Wailing Well

An adaptation of M.R James' "Wailing Well" by Anna Sahrling-Hamm

Wailing Well

posted 24th Sep 2014, 10:28 PM

Wailing Well
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24th Sep 2014, 10:39 PM



Not going to subscribe due to the apparently limited run nature of this work; however, I look forward to your further creations!

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25th Sep 2014, 10:20 AM


Thank you!

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19th Jun 2015, 12:02 AM

David Longhorn (Guest)

Well done! This is a nice adaptation, true to the spirit of the original story and with a timeless feel to the images.

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8th Aug 2015, 1:28 PM


Thank you! Glad you liked!

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21st Jun 2015, 2:15 PM

Mike Hunter

Over at the M. R. James appreciation Society Facebook page ( https://www.facebook.com/groups/2343022578/?ref=browser ), where someone posted a link to this site, I wrote the following:

Comparing this comics version of "Wailing Well" to M. R. James' prose tale, the term that comes to mind is "freely adapted." Which -- in this case, anyway -- is a very good thing indeed. (For comparison, the story: http://gaslight.mtroyal.ab.ca/jamesX31.htm )

We've seen all too many sorry versions in other media, teaching dread of the "Inspired by" credit line. These make a hash out of a fine original, inserting cheesily exploitative or lurid crud, dumbing down the original tale, and other predictable offenses.

Yet there is also the danger of being overly faithful to the source. Though there are exceptions, novelists are notoriously bad at turning their tomes into screenplays, reluctant to let go of any turn of phrase, detail, or character nuance. Which can make a movie turgid, rather than flowing; neither fish nor fowl, a graceless mélange.

Though the art is mostly gorgeous, check out these 1950s EC comics adaptations of Ray Bradbury stories:



You need not even be able to read English to tell at a glance what's wrong here. Massive captions, verbosity-bloated word balloons. Worse, much of it recapitulates what the art shows; a cardinal sin in comics narrative. The often superb work of the illustrators -- and, yes, Bradbury's glorious wordcraft -- make these not only readable but enjoyable. Yet they fail to best utilize the specific qualities and strengths of the comics art form.

M. R. James' fine original is discursive, chatty, liberally sprinkled with humor. The contrast makes the "scares" all the more chilling when they arrive:

"What were their faces like? Could you see?"

"They hadn't much to call faces," said the shepherd, "but I could seem to see as they had teeth."


In her version, Anna Sahrling-Hamm (Any relation to the splendidly gifted comics creator Jesse Hamm, I wonder?) streamlines. The plot is linear as can be, the compositions classical, most viewpoints situated at ground level. The narrative style is limpid as that of a David Lean film. Her art reminds of the ungimmicky mastery of Bo and Scott Hampton's comics illustration: naturalistic, mastery of anatomy lightly worn, eschewing heavy feathering or hyperbolic performance by the "actors." (Consider how, in contrast, famed comics horror-master Bernie Wrightson's characters gesticulate extravagantly as silent-movie thespians.)

The recurring images of the clump of trees clustered 'round the Wailing Well, isolated on a hilltop, are not freighted with atmospherics. No spooky lighting, unsettling "camera angles" ramp up the foreboding. Simple, solemn repetition adds to their narrative weight.

The story is beautifully paced, peppered with gorgeous grace-notes: a bird wheels in a blazing sky, Good Scout Wilcox tackles Bad Scout Judkins in an attempt to stop the latter reaching the Wailing Well, a moment of balletic grace freed from panel borders.

It's also almost wholly unanchored in any definite time. Only in the penultimate page do the distant figures of a Bobby and a horsedrawn carriage indicate place and general era.

Dialogue is beautifully crafted. Conveying narrative information and bargeloads of characterization, yet as artfully unfussy as Sahrling-Hamm's rendering approach.

Considering the comics version's lapidary style and tone, it would have been jarring to retain James' original "full period" dialogue, with its delightfully colorful characteristics:

"Sakes alive, young gentleman!" said the shepherd in a startled voice, "don't you get to talkin' that way! Why, ain't your masters give you notice not to go by there? They'd ought to have done."
Everybody said, "Yes, sir!" except Stanley Judkins, who was heard to mutter, "Oblige them be blowed!"
"Then you won't be ruled by me?" said the shepherd. "Nor yet by your masters as warned you off? Come now, young gentleman, you don't want for sense, I should say. What should I want tellin' you a pack of lies? It ain't sixpence to me anyone goin' in that field: but I wouldn't like to see a young chap snuffed out like in his prime."

Speaking of "the contrast makes the 'scares' all the more chilling when they arrive," when the congregation of the Wailing Well -- after pages and pages of cooly naturalistic goings-on -- shows up in Sahrling-Hamm's comics story, I gasped out loud, "Oh, my God!" Her apparitions lack the swift-moving ferocity of those in the James original, yet are quietly terrifying in their own right.

The next page conveys a crescendo of horror in brilliantly restrained fashion. Then silence, even visual silence: the hill, trees surrounding the Wailing Well, are now a flat black silhouette.

There have been many truly great adaptations of horror classics in comics form. Anna Sahrling-Hamm's exquisite masterpiece, as rich in intelligence as artistry, joins those ranks.

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8th Aug 2015, 1:46 PM


Wow! What a write-up. What an honor. Much thanks, sir - I can only humbly bow. And yes, there is indeed a relation to Jesse Hamm - he is my husband!

I will be riding high on this review for a while. So sorry I missed it at first - if there is a way of getting e-mail notifications from this site, I've missed it, but perhaps I should look further into that.

Thank you again!

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8th Jul 2016, 10:14 AM

KSClaw (Guest)

This was super well done! I really enjoyed it, and I love how you added an actual sound effect to the well! The inking is really great and you adapted it so well <3 great job!

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1st Aug 2016, 1:25 PM



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29th Aug 2018, 10:38 PM

Stephen Gray (Guest)

Loved it. Did you see my short film adaptation from a few years back? https://youtu.be/0ZMKlrYy6nM

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31st Oct 2018, 2:46 PM


Thank you (and so sorry for the late reply)! Yes I did come across your adaptation when researching this story and it was inspiring - very effectively shot, with a look that lingers.

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