Thursday, September 16, 2021

The Golden Bookshelf:

A Treasury of Victorian Murder: The Fatal Bullet

For anyone who has the slightest interest in this colorful bit of history, or just enjoys a wonderfully-told, well-illustrated story, Rick Geary has obliged with “The Fatal Bullet,” an installment in his ongoing series, A Treasury of Victorian Murder.

Shortly after he took office in 1881, James A. Garfield became the second US President to fall to an assassin’s bullet. Garfield was gunned down in the waiting area of the Baltimore and Potomac train station in Washington DC by Charles Guitteau, usually described as a “disgruntled office seeker” who did not receive an expected patronage position in Garfield’s government.

For anyone who has the slightest interest in this colorful bit of history, or just enjoys a wonderfully-told, well-illustrated story, Rick Geary has obliged with “The Fatal Bullet,” an installment in his ongoing series, A Treasury of Victorian Murder. Geary has a clear, almost diagrammatic art style with a gift for caricature. In The Fatal Bullet, he uses linework that mimics the look of a 19th century woodcut, giving the book an appropriately old-fashioned feel.

Geary is economical with his prose, but manages to tell a gripping and very human story. Garfield was apparently a reluctant candidate and governed during an undemanding and not especially honest period of American history. Guitteau comes alive as a deluded, frustrated fanatic who takes credit for Garfield’s victory and is mortally insulted when the President-elect fails to notice and reward him for his service. Most unfortunately for Garfield, Guitteau was a poor shot. Instead of killing the President on the spot, the shooting left a wound that festered over the hot Washington summer before causing a painful death from infection. Geary, with black humor, spares us none of the clinical details.

The Fatal Bullet is a great example of the emerging comics genre known (optimistically, perhaps) as “the new mainstream.” Neither conventionally super-heroic nor self-consciously artsy and “alternative,” work like Geary’s aspires simply to tell a good story for all readers of all ages in a style that happens to include both words and pictures. It’s an important project for the future of the comics art form, and Geary, in his modest way, moves it forward a giant step with work like this.

 

A Treasury of Victorian Murder: The Fatal Bullet

NBM Comics Lit, 1999

Story and Art: Rick Geary

Paperback, approx. 100 p., b/w, $8.95

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Rob Salkowitz is a Seattle-based writer and authority on all manner of aging newsprint. You can e-mail your comments and queries to Rob at rob_comics@yahoo.com. Use "ComicBase" as the subject line.

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