Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Blue Book: Giving the unexplained room to breathe

I've been devouring books about real life encounters of the unexplained since before I could read. I would get freaked out by the pictures of ghosts in the back seat of the car, and the remains left behind after spontaneous human combustions; and was intimately familiar with stories of people bouncing up against something metaphysical and weird.

So I've heard the stories of the great UFO encounters many times before, including the case of Betty and Barney Hill, but the recent Blue Book comics by Michael Avon Oeming and James Tynion IV still managed to find a new way to tell the story of what happened to those people on the dark roads of New Hampshire in 1961.

I only got the book out from the library for the Oeming, and didn't realise it was a non-fiction thing. It looked like another 'hey, here's an idea for a movie!' collections that flood the comic book scene, but its re-telling of an actual event was way more interesting than that.

Comics are the best medium for this kind of story - see the humongous artistic success of The Big Books Of... series that DC put out in the 90s - and their weird mesh of fact, fiction and mad ravings is ideal for the form.

All the details of the Hills' case have been told and retold over and over again, but the focus on that across a complete collection gives the mystery more room to breathe. 

With Oeming's typically atmospheric art, there is a real sense of dread and weirdness. But there is also more of a connection to the people who went through these strange experiences, of a kind not found in all the textbooks that ruthlessly examine their testimonies and evidence.

Something happened to those people on that long drive home, even if it was all taking place inside their heads, and Blue Book makes than more than victims of supernatural happenstance, but real people in a very strange situation.

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