It is well known that the fascination for the Romantics is not limited to English Literature scholars and students. It extends to all the corners of popular culture, including music (from opera to Bowie’s Blue Jean), television (BBC’S 2003 Byron, a biopic starring Jonny Lee Miller), cinema (from The Bride of Frankenstein, 1935 to the upcoming A Storm in the Stars), theatre (Arcadia), musicals (Monsters of the Villa Diodati); and notably, novels (contemporary to the period, such as the three volumes of Glenarvon, penned by Lady Caroline Lamb herself or Polidori’s The Vampyre; and otherwise: Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell). However, my interest here is not to attempt to collect all Romantic portrayals and/or cameos in pop culture, but to share with you some less known -and considerably less publicized- works: comics and illustrations featuring Byron, Shelley, Mary W. Shelley or their poetry and creations. Comic book artists use social media as a platform to make their works reach their audience, sometimes inviting readers to donate or buy, sometimes simply as means to make themselves known in a very competitive -and aggressively so- editorial world. The following is only a selection of several illustrators, some relatively well-known in the Twitter and Tumblrverses, others less so, but all of them incredibly talented young people that found in the Romantics a source of inspiration to produce remarkable pieces, be those humoristic interpretations, fictionalised biographies or poems brought to life.
History of a Six Weeks Tour
Eva Rust is a self employed illustrator. In 2013, she partially illustrated History of a Six Weeks Tour, Mary W. Shelley’s travel narrative: “Book I made with texts by Mary Shelley and her husband Percy Shelley. In the back of the book is a map so one can follow their journey while reading.” Check it out. I would love to be able to have this piece of art in my hands, it is not only original and aesthetically pleasing, but also informative and well researched. Rust’s illustrations bring to life Mary, Percy and Claire and make an already engaging reading enjoyable and exciting.
Percy Shelley’s famous poem has become a source of inspiration for several graphic artists. I would like to highlight the work of two of them.
Justin Oaksford, who defines himself as a “concept\vis-dev artist” recently shared online his debut comic, based on Shelley’s poem. Oaksford places the story in an engaging and mesmerizing fantasy AU, and gives the poetic voice to a female protagonist, Suha. It is an absolute joy in so many ways, and accomplishes something very difficult: to make the reader feel like he is before something new, yet familiar. In his bio, he states that he would like to “tell diverse, emotional stories”, and he succeeds in this wonderful adaptation. Check it out here.
Gavin Aung Than is a cartoonist and creator of Zen Pencils, a website where he shares his favourite poems and quotes in comic format. His cartoons are available to download in pdf format. You can find his take on Ozymandias here.
Beka Duke is an “aspiring artist” working on the following idea: “What if Frankenstein’s creation did not die and lived on to become the Phantom of the Opera?”. Fantom-Stein is a very original literary crossover that combines fiction and illustration in an ambitious project. You can read it here.
And finally, everybody’s favourite Nova Scotian author, and the best known of the featured in this list. But it would be unforgivable to miss to mention her take on the Romantics, an absolute delight. Beaton’s comics are not only funny or well characterised but also didactic. Well, didactic might not be the word, but where is the lie? Enjoy!
Cartoons are a different and enjoyable way to approach the Romantic myth and their protagonists, and one I personally will always support. Keep up the good work!
If you would like me to read and consider including in this list another artist/project, let me know!