Letters

Letters 08-29-2016

Religious Bigotry President Obama has been roundly criticized for his apparent unwillingness to use the term “radical Islamic terrorism.” His critics seem to suggest that through the mere use of that terminology, the defeat of ISIS would be assured...

TC DDA: Focus On Your Mission What on earth is the Traverse City DDA thinking? Purchasing land around (not within) its TIF boundaries and then offering it at a discount to developers? That is not its mission. Sadly enough, it is already falling down on the job regarding what is its mission. Crosswalks are deteriorating all around downtown, trees aren’t trimmed, sidewalks are uneven. Why can’t the DDA do a better job of maintaining what it already has? And still no public restrooms downtown, despite all the tax dollars captured since 1997. What a joke...

European-Americans Are Boring “20 Fascinating People” in northern Michigan -- and every single one is European-American? Sorry, but this is journalistically incorrect. It’s easy for editors to assign and reporters to write stories about people who are already within their personal and professional networks. It’s harder to dig up stuff about people you don’t know and have never met. Harder is better...

Be Aware Of Lawsuit While most non-Indians were sleep walking, local Odawa leaders filed a lawsuit seeking to potentially have most of Emmet County and part of Charlevoix County declared within their reservation and thus under their jurisdiction. This assertion of jurisdiction is embedded in their recently constructed constitution as documentation of their intent...

More Parking Headaches I have another comment to make about downtown TC parking following Pat Sullivan’s recent article. My hubby and I parked in a handicap spot (with a meter) behind Mackinaw Brew Pub for lunch. The handicap spot happens to be 8-10 spaces away from the payment center. Now isn’t that interesting...

Demand Change At Women’s Resource Center Change is needed for the Women’s Resource Center for the Grand Traverse Area (WRCGT). As Patrick Sullivan pointed out in his article, former employees and supporters don’t like the direction WRCGT has taken. As former employees, we are downright terrified at the direction Juliette Schultz and Ralph Soffredine have led the organization...

Home · Articles · News · Books · Black Hole
. . . .

Black Hole

Robert Downes - February 18th, 2008
If you’ve never read a graphic novel before, then “Black Hole” by Charles Burns is a wake-up call as to how disturbing and provocative these steroid-packed comic books can be.
Hailed as the masterwork of a comics superstar, “Black Hole” is a frightening trip into a nightmare of teenage anxieties, rendered with drawings that recall the darkness of both Rembrandt and Dracula.
The story involves a bizarre plague that infects a group of teenagers in the Seattle area during the 1970s -- a time when “it wasn’t exactly cool to be a hippie any more, but David Bowie was still just a little too weird.”
The plague manifests itself as a disgusting mouth that opens on the victim’s neck, back or on the sole of the foot, saying bizarre things or revealing nightmarish visions. At times you don’t know if the teen characters are simply having nightmares about the agonizing experience of getting through high school, or if they’ve literally fallen into a black hole and are wandering in another dimension.
The untreatable illness is spread by sexual contact, and many of its victims are transformed into grotesque ghouls who live in a shabby camp in the forest where the kids party. The ghouls are apparently the alter-egos of the teens and how they feel about themselves. Characters sprout horns, shed their skins, and receive bizarre messages through cuts in the soles of their feet. Some of the geeks are recognizable as unpopular high school misfits -- fat kids, nerds and shy teens who don’t fit into any particular cliche. But there are also popular, good-looking teens -- such as the protagonist Chris -- who are drawn into the black hole.
Is the hole a gateway of depression and anxiety into adulthood through which every teenager must pass? Draw your own conclusions.
At any rate, once you’ve got the illness, there’s no going back.
“Burns ingeniously inhabits the minds of a group of brilliantly realized characters -- some who have it, some who don’t, some who are about to get it,” states press info accompanying the book. “What unfolds isn’t the expected battle to fight the plague... What we become witness to is a fascinating and eerie portrait of the nature of high school alienation itself -- the savagery, the cruelty, the relentless anxiety and ennui, the longing for escape.”
The novel is based on a comic book series that Burns began in 1994. He claims that the book is semi-autobiographical, based on growing up in Seattle in the 1970s.
Burns got his start as an artist working on Art Spiegelman’s “Raw” magazine in the 1980s and has since been involved in projects ranging from album covers for Iggy Pop to working on an ad campaign for Altoids.
There are a number of subplots in the novel, including Chris’s romance with Keith, the “nice, nice, super nice guy from biology class,” and her one-night stand with Rob, who infects her with the disease in a graveyard tryst. Then there’s a mysterious naked girl named Eliza who has a tail, a cat-faced killer who lives in the woods and parties with the teens, and the dark, surrealistic world of the ghouls.
Published by Pantheon Books, “Black Hole” has been hailed as a masterpiece of the graphic novel form by “The New York Times Book Review,” the “Boston Globe” and “Sci-Fi Magazine,” among others. For those readers who are still on the fence as to the cultural worth of graphic novels, consider that many are being made into noteworthy films, including “The 300,” “A History of Violence,” and the Batman saga, a cinematic character who was revived by “The Dark Knight” graphic novel series of the early ‘90s.
Often, “Black Hole” strays into the logic of a dream, where nothing seems to make sense, but then, that’s the power of this media, which marries pictures with prose in a way that has no limits to the imagination. This novel could never work as traditional prose because much of its power is dependent upon its horrifying images. Although the plot is difficult to follow at times, there’s no denying that “Black Hole” is a hard book to put down, and you may feel compelled to return to its pages again and again, if only for the incredible artistry of its drawings and the dread they inspire.
 
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