A Legendary Tale
♦ Tripwire’s editor-in-chief takes a look at The Folio Society’s edition of Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend, illustrated by Dave McKean…
I Am Legend
Writer: Richard Matheson
Illustrations And Cover by Dave McKean
I Am Legend, arguably the most significant horror novel of the 20th century, was first published in the US in 1954 and two years later in the UK. Matheson’s tale of Richard Neville, the last man on earth, has also been adapted three times for cinema: The Last Man On Earth (1964) starring Vincent Price, The Omega Man (1971) with Charlton Heston and I Am Legend (2007) with Will Smith. I admit I have never seen Price’s adaptation but I have seen Heston and Smith’s versions and neither comes close to the power of Matheson’s original source material.
Neville lives in a house in a large US city, under siege from hordes of vampires who seem intent on breaking into his sanctum and disrupting his existence. He was married but his wife Virginia was taken by the vampire plague and so he has lived alone for a number of years. It is the simplicity of Matheson’s prose which gives I Am Legend such power and impact. His existence is mostly a solitary one with the exception of a dog that comes into his life and a woman, Ruth, who he encounters towards the end, whose intentions are anything but benign.
As with every Folio Society edition, I Am Legend is beautifully designed and Dave McKean’s illustrations are simple but effective, adding a great deal to Matheson’s brilliant writing. From the cover to the colour and black white images contained inside the book, McKean’s work really lends a huge amount to the reader’s experience with this book. The introduction by modern horror master Joe Hill (Heart-Shaped Box, The Fireman, NOS4A2) sets everything neatly in context too.
The two film adaptations I have seen really don’t do this book justice and so aficionados of horror and science fiction who haven’t read Matheson’s seminal tale should check out this stunning Folio Society edition. I Am Legend is a rich, sophisticated horror tale rich in irony with a powerful conclusion that lingers after you have read the final page.
The Folio Society edition of I Am Legend by Richard Matheson, introduced by Joe Hill and illustrated by Dave McKean, is available exclusively from www.FolioSociety.com