A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words
One of the best parts about reading a book is discovering strange worlds, strong characters, and new realities that come to life right inside your head. Our personal connection with books stems as much from the strength of our imagination as from the original words and descriptions by the author.
Who hasn’t gone to see a movie adaptation only to be dismayed—or occasionally delighted—by the actor chosen for a beloved literary role, or by the CGI or costumes used to depict more fanciful characters?
In his blog The Composites, digital artist Brian J Davis uses police composite sketch software and the original descriptions of popular literary characters to illustrate them as their authors may have first intended. Take Frankenstein’s monster, first described by Mary Shelley as:
“Beautiful! Great God! His yellow skin scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries beneath; his hair was of a lustrous black, and flowing […] but these luxuriances only formed a more horrid contrast with his watery eyes, that seemed almost of the same colour as the dun-white sockets in which they were set, his shrivelled complexion and straight black lips.”
The monster in the book is hardly the flat-headed, neck-bolted behemoth that Boris Karloff so popularized.
Ever wonder how far Hollywood differed from the books, or how similar the characters you pictured are to an official law enforcement composite? Keep reading.
Is This What You Imagined?
Continuing the theme of Universal Horror, some of literature’s greatest monsters were given new life by Hollywood in the early 20th century, thus creating iconic character images we now hold as canon. But should we?
From Bram Stoker’s description: “A tall old man, clean shaven save for a long white moustache […] His face was a strong, a very strong, aquiline, with high bridge of the thin nose and peculiarly arched nostrils, with lofty domed forehead […] His eyebrows were very massive, almost meeting over the nose, and with bushy hair that seemed to curl in its own profusion. The mouth, so far as I could see it under the heavy moustache, was fixed and rather cruel-looking…For the rest, his ears were pale, and at the tops extremely pointed. The chin was broad and strong, and the cheeks firm though thin […] The blue eyes transformed with fury.”
Artist Brian J Davis has made two composites of Daisy, one with blonde hair and one as a brunette, to account for what are considered to be inconsistencies in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s text. I almost see something of Mia Farrow in this sketch.
“Her face was sad and lovely with bright things in it, bright eyes and a bright passionate mouth […] a conscientious expression […] an expression of unthoughtful sadness […] her cheeks flushed […] she looked at me with an absolute smirk on her lovely face […] a bright ecstatic smile […] Aching, grieving beauty […] A damp streak of hair lay like a dash of blue paint across her cheek […] ‘She doesn’t look like her father,’ explained Daisy. ‘She looks like me. She’s got my hair [yellowy] and shape of the face.'”