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Dr. Jekyll & Mr. HydeReview - Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde
by Lorenzo Mattotti and Jerry Kramsky
NBM Publishing, 2002
Review by Christian Perring, Ph.D.
Jan 3rd 2003 (Volume 7, Issue 1)

Italian graphic artist Lorenzo Mattotti has created a striking adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic, Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde.  He condenses the gothic novel into 64 pages, and this translation from the Italian with the help of Jerry Kramsky uses many Stevenson’s original words to accompany the innovative artwork.  Mattotti combines many different elements: his colors are rich and vivid, with many deep reds, oranges, and blues and lime greens.  The frames are strongly geometrical, strong diagonals, full of grids, sometimes so fragmented as to be reminiscent of cubist technique.  The human figures, especially their faces, are grotesque and distorted.  The combination of these different elements is particularly unusual.  Mattotti lists among his influences the painters Grosz, Munch, Beckman, De Chirico, and Kandinski, and the comic book artists Alberto Breccia and Robert Crumb. 

The themes of the novel are obvious.  The scientist Dr. Jekyll is part of the upper levels of London society, and he is devoted to the investigation of the dark side of human nature.  He believes that it is possible to separate out the good and bad aspects of humanity, and if this were done, “life would be relieved to all that is unbearable.”  Written well before Freud postulated the unconscious, the novel plays with the idea that we could achieve happiness by the scientific inspection of our repressed urges.  But Stevenson’s story also emphasizes the danger in this sort of experimentation, because once we let our dark side out, we may be unable to control it.  Alongside this rather crude psychology is clear social commentary on the debauchery of the ruling classes, spending their evenings drinking and dancing in seedy clubs, and the hazard that women pose to men in possibly unleashing their animal nature.   

Mattotti’s approach is certainly a welcome change from the tired formulaic portrayals of gothic horror in comics, even if the plot is still very much of the Victorian era.  The story is saturated by a sense of decadence and the threat from the beast within ourselves, and the artwork does a great job in bringing this neurosis alive. 

 

 

 

Link: NBM Publishing

 

© 2002 Christian Perring. All rights reserved.

Christian Perring, Ph.D., is Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College, Long Island. He is editor of Metapsychology Online Review. His main research is on philosophical issues in psychiatry. He is especially interested in exploring how philosophers can play a greater role in public life, and he is keen to help foster communication between philosophers, mental health professionals, and the general public.


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