Subjective Ramblings and Peripheral Thoughts from the Edges of a Comics Studies Project
Haunted City is a brief and, it seems, aborted 2011 horror series written by Chap Taylor and Peter Johnson and illustrated by Michael Ryan. The central conceit as it is set up in issue #0 of the series is very interesting. Throughout the centuries, New York has grown steadily, in part because of a continuous influx of immigrants. People came from all over the world and brought their hopes and dreams with them. These same people also brought with them their fears, the realities behind the monsters and folktales that they grew up with. The series asks the question: “What if the greatest city in human history… was the biggest haunted house in the world?” (#0). To answer that question, readers are invited to follow the NYPD’s Tom Whalen, a junkie and corrupt cop, who is slowly introduced into a shadowy underworld where monsters are real (among the monsters encountered in the published issues are Irish Morrígan and werewolves). Through this, the series builds up to an urban crime procedural that could potentially take readers through the world’s collective imaginary as projected onto a storied place.
After releasing three issues, the publisher Aspen seems to have gone quiet about the series, however, so whether or not it could ever have lived up to its potential is hard to say. The published scripts are okay, but do not stand out as anything special. There are a few occasions when they veer close to ethnic stereotype. The same goes for the art, which is similarly pretty run-of-the-mill. Some of the stylized captions are nearly impossible to read (at least on a computer screen). As for the use of New York as a setting, not much is done with it in the present day. After the city has been used to set the stage by virtue of its historical diversity, it does not really get much in the way of character. Mythologies and cultures a mixed freely in a setting that provides little sense of place specificity.
All in all, although the basic concept showed much promise, the series’ placement in some sort of creative limbo does not seem too much of a loss.