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THE SCRIBBLER
By DAN SCHAFFER (Image; 2006)

A black-and-white graphic novel that offers a unique take on traditional superhero ethos. The idea of a superwoman whose powers derive largely from schizophrenia is a strong one, and quite apropos given the conventions of the form. It makes me wonder why more comics aren’t structured around this idea--especially after reading THE SCRIBBLER.

     Written and illustrated by Dan Scaffer (of DOGWITCH and INDIGO VERTIGO), this comic offers a potent and revealing peek into the universe of a schizophrenic. That person is Suki, an attractive woman harboring multiple personalities.

     However, it seems Suki’s on her way to being cured. Living in a halfway home located in a big city high rise, she’s getting a new experimental treatment in the form of a portable electro-shock machine. By hooking the thing up to herself and administering shocks, Suki eliminates nearly all her alternate personalities. Yet one hangs around, a supernaturally-endowed individual of apparently extraterrestrial origin who does things like leave copious scribbled messages for her host--without any ink!

     The electro shock machine’s powers are unpredictable, as Suki discovers when she uses it on a dog that turns into a freaked-out zombie. The machine’s affects are even more pronounced on another of the halfway home’s tenants, a homicidal woman who becomes a psychotic demon after being zapped. She also becomes Suki’s nemesis in the final gravity-defying, building-hopping showdown.

     With this slim but potent volume Dan Schaffer proves himself a uniquely skilled practitioner of graphic dementia, with a fine balance of character and action. The properties of the electroshock machine are somewhat hazily described, and could have used more fleshing out (as based on what we’re shown they seem inconsistent), but for the most part the story works as is.

     Schaffer’s artwork is even more striking, seamlessly mixing photo-realistic depictions with out-and-out surrealism, creating a shadowy and unsettling portrait of madness and apprehension. Suki is strikingly visualized as a somewhat chunky blonde who becomes a sleek Ninja-like warrior in her “Scribbler” persona. Her nemesis, meanwhile, is pictured as a leering, freaked-out subhuman you won‘t soon forget.

     

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