Writer: Craig Hurd-McKenney
Penciler: Gervasio Benitez Flocco
Inker: Carlos Aon
Publisher: Headless Shakespeare Press
The horrible things that humans do to each other are often scarier than the ghosts and demons that populate horror comics. That’s the point of Craig Hurd-McKenney’s entertaining new comic from Headless Shakespeare Press. Set in Victorian London, Some Strange Disturbances #1 is the story of a spiritualist struggling to come to terms with his psychic gifts. And, moreover, it’s about surviving the hate and intolerance directed at the LGBTQ community and people of color.
The main character, Prescott Mayfair, has a secret. But it’s not his paranormal abilities. He’s a closeted gay man living at a time when being homosexual is a crime. So, he flees his family in America and hides out in London. There, he befriends the black American choral performer Delilah Quinton. Quinton then helps Mayfair investigate the case of a young woman thought by her parents to be possessed.
The result is a compelling premise that blends the paranormal with commentary on the oppressive nature of Victorian society. There is no nostalgia here. The writer brings us a diligent historical portrayal of a time and place often romanticized as the seat of a grand empire. But here, society criminalizes the sexual practices of gay men, black people play the role of savages in human zoos, and those who refuse to conform to accepted gender roles are locked away in chains.
The artistic team does a great job expanding upon these themes. Gervasio Benitez Flocco’s line-work and use of perspective reminds us that this is a horror comic filled with spooky situations. Carefully-drawn facial expressions convey fear and surprise as Mayfair and Quinton defend themselves from psychic and other threats. Carlos Aon’s excellent ink-work further develops these dangers by bathing the panels in murky shadows that speak to the primary takeaway of Some Strange Disturbances #1. The real monsters are not demons or ghosts, but the social inequities that allow queer-phobia and racism to live and thrive.