Before Man, There Was Black: ‘Electric Black: Volume 1’ Comic Review

by Malissa White

There are times when horror balances levity and mythos deftly. Joseph Schmalke and Rich Woodall’s The Electric Black: Volume 1 does so with a wink and nod that disguises the clever blade. Collected, it’s easy to see their nods to specific horror media of our childhoods. Yet, the Black isn’t afraid to poke fun at them. Volume 1 gives us all the horror and comedy we love with a host of bonus artwork to keep us wanting more.

Electric Black Vol. 1. Cover by Rich Woodall.

‘The Electric Black’ reads as a horror anthology comic heavily inspired by 80s and 90s TV shows like Body Bags, Creepshow, Friday the 13th: The Series and Tales from the Crypt. Our host, Julius Black, tends to the Electric Black pawn shop, in which we find cursed and curious wares for those looking to trade. Each issue offers a terrifying cautionary tale, complete with demonic nuns, millennial cults, rat ships, and elixirs to life.
Electric Black Vol. 1. Page 9.

Julius closely resembles the Crypt Keeper in many regards: pointed ears, long hair, vague aristocracy and a taste for the delightfully macabre enhance the semblance along with his role as Caretaker. Issue One sets the stage for the anthology series in its first cautionary tale to a thief looking to unload recently lifted items in an amazing story “The Rat Ship.” The full page cover splash, with Julius’ floating head narration, sent me right back to nights swaddled in soft blankets despite the dry California heat, eyes wide and terrified, listening to the fading cackle from the grave.
Electric Black Vol. 1. Page 12.

Schmalke and Woodall weave the stories throughout deftly. They don’t rely on the traditional monster of the week format, but integrate stories and situations into the larger plot. One such story, “The Nuns of Castello Della Rotta” seems to appear out of nowhere, but blatantly takes the piss out of possession stories. Specifically, stories of possessed women and men of the cloth tasked with ridding them of their sinful urges. Not only did I laugh aloud when one junior priest fearfully nestled the waiting bosom of his companion, THERE’S A HOLY LIGHTSABER. I literally screamed for joy.
YES! Cross Lightsaber! Electric Black Vol. 1. Page 62.

The stories aren’t the only reason to read. Dynamic panels add visual interest without sacrificing clarity. Distinctive lettering design and colors that set each story apart. You can tell Schmalke and Woodall had a blast, and that’s the sort of content I live for. Back matter in the volume includes issue covers and variants, and an AMAZING Leatherface June pinup by Mark Wesler I need on my horror wall.
Electric Black Vol. 1. Page 74

I’m looking forward to the next series, but knowing ‘The Electric Black,’ it’ll likely find me. Find it if you dare, print and digitally, on Scout Comics and your local comics shops.

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