last month, I wrote thanking “John and David of Black Hearted Press for the small gesture of faith they showed in an unknown blogger” I was talking about the free review copies they’d given me of comics published by their Glasgow-based independent comics publisher, Black Hearted Press. There I was just sitting quietly in the Scotia when Jim Stewart- of The Astounding Ganjaman fame, pointed this guy in my direction, telling John (for John Farman it was) that I was someone he should talk to. The next thing I knew I had 3 free comics and an article to write. My introduction to David Braysher soon followed, and a fourth comic had been added to the pile of what was my first officially commissioned review.
Well, it’s been two and a half months, so I can’t say I responded all that well to the responsibility, but here’s the promised review, at long last.
The School of the Damned
So there you go dear readers: my first official review- with all that entails, and it’s a horror comic. I think that might come under the definition of irony.
|Nosferatu leads the|
|The plot thickens…|
|Van Helsing’s bloody crusade|
Farman’s story is ably supported by the work of his artists. I have to be honest here: I don’t think the art is as strong as the script, but it’s by no means bad comic art; it’s more a matter of the current state of the art setting the bar very high, so high that you can hardly expect an independent publisher to be able to pay for work of that quality. To reiterate though: Devlin's and Mathis' art is good. The panels flow smoothly; the linework is clean so that the action is easy to follow; and the grasp of character and mastery of expression is strong, which is very important when it comes to delivering the emotional nuances of Farman’s story.
If I have a complaint about these comics it’s the lettering: I just find it sufficiently cramped to be sometimes difficult to read. This is more an issue in the back-up strips. Each comic has a back-up strip which adds some background to the main story. I like these but 2 of them use script-style lettering which, frankly, is an absolute bugger to read. It’s a shame, because ‘The Curious Fate of Gabriel Utterson’ in #1 is a particularly interesting retake of Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic novella The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.
Black Hearted Love
I can start by praising the artwork, which is uniformly good. I must make mention of David Braysher’s art because it’s his comic. David’s linework is very clean showing a good grasp of anatomy and proportion. His many strips in Black Hearted Love also show 2 distinct styles: a strictly naturalistic style- as seen, eg. on the cover; and a more cartoony style, exemplified by, eg. ‘The new adventures of Bunny McBoiler’. Stylistic variation aside, David’s work also shows a certain knack for the surly look and the petted lip, which is a definite strength in the present anthology.
|A 1-page strip from|
Black Hearted Love
It’s easy to praise the art in Black Hearted Love; it’s a bit harder to sum up the comic as a whole. This is less a matter of there being anything unclear about the anthology’s overall theme, and more a question of pinning that theme down to convey it in a few words: beyond bittersweet; scratching the surface of true romance to reveal the misanthropic reality beneath; and the psychotic self-delusion of the sadly besotted; these are phrases which spring to mind. All this and more can be found in the pages of this comic.
If I have one concern about Black Hearted Love it’s that I wonder what its potential audience might be because I think that it combines a form- anthology comics, and a theme- twisted anti-romance, both of which seem to me of relatively limited appeal in today’s comic market. This isn’t a complaint as such. Rather it’s me wondering out loud about what the future of this comic might be. Howsoever that might work out, it’s certainly the case that Black Hearted Love has left me wondering what might result if David Braysher was to bring this particular sensibility to a longer story.
I’ve already written about how the Glasgow indie comics scene is thriving, and how the mere existence of Black Hearted Press as an independent comics publisher is part of the proof of that. The School of the Damned and Black Hearted Love show that- exactly as with Team Girl Comic, this is expressed in a richness of themes as well as a profileration of titles. The former brings nuanced characterisation and unexpected poignancy to familiar monsters cast in a new setting; the latter goes in the opposite direction with its gleefully vicious twist on classic comicbook romance. It is a testament to the success of this still young company that The School of the Damned has already been optioned for a movie.
And there’s more!
Plan B Books are to host a Black Hearted Press Halloween Launch Night (that’s October 31st, from 7 till 10pm). I don’t know for sure if the new comic will be available by then (John’s still showing off artwork which will be part of #1 and I can’t help but feel that a mere 2 weeks is cutting it too fine to get an issue to the printers and back), but I’m sure there’ll be more interesting goodies from Black Hearted Press for me to get my mitts on.
And yes, I’ll be taking my trusty digicam this time. And yes, I hope and pray that it won’t take me nearly 3 months to get the damn thing written up here at RD/KA!. ;)