Sunday, July 5, 2015

A Retinue of Reviews

The Haunting House was the first book Mark and I cobbled together. It was a one-shot piece done entirely on scratchboard (cool) that thematically was written to spur readers to think about oddities that a “haunted house” implies about the way reality seems to work. Practically speaking it was written so Mark and I met a horrible demise at the hands of supernatural entities. The Hungry Portraits were my favorite. I was eaten alive. Heh.

Haunting House has been reviewed a few times over the years so I thought I would gather the reviews I am aware of for a comparison, of sorts. Always interesting to see what I put into a story and what the reader takes out. If I find more I will add them. I know there are more out there. Let’s start

Sequential Tart: reviewer Anisa Brophy

The Haunting House is a black-and-white story about two developers exploring an old house that's rumored to be haunted before they level it. The previous owners, newlyweds, died soon after moving into it 40 years ago. The wife was accidentally burned alive before the husband hanged himself in his grief.
During their musings of the house's history, the question comes up of what happens to a haunted house after its destroyed. Where do the ghosts go? Do they stay at the site, or do they move on into the afterlife? Are they really attached to the place, or the event?
Author Sam Girdich, a history and philosophy buff, uses Nietzsche's theory of The Void to try and answer this question. "If you think yourself powerless, you avoid them because they are filled with evil and harm. If you think yourself able to act upon the world, they are no big thing."
However, both men quickly learn first-hand what happens to the ghosts as they get chased throughout the house by ghostly portraits, detached fingers, and incredibly freakish ghouls that inhabit the house.
Now for the fun part: Why I'm giving a good review of this book. First off, I come across very few comics that actually cite Nietzsche as a reference, or attempt to delve in the philosophy. It's refreshing to read an academic, as well as entertaining, book.
Secondly, the art is astounding for a story like this. The heavy, almost gritty lines artist Mark Gonyea uses in his technique reminds me of a gothic Clerks: The Animated Series. That's a good thing, trust me. The ways the characters and the scenery are drawn are neither overly complex, yet the scratchy lines and specks of ink perfectly make the atmosphere of this story.
There are a few downsides, though. The entire story is only 18-pages long, when it could easily be a 26-page story. When Girdich explains Nietzsche's theory of The Void, he doesn't fully explain it and clearly relate it to the context of the story. He could have spent a lot more time explaining the theory for those of us who didn't manage to get an A in philosophy in school. At least he gives us enough to understand the jist of it.
My other issue is the main question of the story, "What happens to ghosts after the building is destroyed?" and such is never really answered. Don't get me wrong, the chase sequence at the end of the book is really interesting, but there is no "after" addressed. No resolution to the "what-ifs" the book poses.
It's very open ended, which could be a good thing. Personally, I would love to see a second issue continuing this story, possibly wrapping up the "what-ifs" or even having a mini-series addressing the issue.
Girdich's ability to tell dark, thought-provoking stories matches incredibly well with Gonyea's equally noir art. This creative combo shouldn't waste any opportunities to do more projects like this together.

Sequential Tart: reviewer Rebecca Buchanan

The house is more than a century old. Locals have avoided it for decades. Now it is about to be torn down, a victim of urban development. But, before that happens, two friends decide to break into the house, take a few pictures for posterity, and ponder what exactly it means for a house to be "haunted." Can a place be evil? Does a traumatic event make things "stick" to a house? Do only the powerless and weak fear ghosts? Unfortunately, these two friends are about to find out just how powerless and weak they truly are in the face of something they cannot define or understand ....

I picked up The Haunting House at SDCC. The guys at the table were nice and it sounded like a fun, creepy story. Well, it is definitely that. Two smart guys who think they are smarter and better and stronger than the ignorant locals come to a very bad end. Hubris will get you every time. Consider this a cautionary tale.

I really like the artwork, too. It reminds me of woodblock prints; thick lines and solid areas of black give it that antique look.

Signal Bleed by Josh Bell (film and TV critic blog)

The Haunting House (Sam Girdich/Mark Gonyea, Strongarm Labs) Strongarm had a bunch of different books at their booth, and I asked Girdich to recommend one for me. Based on what I said I was interested in, he suggested this brief one-shot about a pair of friends investigating a haunted house. It proceeds along the lines of pretty much every haunted-house story ever, and the dialogue is a little heavy with exposition and philosophical musings. Gonyea's art, done entirely in scratchboard, has a nice creepy feel, though, and reminded me a little of the simple illustrations you might find in a children's book of ghost stories. This is a bit too intense for children, making it sort of balanced in an awkward place, but it's an interesting little experiment.

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