Violenzia and Other Deadly Amusements


By Richard Sala (Fantagraphics Books)
ISBN: 978-1-60699-885-4 (TPB)

Richard Sala was a lauded and brilliantly gifted exponent and comics creator who deftly blended beloved pop culture artefacts and conventions – particularly cheesy comics and old horror films – with a hypnotically effective ability to tell a graphic tale.

A child who endured sustained paternal abuse, Sala grew up in Chicago and Arizona. Retreating into childish bastions of entertainment, he eventually escaped family traumas and as an adult earned a Masters Degree in Fine Arts. He became an illustrator after rediscovering a youthful love of comic books and schlock films that had brightened his youth.

His metafictional, self-published Night Drive in 1984 led to appearances in legendary 1980s anthologies Raw, Blab! and Prime Cuts, with animated adaptations produced for Liquid Television.

He died in 2020 aged 65, but his work remains welcomingly atmospheric, dryly ironic, wittily quirky and mordantly funny; indulgently celebrating childhood terrors, gangsters, bizarre events, monsters and manic mysteries, with a host of women as his stars of choice: girl sleuth Judy Drood, the glorious trenchant storybook investigator Peculia and this particular femme so very fatale…

Sala’s art is a joltingly jolly – if macabre – joy to behold and shone on many out-industry projects such as his work with Lemony Snickett, The Residents and even Jack Kerouac: illustrating the author’s outrageous Doctor Sax and The Great World Snake.

This compelling mystery melange from 2015 combines a quartet of short comics treats commencing with the eponymous ‘Violenzia’: a vividly coloured and constructed pastiche of Hammer Horror films of a mystery maid and her gleaming guns, rousing villagers and pitilessly dealing with a sinister murder cult in the manner they deserve all while getting ever-closer to a very familiar monk-like mastermind…

That smartly witty twisty tale segues to an eerie sepia sampled soliloquy, poetically and despondently following a foredoomed soul retracing his steps until horrifying recalling what he’d ‘Forgotten’

Macabre musings in the mode of a child’s alphabet primer, ‘Malevolent Reveries – An Alphabetical Exhibition’ mixes rhyme with crafty pictures of the artist’s cartoon canon of characters from ‘An Afternoon of Appalling Apparitions’ to ‘Zero Hour on Zombie Island’ cannily calm the nerves before climactic chills are unleashed when ‘Violenzia Returns’. This time her gunsights are set on the Council of Augers and her dogged pursuit throws up some sudden surprises and a whiff of doomed romance; or possibly just doom…

Clever, compelling and staggeringly engaging, this fabulous farrago of fantastic fiends and ferocious fights (also available in digital formats) is a perfect introduction to Sala’s worlds: a sublimely nostalgic escape hatch back to days when unruly children scared themselves silly under the bedcovers at night, and an ideal gift for idle moments for the big kid in your life – whether he/she/they are just you, imaginary or even relatively real…

Violenzia and Other Deadly Amusements © 2015 Richard Sala. This edition © 2015 Fantagraphics Books All rights reserved.