Tales From The Deep – Volume 1
Story by Fred Campbell and art by the Drawn Chorus Collective
Cover by Fred Campbell
End Papers Artwork by Zanna Allen
A themed anthology with an eye to style this is the first volume in a book full of exaggerated tall tales and really beautiful visuals.
Fred Campbell the writer of the stories, who along with a host of talented artists known as ‘The Drawn Chorus Collective’ (and individually named below) staged an exhibition with nautical themes in 2014 called ‘AHOY’. Inspired by this and with a yearning to jump into the comics medium, Fred set out to create Tales From The Deep.
“So you boys like to gamble?”
This comic features ten stories, bookended by a tale that features a stranger who enters a seafaring pub called The Lobster’s Claw and challenges the regulars to guess which of his stories is real and which is fiction. He drops a big bag of coins on the tabel and begins to talk.
The two-tone introductory tale is drawn by Fred Campbell with atmosphere. A story that would make a perfect opening to a Hammer movie from the 1970s.
“… listen to an old man tell his stories…”
The Tale of the Aquarium
Art by Abigail Moulder
This is a story built artistically on the cobbles of a seaside town. In starkly patterned black and white, we follow two local kids as they visit an aquarium at a fun fair. The patchwork weirdness of the show overtakes their and our senses and the show then turns into a trap. Words intertwine with images and the reader is caught up in the visual swirl.
The Tale of the Trawler Man
Art by Martin Ursell
A multicoloured story of a deep-sea diver who finds a chest in a sunken ship. His hopes that it’s filled with gold are dashed when something horribly unexpected climbs out and looks for a new home to ‘adopt’.
This has some incredible art with striking colours and intricately drawn panels that range from a series of smaller moments to big splash pages. Grotesque and beautiful in a single dose. On its own well worth the price of admission.
The Tale of the Fog
Art by Nadine Scherer
Less a comic story and more a visual representation of a lost journey in a seaside fog this is full of beautiful images and textured paint. It plays on the dreamlike fear of being lost with nowhere to turn and a creature at your heels. It pays off in the final page and is a quick yet satisfying read.
The Tale of the Island
Art by Lefki Savvidou
This story centres on three deep sea divers (who strangely keep their helmets on throughout) and the fear of a malevolent island. Trippy eeriness throughout, this was a visual treat. The lettering seems a little scattershot and hard to make out at moments but its enjoyable nonetheless.
If The Grateful Dead were still about, I could see this story as part of a double gatefold album. Interesting indeed.
The Tale of the Fishmonger’s Son
Art by Cathy Swan
The son is left the local fishmongers to run (please see the title – pay attention at the back) and is not doing financially well. The shop is about to close – and then he meets the king of the ocean and a creepy (and dare I say ‘Splashy’?) deal is met.
This has more distinct and precise panels and words than the previous tales and grasps the sequential nature of a story the best of all the tales. It has snappy panels with a washed out colour palette in places that pulls you deep in before the sacrificial and horrific final pages. Really interesting and probably my favourite of the issue. Cathy the artist has a great appreciation of facial reaction and close-ups. Superb stuff.
The Tale of The Fisherman’s Song
Art by Zanna Allen
A sea shanty with a happy ending? “No”, you say? A boat is swallowed whole by a whale in the deep sea. Surviving, the sailors decide to take solace in their songs and play them out through the belly of the whale.
This part of the anthology feels almost like a historical document. The realistic and purposely dated style of art by Zanna Allen reminds me of something by Jessica Martin. It has a brush like quality to the blended visuals. We are distant observers hearing a narrated tale in this one. Distant and melancholic.
The Tale of the Siren
Art by Alex Moore
The visual techniques shift again to a more traditionally animated movie style approach in this interesting experiment and we see Fred tackle a story with artist Alex Moore that centres on a monstrous pirate and ghost story.
A pirate ship and its crew take on more than they can handle with a magical and other-worldly ship they attempt to take on and raid. There are manga style touches to the visuals and some great shock moments.
The Tale of the Giant’s Bargain
Illustrated by Daniel Duncan
Fred again moves to the left of what you would expect with an illustrated story that mixes prose, art and sequentials in almost an Alice in Wonderland style story.
The fat kid in the village is chosen to be sacrificed to the local giant. But a plan is hatched by one of the villagers to catch that beardy giant using boats and nets. It is a simple story that you see coming a mile off but thoroughly enjoyable. The visuals have the quality of a creepy seaside/fairy tale postcard and propel you throughout.
The Tale of the Bride
Art by Eileen Kai Hing Kwan
A visually stunning tale of romance in unusual, creepy and beautiful circumstances this is one of the real highlights of this anthology. It is at times hard to follow, but I kind of think in a strange way that this adds to the charm. It has an acid trip underwater quality to both the story and the visuals in a really original way.
The story leads through mottled sea shell images and finally to a couple on the top of a symbolically hallucinogenic wedding cake. Love and loneliness are explored through a strange brew of comics panels indeed.
Tales From The Deep is a book that relishes its connection with the cliché of the old wives’ tale. It creates atmosphere through our feelings of time, place and nostalgia before crashing through the walls of our comfortable expectations. It is a really well crafted anthology chocked full of superb talent. Fred has crafted stories that fit each and every style.
It is well worth a look and you can find more information about this project and others at www.drawnchoruscollective.co.uk
Many thanks for reading.
Antony Esmond is a comic reviewer and writer – his hips don’t lie.