Take a close look: “The Black Dahlia ™.” Does that mean the publisher is trying to trademark “The Black Dahlia?” Good luck with that.
I picked up a copy of the new graphic novel version of James Ellroy’s “The Black Dahlia,” and although I didn’t expect to like it, I ended up disliking it for entirely different reasons. Several pages had been posted online and it at least looked visually interesting, so I forced myself to read it. And this turned out to be quite a chore.
The book is credited to Ellroy, adapted by David Fincher – who was rumored for years to be directing a Black Dahlia movie — and Matz, and illustrated by Miles Hyman, with lettering by Deron Bennett. It is published by Archaia and lists for $29.99.
Presumably, most people are familiar with the outlines of Ellroy’s 1987 novel so I don’t need to repeat them here. But compressing and compacting the plot to the spare dimensions of a graphic novel exposes many weaknesses that aren’t apparent in the original book. (I will leave it to someone else to perform a side-by-side analysis of the book and the graphic novel).
Manslaughter did not carry the death penalty. This is ridiculous.
(Note: You can expect lots of non-PC language).
A key plot point is Proposition B, which would be a city bond measure put before city voters to raise money for the LAPD. Which is all well and good except the plot has it being supported by Ellis Loew, who is the Los Angeles COUNTY district attorney and has no sway over the city budget. City and county government are conflated all the way through the book and I won’t get into it here except to say that the district attorney did not have the authority over the LAPD as presented here.
As for accuracy, we have the medical examiner smoking a cigar while displaying a murder victim. Lovely.
And apparently – at least in the world of this graphic novel – bodies retain their skin tone after death even when they have been drained of blood. Even after several days – and no, I won’t be posting those frames. And it’s bizarre that mutilations in one scene have healed themselves pages later.
One reason I was curious about the book was because I wondered whether there would be any clown paintings, like the ones in the ghastly Brian De Palma movie:
Alas, no clown paintings this time.
But even without the clown paintings, some of the artwork by Miles Hyman is stiff and clunky:
And then we have the cartoonish hands on Kay Lake. I mean really?
And the characters tend to look the same:
Seriously. Can you tell whether this woman is Kay Lake or Madeline Sprague?
And are they both the offspring of the noseless Lord Voldemort?
I could go on and on, but I think you get the idea. One final complaint:
Perhaps you’re thinking that I don’t like an airliner buzzing City Hall. And while that is a problem, those who know Los Angeles history will have a larger grievance:
What’s wrong with the Hall of Records and the Hall of Justice?
Here’s how downtown actually looked, courtesy of the DWP photo collection.
The photo has been flopped. Just like the whole book.