A friend of mine bought me a handful self-published works by Julia Gfrörer a while back. I’ve found I can’t review anything while it’s new to me, I’m too centophilic in my tastes for that. So, here we are more than a year later and I still find myself turning the pages every week or so.
Physically, Black Light is eight pages of blue eight and a half by eleven, center folded and staple bound. It’s heavier weight paper than you might be imagining, the thickness is like that used for invoicing by the self-important and I love it. It’s thick enough that none of the printing shows through from one page to the next.
One more aspect of it’s physicality I particularly like is the arrangement of the cover art to the cover itself. What would traditionally be considered the cover is only an artwork without any distracting text or cluttered design. However, when opened flat the title and all that, which is on what would be considered the back cover is visible as is the complete cover art which exceeds just enough to be considered graceful. Maybe it’d be better if I just show you.
The first story is titled River of Tears and is ten pages of primarily nine panels each. I could be shallow and call it a story about drugs or relationships but I feel like it’s more than that and I’m just not learned enough to pick up the greater meaning. There’s an early reference to semiotics and the ability of the senses to convey meaning or context plays a role in the remaining pages, be it the cold of overdose, darkness of the street or salt taste of a mistake. The art is detailed in a way that makes the reoccurrence of a scene or motief unique each time.
The second work, All is Lost, is four pages in length. It’s done in a twelve panel per page format and packs quite a narrative into just a few pages. Although I can not place it, there’s the impression that it’s the retelling of a some folk-tale or myth. It’s a sad story and something about it makes it feel much longer than the four short pages it spans. I can’t decide is the details of the narrative that are kept obscure is because it’s assumed the reader will know the story or because there’s a tacit agreement that any fan will fill in there own background. Either way, it just works.
Unclean is the title of the third tale and it’s an eight page return to the nine panel format. It’s my least favorite of the included works but that’s mostly because I just hate everything about the creature populating this one, it’s nothing to do with the work itself which is once more beautifully illustrated and well composed. I find that I read too much perhaps into the title. Is the explicit act what is unclean, the protagonist, the relationships both pictured and alluded to, the break of a deleted contact when one can not delete a physical presence?
The final entry in the slim volume is six more nine panel pages, titled Phosphorus. It makes sparring use of a yellow ink (like that seen on the cover) and benefits from reading under a, you guessed it, black light. It’s a story of rusalka-auto-erotic-asphyxia which is something I never knew I wanted to exist.
Here’s a link to Black Light at Julia Gfrörer’s Etsy shop where you can pick up a copy for the very reasonable cost of $8.00 USD. You should buy one today because honestly this is the sort of medium that’s availability never feels assured. I mean, this was first available in 2013 according to the date on the work itself, and it’s hardly guaranteed that the author will keep making copies in perpetuity (although I hope they do).