Monday, October 31, 2016

Halloween Double Feature Revue: Hopeless Maine

Are You Ready For A Story?

Listen Close, And I'll Tell You Of Hopeless, Maine...

So glad to have you come to town. Mind your step, you don't want to trip on a tentacle.Oh, her? She's the nanny for a local family. Didn't you know ghosts make the best nannies? Oh by the way, the town witch's selling curses at half price this week. Only the best quality of course. None of this mass produced plague rubbish.
Welcome to Hopeless, Maine. It was imagined by Tom Brown, written by a woman he ensnared in his imagination (she's now Nimue Brown) and ready to ensnare you....
According to the creators, 'The small island of Hopeless, off the coast of Maine, is a breeding ground for demons, freaks, vampires, and other creatures of the night. Our story follows Salamandra, a young girl with one foot in our world and one foot in the otherworld, as she navigates a life on the edge of reality.'
You were warned. 

The Rating


The Raves

Dark. Shadowed. Things you can't name moving out of the corner of your eye. In a word: atmosphere. This work has it in spades. Every panel, even the most mundane, has a sense of something shivering on the edge of your vision: something unseen, unnamed and all the more disturbing for it. And then of course there are the blatant dissonances with reality: the family (skeleton) dog, the dead nanny who sometimes forgets to hide the fact that her face is a skull. The neighbors sleeping in their coffins. The tentacles in the bay. All these things are accepted with perfect equanimity by the residents of Hopeless, lending the work an air of macabre magical realism reminiscent of Ray Bradbury's 'From The Dust Returned' and 'Something Wicked This Way Comes' as well as a hint of Neil Gaiman and Brom, a dash of Lovecraft, and a little Addams Family in there somewhere too.  It's a truly thrilling and beautiful work. Oh, and the characters are pretty thrilling too! The town witch, the preacher's son, the girl who plays with lightning, each of them is at once an archetype and a character in their own right; stubborn Owen, dreamy Salamandra, each with their own yearnings and kennings. 
The storytelling beautifully balances the mundane and the mysterious, playing on the unique human ability to accept almost anything as 'normal' if it's presented right. The storyline explores many of our deepest human motivations: to fit in, to have power, to feel safe. And it explores the dark uses those needs can be turned to: combine the need to feel like part of the group and the need to do something in the face of an event that makes you feel helpless-a plague, say- and you have witch burnings. Combine the fear of death and the invitation of a friendly smile, and you might just sell your soul.
But it's really the art that sells this fantastic and fanciful world where the veil between real and unreal has been shredded to ribbons and left to twist in the wind.

The Razzes

I would have liked to give this comic a ten, but there's a snag. The art's stunning. The writing's superb. But the reading platform? That flies like a lead balloon, and no amount of magic is going to make it less of a burden.
Here's what happens: You go to the Hopeless Maine site. You get a page with eerily beautiful illustration, an introductory explanation...and no comic. Puzzled, you begin to poke about. Under the 'books' section, you find a list, click one. 
Another beautiful illustration with a link to 'read the book here'. You're then redirected to a digital image of the book, and your torture begins. Click to read and you get an insanely blown up version of each page with text that's grainy. Not unreadable, mind you...but awfully close. It doesn't help that the text is somewhat crammed in its word bubble to begin with, but I believe the fault lies with the upload. The art's fared far, far better than the text has when being scanned in. You click again...and the image arbitrarily shrinks again because apparently you clicked the wrong spot. Surprise. The fact that you spend a lot of time mucking about with your mouse, frowning, clicking and frowning again to read each page or properly view each begin to see the problem.
I can see the creators' reasoning: they want to sell books. They want you to see how beautiful the books are, but they want to give you a reason to buy the better quality version. All that said, as a reader if what I remember about your work is being annoyed, I'm less likely to buy it. Dear Mr. and Mrs. Brown, if something is to be hosted on the web, please make it easily readable on the web. It's a terrible amount of work to redo all that text...but it might just be worth it.

The Revue

A must read. Eerie beauty that shivers in your bones and sticks to your dreams. The perfect read on a Hallowed night....with all the candles lit.

1 comment :

  1. OH! My goodness, thank you SO very much for this. You have found all of the things we were hoping people would take away from our story. We have solved the webcomic issues by changing the site over to a Hopeless, Maine community/collaborative place, and we invite you and everyone else to come and play in our rather strange playground. Invitation is here- Again, our heartfelt thanks,
    Tom and Nimue Brown


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