February 5, 2011. An English teacher, Chris Pearce, posts on his blog this observation: “Great poems should paint pictures in the mind.”  It is taken from the introduction of the innovative graphic novel by Dave Morice, Poetry Comics: A Cartooniverse of Poem (1980). This passing remark, made to Morice by a friend, stimulated his creative appetite and inspired his unique work. The resulting anthology is comprised of a selection of celebrated verses, which Morice cleverly transforms into comics. Some of the poems consist of a single panel, while others span multiple pages. What Morice dubs a “diabolical plot to overthrow the Foundations of Poetry,” is an inventively presented compilation of classic poems.
It seems only fitting that in this creation, Morice includes a poem on the topic of creation. Arguably William Blake’s most famous poem, “The Tiger” explores a malicious side of creation. In the opening stanza, Blake questions what God would bring cruelty and fear into the world:
Tiger Tiger, burning bright,
In the forests of the night:
What immortal hand or eye,
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
It is apparent from the last two lines that Blake is calling into question the judgment and even existence of the divine. Moreover, it is said that God created Man in his own image. What then is Blake implying about God? That he is vicious, like the tiger.
Morice’s presentation of “The Tiger” depicts a different type of creation, not biblical, but scientific. In it, the creator of this tiger is none other than the maddest off all scientists, the infamous Dr. Frankenstein. He speaks the line “Tiger! Tiger! Burning bright,” to himself as he attempts to give his creation life, deep in the laboratory in the bowels of his isolated mansion. The motion lines in the frame demonstrate how Frankenstein is positively quivering with anticipation. He is excited, not vindictive (although nonetheless insane). The final lines of the poem are the fearful words of a victim of the tiger’s rage. This poor villager cries out, “What immortal hand or eye, dare frame thy fearful symmetry?” The tiger’s face is finally revealed in this panel, as he punches his way out of the frame, bearing his terrible teeth. Morice shows the destructive nature of tiger as he depicts the tiger’s attempt to break from the page that binds him and into the third dimension.
Who is the mad scientist in the pictures? Perhaps it is Morice’s own atheistic reaction to the religion so prevalent in Blake’s work. However, as Blake is the official creator of the poem “The Tiger,” might it be that the cackling chemist represents Blake himself? By penning the poem, Blake is the true creator of the tiger. Equating Blake with Frankenstein is Morice’s method of acknowledging his brilliance while commenting on the savage nature of his product. Blake’s creation is jarring and malevolent but ultimately captivating. Similarly, Frankenstein’s monster continues to enthrall and frighten readers and audiences today. Morice’s portrayal of Blake as a mad scientist maintains this fascinating affect and it is downright diabolical.