LUGOSI: THE RISE AND FALL OF HOLLYWOOD'S DRACULA

Writer & Illustrator: Koren Shadmi

Publisher: Humanoids

Lugosi, Cover by Koren Shadmi, Humanoids, Shadmi

WHAT IS IT?

Lugosi chronicles the life of famous actor Bela Lugosi in biographical graphic novel format.


Think of Ed Wood laced with a few supernatural drops of fiction.


WHAT’S IT ABOUT?

(Minor Spoilers)

Bela Lugosi's face has long been synonymous with horror icon, Dracula. After breaking out in the U.S. as the titular vampire in Dracula, Lugosi experienced a period of whirlwind fame and recognition. Sadly, Lugosi's success ebbed and flowed, along with his marriages. Lugosi's womanizing, jealousy, and extravagant lifestyle in the film industry were only a few factors that contributed to his fateful downfall.


Bela Lugosi's tumultuous life, from humble beginnings in politically unstable Hungary to his self-institutionalization from a morphine addiction, is surveyed in the graphic novel. Horror manifests supernaturally as memories haunt the former horror star during his hospitalized rehabilitation process.


WHAT WORKS?

  • Koren Shadmi writes simply, succinctly, and eloquently. Audiences aren't subjected to reading a book of facts or tedious anecdotes. Lugosi pulls you in, charting the upward and downward trajectory of the film star who left a profound legacy behind.

  • Shadmi's unambiguous writing style unifies with his artistic presentation as a sensory display. Readers are clearly able to visualize and imagine concentrated scenes from Bela Lugosi's life.

  • Like The Twilight Man, Shadmi again deepens the nostalgic film aesthetic with stylized cartoon illustrations in greyscale. Details matter when only black and white colors or sepia tones are used, and Shadmi puts careful effort into each color choice.

  • Shadmi manipulates the limited color palette beautifully, fixing attention toward spotlighting the distinguishing facial features of characters like Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, and the infamous Ed Wood.

  • Completing the retro film aesthetic symbiosis, dialogue box narration takes on a script-reminiscent slanted appearance, like a handwritten letter. Tom Napolitano juxtaposes the unbiased feeling ushered in from the light lettering with bold typeface for dialogue spoken in speech balloons.

  • Readers receive a definite sense of who Bela Lugosi was by jumping back and forth between past and present. We see how Lugosi frames his life in the present, versus the unfiltered reality Shadmi shows through recounting Lugosi's past.

  • I love how Shadmi connects time periods through a supernatural narrative device. Panels where old ghosts return to haunt Lugosi in the hospital with harsh truths about his foibles are both narratively and artistically evocative.

  • When each location/time period switches, Shadmi introduces this with majestically illustrated panels showing a landscape city shot. These panels occur infrequently, yet the detail stays with you.

  • Lugosi is nothing but not honest. Shadmi submits a realistic version of Bela Lugosi, the writing and art as hypnotizing as Lugosi's onscreen performances themselves. Shadmi allows Lugosi's presence to take center stage. Lugosi enchants its audience.

  • If you've seen Ed Wood, you'll recognize illustrated scenes with Bela and Ed straight from the film! If you haven't seen Ed Wood, go watch the movie after reading this comic.


WHAT DOESN’T WORK?

  • Content Warning: Discussions/depictions of suicidal ideation, drug abuse, infidelity, and adult language occur in Lugosi.

  • Alternating between past and present works as a whole, but a few transitions between time periods occur somewhat abruptly.

  • The character design for Bela Lugosi in youth makes him appear older than I think was intended.


Lugosi, Page #60, Humanoids, Shadmi

WHY SHOULD I READ IT?

The visual comic format works splendidly in presenting a biographical story. Koren Shadmi replicates Bela Lugosi's image and memorable film scenes like a documentary, heightening the meaning behind the dialogue box narration. Instead of listening to a story told to an audience, Shadmi shows us Lugoi's story through perfectly framed imagery. Better yet, we can imagine any pleasant narrator's voice in our heads, versus a documentary where we are stuck with the syntax/voices of chosen interviewees. Lugosi shows how graphic novels function like a locus, bridging literature with cinema.


Behind the cape and fangs, Koren Shadmi reveals a hard-working, yet flawed human being with Lugosi. Crucially, the narrative balances catharsis with tension, moments of glory with moments of utter despair. If you've ever wanted to learn more about the famous Dracula actor, pick up the creative, definitive roadmap that is Lugosi. You won't have to suck anyone's blood to get your hands on a copy of this atmospheric graphic novel.


WHAT DO I READ NEXT?

If you like the writing:

  • The Twilight Man by Koren Shadmi

  • Highwayman by Koren Shadmi

  • Chasin' the Bird by Dave Chisholm


If you like the art:

  • Bionic by Koren Shadmi

  • Love Addict: Confessions of a Serial Dater by Koren Shadmi

  • The Final Girls by Cara Ellison & Sally Cantirino


ABOUT THE CREATORS

Koren Shadmi – Writer & Illustrator (@KorenShadmi)

  • Multitalented: Koren is a Broolyn-based writer, award-winning illustrator, cartoonist, and graphic novelist. He studied illustration at The School of Visual Arts in New York where he now teaches.

  • Prolific: His books have been published internationally in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Israel, Korea and the US. His work includes The Flesh, The Abaddon, Mike's Place, Rise of the Dungeon Master, and The Twilight Man.

  • Award Winner: His illustration work has won several awards at the Society of Illustrators.


Tom Napolitano – Letterer (@TENapolitano)

  • Prolific: Tom is a freelance comic book letterer who has worked for DC, Lion Forge, Vault, and Humanoids comics publishers.

  • He is also a lettered for Andworld Design Studio.

  • His lettering work appears in comics such as Dark Nights: Death Metal, Batman: Last Knight on Earth, Justice League, Fearscape, Chasing Echoes, Quincredible, Superb, and Taproot.


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The image(s) used in this article are from a comic strip, webcomic or the cover or interior of a comic book. The copyright for this image(s) is likely owned by either the publisher of the comic, the writer(s) and/or artist(s) who produced the comic. It is believed that the use of this image(s) qualifies as fair use under the United States copyright law. The image is used in a limited fashion in an educational manner in order to illustrate the points of the author and not for the purpose of entertainment or substituting the original work. It is believed the use of this image has had no impact on the market value of the original work.


All Lugosi characters and the distinctive likeness(es) thereof are trademarks of and copyright Koren Shadmi, Humanoids, or their respective owners. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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