Peril In Panels Volume 6: Broodhollow
Welcome to Peril in Panels once again! Yes, I refuse to stop doing this.
This is the latest I’ve ever worked on a PIP article, as I’m usually at least a week ahead of my deadline of three weeks. But right now as I start this it’s actually ten to 1:30 am right now, the day this article will be posted (February 15th). I got a cat sleeping on my bed in a quickly-made, flannel-patterned body-pillow fort, the heat on, a glass beer mug full with the remainder of the cool, refreshing water I poured into it and one of the best dang comics to ever grace not only the internet, but the world as well, as my topic of discussion.
So, please my False Heretics (sounds better than False Unbelievers, also less a direct rip off of Stan “The Man” Lee), pull up a comfy chair, remove whatever garment you’ve chosen to cover your lower regions and sink your eye-teeth into the latest instalment of PIP.
I promise not to stumble/fumble over my words too much this time.
Alright, so as mentioned previously Broodhollow is, when you boil it down to an elevator pitch: Tintin meets H.P. Lovecraft. And damn, does that pitch fit.
So, the basic plot is our main character Wadsworth Zane, a down-on-his-luck encyclopaedia salesman during the Prohibition, receives an over-due package in the mail telling him a relative he didn’t know he had has passed away months ago and he must travel to the town of Broodhollow (“the town of a thousand holidays”) to collect his inheritance. Plagued by neurosis and horrible nightmares from the get-go, he ventures forth nervously and ends up intertwined in the town’s many mysterious and spooky goings-on.
Created by Mister Kristopher “Kris” Straub, the man responsible for many, many projects such as Starslip, Chainsawsuit, Checkerboard Nightmare as well as the short horror story website Ichor Falls (and Broodhollow’s sister town) and worked with fellow cartoonist and hilarious person Scott Kurtz (PvP and Table Titans) to create the web-based cartoons Blamimation, Mappy and the live-action series Kris and Scott’s Scott and Kris Show.
This guy’s one productive, cosmic/supernatural horror-lovin’, hilarious dude.
His writing (in everything but especially Broodhollow) is honestly perfect.
There’s not much to say except that he just knows how to pace a story and write dialogue. When he wants you frightened or worried, you don’t have much say in the matter.
When he wants to make you smile or laugh, you don’t need to guess what’s happening next. And when he kills off a lovable, quiet side character you love in an unseen,
horrific manner, you go through a range of emotions.
Emotions like sorrow and rage and pity for that side-characters friends AND DAMN YOU STRAUB, WHY DID YOU DO THAT?! I still miss He Who Shall Not Be Named Because Of Spoilers.
Okay, I’m okay. Sorry, lost it there when I remembered that happened.
Let’s look at happier times with this picture, then get back to it, okay?
Another thing Straub does so well with his work is world building. When you read Broodhollow you really feel as if you’re watching something take place in Prohibition-era America, in a quaint town with tons of history (sometimes terrifying history but that’s what you get for being near Ichor Falls, a place that just exudes fear 24/7 like some kind of pheromone). It has it’s own traditions and people, even unimportant tertiary characters like morticians or random police officers feel like they have their own, fleshed out lives. Secondary characters (like the amazingly kind Bottlefly Boys or annoying, blowhard businessman Rutherford Planchett) stand out so well it’s actually difficult to even call them secondary characters. I almost want to call nearly every person introduced and given even the slightest development main characters because the writing is so good I end up loving them and because of the nature of a small town, everybody knows everybody and their lives are almost always intertwined. It feels like Straub is writing about a real place.
A real place that is real scary and I would never visit.
So, let’s talk about Straub’s art. Now, some people will say it’s simplistic. And as I’ve said before, those people are not right. They aren’t really wrong, I’m sure Kris himself would say it’s pretty streamlined for the most part. But that’s on purpose, it’s stylized.
And honestly, this story wouldn’t be so impact full if it were told using realistic art.
He conveys so much emotion through his style and his characters body language you almost don’t need words to tell whats happening. In fact, I’ll use a strip with no dialogue at all so you can see.
Get my point now, don’tcha? Yeah, you see things my way. The Straub way. You get the feelings he’s trying to give out with those panels, you see the slow pacing, the creeping horror and insanity of what’s happening. And you don’t even know why any of that is happening, who’s body that is, where Wadsworth is or why he’s sleeping with a jacket on, holding a frying pan in his hand while surrounded by cans. But its intriguing and you feel exactly what he wants you to, and you understand what his character is going through in each panel from when he first wakes up to when he pulls off his coat to finally poking his head out the door.
Now normally, once I’ve talked about the art and the writing I dive deep into spoiler territory with my trademark call of SPOILERS AHOY but I’m not going to do that. Mainly because the comics I give spoilers on are ones I can’t really discuss without
actually spoiling something at all. Also they’re usually at least a few, if not MANY,
years (or DECADES) old. But Broodhollow isn’t very old. It started in October 2012 and took a break after completing the first chapter “Curious Little Thing” for around 3 months or so, if I recall correctly. So I’m not going to spoiler anything. As much as I want to talk about how amazing Broodhollow’s first chapter is and how great the second chapter (“Angleworm”) is shaping up to be, I just can’t do it. It ain’t right. This story is still going on and is still way too early in its life-cycle to give away anything. So instead I’ll just point you towards the first page of chapter one and encourage you to read on.
Really, it is worth your time. If you enjoy Lovecraftian horror and Tintin-esque adventures then give it a read. And if you want nothing more than hilarity, check out Chainsawsuit, Straub’s gag-a-day random humour strip. I love both and I think you will to.
As I type this it’s around 3 am, well within the Witching Hour and it feels oddly perfect that I started and finished writing this article within this time-frame. I doubt I’ll be done editing it, nor will I be done getting the pictures or links ready or posting it either.
But still, I finished this thing at 3 in the morning. That’s pretty good timing.
The real scary thing is I’m not wearing pants. And hopefully, no one else reading this is either. Especially you, person reading this.
See you in three weeks, ya freaks of nature.
– J. Kruschack
Here’s a few more crops. Just for old time’s sake.