A Closer Look – I Am Legend [The Folio Society]

Illustration by Dave McKean from The Folio Society edition of I Am Legend © 2018 Dave McKean

I Am Legend

By Richard Matheson

Introduced by Joe Hill | Illustrated by Dave McKean

Product Details• Bound in printed and blocked cloth with a design by the artist • Set in Aldus • Frontispiece and 6 colour illustrations • 4 integrated black & white illustrations for the part-titles and illustrated headings throughout • Book size: 10” × 5½” • 208 pages

Though arguably better known as the basis for the hugely successful 2007 big screen adaptation of the same name starring Will Smith – not forgetting the Charlton Heston led The Omega Man (1971) or the low-budget Vincent Price led first adapation of the novel, The Last Man on Earth (1964) – Richard Matheson’s original 1954 sci-fi classic remains an influential and ever-popular landmark of the genre, and now gets the Folio treatment in an essential new edition, illustrated by Dave McKean.

A major influence in the development of the now heavily-saturated zombie, vampire and post-apocalyptic fiction genres, Matheson’s haunting, apocalyptic tale of isolation and alienation centres around ordinary American Robert Neville, the apparent sole survivor of a devastating, post-nuclear war global pandemic that has caused humans to mutate into a sort of vampire-zombie hybrid, and from which he is immune.


The Folio Society edition of I Am Legend © 2018 Dave McKean

Set 22-years in the future, and opening in January 1976, Matheson cleverly inverts the traditional gothic horror concept of one lone vampire attempting to infect a normal, healthy community as he intricately details Neville’s daily life in a devastated LA and his frantic attempts to come to terms with the plague, research it and hopefully cure it. What soon becomes clear however, as Neville continues to barricade himself inside a house now littered with objects to repel the vampires, is that increasing loneliness can be a far more harmful enemy than the creatures he is attempting to keep out.

Neville’s daily routine is a careful yet monotonous one of extermination and regular maintenance. During the daylight hours his time is devoted to collecting supplies and disposing of the creatures using increasingly efficient measures, though once the sun begins to fade he secures himself indoors, and his attention turns to meticulous studying, experimentation and repairing the frequent damage inflicted upon the house.

During the night Neville frequently turns up his music to drown out the sounds of the blood-thirsty hoards outside his walls, and through a series of poignant flashbacks we witness a man haunted by memories of a wife taken by the disease, and the moments that led to the current situation, though as the only human alive his sanity is severely tested and he quickly turns to alcohol for solace.

Illustration by Dave McKean from The Folio Society edition of I Am Legend © 2018 Dave McKean

In terms of its overall style, Matheson’s relatively short novel avoids any sort of excessive focus on violence and gore and instead opts for a much more intelligent, psychological approach that effectively captures the relatable human elements of the story with an unnerving intensity that never fades.

Having illustrated the Folio Society edition of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods back in 2017, multi-award-winning illustrator, comic book artist and filmmaker Dave McKean makes a welcome return to Folio with I Am Legend.

Through a series of suitably chilling, murky-green images, McKean perfectly compliments the unsettling elements and shadowy atmosphere of the text, echoing Neville’s increasingly fragile psychological state in the process.

One of the most frequently requested titles in its reader surveys (having been on Folio readers’ wish lists for numerous years), The Folio Society has certainly delivered with this stunning new edition of Matheson’s great work, one that is well worth picking up if your trusty old paperback could do with an upgrade.

The Folio Society edition of I Am Legend by Richard Matheson, introduced by Joe Hill and illustrated by Dave McKean, is exclusively available from www.foliosociety.com.

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