Graphic Novel Group Review on Black Hole

This month’s graphic novel group was one filled with interesting revelations about the book that was discussed. Black Hole by Charles Burns, tells the story of a group of teenagers during the 1970s affected by a disease that is transmitted by sexual intercourse. The disease causes an array of deformities; some are subtle changes like a small tail while others more obvious like a mouth growing on a person’s neck. The story focused on two characters in particular, Keith, a sweet but rather wet individual who is about to get the disease, and Chris, a girl who has the disease from the start of the book and watching her dealing with the disease.

The book received mixed reviews from the group, many of us appreciated the fantastic black and white inking style but the story itself had a mix of praise and criticism. Some had concerns about the character’s dialogues such as between Keith and his friends on several occasions.

At times, some pointed out that even though it didn’t take the obvious two storylines of the deformities represent “the ugliness in all of us misunderstood teens” or “being hunt down with pitchforks”, it did seem unrealistic. At no point in the book, there is no concern shown by the parents when the children run away and there is only one point where a “normal” person has an issue with the deformed individuals.

What was interesting was learning about what was lost in translation; the original comics had coloured covers which did seem rather gorgeous. The more shocking revelation was a piece of dialogue lost from the end of the book:

“It’s like tryin’ to explain sex to a nun – there’s no way you’d ever understand it unless you lived it. I was there, okay? Half my fuckin’ friends died out there, man. I never dreamed I’d get out of that shit-hole…but one day I notice the stuff on my face is starting to heal and a couple of months later, I’m totally fuckin’ clean…out walking around with all the normal assholes.”

This actually tells the reader that all the deformities were temporary, that people grew out of the changes and this is in no way implied at any point in the graphic novel and this help the reader to appreciate the viewpoint on the characters experiences.

Overall, this turned into a really interesting night and much fun was had by all the members.