Story: Matz and David Fincher (from James Ellroy’s book)
Art: Miles Hyman
Release Date: 8th June 2016
The Black Dahlia, an American neo-noir crime novel by author James Ellroy, was released in 1987. It uses the real case of the unsolved murder of Elizabeth Short in 1947 as inspiration for the narrative events. Short’s body was discovered in Leimert Park in Los Angeles, heavily mutilated and cut in half at the waist. The case, and Short, was nicknamed the Black Dahlia – seemingly a play on the title of a noir film released the year before, The Blue Dahlia, which was based on the popular novel by Raymond Chandler, directed by George Marshall and starred Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake.
Published by Archaia, a division of BOOM! Studios, the graphic novel adaptation was originally released in French in 2013. Matz, or Alexis Nolent, a comic writer and translator, wrote the initial draft in English. This was approved by Ellroy, before Matz translated the text into French himself; as a comic book writer, this control enabled him to ensure that the words fit the balloons on each page. For the current English re-release of the graphic novel, much to the delight of fans of the original book and film director David Fincher, Matz already had the text prepared so the product was ready to go.
David Fincher was working himself on adapting the book into another film but this didn’t transpire. He was in talks with Matz about adapting one of the writer’s original works, The Killers, into a screenplay and this developed into conversations about The Black Dahlia. Though Fincher appears to have taken more of an indirect role in the production of the graphic novel, he helped Matz to configure certain scenes that proved problematic to transpose onto the new medium. Fincher also suggested the page layout, which works wonderfully to enhance the cinematic feel of the book.
The result is a fantastic adaptation that translates perfectly to the graphic novel; the book reads like a film, both in its pacing and in the cinematic format of the pages. In using around 90% of Ellroy’s dialogue, Matz has captured the essence of the story and characters while his background in comic books has ensured that he has omitted only necessary elements – characters or sub-plots – that would complicate the constraints of this new medium.
Miles Hyman’s art is distinct, suitably nostalgic and beautifully shaded. His exclusive cover art, designed specifically for the English version, is beautifully haunting and captivating in the way that it channels the sombre nature and soul of Ellroy’s book.
As such, the graphic novel serves to simultaneously satisfy readers who are familiar with the source text while also acting as a gateway for a new audience to discover Ellroy’s masterpiece. In doing so, Matz, Hyman and Fincher have created a new masterpiece that is now, thankfully, available to a wider audience.
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The writer of this piece was: Rebecca Booth
Rebecca Tweets from @rebeccalbooth