Beyond the Cover of The Crow

The Crow. Tragic. Heavy. Dark. Both the graphic novel and film.

Having signed up for this Blogathon, I’m in a re-watch and re-read position. And I’m just a little scared. A little nervous. Not sure what to expect. I’ve just pulled out my prized copy of the graphic novel and already the first few pages are pulling me down into a gritty world where I’m not sure I want to go right now. But…I’ll get back to you…

…so, book read, movie watched…I’m back.

220px-Crow_ver2I first saw the movie on the big screen all those years ago. I vaguely remember the story and that I couldn’t stop raving about it. It must have been great at the time (with all my teenage angst) because I rushed out to by the graphic novel (well, rushing turned out to be a long process as it wasn’t easily available and involved lots of driving around (I’m talking about pre-online shopping days) and handing over a large portion of my precious student savings). Somehow, it must have made an impression that a few years ago I saw the DVD and just had to have it (but it hasn’t been opened until today).

Now, 22 years later…I’m not sure where I stand. I’m naturally that much older and therefore in a different place emotionally, physically, career-wise etc. And this time round I found both book and film good but not something to “enjoy” as such. Know what I mean? For me, there are certain books and films that are really great, if not excellent, but that aren’t “enjoyable”. Not sure that makes any sense.

The graphic novel, by J.O’Barr, is stunning from an art perspective but you need to be in the right frame of mind for the story. I found it really, really dark (duh…naturally). The introduction by John Bergin states “In a Lonely Place” followed by “One day you are going to lose everything you have” and continues around this theme. This time round I actually registered that it was written because J.O’Barr had someone close to him lost, clearly in a sudden, probably brutal, way. The graphic novel portrays this. Very clearly. Very vividly. You should check it out- wow, the illustrations are so detailed and the style brings across such a realistic mood and atmosphere.250px-The_Crow1_Cover Oh boy! What an artist J.O’Barr is – using no colour at all (except on the cover and some pictures after the END), he is successfully able to portray light and dark times in the characters’ lives, more so than if he had actually used any colour. The “chopping and changing” between characters, scenes and style also adds to the doomed and violent feeling. Rounding off the experience is additional material such as the “history” of the Crow and additional illustrations.

Now the movie. It is also dark and in its own way is well done. For me it lacks that “something” and while it tends to stay true to the book, the fateful incident is different (I’m leaning toward the written version). It took a while to get into but then I started appreciating it especially that most of the scenes are cleverly set up to come across as black and white. The flashbacks weren’t as “light” as in the book and would have given a bit of relief from the relentless dark. Brandon Lee was perfectly cast, giving me a very similar Eric Draven as in the book. I just loved his smooth acrobatic movements, most of all his ‘crossed leg jump’ onto Top Dollar‘s boardroom table. In fact all the actors and their respective characters are spot on and I especially like Michael Wincott who is the perfect villain in every role he tackles (sorry Mr Wincott, I’ve only seen you in these roles). There is much less interaction with the actual crow and some of the wonderful nuances of their relationship existing in the novel are lost. But it is, after all, a totally different form of art.

Both forms come with a deep loss. And by this I don’t mean only the loss of Eric’s fiancée which drives the story. I mean the real thing. The heart wrenching loss of his girlfriend that became the story given to us by J.O’Barr as a means to deal with the situation (you can feel the pain page for page). And, an almost parallel loss when Brandon Lee was tragically killed on set, leaving behind a fiancée. Personal loss created a story which in return created personal loss.

So, having written down my thoughts, I realise this: I actually do still think the graphic novel is pretty darn amazing, however, is by no means the same read I experienced as a teenager. It probably hits home a bit more these days. Of the movie, however, I’m in two minds. Most likely because it too hits home a bit more.

Quotes taken from “The Crow”, J.O’Barr, Kitchen Sink Press Inc, 1994

(I’ve written a second bit for this Blogathon – Beyond the Cover of Jane Eyre)

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4 comments

  1. I saw The Crow when it came to cable. As I recall, as much as I can, I wasn’t entirely impressed. Some of that may have to do with the fact that I was drunk at the time. I’m thinking it’s about time I looked at it with sober eyes. Didn’t know it was a graphic novel too.

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