Review: The unsettling beauty of Peepholes

Published On August 23, 2012 | By Richard Bruton | Comics, Reviews

Peepholes

Laurie J Proud

Blank Slate Books

Peepholes is pretty much everything I wanted to get from Celestial Bibendum a few weeks back; a strange, distinctly unsettling sense of the bizarre built through a celebration of styles, all filtered through the beautifully grotesque vision of the artist.

This is a great bit of intense, bizarre, out and out bloody weird mood stuff, unsettling as hell, and bloody brilliant for it.

There’s ten years of collected work in here, and ten seperate stories, although Proud uses so many differing styles you’d be hard pressed to find a progression from raw to polished here, as he seems to hit the ground runnning, and any perceived roughness in the art seems far more a style, not a failing.

Stories are subserviant to the mood here, and although each one stands on its own as an unsettling, unnerviing, creepout of a thing, the true wonder of Peepholes comes through the slower drip, drip, drip you’ll find as the mood works on you. But if you want immediate, visceral Lynchian type reaction first…. try Lyncanthrope…

(Lyncanthrope by Laurie J Proud)

So, yes, that’s probably the most disturbing of the lot, but frankly everything in here has dark overtones, although Proud’s work is clever enough to dress it in so many different ways.

This really is your revealing look into the psyche sort of thing; all deep suppressed desires, furtive looks, flashes of stockinged legs, unattainable femme fatales, a dissection of the deep yearnings of a series of intensely strange characters; Werewolves at the cinema (late night showings a must), a reluctant mob hitman trying to save the girl of his dreams, pumpkin abuse in a twisted Pied Piper scenario, the comical tragedy of Harold Lloyd-a-like Hotel Charlie where ending up as deep fried sausage is merely a temporary problem.

(Hotel Charlie by Laurie J Proud)

And then there’s Aubrey. That was the first of Proud’s strips I saw, when it was an entrant for the Observer graphic short contest. And in many ways it’s the perfect summation of what makes a Peepholes story; pure tone and mood, freakshow characters, fear of the unknown, fear of the bizarre, body horrors, uncertainty that leads into sinister chills, that childlike thrill of the forbidden, it’s all there in Aubrey, and throughout Peepholes, it speaks to the dark secrets within you that you might pretend doesn’t exist, but it’s there. It always is, and Peepholes taps right into it, just perfectly. It’s creepy, but it’s clever….

(Aubrey by Laurie J Proud)

Think Harold Lloyd and Buster Keaton filtered through David Lynch, then add a whole chunk of 50s glamour and cheescake, and you get an image of intense beauty, high farce and the utter weirdness sitting side by side. And then across it all comes that unsettling feel of voyeurism. You’re looking in, thanks to Proud, on so many things you probably shouldn’t be seeing here, all the grubby, nasty little secrets, observing all, and admit it… you love it. You terrible people.

Proud knows what you really, really want, and he delivers.

Proud’s artwork will do several things to you; it will entice, it will tease, it will certainly impress, and if you’re aware of him it will most likely remind you of Al Columbia. The comparison is inevitable, as both artists use the same styles, the same lines at times, the same willingness to switch style so radically and without notice between works. No criticism of Proud, as I’m certain there are many others both men would cite as joint influences.

(Dead Laurence by Laurie J Proud)

But more than anything else, Peepholes should enthral you, draw you in, give you that sense of unsettling grotesque horror. It’s pure mood over story, but when something like this gets the mood so perfect, you wont mind that one bit.

Far better than my amateur analysis of Proud’s art, the man himself did a wonderfully insightful director’s commentary here on the FPI Blog.

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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 Review: The unsettling beauty of Peepholes

  1. Laurie says:

    Richard, i’m honoured to be mentioned in the same space as artists like De Crecy and Columbia, both of whom have been an inspiration.

    i bought ‘Bibendum Celeste’ in the three separate French editions years ago, so still have only a vague idea of what the story is about. in a way i don’t really want to read the English translation.