Published on July 29th, 2015 | by JCDoyle0
The Shrinking Man #1 Review
In 1956 Richard Matheson’s The Shrinking Man was published. It told the story of a man struggling to cope with his position in his family after a freak accident causes him to slowly shrink. It has been made into several films and has been the inspiration for many more works of fiction.
Ted Adams, one of the original founders of IDW, is a massive fan of Matheson’s work and has overseen some of the recent adaptations that the publisher has produced however, when the opportunity to adapt one of his favourite novels came up he jumped at the chance. This is all made clear in his essay at the end of the comic, but his love of the work shines through the pages that precede this.
If you are familiar with the novel you’ll know that the narrative jumps back and forth between the end of the story and the events leading up to it, Adams keeps this format deciding on a straight adaptation of the original work. And this proves to be successful. The narrative hops from the action and adventure aspects of the tiny central character fighting for survival in his basement to the family drama that unfolds in the months after the accident with ease.
The first page sets the scene and lays out the format for the story: the reader is informed of Scott’s original height, 72 inches, which is a lynch pin to the story telling. This height changes as the story unfolds thus making it easy for you to know whereabouts in the narratives timeline you are at all times. The strange sea spray then comes in marking the start of Scott’s troubles and without a moments hesitation the reader is swept up into the heart of the story.
Because this is a straight adaption the story is more likely to be known to you (if you haven’t read the original novel I highly recommend that you do) this comic isn’t about the end, it’s about the journey and Ted Adams and Mark Torres make this journey worth taking. The design of each page is meticulously thought out to tell the story in the best way possible. Moments of long exposition are built into clever, point of view shifting sequences that keep the visuals interesting so that the info dumps don’t become tedious. To counter this the action sequences have an array of changing panel designs to heighten the tension or desperation of Scott’s fight for survival. The first scene in the basement where he is chased by the black widow spider is an unnerving and horrifying moment. There is a feeling of real threat to the scene and any sense of adventure is over shadowed by the high possibility of death.
Although on the surface this is a sci-fi story about a man who shrinks and his battle against a dangerous spider, flowing throughout the narrative is a comment on American family life. Scott’s role as head of the family is thrown into question as he slowly loses his standing just as he slowly loses his height. He feels that the situation is disempowering him. There is a moment when a group of boys shout for their ball back and they refer to him as ‘kid’, this belittles him in public and increases his anger towards the society he feels is turning against him. In essence he is becoming emasculated, inferior to his wife and daughter, and this makes him feel worthless.
All of this was present in Matheson’s original novel and is unfortunately still relevant today. Somehow the notion that a man needs to rule his castle is still something that many people believe in and if a man can’t provide for his family then what use is he? This story highlights this concept and, through the wonderful depiction of Lou as the constantly supportive wife and friend, it shows just how ridiculous this can be. A relationship is a two way street with support from either side, by taking all of the weight Scott’s metal wellbeing shrinks just as much as his physical self so that his life is reduced to nothing more than a mere fight for survival.
For a story that is nearly 60 years old, it still proves to have relevance to a modern audience and this comic is an entertaining adaption of the original. You can tell that the creators love the source material and their decision for a straight adaption instead of a reimaging was the correct one based on what they have produced. It is sometimes tense, sometimes thrilling and sometimes emotional, but it is always enthralling.
I also have to give special mention to Mark Torres cover; it’s a brilliant piece of modern design work. Like a work of postmodern Pop Art it portrays a narrative in a striking and affective way without over complicating.
Title: Richard Matheson: The Shrinking Man
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Adaption: Ted Adams
Artist: Mark Torres