Written and drawn by Ryan Taylor
This is the fourth in a proposed five issue series of a black and white mini-series of a horror story set in a small town by its writer/artist Ryan Taylor. It follows the creepy and slightly trippy story of a mask that controls the minds of townspeople and turns them into bloodthirsty savages (and much, much more).
I’ve been sent a lot of horror comics recently and they have all been pretty good, and The Grinning Mask is no exception, offering a singular vision of parochial paranoia and tension. It’s got a real sense of place and time to it.
The story centres on that common horror trope of small town life with has undertones of evil and religion tied up together (One of the creepiest scenes in this issue happens in a church for example). But Ryan plays with your emotions through the use of a few shock splash pages that look excellent in his scratchy black and white art style, creating a comic that takes me back to 1970s gothic style English horror like the Hammer Horror movies, The Wicker Man movie and TV series like The Nightmare Man and The Survivors.
What it also evokes to me are the works of authors like John Wyndham and H. P. Lovecraft. Shocking moments of horror that creep out from under park benches or jump at you from behind grave stones. The black and white style of artwork also reminds me of UK weekly comics like Misty and Scream.
After typing the above I reached out to Ryan and asked him about his influences. I was surprsied how much we agreed (I told him it looked like I had been cheating)..
“Influences wise it’s old EC horrors and British comics of the early 1980s I suppose (comics like Scream and Buster etc),” he says. “Then there’s The Wicker Man, Hammer Horrors, English Folk music and childhood phobias of Noseybonk. I’m a big fan of black and white artists like Bernie Wrightson and Jose Ortiz, although I can’t really draw like them. Don’t worry about cheating. I wear my influences on my sleeve! English folk horror I suppose?”
Ryan is currently working on a strip for Aces Weekly as well as the fifth and final installment of The Grinning Mask.
• The Grinning Mask is Available through www.comicsy.co.uk/ryantaylor. You can also grab a physical copy through Nostalgia and Comics in Birmingham
Many thanks for reading.
Antony Esmond is a comic reviewer and writer – his hips don’t lie.