Review – The Old Dark House & Shore Leave by WJC

The Old Dark House (Inktober 2015)

B/w, 28 pages.


Shore Leave – Views from Quinthaven

Colour, b/w & monochromatic, 42 pages.

Both created by WJC (Warwick Johnson-Cadwell)

Reviewed by Gareth Sleightholme

After following his output on twitter @WarwickJC, and picking up WJC’s fantastic Tom Hand – A Tale of Stories and beautiful fold out Quinthaven (some of which is reproduced here) the year before last at TBF14, I wasn’t going to miss the chance to pick up more of Warwick’s great artwork. So I snuck away from the IronShodApe table again and drifted past his table and grabbed these beauties (Shore Leave with a great bespoke tentacle tattoo on the arm of the character on the front page).

I’m not sure when I cottoned to the fact I loved this style of image making.

I know a younger me that bought so heavily into the works of Giraud, Hughes and Frazetta would perhaps have avoided, even derided it… I found it strange that I liked it. But I did.

Kind of like the moment you realise you love Tom Waits’ voice and all those box-kicking, guitar twanging, pot’n’pan-banging beautiful melodies about black wings and murders in the barn.

I can’t tell if it’s because his art is maybe (just to me probably) somehow reminiscent of a blend of the quirkiest of Ted McKeever (Plastic Forks), Bill Sienkiewicz (Stray Toasters), and Dean Ormston (Lucifer), or if it puts me in mind of an elaborated, sophisticated jazz riff on Edward Gorey or Tom Gauld (Goliath)’s character work… or all or none of that.

The visual language here is certainly off-kilter, all Cabinet of Dr. Caligari angles and shadows, figures with elongated, stunted or stretched geometric anatomies, like pages from a German-expressionist Giles, Feiffer, or Oscar F. Howard cartoon.

Ultimately what I’m trying to say is… it’s wonderful.

The Old Dark House is a re/interpretation of the 1932 James Whale film* starring Boris Karloff about a unlikely group thrown together in the foreboding manor house of the eldritch Femm family… done as part of the Inktober art celebration, strewn with glorious scratchy figures with baleful eyes and malevolent intentions.

While Shore Leave adds more lyrical mythology, characters, geography and shanty/fiddle ballad fodder to WJC’s port of Quinthaven, a dark, lyric soaked, labyrinthine town of old soaks, pirates, merfolk and tattooed exotics.

What else can I tell you? Just pick up everything if you can, but particularly these great little books he brings to Thought Bubble, then go home and read them whilst listening to Tom Waits or Jolie Holland.

Go check out their blog: and their Twitter feed: @warwickjc

*based upon the novel Benighted (1927),by  J B Preistley.

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