Written by Joel T. Lewis
As a consumer of media there has been one genre in particular I have been woefully late to the party on. That genre is Horror. This is largely due to the fact that I scare easily. To give you a sense of the level of scaredy cat that I have been, back in the 90’s the popular PBS series Wishbone did an episode on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Yes, Wishbone. That lovable Jack Russell Terrier whose love of books and adventure fueled a generation’s taste for literature. After seeing that episode I had nightmares and avoided both horror and Wishbone from that day forward. Fast-forward to a few years ago and I slowly began to rediscover a genre loved by many.
On my journey of rediscovery I’ve found that comics are one of the most accessible delivery methods of horror. Man and Swamp Thing were my introduction to comic horror and I found that reading about figures so fascinating and grotesque that I could keep safely wedged between the pages of a comic book helped me feed my hunger for horror without losing sleep. The designation of Horror Comic is what led me to Gabriel Hardman’s The Belfry. That and the requisite kick-ass cover art that I’m eternally susceptible to.
The Belfry was a title I wasn’t able to pick up on the day of release and I was unlucky enough to make my way to the comic shop too late to obtain a copy in the weeks that followed. This is a common occurrence, especially with One-Shot titles, as comic book vendors will either sell out of them, or file them in long-box limbo never to be found by the diligent seeker, so I had resigned myself to ordering the issue online sometime down the road. Imagine my happy surprise to discover Gabriel himself minding his own booth at Denver Comic Con! Honestly, I must have passed his booth half a dozen times walking the floor but I’m so glad that on this pass the stack of Belfry copies caught my eye!
Hardman was working on some commissioned sketches during a lull in foot traffic, and when I trotted up to his booth he seemed a bit surprised by the giddy 6 foot 4 fan nerding hard over the much sought after one-shot. While describing my unsuccessful search for the issue to Hardman his surprise at my appearance relaxed into the inward smile of creator happy to discover his work had been so desperately sought after by someone other than himself. My signed copy of the Belfry is one of my most prized possessions and luckily the contents of the issue are just as cool as the silver-inked signature that now adorns the cover.
I wouldn’t want to spoil this twisted, wonderfully horrific one-shot for you but suffice it to say that Hardman’s visual storytelling is outstanding and the variation he plays on bat-themed horror is wildly entertaining and terrifying. Hardman’s gritty, shadowed art-style is perfect for horror and his nightmarish tale leaps off the page as tooth meets flesh and wing stretches toward sky. As horror is not his genre of choice, Hardman used The Belfry to experiment with a new genre with outstanding results and luckily for us he is currently working on another horror one-shot for Image Comics. Hardman was very kind to me and has been one of the most responsive comic creators on twitter so if you do end up checking out his work (and you totally should) be sure to give him a follow. Until next time, Geek On!