G.E. Gallas is currently funding a 100 page hardcover graphic novel at Unbound entitled “The Plage and Dr Caim.” Using the Black Plague as its historical roots, the book focuses on a plague doctor and the adventures encountered by treating (and learning to treat) the apocalyptic issue at hand.
First and foremost this book is wonderful on the eyes. On the project site at Unbound it states “With the aesthetic of a medieval illuminated manuscript” and that is spot on. Each page looks as though it is on parchment and the styling of the art also fits the period piece look. The vibrant colors are a great juxtaposition against the grim nature of the backdrop. The dark humor of the book is helped along in both subtle and obvious nods from the art.
While many of us know, or are at least familiar with the plague, it isn’t an often ventured topic in terms of the reality of the situation that faced the people afflicted and those trying to help. A doctor faces a mix of exact and inexact sciences on a daily basis. The plague presented what is perhaps the hardest road for a doctor to travel. People are dying in droves, there’s an obvious disease causing the deaths, the disease is contagious (or is it), it travels quickly, and the symptoms are terrible. Yet, the only way to figure it out is to get close to those infected. Overall it’s a pretty dire and morbidly humorous situation. This take is where this book shines.
Thanks to the horror and supernatural genres many folks know the image of the plague doctor quite well. The mysterious figure with beak and hat has been turned into all sorts of striking characters. Usually they’re nothing resembling the truth of the matter. Within the confines of the beak the doctors actually had fashioned a rudimentary gas mask. The belief at the time you see, was that it was “bad air” that spread the disease. The doctors meant to cure the sick certainly couldn’t be taking in that bad air now.
Rooting the book in the historical and factual aspects of the plague gives the project a depth beyond being a mere darkly humorous look into a terrible time in human history. The research done by Gallas is very clear. Reading through the book I found myself going to the ‘ol googlemachine and checking some things out for myself. I learned by reading this graphic novel. How often do you get to say that?
The mix of history, facts, humor, and reality of the plague period has blended into a book that works on all levels. It looks and feels like it should given the premise. Despite never being out of his cowl we get Dr Caim’s personality coming through as the trials and tribulations of treating the plague are navigated. I quite enjoyed this historical fiction graphic novel.