Posted by Don MacPherson on March 1st, 2007
My Dead Girlfriend Vol. 1 original graphic novel
“A Tryst of Fate”
Writer/Pencils/Cover artist: Eric Wight
Inks: Eric Wight, Mike Allred, Michael Cho & Nick Derington
Greytones: Mark Lewis
Letters: Mark Lewis & Lucas Rivera
Editor: Julie Taylor
Price: $9.99 US/$12.50 CAN
People in the comic-book industry have been singing the praises of Eric Wight for a couple of years now, but I don’t think we’ve really seen a project that one could point to as really belonging to him. The one-time animation artist has illustrated short stories in a variety of comics titles, but there was never one that one could call “that Eric Wight book”… until now. Given the amount of work he’s done for the big super-hero publishers, it might strike one as surprising that Wight would opt to make his debut as a writer/artist of original graphic novels outside that arena. Signing up with Tokyopop for this project is not only a good thematic fit, though, but it offers him a stronger penetration into a market that might not be as familiar with his work. My Dead Girlfriend is a light, entertaining read. The imaginative mix of the supernatural, comic elements and teen melodrama is quite charming, and the sweet and innocent love story is saccharine, yes, but quite cute and touching too.
Finney Bleak is a well-adjusted high-school student, especially when one considers that he spends every day thinking about how he’s going to die. It’s a family legacy… all of the Bleaks die unusual, remarkable, ironic and/or sometimes goofy deaths. Of course, all of the students at Mephisto Prep School are rather different. Witches, zombies and other magic monsters walk the halls, and Finney often spends his time mouthing off to and then running from muscle-bound and fanged bullies. A day at a travelling carnival transforms Finney’s life as he meets the girl of his dreams. But that was three months ago, and there’s not been a sign of her since.
Those expecting the sort of simple and Silver Age-esque super-hero style we’ve seen fro Eric Wight in the past will be surprised. Readers might also expect a more manga-like approach, but they’ll be surprised as well. One could argue there’s some Japanese influence at play in his cartooning in this book, but I see such influences as Andi (Little Star) Watson, Scott (Southpaw) Morse and Scott (Days Like This) Chantler at work. I’m also reminded of animator Butch (Fairly Oddparents) Harman’s style and eye for character design. Wight’s designs for the various ancestors that haunt the Bleak home are varied and show off his versatility and styles that influence his art. He seems to favor tight panels and lots of closeups, and that emphasizes emotion and characterization over action.
One unfortunate aspect of the book is the fact that the title itself gives away the ending of this first volume. This introductory graphic novel is all about setting the stage, but the name of the book, about a dead girlfriend, tells us a lot of what we need to know. Wisely, the cover art doesn’t give away the same information, and fortunately, the colorful characters, genuine sentiment and snappy dialogue go a long way to sustain the reader’s interest.
A school for ghouls serves as the backdrop for this story, and it’s akin to settings in such titles as Death Jr. and The Cryptics. Furthermore, the attitude and energy of the book reminds me of other supernatural-tinged, all-ages reads, notably Ted Naifeh’s Courtney Crumrin comics. Anyone who enjoys those properties will enjoy Wight’s oddball teen romance. I like that Finney, as a perpetually haunted kid, nevertheless stands out as rather ordinary in a school full of weird and powerful monster-movie spinoffs. It makes it easier to relate to his character, and the fact that he stands up to bullies — and not just bullies, but ferocious, super-strong, flesh-eating bullies — makes him all the more likeable.
I’ve been in a great relationship for more than three years now, and I know she is It. I’m done looking, this is the real thing. And the reason I know is that we have fun together. Laughing together is really the best part. She’s become my best friend, and that’s a special and wonderful feeling. Wight taps into that feeling perfectly here with the real meat of the story. Finney and Jenny’s instant connection, formed over the course of a carefree day at an amusement park, is thoroughly convincing. The characters reveal his and her true self to the other. A lot of people might not buy into the notion of love at first sight or knowing so quickly. But Wight conveys the depth and power of this friendship incredibly well, and that makes the notion of such a rapid romance more readily acceptable. 8/10