Monday, March 24, 2008

Nathan Castle's Seamonster

Seamonster #1, © Nathan Castle

Lately I've been shedding readers like last February's overcoat, so I better get this in before you're all gone.

Nathan Castle's Seamonster is the best creepy realism I've read since Charles Burns' Black Hole. This is a comic we can point to when we want to cite good writing and good art coming from one creator.

We've all seen our share of "things are not always as they seem" stories, but Seamonster is anchored by subplots from real life, such as a purloined granola bar as a seed of domestic tension. Failing to keep one foot in reality has spoiled a lot of phantasmagoric comics for me. When the unreal is the rule, the genre shifts to fantasy. When the real must confront the unreal, the opportunities for dramatic tension and mystery are abundant.

As a comic artist, I am always alert for lessons on rendering. Seamonster is filled with images that I studied at length: an owl in semi-silhouette, scaffolding around a building, ornamental brickwork. My own comic is a collaboration in which my wife does the art, but the better I can make my storyboards, the more they inspire her.

I love to read comics before going to sleep, but it's tough to hold a computer monitor on my lap. Seamonster #1 is available from Lulu in print (where it has six stars), and it would be a fine comic to own, with the depth to support periodic re-readings. Plus it's got that creepy, pull-the-covers-up-to-your-chin spookiness.