Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Classics - The Hobbit

Back in the late '60s J.R.R. Tolkein's trilogy The Lord of the Rings was almost required reading.

As a teen I picked up copies at a bookstore, but I realized that I should read the book that led into the trilogy first, so I tackled The Hobbit - but I didn't get far. By the time I was about 50 pages in, I put it down - it was just too difficult to wade through, learning about the language, the characters, the customs of Middle Earth.

I ran into my English teacher one day (Mrs. Goodwin lived in my neighborhood), and she asked me what I was reading (I was always reading something). I told her about trying to read The Hobbit, and she smiled and said, "You should keep trying - it's a great book. It's tough to read for about 100 pages - and then the rest of it flies by."

Inspired, I dusted the book off and tried again, slogging through those early pages again - and just like she said, at some point the weight lifted and the book was over before I knew it - and what a terrific book it was! The trilogy soon followed, and I was a fan of Tolkien for life!

So it was with a small amount of trepidation that I approached Eclipse's adaptation of The Hobbit (in 1989) - it's always a little scary when one of your favorite books gets adapted into another medium, because it never lives up to your imagination.

Well, almost never. Here's the exception.

Adapted by Chuck Dixon, who's best known for wild and wooly action tales, this comic shows what a fine writer he is, as he stays incredibly faithful to the original. He knows when to let the pictures do their part, and when to weave the story through elegant wordsmithing.

He is perfectly teamed with artist David Wetzel, who turns in some amazing illustrations here. Many artists have taken a stab at depicting the residents of Middle Earth, and I have to say that I think Wetzel is the best of the bunch.

His Gandalf is equal parts power, mystery and majesty. The story is loaded with amazing detail, action, adventure, near misses, humor and affection - just like the original!

This adaptation has been printed and re-printed many times over, and is available on the Internet (Amazon has numerous copies). It's just a shame that this team didn't follow this up with an adaptation of the trilogy. Ah, we can dream.

So, to recap: highly recommended, great adaptation, and thanks again, Mrs. Goodwin, for talking me into not giving up on what became one of my all-time favorite books!

Grade: A+

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