The whole concept of the ghost story has evidently been explored countless times from the classic novels of E F Benson through to the recent retellings of M R James beloved ghost stories retold in graphic novel on Self Made Hero.
When we heard about Ben Catmull’s (Monster Parade) ‘Ghosts and Ruins’ we were particularly taken with Ben’s strikingly detailed illustration work depicting a range of haunted locations. The preview images were stunningly emotive and with a promise of a host of ghostly tales and
a refreshing take on the classic ‘ghost story’ we were keen to check out such a fantastic publication.
‘Ghosts and Ruins’ is essentially a coffee table art book, with a host of taster ghost stories. Each tale is unique and just gives a brief insight into a suitably bleak location with an attached dark ghost story. A great example is the tale of Drowned Shelley, a sad wraith who haunts her location after being drowned herself by her violent stepfather. The mixture of both horror and humour within most tales is unexpected but makes for an enjoyable read. In particular the story of ‘The Sculptor’ is especially horrific, yet set against the ‘Lonely old Sister’ which tells of the phantom made of dollies it helps to balance what might’ve been an especially dark read.
If anything we would have loved to have heard a bit more about each location. With the varying length of each tale sometimes the pacing feels slightly abrupt. But with Ben’s simply incredible illustrations it can easily be forgiven. You’ll no doubt find yourself pouring over each detail on every page. Just the amount of intricate art working (down to the blades of grass and vegetation surrounding some of these locations) will truly blow you away. Catmull really has a style of his own, which conjures to mind the evocative illustrations of Gorey, depicting the locations and phantoms in the style of a dark etching. The styling of which wouldn’t be too far a stone’s throw from M R James classic Mezzotint. It’s a perfect way of conveying each eerie tale and one which will no doubt keep you engaged for hours.
Well recommended – make sure you get yours from Fantagraphics