Now that the major workload is over, I picked up Jason Franks' and J Marc Schmidt's The Sixsmiths published by SLG Publishing (USA), which I had bought back in February / March of this year.
All I can say is I'm glad I did. What a great find.
Now the purpose of this blog is not to review books or comics, and indeed we're not in the business of reviews. However, occasionally we like to share a positive reading experience with our readers so that you may be inclined to try them out...
And I certainly had a positive reading experience with this Aussie graphic novel.
The Sixsmiths is the story about a loving family that goes through many of the same life challenges that we do – unemployment, first day at a new job and a new school, lost dogs in the park, church on Sunday ... it sounds mundane but it's not. The important detail I haven't mentioned yet, is that this is a family that worships at the altar of the Dark Lord. No, not Voldemort... but Lucifer. This is, in fact, a story about a family of Satanists.
Strange as it may sound because I am personally adverse to having anything to do with dark supernatural forces, this is actually a charming story that gently unfolds with a natural rhythm through sixteen digestible and some emotionally charged chapters. If I had to summarise it in a sentence I would say it's like " The Simpsons meeting the Osbournes!"
I started off with trepidation and there were some moments of rising tension where I felt afraid to turn the page – unsure of what I would discover but also aware that I could potentially be projecting my own prejudices on the story. I certainly did not want to be greeted by some unpalatable or traumatising idea or image. In the end I placed my trust in the intention and skill of the comics creators, as well as the black comedy genre. And indeed I was correct. The pay-offs were exceptionally funny – the Virgin Sacrifice (amongst others) for one thing.
Indeed, I laughed in many places at Franks' gentle rollicking humour – his perceptive observations on life and humanity, as well as his intelligent play on words and ideas. For example, the joke in the first names of the children (Cain and Lillith – Biblically significant to both ends of the religious spectrum), as well as the family name where the devil's number ("6") meets the common name ("Smith") that could also be read as the "sicksmiths", made me chuckle.
But is this a sick family? No. It is a family that could worship at any altar. Being Satanists is not the point. Being human is the point.
They are loving and affectionate with a robust sexuality who are also fierce about protecting their children and exposing them to the rights sorts of influences – I love the chapter about the way Mum deals with a missionary message about the corruption of children who play evil video games.
And what is is a Satanistic family to do when one of their children wants to become a Budhist nun?
Schmidt's art is a delight. The artwork is naive but there there is a great deal of sophistication in its visual humour. The tuckshop lady arms on the teacher, the fat vicar's expressive eyebrows, the satanic iconography (seek the pentacles and you will find!)
There are a few dangling plotlines at the end but it's my understanding that they will be answered in the sequel.
This is a great book and the creators should be proud of themselves. I believe it is one of the breakthrough graphic novels coming from a new age of Australian comics.
Thematically it may not be the ideal Christmas fare for obvious religious reasons, but we ask you just to have a little faith...
Check out The Sixsmiths website for more info and a taste-test of the web comic strip.