Emily Carroll’s Psychological Webcomic World: Dream or Reality?

Earlier in the semester, we explored Emily Carrol’s first printed graphic novel, Through the Woods. I enjoy horror films because I love being scared and the short-lived adrenaline rush you get from watching something on screen pop up out of nowhere. When reading Through the Woods, it wasn’t so much a fast-paced adrenaline rush I experienced; it was the stories slowly messing with my mind with each turn of a page. I loved it. I decided to go on her website and see some more of her work (she originally began as a webcomic artist) and clicked her most recent piece titled Some Other Animal’s Meat (I’m just going to refer to is as SOAM) and also one she produced in 2014, When the Darkness Presses (WDP). I was drawn to click on those ones from all the others because they’re listed under the category “psychological horror,” not just “horror” as most of the other ones were. I read both of them and was thoroughly creeped out and glad that I was in a well-lit library surrounded by other students instead of being back at home, alone.

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WDP
SOAM
SOAM

Even though both of these comics have differing story lines, they have A LOT in common. They both focus on the themes of loneliness,

mental health, and self-perception. The main conflict in both of these webcomics are internal conflicts, mostly having to deal with the main characters’ issues of deciphering dream from reality. Both of the main characters Stacy (SOAM) and WDP’s (her name wasn’t mentioned) are in unhappy relationships, Stacy with her husband and WDP’s with her boyfriend. From the outside, though, they both seem to be living happy lives. Stacy hosts glam parties to sell a lotion called “Alo-Glo,” even though it really irritates her own skin and WDP’s is house sitting for a great family in a beautiful house even though her spare room in the basement terrifies her. WDP’s has particularly terrifying and vivid dreams of a door that only appears while she’s having the dreams and it bangs all night long (it’s really cool how Carrol uses animation in WDP to get across the BANG! BANG! BANG! on the panel). Stacy, on the other hand, has a terrifying reality (or is it? how do we really know?) of seeing people turn into slime monsters because of the lotions. Stacy questions what is actually her reality and what is a dream and it ties back to many of the meta-questions that Lynda Barry asks in What It Is.

The webcomics also both deal with the description of body parts and being physically aware of themselves. Hands and eyes are motifs that pop up in both the comics that remind me of David Lynch’s film, Eraserhead. Eraserhead is also really weird and has a lot of zooming in on body parts to make the viewer aware of the body’s physical presence (the whole film also feels like one giant dream). I also think Carrol illustrates the zoomed in panels of just the hands and the eyes in the webcomics for similar reasons. It makes the reader question their own reality because, hey, they’ve got hands right there in front of them too, but that doesn’t mean that they won’t start melting into slime.

Unlike Through the Woods, these two webcomics definitely have a more modern feel to them. The second page of WDP actually reminded me a lot of the advertisements on the pages of Bitch Planet. SOAM and WDP deal more with issues like shallow friendships (Stacy’s best friend is always texting while she’s talking and WDP’S friend only cares about shopping), unhappy romantic relationships, and confidence issues (there’s a scene where Stacy looks at her naked body in the mirror) rather than issues like your-new-suitor-is-actually-a-serial-killer- kind of thing. I enjoyed both of them and even if you’re not into the horror genre, Carroll’s illustrations are enough to make the webcomic’s worth the read.

'When the Darkness Presses' has a little ad for Alo-Glo, which is tied in with 'Some Other Animal's Meat'
‘When the Darkness Presses’ has a little ad for Alo-Glo, which is tied in with ‘Some Other Animal’s Meat’

 

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