Classic Graphic: Moby Dick

Written by Herman Melville , adapted by Roy Thomas and illustrated by Pascal Alixe for Marvel Comics.

There have been film and television adaptations of Herman Melville’s classic American novel Moby Dick and even an opera, which was recently performed in Adelaide.  Now we can read the graphic novel.

Set in the nineteenth century America, Moby Dick is the story of Ishmael, a young American man who goes to sea in order to relieve a bout of depression.  His plans do not go as expected when he secures employment among a strange, multiracial crew on the whaling ship Pequod, under the command of the fanatical Captain Ahab.  Rather than fulfill their whaling contract, vengeful Ahab leads his crew into mortal danger across the world in pursuit of killing the white whale they call Moby Dick.

Roy Thomas has attempted to remain faithful to the tone of the original text rather than modernising the language for his graphic novel.  He provides the reader with an introduction to Herman Melville’s original novel and a concise biography of the author.

Pascal Alixe’s illustrations are excellent.  Alixe uses subdued tones of blue, grey, green and brown to create an atmosphere through which we can visualise the cold, bleak coast of New England and what it would be like aboard a sailing ship in treacherous seas.

Facial expressions superbly convey the emotions of each character, especially the crazed Captain Ahab and add to the high drama of the story.  Those readers who are familiar with Moby Dick on film will not be disappointed by the graphic novel’s rendition of the Polynesian harpoonist Queequeg, who is a favourite character of many people.

After the horror of seeing Japanese whaling vessels pursuing whales on the television news at least you can rest assured that when reading Moby Dick that the whale will come out on top.  As a modern reader, I found it interesting to consider that the issue of whether the whale would survive to be important to me but to readers in 1851, the morality of whaling probably did not come into question.  Moby Dick is even referred to as a great fish!  Moby Dick was essentially about one man’s obsession, to the point of madness, in seeking revenge against the greater force of nature.  Reading Moby Dick, one learns not only about the superstitious nature of sailors but also of how much people used to believe in the concepts of fate, omens, retribution and the wrath of God.

Readers should be aware that this graphic novel features illustrations of whales which have been hunted and killed.

You can search the Library’s online catalogue to reserve the graphic novel Moby Dick or Herman Melville’s original novel, a DVD or even a children’s version of his classic work.  Or enquire next time you visit the Library.