- 30 Days of Night centres on the secluded Alaskan town of Barrow where the sun sets and doesn’t rise for over 30 consecutive days and nights. From the darkness comes an evil that will bring the residents of Barrow to their knees. The only hope for the town is the Sheriff and Deputy, a husband and wife team who are torn between survival and saving the town they love.
Originally published in Matrix 188 on 01.06.2008
Six years ago, a three issue horror miniseries hit the comic shops shelves with a resounding, splattering thud. Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith were suddenly catapulted into comic books stardom with 30 Days of Night, and both have continued to work in the industry to much acclaim, with Niles also setting up a production company. Horror is currently in the ascendancy, with Geoff Ryman commenting at a recent book launch that this is a reflection upon our current surroundings. Comics have always been at the edge, setting trends as well as reflecting society, and 30 Days of Night is a fine example of raw horror.
The comic is well worth reading in its own right, even though it was early stuff for Niles, which shows a little in the dialogue. Too, there isn’t the character development that one might want in a story, but it is a neat idea: an Alaskan town so far north that every year it is plunged into darkness for 30 days, allowing vampires to feast unhindered by the restriction that the sun imposes. It’s brutally quick, though, and there is little time to come to love the characters before they are dealt with in a very visceral and visually violent way. The atmosphere created by the artwork is suitably unpleasant and the story stands on its own right regardless of the lack of deep characterisation.
Templesmith uses a variety of artistic media, including pencil, ink, acrylics and possibly even charcoal, all with colour washes that play an important part in setting the right atmosphere. It’s very artistic, in the sense that his style allows the images to stand alone but still tells the story very well, which is essential in a comic.
In 2002, Thirty Days of Night was seen as a big break away from the turgid boredom of titles such as Buffy The Vampire Slayer that were proliferating in the market at the time. It was a horror comic with attitude, originality of story and style and, of course, it was truly horrific and gruesome. Full of chilling atmosphere, it heralded a spate of horror titles that are both intelligently written and also a good, scary read.
Sam Rami has now gone on the produce the comic as a movie, which, inevitably, differs from the comic in many respects. For example, the leader of the vampires, who sets about his goal of keeping the vampires hidden in different ways. In the comic, he travels to the town to convince the vampires to end their feeding, but in the movie he just orders them not to turn anyone into a vampire.
30 DAYS OF NIGHT: RED SNOW
Ben Templesmith takes on the writing as well as illustration for this, the eighth series under the 30 Days of Night banner. It is set during World War Two and sheds some light upon the background of the vampires. On the Eastern Front, a group of SS are trudging heroically forward to reach a town, with orders to kill all inhabitants, even though the bloodletting feels to them like the twist of a cold steel knife in a warm gut. Also heading for the town are a group of Red Army soldiers accompanied by a British Corporal with a Union Jack on his sleeve. This last touch suggests a nod towards Union Jack Jackson or Johnny Red.
The two groups come into conflict, but then encounter a super-strong group of ravenous vampires.
In the first issue, the Nazi officer talks about the enemy "breeding like vermin" in a inspirational bit of dialogue that makes one wonder if Templesmith is drawing parallels between the Nazis and the Vampires. The dialogue finishes with him saying that "they are not bred for fighting," which elicits the response, "They’re bred for dying, eh, sir."
One also wonders who the Übermensch really are in this comic, as the story suddenly throws our confident Nazi killers against a very different and unexpected enemy. With some British encouragement, the Nazi and Red Army soldiers band together against the vampires in an unhappy alliance of bitter enemies.
The art in this comic is simple line drawings with washes of colour: hues of yellowy-brown for interior shots and cold blues outside, permeated by bloody scarlet for the dripping and surging blood, are more than enough to portray this moody and atmospheric horror story. There is little in the way of character development, with one of the scariest and most rounded characters being a young girl who also happens to be one of the vampires, but the pace and action suffices and the gripping and gory nature of the artwork keeps the story very much alive.
TEQUILLA NO 1
Underground comics can sometimes be a real gem of a find, and Your Round Presents Tequilla is just that. Coming from Olive Press, this is a small 32 page anthology. The stories all have one thing in common: alcohol, booze, drinking, getting lashed up. It’s produced by Declan Shalvey, a chap to watch out for as he is getting more work by the day. Declan also is the artist for one of the stories, Hustle, which is a nicely penned story by Mike McLean. Bob Byrne, who is currently working for 2000AD among other projects, writes and draws a very odd-ball story and my favourite, by James Hoodgkin, acutely shows how drink can affect the brain in a really effective sequence. It’s a super little comic and its production values are very impressive. Check out www.yourroundthecomic.com and also Declan’s own blog, http://dshalv.blogspot.com
by James Bacon