Comics are a big business, and a type of media that has been around for centuries in one form or another. But it’s within the last twenty years or so that they’ve become more popular than ever, due in large part to the number of popular movies based on comics. With so many new films and television series spawning out of comics it’s not very often that we get to see it go the other way, and see an original comic based on a film. Halloween Girl Vol 1: Promises To Keep is trying to do this, adapting a short movie and a web series into comic form for a new audience.
The story presented here isn’t a retelling of what’s come before, it’s more of a sequel to what creator Richard T. Wilson has made in the past. As such, the comic expects the audience to understand who Charlotte is, and what her deal is, right from the start. At the beginning of the issue she has a vision, which led me to believe that she’s a teen with psychic powers of some kind. But throughout the issue she talks about making herself visible to people, which definitely adds some wrinkles to understanding what’s going on. It was only through researching the original short film that I discovered that Charlotte is actually some kind of ghost.
This sense of not knowing whether I should know things, or if there is stuff that will be explained in further issues, was one that extended to other areas too, such as Charlotte’s friend Poe, and her talk about Hollows and the end of the world. Once again, I was left wondering if this is something that I was supposed to know about before reading the issue, and much of what these two said to each other felt like it was going over my head. The Under the Flower series, including the original Halloween Girl prequel film, is available to watch online, and the website also has mini introduction videos for these aspects of the comic, but it seems like a lot of extra work to just put the book in context.
There were also times whilst reading that I became confused with the dialogue, as the speech balloons for certain panels were arranged in such a way that I was reading dialogue out of order, seeing people’s responses to things before the person they were talking to even said anything. Some panels felt incredibly crowded as dialogue was being worked into the art. I’ve see this in indie comics before, where it looks as though the artist has drawn the images without considering where the dialogue is supposed to go, resulting in word balloons having to be put in places where they don’t cut off people’s faces or other important stuff, and it always results in dialogue going out of order, or panels crammed with balloons. It made reading the book less enjoyable, and resulted in having to read certain panels twice to get them in the right order.
The art on Halloween Girl, by Stephen Mullan, is delivered in black and white, possibly to help create a spooky atmosphere to help with the horror of the story. That being said, many of the panels have plain white backgrounds in them. Whilst this does mean that the characters stand out on the page, it often feels like they’re existing inside plain white voids. This leaves the world they’re in feeling empty and dull, and if anything it detracts from any sense of creepy atmosphere the comic might have been trying to create.
There could be a lot to this story to like, and it feels like it could be the start of something interesting, but thanks in large part to not knowing if I should be aware of certain things, not really having the premise or characters explained, and panel layouts that led to confusion and having to backtrack more than once, I struggled to enjoy this first issue.
Halloween Girl Vol 1: Promises To Keep is out now from Mad Shelley Comics.