of the Night
writing must be some kind of disease. People get infected
with writing, and then they demonstrate symptoms of writing:
stories and the like. But there must be some critical mass
of infection that results in the behavior of some writers.
Brian Michael Bendis has clearly hit some new echelon of contamination,
which has him firing off a half-dozen titles every month,
and Robert Kirkman has been showing signs of infection for
years. I guess what I’m getting at is that writers don’t
really stop writing, at least not the ones that we know and
this writing leads to a library of work. You get writers
that (a) write many titles that are usually fair to good
as far as the content and quality (Bendis), (b) write many
titles, some of which that are absolutely forgettable and
some that are comic book history (looking at you Warren
Ellis), or (c) writes one consistently excellent project
after the next. It’s that last category that should
concern us, as it pertains to this review of Neil Gaiman’s
and Michael Zulli’s Creatures of the Night.
look through Gaiman’s bibliography, I’ve been
trying to find something I didn’t like reading. I
have not been successful, as I’ve either liked what
he’s written, or I’ve not yet read it. So I
came into Creatures with at least an expectation
of decency. Creatures, which did not disappoint
my expectations, is a collection from Dark Horse, collecting
two short stories that originally found life in Gaiman’s
anthology Smoke and Mirrors: Short Fictions and Illusions.
With a brusque rewrite by Gaiman, the two stories “The
Price” and “Daughter of the Owls” found
life in the funny books thanks to illustrator Michael Zulli.
“Daughter of the Owls,” the
less exciting but passably entertaining is a short tale
about an orphan left on the steps of a church, the only
possession it has being an owl pellet clutched in her hand.
Despite the strangeness of her arrival, the girl grows up
to be a beautiful and solitary woman. When word of her beauty
reaches town, some of the men folk get ideas.
story, while not the better of the two, is still an interesting
read with an ending that is appropriately creepy in Gaiman-esque
fashion. He pulls off the short story format better than
most writers, able to cram story where it has no business
being crammed, but there are one or two problems with this
one: the first being the unnecessary bookending of the story
with the relation of the tale from one Englishman to another.
The events of the story take place as written down by some
Aubrey Johns, who is either a fictional writer that Gaiman
concocted or someone more obscure than a Google search allows
for. Johns might be a play on the anthropologist John Aubrey,
but I doubt it. Either way, the addition of these two pages
add little to the story, and could easily have been dropped
in favor of more room for some eerie story hooks.
Price” is clearly the better story, eloquently mixing
horror and characterization and paring it down to fit into
short story format. This story reminds me the most of Gaiman’s
work on Sandman, especially one particular story
from the Dream Country collection.
Price" is the story of a man and a stray cat that begins
hanging around his home. No stranger to cats, the man takes
the Black Cat in. But when the Black begins showing up with
wounds and scars all over his body, the man endeavors to
find out what that cat has been doing. When he does discover
the cat’s nocturnal activities, he learns his home
isn’t as safe as he thought it was.
fact that this is a short story is what really makes me
appreciates Gaiman’s writing techniques, because he
really has such solid story construction that the story
feels longer. The rising action, climax, the falling action
all occur but not once does the story feel rushed.
of note is Gaiman’s ability to mix up some great characterization
in the form of the man and the cat. Given the limited space,
he lets us get to know that man as a caring individual who
is patient, kind, and appreciative. The cat stays a cat,
mysterious and not human, but with Zulli’s expert
artwork, the cat takes on so many human emotions, all layered
over his animal expressions. It doesn’t make the cat
seem human, but it highlights the ferocity and the intelligence
of the animal. And to tell you what is happening with the
cat would be telling, but it’s enough to say that
this is the creepiest story about a cat I have ever read.
artwork is wonderful because it’s painted, something
I think we really need more of in comics, along with some
more mixed medium stuff. I’m not sure what he uses,
but it looks like he uses pen an ink drawings and then colors
them using waters colors, or possibly a washed out oil or
acrylic. He either paints right over the ink, or paints
first then defines with the ink. And in several places,
I think he used some graphite or colored pencils to do line
work. It ends up being excellent stuff, a real mixing of
mediums that creates a sense of abject fear in some places
and somber disquiet in others, all while being very colorful.
I would love to see more comic book work from Mr. Zulli.
is a great collection, a nice little hardcover for $12.95
and while it is rather thin, it’s more like a slim
bit of quality. I also love the cover from Zulli, as it
connects to both stories. He and Gaiman have a great way
with composition and more projects would be appreciated
from this duo. And since we all know Gaiman has the writing
fever, we might actually see those one day.
Creatures Of The Night