My senior thesis project at RISD was a graphic-novel-style adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s short story Shadow. The murky pencil drawings I was doing at the time borrowed heavily from the work of my heroes — including Jon J Muth, Greg Spalenka, Dave McKean, and Matt Mahurin. I got my friends and family to serve as my models and got my roommate Axel to show me how to typeset the dialogue using a new application called Quark XPress. I got through about two pages before it was time to graduate.

I kept coming back to Poe’s stories every few years, surprised by how much I’d missed the last time I read them. If you can get past the self-conscious writing style and look deeper than the lurid details, you’ll find a writer suspicious of the technological culture emerging in the early days of the American Industrial Revolution — the culture that culminates with us.

And I kept coming back to the idea of an adaptation every few years, always throwing out the drawings and design I had and starting over. It was starting to look like Axl Rose’s Chinese Democracy. Like Caden Cotard’s “big and true and tough” movie.

Enough. After all those false starts, I finally know what it wants to look like. Here are some of the chapter openers I’m working on, including (from top to bottom): the frontispiece, The Tell-Tale Heart, The Black Cat, and Berenice.


I’ve become obsessed with typography and page design, so it’s a book now — not a graphic novel. The page grid is based on the Van De Graaf canon — Gutenberg’s design for the Bible, only flipped upside-down. The display type is inspired by antebellum-era magazine design, which was where Poe published his stories. The title is a custom font I designed based on a Scotch Roman typeface — a family of fonts popular in Edgar Allan Poe’s day.

And then I need to figure out how to publish it…