This satisfying anthology of 20 original tales begins with a well-written and well-researched foreword by romance comic historian Jacque Nodell offering the contemporary reader background information about the history of the gothic romance genre generally and, more specifically, the comic book renditions of the 1970s, accompanied by samples of cover art. As Nodell points out, the visual elements of the gothic tradition are well-suited for comic book renditions. The gothic romance tradition features “isolated and eerie locations, inherited crumbling manors, family secrets, ghosts, secret identities, and passions heightened by mysterious circumstances.” Tales in the genre “ultimately revealed to be merely a diabolical plot by a person who either abhors change, or who uses the illusion of the supernatural to satisfy their own greed.”

But not in this anthology! The supernatural and gruesome elements of the stories are embraced by the contemporary comic book authors and illustrators without discomfiture or explanation. The protagonists are all agents of their own autonomy…some victims but just as frequently, villains. Even more exciting is the celebration of marginalized people. This anthology presents a diversity of culture, gender, sexuality, race, language, and setting. One tale is told totally in Vietnamese and, rounding out the collection, a reprint of a 1973 story is bilingual: English and Korean. The authors and illustrators of the collection also come from diverse backgrounds.

Plot twists abound in this collection of vengeful, heartbreaking, and touching stories and artwork. Various comic book elements, including the effective use of black and white, vibrant and pastel colour palates and creative panel and page layouts, add to the allure of this anthology. Each story offers a fresh approach to the gothic romance genre in the portrayal of the horrors awaiting the characters (and readers) on the page.

The stories are also to be celebrated for their pragmatism and truth telling. The story “Green, Gold, and Black,” for example, does not shy away from the horror of slavery. Here the wife, incapable of conceiving children, drowns the children of slaves who have been raped and impregnated by her husband. Several of the stories remind me of inverted renditions of the horrific folktales Bluebeard and Mr. Fox. Others explore historical truths such as “Goldblind,” written by editor Hope Nicholson and illustrated by Scott Chantler in which the bleakness of the environment and the quest for gold is heart-rendering.

Highly recommended for library collections, comic historians, and readers interested in romance comics, gothic romance, and diversity in all aspects.

Gothic Tales of Haunted Love
Edited by Hope Nicholson, S. M. Beiko
Written by Nika, Samantha Beiko, Cecil Castellucci, Colleen Coover, Kitty Curran, Barbara Guttman, Janet L. Hetherington, Cherelle Higgins, Megan Kearney, Sanho Kim, Hope Nicholson, Svetla Nikolova, Jacque Nodell, Amber Noelle, Hien Pham, H Pueyo, David Alexander Robertson, Sarah Winifred Searle, Femi Sobowale, Chris Stone, Katie West, Larissa Zageris
Art by Allison Paige, LAB, Nika, Dani Bee, Scott Chantler, Colleen Coover, Kitty Curran, Willow Dawson, Caroline Dougherty, Ray Fawkes, Barbara Guttman, Scott B Henderson, Megan Kearney, Sanho Kim, Maia Kobabe, Dante L, Svetla Nikolova, Hien Pham, Rina Rozsas, Sarah Winifred Searle, Ronn Sutton
ISBN: 9781988715070
Bedside Press, 2018
Publisher Age Rating: Adult

  • Gail

    | She/Her Professor, Library and Information Studies, University of Alberta

    Reviewer

    In addition to teaching at the School of Library and Information Studies (University of Alberta) where she is an adjunct professor, Gail tells stories and conducts workshops on a wide variety of topics across Canada and the United States. Each year she teaches the following courses for the University of Alberta. All of her courses are delivered online: Storytelling, Comic Books and Graphic Novels in School and Public Libraries, Canadian Children’s Literature for School and Public Libraries and Young Adult Literature. She also teaches a course on Indigenous Literature for the ATEP program (Aboriginal Teacher Education Program) at the University of Alberta. Gail is the award-winning author of nine books on storytelling and folklore in popular culture.

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