Lay open to my earthy-gross conceit,
Smother'd in errors, feeble, shallow, weak,
The folded meaning of your words' deceit.”
- Wm Shakespeare "Comedy of Errors"
Shakespeare's dialog appears in a scene in The Comedy of Errors where a stranger in town meets a woman who mistakes him for someone else, and he becomes enchanted by her beauty. In Jonathan Case's graphic novel "Dear Creature" the stranger is an ocean-dwelling mutant monster and the woman is an agoraphobic spinster who lives with her sister in a dry-docked boat in a California seaside town circa 1960.
Using a quote from Shakespeare is appropriate, since the sea monster, Grue, has a penchant for the Bard and speaks mostly in iambic pentameter. Giulietta attracts his attention by throwing pages of Shakespeare's plays packed into soda pop bottles into the ocean in a twist on the message in a bottle. Unfortunately for these sea-crossed lovers, more than just family stands between their happiness. Like many movie monsters, Grue has a hunger for human flesh, and it gets worse when pheromones are in the air.
The black and white drawings work in many ways. They remind me of the black and white Universal monster movies. The shadows also carry enough weight to bring the story to life. Sometimes it's so dark, the panels seem be white on a black background -- with the image in relief like a woodcut.
During a panel called "Composing Comics" at Stumptown Comics Fest 2013, Case talked about his craft. "Comics should be easier to read than not read." He felt the art should facilitate the story. Comparing repetitive panels versus clarity, he feels that repetition works for comedy. The third beat comes around and you have a surprise. Whereas action scenes should have a clarity -- a clear focal point improves and increases dynamics. He also mentioned he's a big fan of leaving areas of negative space. He compared the composition styles of Alex Toth with Wally Wood, referring to the latter's "22 Panels that always work"
"Dear Creature" is Case's debut graphic novel. He has also worked on the "Green River Killer" and done a stint as artist on the recent Batman '66 from DC. His website is www.jonathancase.net.