A Preview Copy Was Provided by G.E. Gallas
William Blake is a pretty fascinating cultural figure, for a variety of reasons. While the average person doesn’t really know much about poets or painters from the 1800s, most people have heard of Blake, even if it is just The Tyger. But even more than that, he looms large over the culture at large. His Great Red Dragon paintings served as a major influence for Thomas Harris’ Red Dragon, which has been adapted into 2 movies and a tv show, and his works as a whole have been cited as influential on everyone from Alan Moore to Bob Dylan.
Despite that, there hasn’t exactly been an overabundance of stories about his life, which I find odd. His life is pretty fascinating, maybe not Richard Dadd fascinating (guy went nuts and murdered his father, that’s fairly hard to top) but pretty unique. I mean, he came up with the idea for one of his paintings during a seance. He supposedly attacked a prison as part of the Gordon Riots. Why hasn’t there been more books, movies, comics, written about his life?
The comic takes place in 1790, following the death of William Blake’s brother Robert, and is framed as a fairly surreal (maybe not exactly the word I’m looking for, but I’ll stick with it) take on one of Blake’s more famous paintings, The Ghost of a Flea, by envisioning it as a lengthy conversation between him and the subject of said painting. Time is also taken to explore Blake’s relationship with his wife Catherine (who, if you know anything about William Blake, is pretty important).
Right off the bat, the comic reveals itself as something fairly personal, which is something that can be a double edged sword, depending on how it’s handled. In this case, it’s clear from the word go that the author has an intense affection for Blake and his work, and that bleeds through to every aspect of the work. That’s not a complaint or even a criticism, as a passion for the subject keeps the comic from becoming a clinical observation of the subject.
In this case, the passion the writer has for the subject is largely positive, although I can imagine it might make it difficult to access for the layman. Simply put, if you’re a fan of Blake, his work or even just just life story, this comic will no doubt intrigue you. On the flip side, if you’re not into 18th/19th century painters and poets, or even just not a huge fan of Blake, then this comic might not have a lot to offer you. Thankfully, in case I didn’t indicate this earlier, I would identify as a fan of Blake (my parents had a copy of Songs of Experience when I was growing up that I loved, so at least I come by it honestly).
None of this would matter however if the comic weren’t well executed, which I’m thankful to say it is. The black and white art is extremely striking, and feels appropriate for the subject matter, as well as dovetailing with the sparsely used dialogue. Framing the entire second half of the comic thus far as a conversation between Blake and the ghost of the flea is a strange choice, but one that left me curious as to where the story could be going (and what might happen in the intervening nearly 30 years between the setting of the comic and when Blake began painting The Ghost of a Flea).
Unfortunately, that’s about all I can say about it. It’s a beautiful little comic, as yet uncompleted, that I got a chance to read primarily by accident (seriously, the series of events that led to me winding up in contact with the author are too odd for me to relate here). Hence why I framed this article as a Preview, rather than Review (also so I wouldn’t have to add a score). The remainder of the comic is seeking funding on Kickstarter, with a preview of the first 30 pages available, so I suggest you go check it out and, if you like it, consider backing it. I know I will, as soon as I have some money to spare.
Elessar is a 25 year old Alaskan born cinephile and top economists estimate he will have money to spare in late 2027.