November 6th, 2007


The Nightmare Factory: Based on the Stories of Thomas Ligotti

Fox Atomic's graphic novel The Nightmare Factory is an exciting experiment, though one that does not entirely succeed, in my opinion. As adaptations go, the writers and artists here do an admirable job. The problem is that Thomas Ligotti's work centers so much around the interal rather than the external (his work is comprised almost entirely of first person narratives), and focuses so much on atmosphere over action, that the stories can't help but lose something in the translation to such a purely visual medium.

Not that it's a bad graphic novel. It is in fact quite good, and one of the better horror comics I've read.

Writer Stuart Moore and artist Colleen Doran start things off with "The Last Feast of Harlequin", which is so narration-driven that I think there are only a dozen or so dialogue bubbles in the whole 30-page piece. The art is great, though, especially the creepy, gape-mouthed "clowns" from the wrong side of Mirocaw. As for the story itself, well, I think the inherent vagueness of the narrative works better in prose than on the comics page.

Much the same can be said of Stuart Moore and Ben Templesmith's take on "Dream of a Mannikin". The art is great -- Templesmith's work is wonderfully controlled, even if it's not naturalistic -- but I feel the atmosphere Ligotti worked so hard to create is undone a little by letting us clearly see the things our obviously nuts narrator sees, instead of having him tell us about them, which I think might be stronger in this particular context.

Joe Harris and Ted McKeever's take on "Dr. Locrian's Asylum", on the other hand, knocks it out of the ballpark. The art, the adaptation, it all works brilliantly. This could also be because "Dr. Locrian's Asylum" is one of Ligotti's more accessible stories and lends itself well to a comics adaptation. This was my favorite piece in the book.

Joe Harris and Michael Gaydos do a great job too with the final tale, "Teatro Grottesco". Gaydos' art reminded me a lot of the art from the old Creepy and Eerie comics I read as a kid. The story itself is frustratingly vague about who comprises the Teatro and what exactly they're doing, but I loved its relation to loose-cannon artists, and that was enough to keep me interested. It's obviously a heavily allegorical piece. Despite that same vagueness, though, the story lends itself quite well to the visual medium.

Each adaptation starts with a short introduction by Ligotti himself. It's nice to read his thoughts about what each story means to him, what he was going for, etc. He doesn't sound like nearly the crazed recluse I imagined him to be!

As I said, this graphic novel is a great experiment, and I'd love to see more comics adaptations along these lines of other horror authors' work. Though, with all due respect to Ligotti, I would recommend choosing an author whose work better lends itself to this particular medium.