- Paperback: 200 pages
- Publisher: Fantagraphics (November 21, 2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9781560972815
- ISBN-13: 978-1560972815
- ASIN: 1560972815
- Product Dimensions: 6.9 x 0.6 x 10.1 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 5 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,688,923 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Chuckling Whatsit Paperback – November 21, 2005
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Broom, hack writer turned detective by necessity, is having a heck of a time figuring out why astrology columnists are turning up dead, seemingly at the hand of the Gull Street Ghoul, a killer from the city's past. The solution to the crimes involves a strange organization named G.A.S.H., a shadowy masked man named Mister Ixnay, and tiny outsider-art dolls called "whatsits." Your Flesh magazine says that The Chuckling Whatsit "smacks of the sweet aroma of a venus flytrap. This is film noir in comics form: dark stormy nights, twisted cities, long shadows, a knife in the back, all seen through a fish-eye lens of madness." Richard Sala weaves a mystery that turns and twists and leaves you guessing, wanting more.
From Publishers Weekly
Pulp fiction lives (or at least lurches about entertainingly) in this lurid melodrama that features a swarm of characters in manic pursuit of the eponymous Whatsit, a leather doll that laughs when shaken and may be made from flayed human skin. Unlike The Maltese Falcon, there's no smart, unsentimental Sam Spade on hand to sort things out. Instead, intrepid but rather dense reporter Broom wanders through a tangled plot, bumping repeatedly into assassins, femme fatales, dangerous servants, obsessed doll collectors and a lunatic, leather-masked serial killer. Even though almost everyone dies along the way, the mystery persists through the final bloodbath. The considerable fun is in watching the action slosh further and further over the top. Sala's black and white art is appropriately grotesque, looking like a comics version of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari: buildings tilt ominously around misshapen characters whose noses point in multiple directions and whose feet only sometimes touch the ground. The wildly imaginative storytelling and sly pastiche of lurid pulp material make an appealing mix.
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Chilling stuff no? Richard Sala does a brilliant job of bringing together many gothic elements so memorably into a mystery story. Sala's noir drawings are excellent and it's this that make the comic book stand out from others in the indie comics world. I found the mystery story well written but, as sometimes happens when you try to outfox the reader, a bit convoluted. I appreciate that it's hard to keep the tension up in stories like this but the trouble is that it can sometimes all be explained in a rushed, overly verbose manner in the end, which happens here.
I enjoyed "The Chuckling Whatsit", and Sala is definitely carving out a style of his own while paying homage to a number of artists and works, and in this sense he ought to be celebrated for being an original. But as a standalone comic book? Not perfect, but an interesting enough read.
Sala is able to take this complex mystery plot and keep it from becoming too convoluted, His art is superb, he has created a spine-tingling world that is uniquely his own, one that I always enjoy visiting.
With the narrative scope and the visual sophistication of an Alfred Hitchcock movie, "The Chuckling Whatsit", is practically camera ready. With its eerie mystery, unexpected plot twists, wry humor and bizarre and arcane psychological landscapes "The Chuckling Whatsit" is a tour de force. What Tim Burton is to the feature length cartoon, and David Lynch is to the feature length film, so is Richard Sala to the graphic novel.
I wouldn't mind keeping Richard Sala a secret. After all, don't we feel all the more special when our heroes belong to us fans alone? Nonetheless, it's time for the world to discover the STRANGE and GRIPPING world of Richard Sala!