Herman Belquest and The Bone Closet (Short Pants Press)

bone-header.jpgRobert H. Stevenson explores fear and loss in this pair of surreal, whimsical minicomics.

 

 

Herman Belquest

36 pgs. B&W; $5.00

The Bone Closet

39 pgs. B&W; $5.00

(W / A: Robert H. Stevenson)

  

Part of the joy of being a comics fan is coming across cool, unique, and unexpected stuff, often in the form of mini-comics. Finding these gems has been easier in recent years, since the internet and conventions have brought small press companies like Short Pants Press to a comic store near you. New Short Pants titles The Bone Closet and Herman Belquest, both by Robert H. Stevenson, reward readers for seeking out the off-beat in an industry of sometimes homogenous hero-worship.

 

The cover to Herman Belquest. Click thumbnail for a larger image.Though you may not guess it by the look of their brightly colored jackets, both of these titles have a common theme: fear. Herman Belquest is a parable about conquering fear. The Job-like Herman is subjected to the loss of everything we all hold dear: his spouse, his job, and his home. He is liberated from fear of loss when he has nothing else to lose. Readers are reminded that we are not defined by the things we love, and we shouldn’t lose sight of self.

The Bone Closet is a collection of three short ghost stories. While none are likely to strike terror into adult readers hearts, Stevenson’s tales are decidedly creepy and refreshingly original. The stories focus on the fear that comes along with isolation, love, and change. Each stories portrays something sinister in the context of growing up; an uprooted child whose new school is full of zombies, a father telling his son a story of frightening self-discovery, and a high-school girl falling in love with the wrong guy.

 

Even though the two books share some themes, Stevenson’s approach to each is very different. Herman Belquest is almost entirely wordless, and takes the readers on a surreal journey through a seemingly mundane man’s mind. The art is very simple and cartoonish, and at times seems almost clumsy. The clunkiness works here, though, because Herman himself is very awkward and strange, and the art makes his journey seem even more surreal and sometimes ridiculous.

 

The cover to The Bone Closet. Click thumbnail for a larger image.In The Bone Closet, however, Stevenson uses text captions along with illustrations to tell his stories. The art is surprisingly different; far more detailed, and sometimes somewhat grotesque. His shapes and line qualities put a reader in mind of Shel Silverstein’s illustrations. The sometimes whimsical yet definitely eerie style in this book really matches the feeling of the stories, and enhances the themes of youthful fears. These are the kind of ghost stories that would certainly haunt us as children, but that we can see now for well-crafted macabre metaphors for life lessons.

 

One thing is certain after reading these two comics: Robert H. Stevenson is a creative force to be reckoned with. Both of these offerings feature great storytelling and art, even though they are presented very differently. They may also appeal to different audiences. Herman Belquest may find fans with lovers of underground comics writers who focus on the surreal side of everyday life like Kim Deitch or Daniel Clowes. The Bone Closet is more universally appealing, especially with Halloween quickly approaching. Both books will make very cool additions to the collection of the mini-comic connoisseur. | Elizabeth Bolhafner

Click the thumbnails below to preview 2 pages each from Herman Belquest and The Bone Closet. Can’t find these books at your local store? Order direct from the Short Pants Press Store!

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