Gothic fiction originated in England in the late 18th century and continued to gain greater popularity in the following centaury. The movement also flowered in other countries, influencing American writers and creating the Southern Gothic genre.
Part of the charm of Blood Stain lies in its deft dissection of the Gothic genre with the scalpel of humor. Much of this humor is derived from the comic’s modern setting. But some of the best moments come from the contrast between the mediocrity of everyday life and the melodramatic tone of the Gothic genre.
Blood Stain successfully incorporates and subtly subverts some of the following Gothic elements:
Damsel In Distress/Unreliable Narrator: The comic itself follows Elliot Torres, a chemistry major who acts as the audience stand-in. Originally unemployed, she eventually finds work with an eccentric scientist, Dr Stein.
Women in distress is a common motif in the Gothic genre. Forcing female characters to face overwhelming events is a guaranteed way to garner audience sympathy. In Blood Stain, this is subtly inverted by the main character, Elliot Torres.
Her villains are not vampires or demons but rather that 21st century malady of apathy. Hounded by those twin harpies, lack of focus and lack of drive, Elliot is introduced to the audience as a charming but feckless individual who is an adult in name only.
This makes her instantly relatable. Many people feel lost right into their late twenties, drifting through their lives but lacking the necessary impetus to change things. Her character arc draws us in because it mirrors our own.
Despite her intelligence, Elliot begins the comic as one of the perpetually unemployed or possibly, unemployable.
She is an amalgamation of several character archetypes from Gothic fiction. She is the unreliable narrator, a commonly occurring character in the genre. It is she who determines the story’s route and pov. But often her perception of events is incorrect, even unbelievable. Rather than being a source of tension in the comic, this is successfully played for laughs.
Atmosphere: Like all Gothic works, Blood Stain is richly atmospheric. The palette is cool shades and neutral colors, reminiscent of more naturalistic horrors such as Twin Peaks. The creator uses shading, silhouettes and angles to imbue even seemingly innocuous moments with a sense of suspense and foreboding.
High emotion: Within the Gothic genre, characters are prone to outbursts of extreme emotion and feelings of impending doom.
Part of the humor of Blood Stain comes from the use of high drama as a reaction to mundane everyday troubles. Elliot’s dramatic monologue after she loses yet another job is a perfect example. Not only can we relate to how she feels (many of us having being in the same situation) but we can also chuckle at her and thus at ourselves.
The use of weather as a metaphor: In most Gothic fiction, sunlight represents the positive whereas stormy weather indicates danger. When Elliot finds employment as a waitress, the weather is sunny and pleasant. When she becomes unemployed and is forced to seek employment with the somewhat sinister Doctor Stein, the weather turns foul.
There are other examples, but these are the most relevant. Thousands of horror films have programmed us to respond to these elements in a certain way. We tense up with the expectation of blood and violence.
Then Blood Stain hits us with bouncy light-hearted dialogue or explains away any sinister foreboding as comedic misunderstandings between the characters. This forces the reader to do a double-take and reconsider the comic. Blood Stain is not a horror – it’s a comedy dressed up as one. And this adds to its refreshing charm.
The writing has a quality often lacking in modern comics and that quality is whimsy. The dialogue often isn’t meant to flow like a real life conversation. Instead, it’s built on wit and dramatic timing. It’s designed to engage the audience, to let them in on the joke.
The art compliments the writing perfectly. Characters and backgrounds are slightly stylized, something that I’ve found works best in quirky comics like this one. The combination of stylization and an almost painterly approach to coloring creates a delightful storybook feel. Nearly every panel is a visual treat, laid out with precision of a woodcut.
Blood Stain proves that an old raven can learn new tricks. By blending stock elements from Gothic fiction with a modern setting, Linda Luksic Sejic has created an arresting Frankenstein of a webcomic and many will find the end product as captivating as the original monster.