[11 February 2010]
In a market over-flooded with horror and horror subgenre books, readers have almost infinite choice. Zombies, vampires and even post-apocalyptic fictions abound. With just the zombie genre, there’s more than enough choice between major companies: Dark Horse’s long-running collaboration with creator Eric Powell’s The Goon, DC’s new superhero-zombie mega-fest summer event “Blackest Night”, Image’s Walking Dead, and Marvel’s cunningly titled Marvel Zombies. The minor companies have cornered their share of the market too: books like XXXombies, Escape of the Living Dead, ZMD: Zombies of Mass Destruction, Blackgas and the surprisingly named sequel Blackgas 2.
And if that’s not enough, there’s more to follow.
Vampires have been drawn into the light (so to speak) also. In recent years, readers have been drawn into the strange cultural politics of 30 Days of Night, Blade, Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter, Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 8, and Dracula vs. King Arthur.
And of course, even more follows on; the post-apocalyptic genre has simply exploded recently as well. Everything from Tank Girl, to From the Ashes, to Zero Killer, to Wasteland, to Kamandi, a good chunk of Marvel’s The End books, as well as Frank Miller and Dave Gibbons’ Martha Washington stories, simply haunt our shelves these days.
In the light of this, the question becomes, how do writers wanting to establish themselves in this genre break open a market that seems already packed to the rafters with great material? How do writers new to the genre distinguish themselves? Writers Johnny Zito and Tony Trov seem already to have cracked to formula.
In their weekly published web-comics for Zuda, the premise put forth by writers Zito and Trov is refreshingly original. In short, the LaMorté sisters, a strange conclave of nuns, run a home for young girls who have not only been orphaned by vampire attacks, but infected by them as well.
There’s no doubt that LaMorté Sisters breaks free of the established bounds of comics-writing for comics-readers, and taps into a beautifully ornate world of traditional fiction. Think of Karen Russell’s brilliant short story “St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves”. In Russell’s 2006 short story the murky, seductively impenetrable Florida Everglades become a setting for the strange tale of a group of orphaned girls being prepared by the titular St. Lucy’s for their entry into society. The twist? These are no ordinary girls facing the every dauntings of an ordinary adolescence, rather they are the daughters of werewolves. Their adolescence comes with the added task of mastering their feral nature before reintegrating with society. It is not surprising that Stephen King would choose to include this mouthwateringly strange tale in his Best American Short Stories of 2007, and boast of Russell’s work in his NY Times write-up following the collection. It is clear that Zito and Trov’s work is steeped as much in this tradition, as in the generic horror genre works of more familiar comicbooks.
Also, there is Christine Larsen’s stunning artwork, reminiscent of Tony Moore’s best stuff meets Darwyn Cooke’s best output, but ultimately defying any such easy combination-type of comparison, truly a style unto its own. And though this is a webcomic, with only one new ‘page’ every Wednesday, the creators do not succumb to the urge to cram all they can into a single installment. Instead they take their time and pace things beautifully, treating the reader to wide panels and full, establishing splash pages. Perhaps they lose some of the blood-racing freneticism so often associated with vampire stories, but the spookiness of the enterprise is rendered fully and the suspense is nearly palpable.
LaMorté Sisters is well worth reading, and takes full advantage of the webcomic format.