Those who know the name Alfred Hitchcock might know him as the director of Psycho. They might even know him from movies he made in America like North by Northwest, Vertigo, and Rear Window, but before he became known as the Master of Suspense here in the states, he had quite a film career in England. The graphic novel, Alfred Hitchcock: Master of Suspense, written by Noel Simsolo and illustrated by Dominique Hé, gives a very comprehensive view of the filmmaker’s life and influences.
The book begins with young Alfred’s Catholicism introducing him to human evil and human guilt. As an apprentice for a director, he soon desires to tell his own stories, developing his own cinematic style. This style relies heavily on symbolism as well as dramatic camera angles and techniques that push the boundaries of the medium.
Rather than simply focusing on Hitchcock the artist, the book also looks at the director’s personal life, from his relationship with his overbearing mother to the relationship with his wife Alma. This marriage provided Hitchcock his center, no matter what kinds of temptations and setbacks the movie industry and life in general threw at him.
“Comprehensive” might be one way to describe this biographical work, but another word to describe it is “exhaustive,” or even “exhausting,” because it is obvious that Simsolo has done his research. Moving back and forth through several moments in Hitchcock’s life, the story seems to omit few details about Hitchcock’s life, from the films he made in England, through his successes and failures, to his relationships with co-stars and fellow directors. There is even a filmography at the end that lists all of his films. Simsolo’s script, however, is far from a mere information dump; the book is peppered with anecdotes and dialogue from Hitchcock that show the man’s wry humor as well as his penchant for pranks.
The artwork by Hé, done in simple black and white, is not flashy, but it makes use of the medium to tell the story. Indeed, it is a style that Hitchcock himself might have appreciatee. Not only does Hé capture the likeness of Hitchcock and the famous actors that the director knew, but he pays homage to some of Hitchcock’s most famous scenes. The narrative can be confusing if one misses the captions that denote what year each event is takes place, but Hé displays a flair for capturing Hitchcock and Alma at various stages of their lives, letting the reader know what stage of Hitchcock’s life they’re currently viewing. Rather than an exhaustive exploration of Hitchcock’s technique, this biography is an intimate portrait of the man behind the genius. Any librarian who wants to add variety to their graphic novel collection, or even add variety to their biography section, should pick up this informative book about the man who gave the world the movie Psycho and so much more.
Alfred Hitchcock: Master of Suspense
By Noel Simsolo
Art by Dominique Hé
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18)