I have a raging girl crush on Canadian artist and writer Emily Carroll. She has single-handedly shown me that graphic novels and webcomics aren’t just for boys in love with guns. Sure, her comics are violent, but not in the POW! BANG! way of vintage superheroes and their incompetent nemeses. Carroll’s stories are violent in a slow, creeping way. They are dark and twisted, like the original Grimm’s fairytales (nothing like that sanitized Disney junk).
She writes fables and horror stories, fairytales and mysteries, and illustrates them beautifully. There is a layer of mistiness to each image, a sense of distance, a gray wash that only enhances the shock of crimson that comes later (sometimes it’s blood, but sometimes the horror is something else entirely).
I had my own little Christmas book flood this year (or in Icelandic, Jolabokaflod) and one of the books I received was Through The Woods, a print collection of Carroll’s webcomics and stories. Some of these are available to read online, including “His Face All Red,” a fantastic story of two brothers and a wolf, and “Out of Skin,” which is about a crone who finds herself suffocating in human skin. They’re spooky and wonderful—wholly original fairytales that pay tribute to the history the genre without being beholden to it.
Go read them on her site, or better yet, buy a copy of her book. It’s the kind of heavy book that keeps you coming back to it (I’ve read it twice already). Despite containing relatively few words, it is captivating in a literary sense and in a can’t-look-away-can’t-look-at-it sense. Also, I’ve realized that graphic novels are great because they make me slow way down and pay attention to exactly what I’m looking at. You can’t rush through them. You have to read the pictures, to pause and look at them, to suss out the clues buried within each pen stroke.