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The Gentleman – Horror As It Can Be

Once upon a time there was a dearth of horror comics. True, long gone publishers Charlton and Dell put out some weak sauce books but DC and Marvel steered clear of them. DC published such titles as House of Mystery, House of Secrets, and The Unexpected, but their fare was either superhero, think Dial H For Hero and Eclipso, or suspense thriller themed. This changed in 1968 when all of a sudden brothers Cain and Abel appeared as storytelling devices in these respective series, followed by a similar format switch in The Unexpected, and the debut of three sisters Cynthia, Mildred, and Mordred evoking the maiden mother crone triad in the new Witching Hour soon after.

The name most strongly associated with DC’s horror comics of the time, at least for me, is Joe Orlando who had worked for venerable publisher EC on whose work Orlando emulated DC’s horror books as much as he could within the restrictions of the Comics Code. Fourteen years before on April 22nd EC’s president Max Gaines and several other comics publishers testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee to Investigate Juvenile Delinquency spearheaded by Senator Estes Kefauver; the (perceived) graphic content of EC’s horror comics had been the reason for Gaines’ appearance. Gaines’ defiance wasn’t well received and the committee members minds were mostly made up before it began thanks to Frederic Wertham’s contrived Seduction of the Innocent book. And that is how the censorious Comics Code Authority led to the demise of many smaller comics publishers whose content was also deemed questionable for this or other reasons went out of business. Out of all EC’s titles only Mad survived because of a switch to magazine format.

Of course being a ten year old in 1968 I didn’t know any of this. I just saw horror comics appearing alongside my superhero faves and ate them up.

All of which is a bit of a long segue to talk about The Gentleman by Greg Anderson Elysee, Massimiliano Veltri, and Marco Pagnotta, so thank you for reading. Gay League has run a couple features on the series (here and here in case you’ve missed them) and now seems like a good time to revisit with the second issue crowdfunder in swing.

Oliver Solomon is the titular character. A thick veneer of aloofness protects Solomon’s wounded heart while also serving simultaneously to hide and contain a dark secret from others. As a private detective Solomon’s skill set and intuition hinge on uncovering other people’s secrets. He has a past. Don’t we all? Some of his past has come back when he least expected it – his name is Ralph and they’re former lovers whose passion was as strong as their breakup was traumatic. Ralph has only reappeared at the insistence of a woman named Espere St Lanme. To say that Oliver and Espere are at odds with one another is an understatement. Oliver’s instincts tell him not to trust her and Espere has no qualms on calling out Oliver even while at the same time asking for his help in solving who broke into her apartment and how it’s connected to two inexplicable deaths of people who practice the same “spiritual belief system [which] honor[s] the worship of our roots, our people, our ancestors” or a “cult” as Oliver calls it. If it weren’t for Oliver’s lingering love for Ralph resurfacing to the forefront, complicated by bittersweet memories Ralph’s presence evokes of a woman named Lucy who was also involved with both men, Oliver would’ve dismissed Espere at the outset. Undoubtedly this next chapter will escalate the tension between two forces glimpsed at in issue one: the deity or spirit arisen by the supplications from Espere and her fellow members and the immortal force lurking inside of Oliver.

Anderson has a commitment to incorporate figures and elements of African myth and folklore into his writing. As noted above, this is reflected in Espere’s faith and was central in his Is’Nana The Were-Spider: The Hornet’s Nest. The work was nominated for a Glyph Award in Best Story of the Year and Best Writer categories and won in Best Male Character, Fan Award, and Rising Star for the same title in 2018. Veltri and Pagnotta are equally top notch in bringing the fictional world of The Gentleman to life with their dynamic and atmospheric line art and coloring. The collaboration of these three men rivals some of the best output of established comics publishers.

The Gentleman is the horror comic I didn’t know I needed and am extremely happy exists! I hope you’re intrigued and will check out the Kickstarter before it closes on April 26th!

April 17, 2019
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