In Review: The School Of The Damned Issue 1

Black Hearted Press is a new small press publisher in Glasgow run by names familiar to those who attended the Glasgow Comic Con during the summer. The School Of The Damned is their third comics title to be released.

It is 1936 and in eastern Europe German soldiers approach a school run by Count Orlock. The Count invites Major Von Stroheim in to discuss the location of Gabriel Utterson, an Englishman that the Germans have been hunting for through the travelling freak shows of Europe. However as some of the school’s pupils guide the soldiers through the dark marshland towards Utterson’s cottage, the Nazi’s discover that there is more to the school than they had been lead to believe.

Glasgow has something of a reputation of producing small press titles themed around drugs and titillation, themes that culminated in the national distributed magazine Wasted. So it is good to see publications from the likes of Team Girl and Black Hearted Press that break the mold. In The School Of The Damned writer John Farman has taken Xavier’s School For Gifted Youngsters, The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen and 1920s and 30s horror movies and given them a good shake together, added in some Nazis for good effect, and produced a title that deserves attention.

Run by the lead character from the 1922 Nosferatu film, the school includes a werewolf, gargoyles, Medusa, the boy Molock as seen on the front cover, plus Victor Frankenstein and his latest creation, Jenny. There is a lot more going on here than can be fitted into 19 pages of a single issue with some characters only getting a few fleeting panels, but the interactions of those barely seen characters hold out hope for the the already planned continuation of the title. The comic also has a short four page backup story, with art by Dave Alexander, giving a little more information about Gabriel Utterson, a character from Stevenson’s Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, plus a page of the writer’s thoughts on the overall concept.

James Devlin’s moody cover with its subdued colours stands out while his internal artwork is in greyscale which suits the 1930s horror movie feel of the book very well indeed. There is little grandstanding inside with the few splash panels used to good effect as the art gets on with telling the story while the action sequences skew their panels and most pages have black gutters just to add to the overall effect.

I have a great fondness for the old school horror films and so approached this title with a little trepidation. However The School Of The Damned proved to be an entertaining read and I look forward to seeing more of it and its characters in the future.

• There are more details about ordering The School Of The Damned on the Black Hearted Press website and Facebook page.

• There will be an official launch of The School Of The Damned at Glasgow’s City Centre Comics in Parnie Street near the Tron Theatre on Sunday 30 October 2011 running from 7pm to 10pm with writer John Farman and artist James Devlin. There are more details at the event’s Facebook page.

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