I’m always looking for great comics for our monthly ‘Comics Jam’. This is a program once a month where we use a video camera to project comics up onto a big screen, and then animate the story by reading aloud in character voices. Kids occasionally help out with the voice-acting on short excerpts, but if a story is really good I’ll take over and we’ll read until the time or runs out (or my voice does). In these stories what we’re really looking for is a tale that grabs the audience’s attention well enough that they want to pick up where they left off and show up next month as well.
Snappy dialogue, good humor, fast paced plot, interesting characters — these are all elements that draw a loyal audience. More so even than stellar draftsmanship, though of course that doesn’t hurt at all. In January and February’s Comics Jam we blazed through a good one, with all of the elements above: Rob Harrell’s charming The Monster on the Hill.
The year is 1867. England is infested with monsters. Tentaculor roars through the small burg of Billingswood, terrorizing the villagers and leaving destruction in his tracks. And this is no isolated incident: Monsters! Beasts! Horrors! Every town has them, a fact that excites the imagination of the populace and enlivens their humdrum days with the chance of excitement.
Well every town has it’s own monster, but some lack the verve and glamor of others. Stoker-on-Avon has a bit of a problem in that department. Their monster isn’t– well– all that monstrous. Bit of a disappointment really. Hasn’t given a proper rampage in years. It’s something of an embarrassment when you get down to it. Something must be done.
“Something’ comes in the form of disgraced local inventor Dr Charles Wilkie, who has been barred by the town fathers from practicing his trade due to a spate of awkward incidents and failed experiments. In the name of killing two birds with one stone, the town fathers decide he’s just the man to solve the problem of the hangdog dragon. If he fails, perhaps he’ll be eaten, if he succeeds well fine then he will be allowed to re-open his laboratory. Either way his problem will be solved. Packing up a trunk he hauls himself to the hinterlands seeking the lair of the monster…