Not all comic books need to have multiple panels on a page. Not all comic books need to have words. Not all comic books are merely comic books. This we already know.
Here is the beauty of sequential storytelling: it’s expansive, it’s adaptable, it’s revolutionary and, at its best, it’s relevant to the human condition.
Today sees the release of something…different from the norm. A story that harkens back to the early remembrances that we all share and showcases them in a new way, via an art form one wouldn’t normally expect of a comic book.
Today, the weathered and curling roots of old trees are snakes rustling on the ground. The fleeting flicker of late afternoon sunlight, bouncing off of leaves and flying insects are secretive eyes in the dark brush. The falling of dry, dead branches onto the undergrowth are the footfalls of monstrous pursuers. And the wake of dead family is an ominous backdrop to a lost innocence and the choices we must all make.
These are some of the images and the meanings found in each of the twenty-five illustrations that make up the hardcover graphic novella, The Forest.
Illustrated by famed Swiss artist and designer, Thomas Ott, and handsomely published by Fantagraphics Books, The Forest pushes the boundaries of storytelling and art. This book isn’t something that comic book and graphic novel readers – or just readers in general – come across every day. The Forest is as fresh and teeming with life as it is dark and macabre, its setting bursting with frightening horrors and delightful wonders.
In The Forest, a young boy sneaks away from a family funeral and into the nearby forest and its dark depths. There, he confronts fears and decisions, an allegory for morality and mortality. The Forest is a story about life.
Ott’s illustrative style is always scheming. It jumps off of the page, bound directly for a reader’s head, playing at their conscious and subconscious mind. Masterfully utilizing an artistic technique called scratchboard where a white surface is covered with a black layer that is “scratched” away, figurative and symbolic elements begin to appear out of the darkness, as a drawing progresses. Once finished, the detailed illustrations have an eerie noir quality about them – ghostlike, haunting and evocative. It’s a similar technique, albeit with far different effect, to woodcuts, linoleum printmaking and etchings. One false scratch can render a gesture or expression unfitting and make the drawing useless, with the artist needing to start their work all over again. Because of this, Ott’s deft and purposeful line work, his skill at with scratchboard technique, is evident and absolutely spellbinding.
Make the run to your local, better, comic book shop or bookstore today and pick up the wonderful artistic achievement in sequential storytelling that is The Forest.