On October 30th, 1938, three families living in rural Indiana are sheltering themselves from a particularly nasty winter storm. Gavin is ready to propose marriage to his longtime girlfriend Kim Shrader, but must ask her stern father for his blessing, which is ultimately rebuked. When Kim’s father discovers that the newlyweds had planned to move to New York, the news distresses him and causes a small rift between he and his daughter. That night, everyone finds themselves in a trance as Orson Welles deliver his infamous interpretation of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds. When the storm causes power to go out during the middle of the broadcast, both families begin to panic thinking the invasion to be real, which causes all the inward tensions and animosity between them to boil over.
If the plot sounds somewhat familiar to you, it is because you may have seen the Twilight Zone episode, “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street.” The setup and progression of both the graphic novel and television show are the same, showing off the power that fear and hysteria have over people, who end up becoming the real monsters. Instead of the Red Scare, the stress and frustration of living through the Depression in the Midwest are what fuels the conflict in The Broadcast. A father’s inability to provide for his family causes him to lash out and harm those he perceives to better off than him. Kim’s father, who owns the only shelter, tries to force some semblance of order, despite the chaos and his inability to act threatening to overwhelm him. Gavin and Kim’s relationship is set up to be similar to that of Romeo and Juliet, but it is a bit more one sided than that. Their families don’t hate each other, but Kim’s father is overly protective of his daughter and is distressed by her plan to leave the farm. Eric Hobbs’ script is well written and he is adept at building the tension between the characters as their fear and paranoia slowly get the better of them.
Noel Tuazon’s artwork very much resembles the work of Eddie Campbell, his drawings looking more like free form doodles than the smooth, crisp and clean style one typically associates with graphic novels. While I personally enjoy Tuazon’s style, it can sometimes be difficult to interpret certain facial features and body language because the line drawings are so erratic. This is not an issue inherent to Tuazon’s talent, as I had the same problem with Campbell’s work in Alan Moore’s From Hell. The last few pages of the graphic novel offer some behind the scenes material, including a deleted sequence and Tuazon’s early character designs.
The Broadcast does contain light language, mild violence, and a sequence depicting two burned human corpses. However, because Tuazon’s design makes certain parts of the comic difficult to visually interpret, the violent imagery is hardly gory. Blood, when shed, quickly disappears or blends in with the dark environment and the corpses are briefly shown up close for two panels. Although the story may not be entirely unique to some, it does offer a glimpse into a moment in history when an attempt to entertain the masses resulted in widespread terror.