Two Eyes of the Beautiful Part II
Ryan Cecil Smith, writer/artist
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Like the previous chapter, this installment in Closed Caption Comics member Ryan Cecil Smith’s adaptation of Kazuo Umezu’s horror manga Blood Baptism achieves something damn close to horror camp. It’s a celebration of the over-the-top nastiness and spectacle of horror manga: Not content to show the killer, a demented ex-actress out to repair her disfigurement by any means necessary, strangle a dog to death, Smith depicts the woman’s hapless daughter stumbling into a room full of dismembered animal corpses and getting buried in a pile of severed cat heads. Even the villain’s hair is larger than life, an enormous bun taller than Marge Simpson’s beehive. This is all the funnier for being drawn in an altcomix-meets-kids’-manga style; it could just as easily be an uglied-up Sailor Moon tribute comic some kid from CCS did. But it’s precisely this idiosyncracy — a member of one of the States’ premiere underground comics collectives doing a respectfully ridiculous cover version of a horror manga about a crazy woman preparing to rip her own daughter’s brain out to achieve eternal youth — that elevates it from cheap irony or schlock. From the expert zipatone shading to an immaculately inked centerfold spread of that room full of dead dogs (it’s all painstakingly delineated grains in the hardwood floor and shiny black puddles of blood), Smith is pouring a very serious amount of effort and craft into what could easily have been just a goof, because to him, it clearly isn’t. Most impressive to me is the way he depicts his little-girl protagonist’s reaction to her discovery of her mother’s true nature. As she panics and tries to escape, Smith crops her word balloons so they cut off the text of her speech so that only half the letters (top, bottom, left, right, whatever) are visible, the rest of each alphabetical character disappearing under the edge of the balloon or panel. Panel borders and balloon edges, the very containers from which comics are comprised, are inadequate to contain the overwhelming horror she feels. That’s a lot of smarts to bring to an arch horror-comedy experiment. It kicks the shit out of Black Swan, that’s for sure.