The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien (1990)
In 1989 Eclipse Comics produced a three-part adaptation of The Hobbit by Chuck Dixon, Sean Deming and illustrated by David Wenzel. A year later, due to public demand, this was subsequently re-issued as a single graphic novel that has remained in print ever since. The writers wisely chose to sensitively abridge Tolkien’s source text, rather than adapted the story and make any major changes. Hence this graphic novel version of The Hobbit retains much of the dialogue from the original novel and subsequently maintains the book’s inherent charm. There are no major plot omissions and the narrative flows well. The panel layouts are innovative and accommodate a wealth of written material without overwhelming the artwork.
Tolkien's The Hobbit is a substantially different book to in comparison to The Lord of The Rings both in narrative style and tone. It was squarely aimed as children and takes a much lighter tone than its sequel. Artist David Wenzel captures this aspect superbly with rich, colourful illustrations. His visualisation of Middle-earth is lush and very European. His depiction of Bilbo Baggins, is suitably ruddy cheeked and rustic. He also distils the characters age and placid demeanour very well. His Goblins are scary but not the feral, demonic entities we see in Peter Jackson’s movies. His Dwarves are regal and less military than other depictions. Gandalf is especially understated, looking more like a village elder than a wizard. Overall the artwork is vivid, and all the characters are clearly defined, which significantly contributes to the readers emotional investment.
Part of the great appeal of Tolkien's work is the mental imagery that it inspires among readers. Tolkien often gave detailed description of people and places but always provided scope for those reading his books to conjure up their own unique interpretations. However, over the years a strong consensus on visual interpretations has developed, due to the popularity of Alan Lee's and John Howe's body of work. Their influence is such that both worked as creative consultants on both of Peter Jackson’s movie trilogies. David Wenzel's graphics are very different from this perceived status quo, yet clearly captures the essence of the story and offers strong characterisations. The Hobbit graphic novel also provides a great alternative introduction to Tolkien's work, without compromising the Professors narrative skills. This version of The Hobbit is therefore a welcome addition to anyone's bookshelf.