David Hitchcock’s supersized Gothic – big IS beautiful

Published On March 31, 2011 | By Richard Bruton | Comics, Reviews


By David Hitchcock

Gothic is another comic presented in tabloid newspaper format, something I’m seeing more and more of recently – and something I really enjoy. It’s unusual, but so attractive. There’s the great tactile appeal of it, the physical sensation of spreading the paper out in front of you, the nostalgia it evokes and just the sheer size of the pages – where the right artist can really utilise the extra space (and yes, David Hitchcock is one of those right artists, more on that in a moment).

Gothic is David Hitchcock’s collection of short stories, or to give it the correct Gothic Victoriana feel; a compendium.

In these 48 pages you’ll find Witch-Hunters, love-sick pirates with their skeleton crew, sea monsters, vampires, zombies, a tale of a hanged man and, as a centrepiece, the latest instalment of his Eagle Award winning series Spring-Heeled Jack.

Gothic, and particularly Gothic Victoriana is a style that Hitchcock’s artwork seems inherently suited to, and one he pulls off with some style.

When Hitchcock fills the pages with his artwork, it’s a magnificent sight. But the majority of the seven strips here are presented two to a page, sideways on, to allow Hitchcock to fit everything in to his 48 pages. I can understand his reasons for doing this, but would have far preferred to have seen him making best use of the format.

Which is why I’m really going to give these doubled up strips a quick mention at the end and concentrate on my two favourites in Gothic, the two full newspaper size strips; and to be honest, just those two alone are worth the £3 admission here.

(“Nine Lives” from Gothic by David Hitchcock. I love the opening word… “Strange….” that would surely have tied it nicely into the Strangehaven setting it was originally meant for.)

First of all there’s the opener “Nine Lives“, originally slated for Gary Spencer Millidge’s Strangehaven series’ 10th anniversary thing, but never published. But it works just as well here as a stand-alone ten pager where we’re back in 1645, in the middle of the dark time where “Witch-Hunters” roamed the land:

(The Witch-Hunter shares his secret; the rigged jabbing stick, designed to condemn some poor innocent.)

And the next ten pages are pure beauty – huge things, yet with just the normal 5-9 panels a page allowing every detail of Hitchcock’s artwork to come through. It’s a great little self-contained story, of a charlatan Witch-Hunter stirring up fear, resentment and anger in the village with the inevitable end result of some poor girl feeling the tip of his rigged jabbing stick. But what if this poor girl is …. something more? Hitchcock builds his story so well; mystery, threat and emotions building all the way through until the predictable yet still entertaining finale.

If the art on “Nine Lives” was good, the work on “Transmogrify“, Hitchcock’s prologue for the next chapter in his Eagle Award winning series Spring-Heeled Jack, is simply stunning. In fact the biggest problem with this is that although Hitchcock does plan on continuing Spring Heeled Jack, he’s no plans when (maybe if we all ask nicely?).

Which is a shame, because this 11 page supersized prologue is simply brilliant and features a huge double page spread that my camera just wont do justice to:

(The centrepiece of Gothic; the huge, beautiful double page spread of “Transmogrify”.)

There’s everything here – beautiful artwork making great use of the bigger page and it’s an intriguing teaser for the forthcoming Spring-Heeled Jack series.

Throughout the strips in Gothic, but especially noticeable at the bigger scale of “Nine Lives” and “Transmogrify“, is the way Hitchcock plays with his layout, with fantastic perspective shifts, subtle point of view changes – it’s really impressive.  Just look at these panels from “Transmogrify” for an idea of what I’m talking about:

(Best bit here? Either that first panel, with it’s strange perspective looking out of the dissected body or the comedy moment in that final panel of the poor assistant.)

Like I said before, the other strips in Gothic are good, and I’m not damning them by failing to mention them, it’s just that the two full sized strips are so impressive they overwhelm the rest somewhat.

But these smaller strips include some really great work, full of monsters, full of Hitchcock’s lovely Victorian Gothic art style. There’s “‘Treasure“, a tale of skeletal pirates and a love story, “Lusca“, a good old fashioned sea monsters yarn written by Leah Moore and John Reppion for the Accent UK’s Monsters anthology, “Immortal” tells of the final days of a trapped Vampire. And of course, having had Sea Monsters, Witches, Skeletons and Vampires – there’s got to be a zombie story hasn’t there? Cue the second Moore & Reppion written tale “Zombies” for the Accent UK anthology of the same name. And the newspaper rounds out with “The Bridge“, adapted from the Ambrose Bierce tale “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge“. Another wordless piece, where Hitchcock’s art really shines, his storytelling making words unnecessary.

And as for that Mike Mignola quote on the cover…. Hitchcock’s edited it  down a little for modesty. The actual quote, found here, is

“This stuff is awesome, …. no it’s FUCKING awesome”.

I can only concur with Mignola.

Gothic works, the formatting is lovely, the novelty of the newspaper backed up more than necessary by Hitchcock’s solid work within. Yes, I’d have loved to have seen every strip here make best use of the full size, but the two that do are absolute corkers. The rest suffer in comparison it’s true, but as simple short stories, with Hitchcock’s great art, they’re more than worthy of inclusion, of your time and definitely your money.

Send enquiries as to where to send that money to David Hitchcock at black_boar1@yahoo.com.

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About The Author

Richard Bruton

– Started in comics retail aged 16 at Nostalgia & Comics, Birmingham. Now located in Yorkshire, he’s written for the Forbidden Planet International Blog since 2007. Specialising in UK Comics and All-Ages comics, Richard’s day job in a primary school allowed him to build the best children’s graphic novel library in the country.

One Response to David Hitchcock’s supersized Gothic – big IS beautiful

  1. An excellent review for an excellent collection. Dave Hitchcock’s ‘Gothic’ highlights one of the UKs most under rated comic creator’s amazing ability for story telling, design and downright brilliant artistic technique. This deserves to be a hardback coffee table book let alone a newsprint edition. £3 is a bargain. Buy it in the knowledge that it will become a classic.