Saturday, May 17, 2014

Book-A-Day 2014 #136: Black Cat Crossing by Richard Sala

It's always intriguing to go back to unseen early work of a creator you've been following for a long time -- will those early works be the same kind of thing as the mature work? will it be an embryo version? will it be completely different in unexpected ways?

So I finally dug out Richard Sala's early collection Black Cat Crossing, from 1993 -- only his second book, after Hynotic Tales, and a couple of years before he turned to full-length graphic novels. And I found...that Richard Sala was pretty much Richard Sala, from his first stories in the late '80s. Even "Proxy," written by Tom DeHaven, and so old that Sala hadn't yet started to use his distinctive lettering style, feel like pretty pure Sala. He clearly was a creator who found his subject early on: mysterious societies, hideous murders, horrible grotesques, creeps, freaks, and monsters.

Black Cat Crossing collects seventeen short stories, most of them originally published in anthologies (Blab! and Drawn and Quarterly) between 1989 and 1993. One unspecified story is copyright 1985 -- my suspicion is that it's the DeHaven collaboration, from RAW, but the book doesn't given specific original publication dates for anything.

Sala's art was sinuous and scratchy even this far back: fiendishly detailed to suit his fiendish stories. Those stories were obviously less convoluted than his longer works -- or, rather, he had to cram a lot of dialogue and captions into ten or twelve pages to turn it into a suitably Salaesque story of mayhem, mystery, and malice. He's definitely better when he has more room to stretch out, and his characters are deeper in long works than short ones. The stories here also mostly have a default hero: an affable young man without too many qualities, before Sala developed his later diffident young men and spunky girls.

But, again, this is all still recognizably Richard Sala, in something very close to his mature work. If you like any of Sala's books -- or his predecessors like Charles Addams and Gahan Wilson -- you'll enjoy all the rest. What he does, he does well -- and he's been at it for a while now, so there's a lot of it to find and love.

Book-A-Day 2014 Introduction and Index

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