Sunday, 13 January 2013


Deadbeats is a graphic novel by Chad Fifer and Chris Lackey with art by INJ Culbard. I was familiar with the writers form their work on the HP Lovecraft Literary Podcast, an insightful and amusing examination of the great horror writers work that combines literary criticism, interesting triva and dumb jokes. I first encountered Culbard's artwork on the Brass Sun strip that ran in 2000ad last year and was impressed by his beautifully clean, European style cartooning.  Aside from his work for Tharg Culbard has adapted a series of Lovecraft stories into graphic novels published through British publisher Self Made Hero. Given this shared interest in the Lovecraftian it comes as no surprise that Deadbeats is a weird tale with a twenties setting.  However, the comic is more than a pastiche, the creative team have taken some of the core ideas of Lovecraft's work and created a story around them that could only have come from these three people.

Lovecraft's work focused on mood, atmosphere and concepts rather than plot or character and he told his stories through dense, beautifully purple prose, Deadbeats is a story centred around a strong core of characters who are constantly on the run with little time to pause for breath.  Long drawn out descriptive paragraphs are replaced with pact chase scenes and moments of slapstick. The story focuses on three jazz musicians on the run from the mob who run straight into Lovecraft country. The central characters are all well defined and most of the time likeable. They have distinct voices and feel like believable prohibition era people.

The comic contains perhaps the best use of music I have seen in the medium.  As comics are a silent medium the use of music can often feel awkward and take the reader out of the story.  Alan Moore in particular seems unable two resist derailing a masterpiece by having the characters burst into song. However the authors of Deadbeats succeed not by recreating a song lyrically but by using the medium of comics to represent the feeling of different pieces of music in a immediately recognisable way. 

Deadbeats' greatest success is in recreating the most enjoyable aspect of the author's podcast, its sense of humour.  The book never quite becomes a farce or a parody as the various supernatural threats are presented seriously and remain scary but the authors allow plenty of moments of humour.  This is aided by the art which manages to combine some exaggerated facial expressions and almost farcical schemes with the moody terror of the entities menacing our heroes.  The story feels like it could easily exist within the Lovecraft cannon, you believe the Dunwich Horror could be happening a few valleys over from our heroes' adventure. In the same way that Scrubs, House and Bodies are all successful hospital stories.

Deadbeats is an action packed, funny and scary romp right through Lovecraft country and its well worth reading. The comic is available world wide from the book depository or from retail sites such as OK Comics and Travelling Man in the UK (I'm certain you can find it in other places as well).

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