An Apparition of Puck

On the cover of Classics Illustrated #87 are gathered the fairy queen Titania, Bottom with his grinning ass’s head, and the little green-clad puck. To complete the effect of unreality, underneath is a sleeper in Elizabethan dress, dreaming them all.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream: with Oberon declaiming in lust-hardened scorn: “Ill met by moonlight, proud Titania.”

It’s just a 15 cent comic book, the same size and shape as any Batman, Mighty Thor or Archie. But the language is straight from the Shake. And it’s tucked into the drugstore spinner-rack with other, equally mysterious stories: Melville’s Typee (luscious south sea maidens wearing skimpy sarongs, tattooed warriors, ominous tiki idols), Treasure Island (secret maps, tricorn hats, bellowing one-legged buccaneers), and Uncle Tom’s Cabin (complete with flame-headed angels sweeping beautiful little girls off to heaven).

Buzzing fairies and mist-haunted lovers, Robin Goodfellow, the puck, flying on a bee, under a fat, glowing moon, looking more like a wicked winged Cub Scout than an emissary from the dark regions. Golden Titania glides, in her long luminous gown, with the moon around her head as a midnight halo. Another grand panel shows her and donkey-headed lover Nick Bottom. Five fairies hover above them, bowing in midair. “Hail mortal!” one proclaims. “Hail. Hail. Hail,” the others chime in.

“Hail mortal!” - the denizens of the nightworld paying homage to a moon-addled man-beast.

At the end of the play comes the duke’s pronouncement. “The iron tongue of Midnight hath told twelve.” Then he commands the three loving couples to the best bride bed, to mate and create, to breed fortunate issue free from harelip, mole, scar or any prodigious mark.

A smirking puck appears with a besom to sweep away the cobwebs of dream.

And the sleeper wakes.