The Palace of Tears - Part 1.
Created by Michael Lomon.
Title Caligraphy by Alce Mazilli.
A4 Magazine Format - 40 pages - Full Colour.
Thoughtbubble this year was awash with great new comics and one of the most welcome was this one from Michael Lomon. It's been a few years since I last saw a release from this creator and this one is a doozy.
The story tells of a solitary fisherman out on his trawler and not catching anything of worth until he nets an ornate box that when he forces it open contains a monstrous dragon. This beast towers over the fisherman and through that classic folk tale combination of threats, tricks and negotiations promises to make the fisherman rich.
He is directed by this beast in a box to a shoal of fish who prove to be worth more than gold to a local tyrannical ruler. Of course what follows is not a simple rags to riches story as things gradually get worse and more deadly for our protagonist as greed overtakes him.
The story ends with the reader wishing for more. Will he survive? What will happen to the dragon? I'm not aquainted with this particular folk tale and get the feeling it is going to get worse before it gets better.
I managed to catch up with Michael again at the festival and you can listen out for an interview we did on Episode 228 of the Awesome Comics Podcast. (Due for release on Monday the 18th of November).
This is a recreation of an old Jewish Folk Tale that Michael has released in a gorgeous full colour magazine and online (links to follow). It is clearly a labour of love and easily one of the most eye-catching pieces of art I saw over the Harrogate weekend. Each page is a full bleed frameable print of a comic with intricate detail and some amazing colour work. It really reminds me in it's deeply imagined structure of books like Porcelain (from Improper Books) or Geis (from Nobrow Press). There is a real passion on show here and I can't imagine that a book like this was rushed off in a weekend or even a year!
We often imagine a folk tale or fairy tale adaption to have an added stiffness and a lack of grit or edge but there is none of that lacking here. The people who inhabit this Palace and it's surrounding land and sea are grotesque and frightening. There is an underlying feeling of risk and failure leading to death. There are no handsome heroes or airbrushed warriors and you can feel the ravages of this brutal world on their faces, skin and greedy attitudes.
'50 for his clackers!'
That's not to say that this is done without a sense of humour. It has a wry show and tell of the workings of a folk tale and the morality machine underneath and the reasons for it's retelling. But this stylistic hint at humour never detracts from the pace and tension in the story. The vast personal flaws that the inhabitants exhibit motivate their actions and also our attentive interest. Michael told me that he loves books like The Arabian Nights and wanted something with both adventurous hi-jinks and sexual undercurrents. I can't wait to see where this goes next.
This has all the hallmarks of the start to a great series and one worthy of a French or Belgian publisher like Dargaud or Delcourt. If I had one negative thought it would be that I'd have liked a longer story and one that didn't end quite so suddenly but I would also like to say that this is easily in the running for my personal favourite of the festival.
Find Michael on Twitter @MichaelLomon and on Instagram @Michael_lomon
Find sample pages of this great new book online here https://www.michaellomon.com/palace-of-tears
(Online Cover art).
Many thanks for reading.