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THE MANY DEATHS OF BARNABY JAMES graphic novel out now from Dark Horse Comics!

The funny books have changed over the years, and some might say for the worse. When I was a youngster, my interests were the big houses: Marvel and DC. Even then, though, I knew of a third contender. A dark horse in the race: Dark Horse Comics. This was the imprint that had the foresight to have the Alien fight the Predator, or Robocop take on the Terminator, or publish some of Frank Miller’s more avant takes on history or noir, birthing the classics SIN CITY and 300. Admittedly, I was never cool enough to actually read Dark Horse comics - if I checked out a title it was probably a Star Wars comic. I still stuck to Wolverine, Spider-Man, and the occasional Ghost Rider.


As I grew up and left the shadow of my parents, my tastes evolved to the more refined pastures of Batman adventures. I know; please hold your applause. I soon started collecting graphic novels of the Dark Knight’s adventures, then a girlfriend turned me on to Jhonen Vasquez and shortly after a coworker suggested Watchmen. Well heck, now I was a full-fledged comic-reading nerd, with the fine adult tastes of a mature portfolio.


One day I was in Portland, Oregon on tour with a rock band and I got to talking with the singer of one of the other bands on the bill. The topic turned to literature, and we shared some of our favorite authors: I suggested Jose Saramago, and they suggested Donald Ray Pollock. When the topic of graphic novels came up, I went on and on about Batman, then they patiently told me there was another world of storytelling that allowed ambitious writers and daring artists to push the boundaries of what we imagined a visual story to be. They suggested I start with Preacher, so as soon as I got home from the tour I bought the first volume.

Preacher Vol I

I was hooked. The storytelling was brave, audacious, ambitious, brash, funny, and wholly original. Set in a world that looks exactly like ours, the veil between spirituality, depravity, occultism, and dark fantasy splays open, unleashing a litany of villains both human and inhuman, clashing off one another in a profanity-laden adventure of biblical proportions. When the title was adapted as a series on AMC, I watched with rapt anticipation. I never thought I’d see anything quite like it again.

The Many Deaths of Barnaby James

Enter Brian Nathanson and Neil Gibson’s THE MANY DEATHS OF BARNABY JAMES. Distributed by Dark Horse Comics from Gibson’s Twisted Dark Comics line, TMDoBJ tells the story of the titular Barnaby James and his employment as a grave boy for The Black Top circus. The Black Top offers a show like none other, obliterating the line between death and life for the amusement of a derelict few with special tastes and a few dollars. Barnaby is the pure soul in the center of this swirling chaos, a character Nathanson admits is inspired by Herman Mellville’s BILLY BUDD. When his frequent requests to the ringmaster Azlon to resurrect his former love Delilah go unanswered, he steals the magic wand that gives this fearsome power and sets off to find her, himself.


Told in five chapters, each named after characters within, TMDoBJ plays out like the most insidious episode of TALES FROM THE CRYPT imaginable, yet still propelled by a beating heart that champions love and perseverance in the dimmest moments of human indecency. Follow along with Barnaby, Jayce, Lady Liberty, Elena, and Azlon as they collide, collaborate, commingle, and complicate one another in the first 144 pages of the adventure of several lifetimes.


His adventure brings him into a world more sinister and dangerous than anything he’s seen under the big top, where practically every individual is a prescribed demon charged with enhancing his singular torture. With explosive art by Piotr Kowalski, vivid colors by Brad Simpson, and evocative lettering by Saida Temofonte, TMDoBJ is destined to be a classic in the vein of Preacher, 300, and Hellboy. I can’t wait for more entries in this series, to see Barnaby grow more powerful as he becomes aware of the dangerous world around him. Will he plumb the depths of the depraved, becoming one of them, or retain his righteousness and beam like a light in a dark world? Read the first installment now to begin to find these answers. You can order the trade paperback here and be sure to let Dark Horse know that you want more to this story. I know I do.

The Many Deaths of Barnaby James page 25

Until next time, keep reading, keep learning, and keep loving.

-McEric, aka Eric McClanahan-


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