Thursday, May 19, 2016

My Dead Girlfriend

My Dead Girlfriend
by Eric Wight
Editor Julie Taylor
Art Director Anne Marie Horne
Published by Tokyopop

There's certain things combined that don't mix, though one thing at first glance that wouldn't couple well together, is Horror and Romance. Though that's where you'd be wrong, horror films, books, and art have a bit of intimacy. Horror is where we take what's safe and make it horrible, stressful, and have us second guess mundane tasks. Romance is very similar, it's a task that's not something one should feel pressure, though there's an internal fear while preforming with the shared event. Then you add in a little high school and now there's nothing, but stress over everything because literally everything is changing and the world around you will take you from your hometown and send you off on a new path. Though that's what Eric Wight wants you to feel, the struggle of being with family, the horrors of having your first love, the emptiness of losing that person, and the impending reaper following you, waiting for that next trip up to collect on your misfortune. Something important to remember in life is that things change from person to person, life to life, generation to generation, but that's what living does. We take paths that are different for each of us, either because of race, birth, or location. Though this is why I enjoy this graphic novel. It's from a place that doesn't exist and the characters involved can't be recreated, also the events that take place are impossible, but everything is parallel to reality. This today is all common place with paranormal romance being a genre and taking on all forms of mythology that were to keep youth safe. Fraying from the blazed trail and out of these polluted waters this is an interesting take on the supernatural and a glance into relationships that want to bring positive emotions and ideas to the dating pools. Join us as we take a dip into the world of the macabre and into the olden time as we relive moments from the past and engage the plot of the present.

It's an interesting design to a cover, especially one that is about romance or at least that's the implied intent of the series. In general the designs of the characters I can see the main protagonist, the spunky animal that seems mischievous, and a looming villain (or a red herring for the intended plot). This could be his girlfriend, since we know nothing more than she's dead and we're in an overstocked graveyard. I really like the palette of the cover, though it kinda smears together, the important things that need to be seen pop and stay in sight. For example the cloaked figure in the sky, who leads the eye to the main character, and finally the animal from hell. I like the little imp, it's a really cute design, kinda reminds me of a backwards hand with horns and wings, super creepy. So yeah the design of the title to the characters is perfect, the title leads through the illustration to the author and the volume number, there's no struggle to see anything that's important or relevant to the enjoyment of the series. One thing that bugs me is there's nothing that tells you what to expect in this book, nothing that really defines how things will enfold. Based off of this cover Death is collecting another soul and this kid is having a photo shoot with his underworldly dog. Though a good mystery shouldn't be ruined by a cover, it should allow one to want to pick up the novel, the attraction for me is the artist, though the cover strikes my eye because of it's selection of colors, but someone that's not intending to buy an Eric Wight book will move past this, unless they like The Corpse Bride which was a good movie, a lot of great animation and a fast plot that hummed a tune for the audience to sing, but that's not what we're here to talk about. Like I said the cover is too dark for people that are casually thumbing through books to read on a shelf, though if they're like me between the graveyard and the Moon this book will just appear in your hands and will always be within eyesight.

This was originally going to be a seven part series, something initially intended to be 7 though could grow to be longer, focusing on more characters and become something larger. It's still a mystery to those that are just joining the series, why was it cut, but this could be summed up with budget problems. It's sad to think a series that had a lot of people rooting for it's success to find the rope coming up short. I'd be lying if I haven't heard of this book, though I didn't read it. I feel bad about this since Eric Wight is an amazing artists and an alumni of my alma mater, SVA (School of Visual Arts). I didn't find out about him till his book series Franky Pickle, was suggested to me by my local library, then more disappointment about that series' cancellation, I've covered that in a different article. By the look of things, Eric Wight seems to be making his way back into the spotlight and shoveling his art back into the eyes of those that miss his individualism and design style.

Overall I really like his design for characters, something about the way he draws a person or an event makes it seem like it's solid and organic, it's a dichotomy that is hard to visualize, though is something that's perfect in this media type. I'm always impressed by good book design, the table of contents has a wonderful layout and the pages between chapters is a glorious pattern of skulls and bat gate that compliments the title of the pages proceeding. The one thing that Eric Wight is known for, or at least within my own mind, is his thick ink lines, something about them are charming and not cluttered in the pages of the book. It's perfect for a series like this since it embraces death and darker themes.

We come across the family name, Bleak, it's an interesting surname, also it's a pun last name, I love puns, it's one thing that's a weakness and a weapon. Also an interesting family tree, it's a great way to pull someone that's morbid into the book, though it really has nothing to do with girlfriends, though has everything to do with death. This is a great way to set the mood, since it shows a bit of dark humor and has a good implication where the plot will be heading. It seems the family story was a report, that didn't really seem to have a point (or a teacher for that matter), it was mostly focused on the students and their interaction, which seems to be the focus on most School related media. Honestly, that's where it should be, since the development of a character is the most important thing about the series and series like this one.

So we get to know the rule of High School, it's a cliche, though no punches are pulled on this one. Every school has cliques, it's standard issue, you'll even see it in your work place, though that's nipped in the bud if it's too public. I think that's the one thing I really like about this series so far, it's blunt, it's honest, and has awesome monster teen designs.

