THE ELECTRIC BLACK #1 by Joseph Schmalke and Rich Woodall
With hair-raising art and ghastly ghost stories, the debut issue of THE ELECTRIC BLACK by Joseph Schmalke and Rich Woodall proves that horror comics are rich space to explore taboo, curiosities, and new takes on old narratives.
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The best part of antiquing is thinking about the history of an object. Maybe that old clock of your dad’s really was a gift from George Washington to your great great great great grandpa? Or maybe your mom’s creepy porcelain doll collection really is haunted! Whatever the case may be, when you go looking for random vintage bits and bobs, the narrative is part of the treasure hunt. If you share my fascination for ephemera and a curiosity for curiosities, Joseph Schmalke and Rich Woodall’s horror comic THE ELECTRIC BLACK #1 will be right up your alley.

The new series from Scout Comics dives into the sinister world of a haunted antique shop called the Electric Black. Owner and proprietor Julius Black has several tricks up his sleeve. But one thing that’s certain: no one leaves without something. Julius knows his customers. Moreover, he has an alluring assistant named June Bug and a bloodthirsty stooge called Jack to do his dirty work.

THE ELECTRIC BLACK #1 features writing and artwork by Joseph Schmalke and Rich Woodall. The comic is brilliantly structured. As Julius walks his customers through the shop, each object sparks a short story about its horrific history. Schmalke and Woodall’s writing has an enjoyable flare for the dramatic. As a result, the ghastly stories and accompanying gore are less repulsive. Indeed, although there is some bloodshed and plenty of horror, the debut comic is gripping from start to finish.

Image courtesy of Scout Comics.

Not Your Average Antiques Roadshow

THE ELECTRIC BLACK #1 sets the scene immediately. Julius Black is troll-like with stringy grey hair and pointy ears. His assistant June Bug is a bodacious blond who is absolutely not here for Julius to boss around. The two are the faces of the Electric Black Antique Shop. But it’s not just any antique shop. The store appears when least expected to serve the most unsavory customers with even more unsavory merchandise.

The premise itself is highly creative and ripe for horror stories. Julius takes the antiques on the road in the cursed store. And from there, readers are invited into the shop, along with the hapless clientele, to hear about the objects inside. In the first issue, a bedraggled addict finds his way into the shop. From there, readers get two mini-comics, narrated by Julius, about two very different but equally ill-fated objects.

Image courtesy of Scout Comics.

Animating the Inanimate

Schmalke and Woodall take turns illustrating and writing. However, their artwork is complementary. Indeed, there is a sense of continuity in THE ELECTRIC BLACK #1 even though Julius breaks the primary narrative to delve into the object histories. What THE ELECTRIC BLACK #1 lacks in character development, it makes up for with dynamic and gruesome artwork.

Indeed, readers can gather a lot from the comic’s dark illustrations. Julius is slimy with a rockstar/vampire appeal. June Bug may look relatively normal, but it’s pretty clear that her looks are deceiving. Additionally, although Jack only has a brief cameo, his top hat, overcoat, and jacket — plus thick cockney accent — suggest he may be Jack the Ripper.

Even more haunting than the characters are the Electric Black’s spooky antiques themselves. The scenes are dimly lit but incredibly detailed. Schmalke hides easter eggs on the pages to draw readers further into the comic’s pages.

Image courtesy of Scout Comics.

THE ELECTRIC BLACK #1 is a Horror Story Fun House

THE ELECTRIC BLACK #1’s most brilliant trick is the two horror stories inside the comic. They illuminate the history of the shop’s objects. Indeed, these two mini-horror stories explored the topics of greed and hubris in fascinating and horrifying ways. The creepiness rivals the likes of Edgar Allan Poe or H.P. Lovecraft. Coupled with excellent artwork, THE ELECTRIC BLACK #1 is a thrilling start to the series. Although I’m almost afraid to know more, I can’t help but be eager to learn more about the spooky antique shop and it’s grisly shopkeepers.

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