Above is an illustration I did of Inspector Fred Abberline, a character from a comic book by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell called From Hell. It started when I was around twelve years old as a serial running in the horror anthology Taboo. My older brother, knowing I liked horror and had a fascination with serial killers, loaned me his copies of Taboo to read.
As I devoured it the initial thrill of reading a comic book about the ghastly horrors of Jack the Ripper was met with confusion in my adolescent mind. This was not exactly what I’d expected… but I really liked it. The scratchy artwork, the meticulous references and the overall air of something bigger, much, much bigger than a story about murder seemed to be unfolding. It was a little much for me at that age but I knew I had glimpsed something unique.
A couple of years later I noticed that From Hell was being collected and slowly released in installments about once each year. I began buying them and simply couldn’t wait until the next release. The story was complex and layered but I was finally starting to grasp it. Every time a new installment hit the shelves I reread all the previous ones before investigating the new one. This went on until I was almost twenty years old when the series was finally completed. I was sad to see if finally come to an end but I knew that down the road I would reread the entire series.
Well here we are a decade and a half later and I finally decided to reread it. I knew the likelihood of it holding up to the level that my nostalgia and fuzzy memories have placed it was pretty slim. Much to my surprise when I read it this time it seemed even better than I remembered. Such a great comic book. In fact I’m fairly confident that it is my all time favorite.
So the above sketch is my tribute to such an amazing book that has inspired and entertained me for the majority of my life.
As a side note I also watched the From Hell film recently. To compare the two I ask you to visualize your favorite meal. Now imagine a stick of chewing gum whose flavor is supposed to be that same meal. To me the film is that gum. It contains a hint of the overall experience with none of the complexities and lasting flavor. There are a couple of nice scenes and some fine acting but ultimately it is barely an echo of the initial explosion that is the comic.
So do yourself a favor. Pick up a copy of the spiffy collected version of the comic currently in print from the fine folks at Top Shelf and see what you think. And as a disclaimer, even though I said it’s about so much more than a few ghastly murders, it does have some gruesome and bawdy imagery from time to time. So if you are not so much a fan of that and opt to skip it… then consider yourself forever missing out on a true gem.