Welcome to a special Friday edition of my traditionally Sunday-based ramblings! Stay tuned for even more rambling Sunday, and fear not: your regularly scheduled Stew will be back in his regular spot next week!
Recently, our band of merry men and women set up shop at the 3riverscomicon for a weekend of fun and spreading the word about the podcast–but not actually playing the podcast as I kept telling Andy that would drive the people around us crazy!
Plus, hearing the sound of my own voice is terrifying enough when I’m in the car by myself, let alone in a crowded convention hall (or a former Macy’s that still has the L’Oreal displays on the furniture as the case may be).
So we had to think of other ways to drive folks to the site and podcast. One way included our wheel, where folks could pay $1 to spin and win fabulous prizes…or homework! Some of the fabulous prizes included posters; hand-made comic coasters, courtesy of Amanda, an entry into a drawing for some collectible Dorbs, courtesy of Andy; and lots of comic books and post-it note sketches courtesy of yours truly–with the occasional post-it-sketch assist from the awesome Russ Braun (russ-braun.com) and some of our newfound fans (Thanks, Dave, James, and our other contributors whose names I forgot to write down!).
On the homework side of the equation, we would give folks various tasks like recording promos for the show, doing nice things for others, or recommending segments. Several lucky folks even got assignments to write an article for the website. I’m still waiting on those….
Anyway, the weekend was lots of fun, we had great interactions with lots of new fans, and we raised over $100 in two days for the Lawrenceville chapter of the Boys and Girls Club. Go here (https://www.bgca.org/ways-to-give) if you would still like to donate to an awesome cause.
I want to follow through on our end of the equation, though, so I’m going to do a review of Plague Doktor, which came recommended to us via one of our fans that approached the booth. Plague Doktor is written by David M. Brown, with art from Dennis Coyle III and a cover from Sean Seal (whose other work Norah I reviewed here). It was released by Source Point Press (www.sourcepointpress.com) for $7.99.
Plague Doktor is set in 13th century England during the outbreak of the Bubonic Plague. That setting in and of itself is pretty interesting, and a bit of a blind spot for me, personally. Apparently, doctors (barely trained youths in many cases) would travel from town to town in ridiculously scary bird-beaks, black leather jackets coated with animal fats to avoid fluids from sticking, and fancy top hats. The medical practices…weren’t very effective or even medical in nature most of the time. It was the 13th century. For the most part, they were there to comfort the dying or to scam folks out of their money–or both.
This series focuses on a young doctor who after trying unsuccessfully to save his dear old mama, faces down Death itself, the Adversary. The doktor is trying to help others and find his place in the world…until he does! *cue cheesy horror sound effects now*
This series mines the interesting elements of the black death for a frightening tale that entwines the historical fiction with elements of the occult and fantastical. For fans of the horror genre, this is a solid tale from start to finish. It actually had me looking up more info on the bubonic plague era, as the realistic elements of this story, which may be more frightening than the fantastical parts, are clearly and chillingly presented here. David Brown does an excellent job grabbing the reader’s attention and holding on from the first page to the last.
I’m not much of a horror fan if I’m being honest, but once I started this story, I quickly and enthusiastically read the whole thing.
On the art side of the equation, Dennis Coyle III definitely has a strong Francesco Francavilla-esque influence on his style. As an unabashed Franca-fan, that’s definitely a good thing. His backgrounds, his animals, and his renderings of the docktor in full out garb all stand out as beautiful to look at. The coloring emphasizes a cooler purple-gray palette that plays beautifully off of the blacks and whites in the series. The limited color palette really works to hammer home the mood of the series and to emphasize the scary and grotesque nature of the situations in the story. There are pages in here that are a visual treat.
Heck, I even enjoyed the Sean Seal cover painting, not to mention some of the fun pin-ups in the back of this collection.
The Less Than Good:
With the praises for the art however, I need to mention that when it came to drawing people, especially people with hair, I wasn’t as enamored. The main character in particular, when unmasked came across as visually inconsistent. I love the start of Coyle’s work, but I can definitely see some room for growth as it comes to his human characters.
Another issue I had with the book was with the lettering. One of the unfortunate hallmarks of some independent books I’m finding is their use of digital lettering. Lettering, when it’s good, is something I usually don’t notice. For the most part, the lettering here was that. However, when the Adversary would speak, the repeated use of the digitized scratchy font took me out of the story entirely. If you’re using that style of font to show how damaged, unpredictable, and out of the normal the character is, you can’t have every t have the exact same flaws as every other t. You’ve got to get in there and hand letter that jazz!
Finally, the inevitability of some of the story tropes felt… inevitable. I’m going to chalk that up more to the genre than this particular story, but the ending is telegraphed far in advance.
Who should avoid this book:
If I’m being honest, people like me. There’s a lot in this book that doesn’t jibe with my personal tastes: I’m not a horror fan. I think several of the scenes are gratuitous, both in the sex/nudity department and in the disease grotesquery department. When certain horror tropes come into play, I often find them a bit silly. So when people in the story get cat eyes and venom-style crazy mouths, it has a different effect on me than what I assume is intended. Instead of being frightened or titallated by the sexy lady with the bare chest and venom-face, I’m more likely to give myself a concussion from rolling my eyes too hard. Sorry, boob-venom.
I genuinely hope the creators aren’t upset at that last one. It’s intended in good fun.
Who is this for?:
With all of my criticisms being said, I know plenty of folks that could and would enjoy this story. The art is solid. The colors are a highlight. The story has plenty of horror tropes that folks love and flock to in their comics and movies. Heck, it even got me interested enough based on the realistic aspects to go and google what doctors were like during the plague. That’s crazy stuff and a sign of solid storytelling.
If you’re an Afterlife with Archie fan that’s there for the art and horror elements more so than the Riverdale set, this book might be worth putting on your radar. I’m thinking fans of the most recent craziness of Moon Knight might appreciate this one, too.
I think there is definitely an audience for this book, and a wide-appealing one at that.
The end result:
Is Source Point Press’s Plague Doktor from David M. Brown and Dennis Coyle III for me? Nah. There’s enough strikes against it based on my personal tastes that I probably wouldn’t pick up any continuation of this story. However, it did hold my interest throughout. It did give me a new and interesting topic to learn about. It did come across as a solid, well-put together comic book with captivating visuals. Whereas I wouldn’t recommend it for me, I might recommend it for you. If you’re into that sort of thing, what with the cool gothic (historically accurate) imagery and horror genre tropes and the boob venoms, give it a try!
For more on the Ghosts of the Stratosphere 3riverscomicon experience, make sure to listen to our recap show!
If you still have unfinished homework and would like to submit your article for the website, drop us a line at email@example.com
If you haven’t already done so, give us a follow on twitter @gotstratosphere, @chachachad1, and @ghostandy2.
Until next time, I’ll be scaring myself by researching scary stuff people told me about at the comicon!