Of Jason Eckhardt and The Gathering

Hello people! (and others)

I shall tell you a brief story and then we will move on to other things if you are willing. (Your unwillingness would be expressed by not reading any further, I suppose, but you will be rewarded by sticking with me for a bit) I met the esteemed Mr. Eckhardt many years ago when I still lived in Maine. He and I were both (as it turns out) illustrators for the same Lovecraftian publications and I had been an admirer of his work for ages. We met (on a Thanksgiving, as I recall, many years ago) and became fast friends. He is one of the best pen and ink illustrators I have ever encountered, and his work suits the eerie and weird to an uncanny degree. When it came time to have a new masthead for Hopeless, Maine, I knew the chap I wanted to do the job, and, bless him, he said “yes”. Here is Jason’s design for the masthead for Hopeless, Maine in all its glory.

As you can see, it’s perfect and better even than we had hoped.

As Jason had designed this, we thought we had better send him a copy. (the very least we could do) and the following is his response and review of Hopeless, Maine- The Gathering. To my delight, all of the things I was hoping were there to find, he did find. His review follows.

“I’m prejudiced—I admit it.  I have been an admirer of the artwork of Tom Brown for many years now, and I don’t care who knows it.  But even that fore-knowledge didn’t prepare me for the depth and weird beauty of “Hopeless, Maine—The Gathering”, the graphic novel/ saga Brown co-created with wife Nimue Brown.  “Hopeless, Maine” is really an omnibus of three volumes following the adventures of the girl Salamandra in the fog-shrouded town of the title.  But this is no town you will find in the Maine Atlas, nossuh.  Rather it is as if some characters escaped from the manga universe took a wrong turn on US Route 1 and ended up in Edward Gorey’s backyard.  There is a perennial fog covering the town of Hopeless (on an island?  Or one of the many scrawny peninsulas of the Maine coast?), and it seems to hold the inhabitants there in a perpetual state of dusk and gloom.  In a word, hopeless.

    But there is a spark in young Salamandra that won’t be extinguished.  She begins as an orphan in a large, empty house littered with dismembered toys, cobwebs, and unfinished magical experiments left by her absent parents.  A kindly local witch, Miss Nightshade, takes Salamandra to the local orphanage.  There she befriends a crow and a boy, Owen, and acquires what is possibly the worst “invisible friend” in literature (who, through the brilliant irony of Tom and Nimue, is made the most doe-eyed and manga-esque waif of them all).  Meanwhile, things—some like bits of seaweed, some like jumbles of bones or brass fittings—float by in the thick, yellow-grey murk, sprouting eyes that regard both the characters and the reader alike with a terrible blandness.  There is also a tree of bottles.  None of these things is explained—they simply are—which is much of their outré charm.

    There is more, much more to this book than this, but I wouldn’t want to spoil it for you.  Reading the Hopeless saga is a continuous revelation of beauty and strangeness.  It is a story that requires constant attention, but rewards that attention a hundred-fold.  Clearly, Tom and Nimue had a clear vision of their story and its heroine, and remained faithful to that vision throughout.  If I have any criticism of “Hopeless, Maine—The Gathering”, it is with some of the type.  The text in the “Prelude” is rather small for my old eyes, and title-headings are similarly insignificant.  This makes the jump from chapter to chapter a little disorienting at times.

    But these are quibbles.  “Hopeless, Maine—The Gathering” is your ticket to become wonderfully lost in the weird world of this most unusual of Downeast towns, all in one volume.  Don’t pass it by.”

 

There you have it! We mostly use the Vendetta as a source of entertainment, and not to (directly) promote the books, but we thought this was well worth sharing.

I hope this finds you well, inspired, and thriving.

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