Gom wearing a hood, Tea becoming more and more the voice of reason.

We finally see his name though it's been 15 pages and he's been on 4 of them (that's not bad), I've seen movies that don't tell you character names, you just have to make up your own, it's sometimes fun, though for the most part introducing one's character is important. I think Eric Wight did a good job of it and also the world that our main character Finney (Phineas) Bleak will be adventuring in. One thing that's interesting is the main group of bullies or kids that rule the school are Universal Monsters, (Wolfman, Dracula, Gillman, and Frankenstein's Monster, well I guess since it's not Frankenstein it's a reanimated being made from sewed together human parts that's been augmented to have more strength and durability, though that's a mouthful, so Frankenstein is a lot shorter). It seems like the Dracula figure is more on the side of Finney, though it's not clear at the moment. There's a girl that likes Finney, though it looks like one of those situations that she likes him, but he doesn't like her the same way. Anyhow, moving past the school we get the name of the town, Purgatory Falls. I really dig the name and all the references to death and Halloween, it's beautiful and I want to live in this world.

We float into a flashback, it's well executed since even in my rough draft I forgot to mention that we're traveling to the past, where we meet Finney Bleak's family. Eric Wight seems to like white haired mothers, since like the Frankie Pickle series he enjoys this type of hair style, though this is black and white, it's hard to imply different shades of light hair, so we can default it to blonde or white, since white hair is more interesting to me it's white. Finney has three sister, triples identical and a little creepy (April, May, June), also their Dad looks like Clark Kent, the Michael Reeves version. We get to see his backstory for how his girlfriend died, I'm assuming, since we're at the carnival and we're introduced to Jenny and his family, so something important is going to happen at this celebration of mirth.

Finney and Jenny spend the night gallivanting through the carnival, playing games and being mischievous teens or preteens, they didn't really establish an age yet, though it's safe to assume that they're in that area of being a teen. The chapter ends with a kiss on the cheek, we didn't get to see if anything horrible happens, just that a wonderful night, but we do get a greeting from the cloaked figure from the cover. Who is this man of mystery? Is it Sarge..? Is it Rosemary, the telephone operator? Is it Penry, the janitor? (sorry Hong Kong Phooey Reference). I didn't realize that the triplets were conjoined too, the middle girl has no arms, the side two have one each, though they all have legs and torsos. It's something that keeps me on my toes, finding all the odds and ends to the designs while keeping my interest on the plot.

We're at the Bleak home, it's a beautiful house that reminds me of the Addams Family mansion. We keep popping back and forth between the present and the past, though mostly it's building up the moment, it's a good pace, since it's the third chapter and the relationship is established. It's not how I would date, but this is contemporary, it's different from the past, one thing what the relationship is its similarity to Scott Pilgrim. Though thinking back to my own relationships it's not too different, conversations that really have no position in romance, sometimes crude comments that are brash and weird to say in company that one feels is important or flirty, that one wants to share one's thoughts, but feels imposed to making the other uncomfortable. It's interesting that they have these conversations, but still are a perfect match for each other, they're awkward and playful, though they love that about each other. A sobering moment in this series for sure, paralleling my own life and witnessing other's romantic endeavors, one never thinks this is how it works, then we see the outcome. A beautiful relationship of two individuals that seem to have everything in common, though no romance in the classical sense. I guess it's like Samuel Clemens said in a speech on November 20th 1900 "…A Classic -- something that everybody wants to have read and nobody wants to read" Mark Twain.

By the end of the third chapter we learn that he's been stood up, though something horrible could have happened to Jenny or that Jenny was always dead, since her clothes do look dated. It's a sad hurt that's something everyone can relate to, a parent not showing up, a loved one that's late, or a heart that was going to be joined disappeared into the night. It's a beautiful shot, that reflects this emotion well. Also Finney's Parents are dead and his reaction is calm and collected. I think this is due to his family are mostly ghosts, though now it's his sisters and himself that need to keep the legacy going for their family. Somehow the ghost parents are still in charge of the house and the kids, it bothers me that this isn't explored more, though it's also something that's not relevant to the plot, so it makes sense why it's skipped.

Chapter Four is a dream, Finney and Mookie (Gargoyle pets are adorable) are playing fetch in the graveyard, then Death comes and claims Mookie, after Death wants Finney. Finney escapes for the moment, but no soul can escape Death. The images in this action packed chapter were fantastic, everything moved with a static motion, the panels held the efforts of Finney and Death superbly. It felt more like an animatic than a collection of squares on a page to imply movement within a fixed image media. Death catches the teen and slaps him into his grave, it's a falling dream, a stress dream about his life and how it will end in a humorous yet deadly way.

Oona Kulte summoning a well known person from the past, you might know him, if you can't clot.

