Comics. What wonderful universe I’m so ignorant about!
I’ve always loved this way of telling stories making such a visual impact, however I’ve never been a great follower nor expert. Used to buy a magazine when I was 8 one of these weekly girly magazines named Jana, following all the stories, but I found really frustrating to spend most of the time waiting for the next issue while it was taking me so few to devour it, so I wasn’t good at collecting at all. Never been a good collector at anything, to be honest, so after that I was buying spare issues of comics just for fun, and Spiderman and Batman stories.
I consume volumes. Not that I buy many, but I’ve been getting acquainted with great works such as The Killing Joke, From Hell, Frank Miller’s The Dark Night Returns or Sin City, The Preacher recently, and the last weird discovery, thanks to my friend Mich, Charles Burns’ Black Hole.
I got so hooked I read it in just a couple of nights. Sick, twisted and totally uncomfortable. It’s so weird it’s really difficult to define what Black Hole is, and I reckon a second read is absolutely necessary, to get more meaning. For this reason I immediately related it to any of the early Cronenberg’s films. They were so shocking I had to watch them several times to really enjoy them. In this sense Black Hole could be equal to Videodrome. You feel irresistibly attracted to it at first, but you don’t really know what’s going on nor why, and have to dig deeper and deeper to make sense.
The plot is set in Seattle, in the 1970s. it mainly deals with a couple of teenage characters, Keith and Chris, who barely know each other from highschool but they somehow empathize. There’s a bug, a sexual transmitted disease which causes mutations among youngsters even though the origin is not explained. Some of them suffer really awful mutations which immediately turn them into outcasts, and they tend to isolate from society, in order to avoid rejection, torture and punishment, and some others manage to deal with it. Chris, the girl, gets infected when hanging out with Rob Fancincani, due to a misunderstanding, and from that moment she feels compelled to get away. Keith gets hooked with Eliza, who’s grown up a tail, but, unlike Chris, he can handle the situation in a better way. And then, there’s Dave, who’s a total freak, in love with Chris, whose actions will make a huge impact on these people.
There are lots of drugs and sex, both subjects I find totally appealing, there are lots of interesting music references, and plenty of dreamy stuff. The imagery is absolutely great, even though I was so stuck to the story man things passed by without me noticing them. Visually it’s overwhelming, with this thick and heavy black ink, which makes the cartoons so powerful.
All the constant references to this spreading decease made me think of AIDS. First, for being sexually transmitted, and also because of all this social barrier created around. I remember the first days of AIDS, when it was officially recognized, and we all felt threatened (well, perhaps not me, I was a little girl after all), not so sure of the ways to be infected, and even though we were all told to be close and supportive to the people suffering from it, how society was giving its back to the illness. I also remember the first time I heard some acquaintance who had passed away was infected, and this panic around me increasing, with thousands of questions involved. “Was I to close to him?” “why didn’t he tell us?” Have I been too exposed?”, “What if anyone knows I am friend f this person?”It was really awkward, and scary, and I remember it freshly.
It also made me think of Larry Clark’s Kids movie, which also dealt with a crazy and out of control teenage society, and AIDS, and the way youngsters were jeopardizing their lives for the sake of having a sexual encounter, without pounding the consequences. All very fucked up.
Again, what is Black Hole? Is it the story of mutants, a portrait of a disease, the troubles of a teenager to fit or to get away, the reflection of social confusion, or just a weird and heavy acid trip?
Perhaps I didn’t understand anything or different readings can be pulled out of it, but the only thing I’m sure of is that Black Hole is perturbing and fascinating all the same.