Saturday, 2 August 2014

Horror Vaccui by Jono Currier - The Many Ways to Interpret Fear

I had a chance to pick up a copy of Jono Currier's  Horror Vaccui when I visited Montreal. I stopped by Drawn and Quarterly at 211 Bernard and I found this little gem. A collection of two horror short stories "The Story of the Flesh Hood" and "Tunnels".

I am not usually of fan of horror comics so it was very unlike me to pick up a horror book. I tried countless times to enjoy horror in comics and I have always been disappointed. It is difficult to accomplish proper horror feelings in comics. Since it is such a visual medium, a lot of artists have a hard time balancing the restrictions to achieve the desired feelings in the reader. Although horror has been a historically linked comic genre, I have always had a hard time seeing how it can be effiicient in sequential arts. Comic books are an inherently visual medium, one where you show and don't tell. Horror is a combination of frightening mood and moderations, menacing yet restrained feelings. Too much over the top gore or ridiculousness and the balance is lost. It must balance the untold and the revelations. It is a fine line to walk and not everyone is successful in doing it. That's not to say that there are no good horror comics. They are simply few and far between.

A typical shitty horror comic

Sam Alden: The Man that Dances in the Meadows
An exceptional, rare instance of a good horror comic book

I have nonetheless thoroughly enjoyed Jono Currier's Horror Vaccui to be quite excellent. I have wondered which of the two prominent interpretations of the horror vaccui expression this comic refers to. Is it that nature abhors emptiness, or is it a fear of empty space? Which way should we look at the text? There are many possibilities. Let's take a look:

This is a concept linked to visual arts which consists of filling the entire surface of an artwork with details. A simple version of this would be "Where's Waldo". The entire page is filled with details, and it's also a game. Altough Currier's pages may have some panels which uses empty spaces, most if not all the panels are filled with white lines and the pages are filled with drawings. Nothing is left blank. The feeling of fullness is accentuated by the colour of the paper used. The use of black paper and white ink allows for a more dramatic effect. This colour technique, combined with the saturation of the pages, leaves the reader with a strange feeling of unease. The protagonist in the first story (The Story of the Flesh Hood) is unsure of what he experienced and neither does the reader. The excessive lines and rendering provides us with a surreal depiction of reality. The forest is filled with humanoid shapes and the sky is undulating, moving like waves over a man whose mind may well have been lost to the darkness long before we met him. 

The second story is even more related to this concept. Tunnels is completely filled with esoteric darkness, M.C. Escher style staircases, and extreme landscapes. Each panel is filled but it serves a purpose. It is the protagonist`s sensory overload. Madness and fear of the unknown twists and merges into a dark pit of despair. The reader can only gather the clues from these packed panels and is left to interpret for himself or herself.


  • Nature abhors a vaccum
This is a concept related to physics which indicates that nature contains no vaccum because the denser surrounding material continuum would immediately fill the rarity of an incipient void. I didn't know this before I read the story, but had to refer to Wikipedia. In both stories, someone is gone and an emptiness is found and must somehow be filled. In the first stories, three bodies have been found and a killer is on the loose. These disappearances reveal a darkness; a long forgotten hole in a man. As he tries to uncover what once was, he discovers that this hole may be more than he can handle and that nature will find a way to fill this void, even if it means taking his life. 

In the second story, the tunnel is also a void that will be filled. A person finds a hole with a ladder coming out of it and, against all sense, he decides to go down. The tunnel cannnot be explained by senses. He discovers arcane figures and will eventually fall through the darkness and to his doom. This emptiness is unnatural and will be filled by both gravity and despair. It is not completely filled as the man is still alive, forever trapped in a universe that will never be let him free.
Brilliant & Terrifying

I did not think I would enjoy a horror comic and yet, here I am praising it. It is thoughtful, wonderful, brilliant and I absolutely recommend you seek out this artist and this book. I have been impressed on many levels. I am still unsure what to think of this book, what it means and how to read it. There are so many layers. It is frightening and riveting. I will read it many times over and so should you. Here is Jono Currier's website. Enjoy!

No comments:

Post a Comment