Just time for Halloween, we're bringing you a review of RAW Studios' Dark Country graphic novel.
The book, based on a short story by Tab Murphy and related to a film by the same name, is basically broken down in to 4 major sections.
The first section – the “comic” portion – is beautifully illustrated by Thomas Ott. Beautiful, in this case, means beautifully frightening. Last night, I was alone in my office when reading the book for the first time, and felt a sense of dread as paged through the images. The black and white scratch-board illustrations fit the story perfectly and give it a dark gritty feel. It's your typical boy meets girl, boy hits boy with car, boy … well, ok, it's not typical but it is an enjoyable ride in to the world imagined by Tab Murphy who penned the original short story upon which comic (and film) are based. The high contrast artwork fits the story perfectly and gives the reader a sense that they are reading a Film Noir film play out on the pages, but in still image form. Each page is a work of art.
The second section is the original short story by Mr.Murphy. It's interesting to read it through to understand his intended dialog (there are no words in the comic), and use your imagination to recreate the scenery and events in your mind. The details are a bit different and it is intriguing to compare them to one another. It's nice to be able to compare the 2 stories side by side.
The third section of the graphic novel discusses the film. We get to enjoy many photos, story boards, pictures of the the set and all kinds of art from the movie. There are several insights in to some of the props and logos used in the film. The soda machine is a prime example – each of the soda types was a nod to someone or something tied to the film – Raw Cola is an obvious one… some are more subtle. “Dr. Falcon is a nod to a character in Bad Planet. Grape Paradise honored Paradise FX, who handled all the 3D tech in the film and Wrightson's Root Beer was a subtle ‘hello' to RAW Studios contributor and Dark Country creature designer, Bernie Wrightson.” (Dark Country, p. 101)
The final section “Backward” is a closing letter by Mr. Jane in which he shares background information about the entire Dark Country project. The tale ranges from childhood influences, inspiration via various comic writers and artists, the soul fitting genre of film noir. I love that he took some chances, that he wanted the challenge of shooting the film in 3d before it was cool. Here's a passage that I think encapsulates the attitude:
I don’t think I have to tell you that the suits were less than impressed with the finished film – and they were right to be: Dark Country was never going to be a money maker. But it was pure films noir, shot with the same kind of budget and under the same kinds of constraints that proto film noir had; the same quick shooting schedule and the same tight script and even the same level of actors. (At present, Steven Spielberg has yet to call me.) (p122)
I love it. They set out to make a movie, and now a graphic novel, their way. They were not overly full of themselves (Spielberg has yet to call). They wanted to make something they could believe in and I think they pulled it off. I have not yet seen the movie and will be on the lookout for another 3D Screening.
About Raw Studios: RAW Studios, founded by actor Thomas Jane (The Punisher, The Mist, Hung) and in partnership with Eisner Award nominated illustrator/production designer Tim Bradstreet (The Punisher, Hellblazer, Criminal Macabre) and their able crew of talented creators. RAW Studios is the comics and book publishing arm of RAW Entertainment. The subjects of our books reflect our love for the heady days of EC Comics, with a dash of Creepy and Eerie, and a heavy dose of today's top talented creators. Horror, Sci-Fi, Crime, and Fantasy. What we offer is an ALTERNATIVE to the spandex and cape-wearing creations of big publishers. But ultimately, we're here to remind folks how good comics can be.