly out of the book, which means the characters are quite long-winded.  Difficult to do in a comic.

Having said that, the story was told terrifically.  The narrative was used in good form in many cases, such as when they became lost in Mirkwood, and especially when Bilbo met up with Gollum and exchanged riddles in the dark.  

Anyway, this is a form of the book that I can pick up at any time and browse through, as the entire story is there, without having to read most of it to find out what happens.  I had forgotten lots of this story, such as the spider attack, Bilbo's taking the Arkenstone from Thorin, the way he sweet-talked the dragon, and the very funny episode with the trolls ("what's a burrahobbit?" refering to Bilbo's slip of the tongue, about to say he's a burglar).  There were many parts that I was looking forward to, though, as I remembered the nicely drawn rescue of the dwarves by the eagles, and the destruction of Laketown, and, of course, the dwarves hiding in the barrels!  I was not disappointed there.

So it is worth looking at, I think, even if it is not quite as good as the novel.  Because the artwork is wonderful, and the story is one that doesn't get old.  Plus, it is a great prelude to the Lord of the Rings movies, due out in less than six months, now!


-- First reading (trade paperback)
April 27th to 30th, 1992


No review available.


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