“That's a helluva scratch” - Bill
Thomas Bonin presents four stories featuring his Private Investigators with a penchant for the occult, Tom and Bill. Over sixty pages we venture from Tom not taking heed of the advice of his Accountant, through some Greek mythology, touch bases with a malevolent spirit in Singapore, before finally dealing with zombie hordes. It would appear that this would be all in a day's work for our unlikely “Dicks” as they handle the cases others would rather consign to their worse nightmares. I did mention that the collection at 60 odd pages is graphic novel length right? Anyways the dark side just got a couple of new enemies to contend with, I feeling very confident it's going to be worth checking out.
All four of our stories have different Authors, look out for Singapore written by Jason Franks of Kagemono fame, but the same artist in Bonin. The other artists present works in the Gallery section of the collection that feature single full page frames. Not sure if those are from other Dicks publications or not. Each story, I think, is set in the 1940s, perhaps just prior to the WWII judging from the clothes and situations. It's authentic stuff in each story with nothing diverting from the period the comic is set in. The gallery actually has nothing to do with the stories, and would seem to be Bonin giving room to other Artists, but you have to be happy with a nice inclusion for no extra dosh.
While each story is certainly outright horror or at least has strong horror themes, Snakes On A Head, no prizes for the title, could be considered a shaggy dog tale, there are a lot of film noir elements to proceedings. The remit here seems to have been to go with a sort of Sam Spade black and white movie feeling to the stories. You half expect Humphrey Bogart to step into the next panel in some stories. I guess if your two leading characters are Private Investigators in the 1940s then noir is a requirement, else readers are going to feel slightly short changed by things. Dicks is well worth dialling into if you have not sat through a number of noir movies to get exposed to the look and feeling of the genre. Of course if you are a regular viewer of film noir then you are going to feel right at home with each story. I've got a sneaking feeling that somewhere in Thomas Bonin's back catalog there might just be the odd Cthulhu yarn lurking about, the look and feel of this collection would lend itself wonderfully well to the whole elder gods mythos.
Just a little detour here. Anyone else surprised by the lack of film noir in the dark genre overall? Sure we get plenty of Gothic outings but noir seems to miss out even though the genre would be an exact match for some of the more "revenge" orientated tales. Dicks is worth promoting simply on this concept alone, Bonin delivers up exactly what you can achieve mixing genre styles.
Having mentioned the horror and noir elements I should also point out there's a fair amount of humour and tongue in cheek comments going down in the collection. This is not an anthology of dry stories set in the 1940s that take themselves way too seriously, on the contrary it's a light hearted romp through various horror themes with the emphasis being on entertaining the reader rather than reproducing exactly the look and feel of Astounding Tales or the equivalent. The Writers would appear to have had a lot of fun with each of the stories in an almost Creepy fashion. I was going to mention Eeek, but different time frames sort of precludes the Australian comic, Jason Paulos has this 1960s thing happening.
Which naturally brings us to Thomas Bonin's art and illustrations. I spent quite some time trying to figure out where I had seen Bonin's style before, what the influences were if you like. There's a definitely 1940s/50s feel to things, plenty of square jaws, but what I came down to was perhaps a The Phantom feel to the art. For those that don't know The Phantom is a long running U.S comic that failed to translate to the movies. Anyway Bonin would seem to be influenced by the look and style of that comic, and similar publications of the period.
Technically Dicks is a black and white comic featuring fairly large story lines. The setting influences the tone and feel of each story, though in no way could the comic be termed an anarchism. While clearly a horror outing, there's been a number of Dicks releases, noir and humour also lighten the load. Very solid reproduction, there's no smudging and the text is very easy to read. Not sure there's a lot more I can say really.
Dicks was an interesting nostalgia trip for me and I enjoyed all the stories in the collection. There's a feeling of mystery and magic pervading the page that is often missing from more modern fair. The East is still viewed as exotic, what might walk the dark places hasn't been fully documented, and Cults with blood thirsty agendas are ready to pounce on the unwary. Hell of a good time in other words, you will want to check this one out ASAP.
A few web sites for you to check out. The collection can be purchased right here for a low $15, at time of writing. Tom Bronin maintains an excellent looking website click through and a blog yet another clicky.
ScaryMinds Rates this read as ...br> br> Yet another Australian graphic novel that kicks it big time.