After being woken up (Finney wears a skeleton onesie) by his relatives, not sure why they were having a casino night, but it progressed the plot to the point of the parents coming into the kitchen with Finney who wanted a glass of milk to calm and quiet his mind. His parents talk with him a bit, then splits off and goes to his room where his Father has a more intimate conversation. Which is about living. It's weird when a ghost talks about life and keeping life special, though for the most part it feels like he's trying to talk his son out of obsessing about death and that life is how you make it, you're not being controlled to be a certain way, so don't live life like that's the only direction you have as an option. More or less that's true, there are certain things that can always change to make life better or for the best, but there are times that one can't change the direction that everything is moving toward. One thing I keep saying "There's always a plan B." it's pessimistic and neutral, but it's a phrase that I think fits this story too.

The next day is school, Finney asks out the girl from before (Dahlia) it's a cute back and forth, though Finney is pretty smooth within the moment, it wasn't too awkward, but it wasn't perfect. Then the Universal Monsters start picking on a Mummy (totally would have thought they'd be cool with each other), though Finney doesn't have it, he for one reason or another stands up to the group. It hasn't really been seen that he's heroic, but that's mostly due to flashbacks and plot development. From the first chapter we see that he doesn't put up with anything that FrankenTeen (Frankenstein, FrankenTeen, though that's a reference in it's self, his name is Karl Steinman) throws around, though Finney isn't a match for him either. Anyhow Finney stops them for a moment, then one of the Witches in the room suddenly adds magic to the mess that was ready for Stanley (the Mummy) then is reversed onto FrankenTeen.

Now here's the one stop that I didn't like, what I mean is its appearance in the story stopped everything flat. I've been in love with this book from cover to cover, then this well made piece with a ton of passion breaks (hard) in the middle of a thought. Through these two panels of Finney running in the hall with FrankenTeen right behind him. Showing perspective and rage, but Finney doesn't have any emotion (his word bubble does, but not the boy). That's the problem that I'm having for this moment, there's a giant monster on your heels and you look at the camera in "Calm Surprise" (thank you Atop the Fourth Wall and Mystery Science Theater 3000 for this emotional breakdown).

The Vice Principal is a devil lady or demon girl with glasses! Named Blackheart!!

Miss Blackheart sends them back to class where Finney is being taunted about how the Universal Monsters are going to beat him up, I guess the Dracula was not on Finney's side after all. Anyhow the Witch that started this whole mess tried to sell Finney some potion that will give him strength beyond strength. Sounds like a good deal, though something that's magical and steroid-like might be the better option within the battle, but not in a world that could mean bigger problems, magically enchanted problems. Finney leaves the conversation at his locker with the Witch and tries to lose the Monster gang with a walk through the woods, yeah, this is the perfect spot for someone to not be killed. And it turns out it's the perfect spot to be killed, since the Universal Monsters (except Dracula) are there to beat the living out of Bleak. Then as they creep closer the cloaked figure swooped in and beats the attackers, then took Finney away. The fear of last night's dream still itching in his brain, a focus that this could be the end, a falling desire of this dark being to never let go, but to release him compromises his mind.

Then they stop, it's a headstone with a date and a name. Jenny, his love interest, this 11-12 year old looking girlfriend, that was 15 by the math of it, died and is a ghost. Then she reveals what happened when Finney was stood-up, he wasn't. She tripped on a rock that threw her into a deep hole, it's a vivid telling of what happened, just the words alone are sharp and poetic. Then the images that followed, the thoughts running through her head and the eternal passing of her body to soul. She continues that she was afraid of rejection, since Finney made it clear that he wasn't a fan of Ghosts. She followed him and stalked Finney whenever he was outside, trying to think of a way to convince him that they could still work out. With her return he takes time to think in the graveyard, she comes to him as his thoughts spin and twist in his mind, that they'll never be able to be a true couple, never be able to feel each other. Then Jenny does something that's unexpected, something that is still lost on me, but the sensation isn't something for the reader to understand, it's for the character to relate back that there are no words for the passion between these two figures. It's a beautiful moment, it reminds me of a long distance relationship and how most couples compromise with their partner about the distance. Then the moment is ruined by the return of the Universal Monsters and a "to be continued" message (which will never come to fruition).

Next time on "My Dead Girlfriend" it seems all the loose ends are going to be resolved or entertained in the next volume, it's a pain that this will never be printed, though it's good to hear that this was well written, written well enough that there was foreshadowing and strings being lead in many directions.

My closing thoughts about the series is that this would be something I would like to see, and I'd love to read more about the series, even if it's just scripts of what happens next. It doesn't head in the same direction that one thinks, though there are cliches within the volume, it's written well and fantastically planned. It saddens me that this was never picked up for more volumes, or by another publisher, the initial seven that were planned to be printed, but never came to fruition. I really hope that Eric Wight gets another deal like this, though one that fulfills its agreement. Talent is wasted on those that don't deem a series like this would sell, though this could be prejudice to his style and the publisher. I know some fans don't like the idea of American artists on a Japanese/Asian comic publishing company, so this could have been a logistics problem. Though still I hope that this series does come back, that the rights to the characters and story are something that Eric Wight can use and develop again. If this book happens to fall into your hands, pick it up and thumb around, enjoy the pages that flutter across your fingers, even if you're not one for romance or horror it's a well written good time that's illustrated bewitchingly optimal.

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