Written by Angela Rairden
First published as a children’s book in 1978, Bunnicula, written by Deborah and James Howe, has caught the imagination of children for decades. With the tagline “A Rabbit-Tale of Mystery”, the short book, which became the beginning of a series, followed the adventures of Howard the dog and Chester the cat when their family brings home a new pet – a rabbit named Bunnicula.
Bunnicula book cover
I had fond memories of reading this book as kid. It was probably one of the first “horror” books that I read. As an adult, I was aware of it having a sort of cult following and, although I hadn’t read it since I was kid, I still largely remembered the plot even all these years later.
So, when my local comic bookstore advertised a newly released Bunnicula graphic novel on their social media pages, I knew I had to pick it up, despite the fact that its intended audience is “young readers”. If there’s one thing that the nerd community knows, it’s that age is just a number anyways.
Written by one of the book’s original writers, James Howe, in collaboration with Andrew Donkin and with art by Stephen Gilpin, the Bunnicula graphic novel is nearly a word-for-word adaptation of the original (I bought a copy of the original at a used bookstore to re-read for comparison’s sake). Both begin with an editor’s note which states that the events within the book were brought to the editor’s attention in “a most unusual way” in that they were written in a letter by “a sad-eyed, droopy-eared dog” who then personally delivered the letter himself.
The dog, Harold, goes on to write that, while his “full-time occupation is dog”, he comes to writing “by chance”. He explains that he lives with his family, whose names he has changed in order to protect them, but whom he refers to as the Monroes, and his friend Chester the cat. He also claims that the events that are described within the letter are all true, strange as they may seem.
At this point in the tale, the art switches to the standard comic book style of boxes and word bubbles that we are all familiar with. Straight from the pages of the book, Gilpin’s art illustrates the unusual recounting of the day when the Monroe family attended a screening of the movie Dracula, where they discovered a small black and white rabbit in a shoebox left on one of the theater’s seats. The two sons, called Pete and Toby, convince their parents to bring the rabbit home and let them keep him as a pet.
After some discussion, the family decides to name their new addition Bunnicula in reference to the movie that they were watching when they found him. However, when vegetables begin showing up in the kitchen completely drained of all of their juices, it’s a name which Chester the cat is determined to prove to Harold is more fitting than it seems. Chester, an avid reader and horror fan, refers to the book The Mark of the Vampire as proof of Bunnicula’s undead qualities. With Howard’s reluctant help, Chester vows to do everything in his power to protect the family from the rabbit’s particular appetite, often with great hilarity but very little effect.
As amusing as I found the original book to be, I have to say that this graphic novel is even better. Gilpin’s illustrations bring the Howes’ words to life with charming and creative depictions. Although its targeted age range is 8-12, anyone with a love of light-hearted humor and whimsy will enjoy this “spooky” tale.
Angela “LaLa” Rairden is an avid fan of comic books, Star Wars, and most things nerdy. A cosplayer, she loves to attend comic cons dressed as her favorite fictional characters, particularly Harley Quinn. Although her day job is at a grocery store as a floral manager, writing has always been her true calling. She lives in the Pacific Northwest, where she is currently writing her first novel.