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15 November 2007

Comic Book Follies

Update: Just for fun, I've published this book on Scribd. Now you can download the issue in pdf format from this page.

OK, to make up for my tardiness last week, I've got a full comic book for you this week.
Back in the mid-90's, I developed a character named DeathMask that I fully intended to turn into a limited series of comic books. At the time, in the wake of the launch of Image Comics, there was a glut of characters named "Death--" this and "Blood--" that, but this was meant to be a bit different from the rest. The catch to this character was that he wasn't a superhero, nor even an antihero, but a flat out serial killer who chose the concept of the superhero as a stage and rationale for his behaviour, sort of an ironic counterpoint to the trend that comics was taking at that time.
The concept was born in, of all places, an anthropology class at University. The course was on war, genocide and violent behaviour, and was taught by Elliot Leyton, who remains one of favorite teachers and authors. Dr. Leyton is a world-renowned criminal profiler who has had a huge influence on the way we perceive serial and mass murderers. As part of the course, he taught his book "Hunting Humans" and the excellent "Aesthetics of Murder" by Joel Black. Studying these texts got me to thinking about the possibility of a serial murderer who acted out his fantasies using comic books as his template, and DeathMask was the result.
Despite its apparently simple beginning, seen below, if developed the book would have gone on to explore Dr. Leyton's theories of the formation of the serial murderer's psychology, as well as the cultural impact of violent comics books and other media, and would have attempted to depict a realistic view of this deviant behavior as opposed to the glorified villains seen in films such as "Silence of the Lambs" and "Halloween" (fun they may be...accurate they are not).
I was pretty determined to make this book happen, and ended up submitting it to several publishers, all of whom rushed forward to roundly reject me. I think my biggest mistake was submitting it to Fantagraphics, thinking they might catch up on the literary aspect of it, only to have Gary Groth suggest to me that I might want to actually read a few of their books before submitting to them again. My greatest hope was for Caliber Press, but unfortunately, they folded up soon after I sent this.
Looking back at it now, I can see how amateurish the art was. I haven't exactly taken comics by storm since then, but I can see that I have learned a few things that I should have known before attempting a project of this scale. Even so, the story is still dear to me, and the book remains one of my favorite projects. In addition to this first issue, I've done two ashcan prequels, several pages of book two, and a ton of concept sketches. Maybe one day if I can ever drum up interest, I'll try tackling this again from a more mature point of view. Until then, here's the complete first issue for you to enjoy.

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