Feels Like Stephen King
written by Steven Deighan, illustrated by Terry Cooper
Dark Monster Publications
I’ve never really liked Stephen King, so a graphic novel with that title was always going to be a hard sell for me. But this debut piece of comic work – at 42 pages it’s more graphic short story than graphic novel – from prose horror writer Steven Deighan works remarkably well.
It’s a straightforward short tale concerning Eric Bain; an aspiring horror fiction writer with a first novel he desperately wants to see published. When the acceptance letter arrives with the postman one morning, he’s elated, but soon it seems all a little sinister and his mysterious new publisher’s deal comes with a “special agreement”. Exactly what that is and how Bain finds out forms the core of the story as the author finds himself taking part in a horror tale that wouldn’t be out of place in one of his own books. His new publisher may not be all he seems and his ideas of a new marketing technique for the book don’t appear to be coming from an entirely sane mind.
(“He didn’t sound like a man I wanted to get involved with personally” – oh, how right you are Eric Bain. A claustrophobic page with lots of chance for artist Cooper to get up close to the details of both author and various bits of writing. From Feels Like Stephen King, by Steven Deighan and Terry Cooper)
In many ways it has the feel of some slightly darker Twilight Zone or Tales Of The Unexpected episode, it has that deliciously slow, teased out sense of tension that builds and builds until we get to the reveal.
And there may be some who read this and think that the reveal isn’t strong enough or horrific enough to justify all that tension that precedes it. But in this sort of close-up, intricate story focusing on just two characters; the hero and his nemesis and tempter/tormentor, a simple bit of suburban psychotic behaviour suits the story perfectly. It wouldn’t have worked nearly as well for me if the author were to stumble into some devil worshipping cult using his book as their portal to the great beast. As it is the horror is an unusual, yet plausible horror and Deighan even manages to throw in a small but effective twist at the end.
(1:00am and your publishers waiting for you – I think taking it too far just about covers it. From Feels Like Stephen King, by Steven Deighan and Terry Cooper)
It would easily have made a perfectly acceptable short story, but as a graphic novel it does rather well instead. Deighan’s artist; Terry Cooper performs admirably here, never going far from the very human tale, never over-exaggerating his players and manages to convey the story’s tension very well, with a nice stylistic touch in some of the more eerie and tense moments by pulling tightly into the author’s face or concentrating on a particular aspect of the written work – book covers, manuscript details – all of which merely uses a sense of claustrophobia in the art to emphasise the tension.
Like I said, it wasn’t something I was expecting to enjoy all that much, but I’m pleased I tried it. It has faults – my main bugbear being that it’s too caption heavy throughout and these captions have lettering that’s just too big and results in pages dominated by white caption boxes instead of allowing the art and story to share equal space. But that’s not something that spoilt my enjoyment of this satisfying suburban horror.
Feels Like Stephen King is available from the Lulu self publishers website.