Blood Across Broadway by Frank Candiloro – Comic Review

Blood Across BroadwayIn the culture of democratic publishing created by the Internet, just about anyone can put out an indie comic book.  While this gives rise to a whole new generation of fresh and exciting talent, it also means the indie comic industry is saturated with amateurs, hacks and wannabes. Fortunately Frank Candiloro, a comic artist, writer and animator out of Melbourne, falls into the former category. In Blood Across Broadway, one of eleven comic releases from the artist (including Beyond the Moon), we’re presented with a delightfully weird and truly innovative independent comic that captivates from the first to the last panel.

Blood Across Broadway kicks off in a Dracula style situation as the famed Nosferatu filmmaker, F.W Murnau arrives at the castle of vampire, Count Cartorius. Cartorius lives with his elderly and crippled vampire father, Morlook, doting on him at every turn. It’s not long before Murnau falls victim to his undead host, while old Morlook sits and listens to the violent death with regret.

Blood Across Broadway 2Soon after the castle is visited by Al Jolson and the old vampire offers to protect him from Cartorius in exchange for dance lessons, and so the crippled vampire learns to dance.

Therein lies the greatest point of humour in Blood Across Broadway, as the Dracula-esque story is juxtaposed with the glamour of the Golden Age of the Broadway stage, providing the comic with its oddity and its curious appeal.

It’s fun and dorky, and never takes itself too seriously.  We’ve got vampires, dark and shadowy castles and bloody killing and yet despite these shadowy Gothic tones, it’s not by any stretch a serious story. I guess if you’re going to do a vampire story these days, why not make it about a crippled vampire with dreams of the Broadway stage? It’s not like the genre is in danger of getting any more ridiculous.

The relationship between Cartorius and Morlook is also quite funny as we’re given undertones of a serious soap opera style family drama as the son has no respect for his father’s love of music or dreams of the stage. We’re so often thrashed about the head with stories with young people with dreams of stardom overcoming obstacles, the reverse here is amusing, to say nothing of the fact that it’s an all singing all dancing elderly vampire. The scene that has Al Jolson convincing Morlook that his disability is only a matter of willpower packs a laugh, and it’s not the only moment that stirred a laugh out loud chuckle in this reader.

Visually, Blood Across Broadway is a genre unto itself. The art is entirely black and white, drawn with sharp angular shapes rather like a lino-cut. This heavily stylised aesthetic means the emotion on the characters faces is also stilted and jagged, but rather than detract from the story it really adds to the overall humorous impact.

Blood Across Broadway 3Other reviewers have criticised Blood Across Broadway in saying the story takes too long to take off and the reader is left wondering for too long where the tale is headed. There is indeed a slowness to the first act, but I disagree that this detracts from the story. Rather I think it works to the comic’s advantage. We’re set up with this strange Gothic scenario, peppered with oddities like the arrival of Murnau and Jolson as characters, and then these oddities build into the humorous intent of the tale. Jumping directly into Morlook’s pursuit of the stage would have significantly lessened the impact and the point of the whole comic. All good jokes need careful foregrounding and Blood Across Broadway has exactly that.

Overall, Blood Across Broadway is a stellar effort from a creator who obviously has a great love of the comic form and wider popular culture. Frank Candiloro demonstrates a deftness in putting together a wry tale using familiar elements in completely a fresh format. Anyone with an interest in the Australian independent comics scene needs to get themselves acquainted with this gem of a book, as does anyone with an interest in the comic medium at all. It’s unique and compelling. it’s tender, a bit nasty and altogether enjoyable.

Pick up a copy of Blood Across Broadway and find out more about Frank Candiloro on his website.

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Kate Krake

Kate Krake (aka Kate Murphy) is a writer with a long established passion for all realms of popular culture. She lives in Brisbane, Australia. Find out more on Kate's Blog.
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