Created by Norbert Rybarczyk
Titles and Tattoo designs by Artur Kepinski
English translation by Martin Dqbrowski
Full colour hardback with 44 pages of story and published by Centrala Books
‘”here’s a place that’s not a place. Beyond time and beyond space. Old Gogs called it The Cathead’s Hill. But old gods are no more.”
The Story: The people of The Hill come in all shapes and sizes. They look like moles, ravens or cyclops and, let’s be honest, they are just plain weird looking. However, they act just like us, for the most part anyway. They like to go for walks, play computer games and see live bands. But you can tell that things are getting a bit monotonous. In fact, life and the daily fun they were having meant that they didn’t venture far from the Hill. But one of their number becomes curious. Some surprising events are going to happen, along with some musical roars….
The Review: With some satircal nods to our present corporate hive mind, creator Norbert Rybarczyk successfully drags us into his tiny little world, populated characters that certainly love loud music, booze and the occasional selfie. But while Staring from the Hill offers a dazzling feast of colourful designs and fast-paced action, for me, it is the silent and slower pages that grabbed my attention.
This is one of the new projects from the London-based Cenrala Books, who have been steadily releasing some really interesting English language translations of European comics that include the previously-reviewed Chernobyl: The Zone by Natacha Bustos and Francisco Sanchez.
Without ruining the story, there is a strange point to what happens. It is a circular tale with some weird meanings springing from its pages. Are we stuck in a rut in the actual real world? These characters have their fun interrupted by the cold truth that they have to do something to protect their fun. Norbert does it with superb relish.
The art has the outward air of a children’s book but upon further examination has a scratchy anarchic touch that is nearer something like Jamie Hewlett‘s and Damon Albarn‘s Gorillaz. Staring from the Hill is a rock and roll parable that could easily be a music video. (Stick on a two minute Ramones song to feel its full force as you rad it, perhaps). It also hit the nostalgia button a little bit for me, in evoking a time before the cleaner lined animations that we see today.
Norbert also gives up his story beats like they form part of a folk legend; the story of a group of misshapen and crazy pals who go on to casually yet violently save their little world, before heading back to drinking ‘juice’ and listening to and commenting on an ever-improving punk rock band.
While the art is superb and the overall story a delight, the narration seems a little staccato and without the needed inflection. I do think Centrala need to look closely at the English translations of their titles and give them more of a polish.
This is and issue not confined to Centrala (and sometimes it’s actually the overseas creators of the original who block attempts to localise a translation), but when you know how bande dessines series such as Asterix benefit from that kind of fine tuning, it’s disappointing we don’t see more of that kind of fine tuning.
The cover is also decidedly underwhelming, with the title seemingly too small suffers from a failure to put some great character designs more from and centre.
Those negatives aside, I did really enjoy Staring from the Hill. A short and fun punchy read, it’s full of textured characters with moments of great visual flair. Well worth a punt.
• Staring from the Hill is available now from all good bookshops. Use this link to buy it from amazon.co.uk and help support downthetubes
• Norbert Rybarczyk is an illustrator, comics artist and colourist based in Warsaw, Poland whose work has been exhibited around thew world. You can find him on Patreon here, where he is working on a new project, Ghosts of Orwald, and support his work