Jonathan Case has created a graphic novel entwining the motifs of classic horror films and the tragic comedies of ancient master playwrights. Although my mental catalog is small, I can think of no other debut that has equaled the depths of artistry, storytelling and dialogue that Mr. Case has accomplished with, Dear Creature. Employing the singular use of hard, contrasting black and white, numerous cells
within the pages could stand alone as frame-able artworks. The characters, one and all, are distinctively drawn and given emphasizing dialogue. These attributes could stand alone as reasons to add this graphic to ones library, yet, Mr. Case goes a step further within the pages to educate the reader whilst weaving a tale of forbidden and unimagined romance.
Our unlikely protagonist, Grue, is a sea mutant born out of the radioactive wastes of the deep, living on a sunken nuclear submarine sitting on the edge of a great underwater abyss. He feeds on the bodies of young lovers from a nearby coastal town, drawn to them by his acute sense of sexual pheromones which lead him to his prey like an innate GPS system and simultaneously embed him with great strength. Alas, although well fed with the unending supply of groping teens cruising the beach, the emotions that Grue uses to ensnare his prey also leaves him increasingly lonely. The ever hungry and witty crabs that are constantly attached to him provide little solace for his desire of a more intimate relationship. Further inducing Grue’s passions are the bottles of cola he finds tossed into the sea, not filled with a sugary beverage, but with pages torn from the plays of William Shakespeare. His elementally exposed brain not only becomes mystically educated by these pages, Grue speaks rather exclusively in iambic pentameter, but the stories themselves breath hope that true love is possible for the clawed, flesh-eating monster that he is aware of himself to be. So, Grue embarks on an adventure to rescue the being that has been, purposefully in his mind, sending these notes adrift and directly into his hands. Whom Grue finds is Giulietta, a middle-aged shut-in aboard a land locked ship on the coast. With age and psyche meaning nothing beyond his desire, Grue is determined to woo her. However, with a horse backed deputy near retirement and dead set on capturing the culprit responsible for the recent string of deaths and disappearances, Grue has his work set out for him.
Dear Creature is a poetic and action packed graphic novel with several subplots that come together subtly to form a complete tale that at once seems familiar and unique. Grue is an unlikely hero that you will want to see more of. Jonathan Case has given him a carefully constructed voice and figure that not only is capable of great emotion, but also of fantastic movement and fearlessness. And, as I have mentioned earlier, Dear Creature, also educates. The last few pages of the novel are dedicated to an understanding of verse entitled, “An Invertebrate’s Guide to Iambic Pentameter.” In a comic way, taught by the barnacle-like crabs in the novel, he explains the origins of his hero’s chosen language and the syllabic rhythms involved within it. Case makes it amateurishly easy to grasp and you may just want to punch out a few verses of your own to try out on friends.
Rather than funk up a short bio on Jonathan Case for you, I decided his chosen words would be more appropriate. Here it is, gathered from his website.
I’m Jonathan Case, an artist/writer/whathaveyou in Portland, Oregon. I spend many of my work days at Periscope Studio, “The Grandest Collection of Comics Creators in the Western World”. I’m the creator of the graphic novel Dear Creature, from Tor Books, and the artist of many works for Dark Horse Comics, including Green River Killer, The Guild, House of Night, The Creep, and Eerie. You’ll also find my work in the Eisner Award-winning anthology Comic Book Tattoo, and on the walls of Portland’s McMenamins hotels and pubs.
You’ve gotten this far and have not checked out these other great links yet, eh? Please do. Jonathan Case has been putting out some noteworthy work the last year. Personally, I can’t wait to dig into his collaboration with John Arcudi in, The Creep, for Dark Horse Comics.
Dear Creature is a Tor Book, published by Tom Doherty Associates, LLC, New York, NY, October 2011
If you liked this review, you should kill some time with my other posts.