Book - Springheeled Jack

Cover

Susan Omand travels back to Victorian England for a different take on the legend of Springheeled Jack courtesy of our friends at Titan Comics...

This is a beautiful graphic novel. Visually stunning and very well written, it tells the story of Springheeled Jack from the point of view of Sir Jack Rackham of Bethlehem Lunatic Asylum in London... Bedlam. He becomes obsessed with the Springheeled Jack legend when “his Evelina” goes missing. Meanwhile in Windsor Castle, Prince Albert, the prince consort is unwell and taking a solution for his “malaise” although it is recommended that he sees a specialist in matters of the mind. That specialist is Doctor Henry Jekyll, a confidante of Sir Jack Rackham’s.

However Dr Jekyll has other things on his own mind, witnessing shooting stars as an ill omen, he rushes to visit Sir Jack, who also saw them and together they talk about Springheeled Jack and that there may be a paranormal connection to the appearances. Sir Jack tells Henry about Evelina’s abduction, how he now believes Springheeled Jack took her and will strike again. Henry struggles to believe his friend and leaves abruptly, leaving Sir Jack to think about the capture of the beat that abducted his love as he drifts off to sleep.

In the morning, Sir Jack is resolved to do something to find his love and takes a new contraption invented by his friends Orville and Wilbur, a backpack with a set of wings, so that he can glide over the city and search from on high. Meanwhile Dr Jekyll has been summoned to the castle to see to the Prince Consort who has become incredibly unwell and begs the doctor to kill him as the doctor watches on in horror while the Prince starts to change before his eyes. The doctor runs from the castle, making feeble excuses and, again, seeks out his friend Sir Jack, sending a note saying “I never should have doubted you” and arranging to meet that evening at the graveyard. When they meet, they talk about what happened to the Prince Consort and how the beasts can “infect” a human and then witness an attack by Springheeled Jack himself. They rush to seek safety within the church, only to find their problems just beginning as an alien nest is discovered...

artwork page

From the introduction to this graphic novel through to the care taken with the artwork itself, you can tell the writer/artist David Hitchcock loves this work. Using words like “fascinated” and “inspired” as he talks about the legend in the intro, it is obvious that he is not doing this as just another project, you get the feeling he is really invested in the story and the legend and wants to make it his own. The art itself is truly beautiful, done mostly in pencil to give a softness of tone that is quite often missing from comic books, and each panel would make a piece of wall art on its own. Aesthetically too, I loved the changes in font between the diary entries and the dialogue at the start. A really nice addition to the graphic novel is the “Sketchbook” section at the end where Hitchcock shows some of the work in progress sketches and ideas that never quite made it to the final page. As far as the narrative itself, it is very much a re-imagining of events rather than a true account and, I think, the better for it. This is a whole new “take” on the reasons behind the legend and I found it riveting and entirely plausible whilst being a wonderful study of a descent into obsession. Action-packed, horrific and yet haunting, this was a joy both to read and just to look at.

Image - Amazon