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Book Review: Classic Pop

Jun 22, 2023Jun 22, 2023

If you’re anything like me—and my sincerest apologies if you are!—then you know what it’s like to be haunted by the specter of the books that you have yet to read. More specifically, those classics that somehow managed to escape your mandatory education curriculum, resulting in an embarrassing gap in literary knowledge. For the longest time, Bram Stoker’s seminal tale of man versus monster, Dracula, has been one of those. It has occupied space in my TBR pile(s)—and occasionally in my hand, only to be discarded in favor of more contemporary chillers. And then I came upon Canterbury’s Classic Pop-Ups: Dracula, which allowed me easy entry into an otherwise formidable landscape.

Reissued in July, the book is part of the publisher’s Graphic Pops series, which also features Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes The Hound of the Baskervilles. With art by Anthony Williams, pop-ups by David Hawcock, and a story by Claire Bampton (based on Stoker’s original), this reimagining is a welcome primer to Transylvania’s thirstiest vampire. If you’re not familiar with the premise, it goes something like this: young attorney Jonathan Harker travels from England to the Carpathian Mountains to do business with a man he knows only by name: Count Dracula. But their brief acquaintanceship results in grave danger for himself, his fiancé, their friends, and the earthly population at large. Enter vampire hunter Abraham van Helsing, who may just be humanity’s best hope for conquering a seemingly immortal foe.

In its condensed format, Bampton hones in on scenes of heightened action and emotion for dramatic effect. First, there’s Harker’s journey to Transylvania—which is met with others’ great trepidation; his arrival coincides with St. George’s Eve, when, at the stroke of midnight, all evil things are believed to awaken. There, he meets with his nocturnal host, Count Dracula, to conduct business—but only ever after nightfall. Strange discoveries (including Dracula’s pension for sleeping in a dirt-filled wooden box) and the onset of madness ensue. Then, there’s the shape-shifting bloodsucker’s fateful schooner voyage to London, where he sets his bites—err, sights!—on Harker’s bride-to-be, Mina, and her friend, Lucy. Next, Dr. van Helsing is summoned and recognizes the women’s afflictions as the work of a vampire. And finally, Harker and the doctor embark on a dangerous undertaking of the highest … stakes. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)

The oversized hardback—better suited to desk or table-top perusal than bedtime reading—totals 14 pages. Each page features a side panel that folds out to the left or right and a large pop-up in between (7 total) that depicts a pivotal scene (see accompanying images) in multi-color, multi-dimensional glory. Williams’s brooding, evocative art is akin to that of a graphic novel, which has been popularized since the book’s initial publication. Bampton’s narrative utilizes description, dialogue (both internal and external), exposition, and the occasional epistolary missives (journal entries, correspondence, a ship captain’s log, newspaper articles); if your eyes are as finicky as mine—and my sincerest apologies if they are!—the latter might require optimum lighting or slight magnification.

Classis Pop-Ups: Dracula is an accessible, eye-catching, and undeniably fun introduction to one of horror’s greatest villains. This adaptation will particularly appeal to those who prefer streamlined and/or visual storytelling, though it could also serve as an accompaniment to the novel itself, enhancing Stoker’s nuanced prose with vivid imagery. However you approach the book, it’s sure to generate enthusiasm and nostalgia for the original (not to mention the Golden Age of pop-ups). In short: you’ll go batty for it!

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Sink your teeth into Canterbury's latest installment in their Classic Pop-Ups series, Dracula. John Valeri gallantly enters the frightening landscape of Stoker's Transylvania in his review.Bram Stoker’sDraculaClassic Pop-Ups: DraculaMary Shelley’s Frankenstein Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes The Hound of the BaskervillesAnthony WilliamsDavid HawcockClaire BamptonJohn Valeri