Introduction:The monsters typically associated with Halloween are real and among us! Things are not quite as they seem though as Harold the vampire has more of an attraction to candy than blood and the mad scientist is actually a really nice fellow. Upside Down: A Vampire Tale is all about a young vampire trying to grow up in the world, all the while living up to his parent’s expectations and ends up getting involved in a bigger problem than he can handle.
VitalsTitle: Upside Down: A Vampire Tale
Creator: Jess Smart Smiley
Writer: Jess Smart Smiley
Artist: Jess Smart Smiley
Content: Upside Down: A Vampire Tale is an all ages book, but does contain vampires, witches, spells, and other Halloween monster references.
Publisher: Top Shelf Productions
Cost: $9.95 (Print) $3.99 (Digital)
Story:Harold is a vampire that lives with his mom and dad in the belfry of the local mad scientist’s home. Harold is super excited about being old enough to go on his first vampire hunt but he has a big problem on his hands as his affinity for sweets has proven his downfall and he is due for a trip to the dentist. The dentist confirms Harold’s fears with the revelation that he has too many cavities and some of his teeth have to go!
With his teeth gone, Harold runs away from all that he has known and hooks up with some local bats, avoiding facing his parents as he is unable to go on the hunt. Harold and his new bat friends cross paths with the witch Vermillion, who is looking for a way to avenge her recently deceased witch friends, and the professor is brought into the fray when he reveals his latest invention, a potion that will grant eternal life.
It is up to Harold and his new found friends to stop the witch before she can get the potion and become unstoppable! He must do it all the while avoiding his parents for fear of revealing his new found toothless identity and inability to be a true vampire.
Review:Creator, author, and artist Jess Smart Smiley has created a great tale just in time for Halloween that takes the myths of vampires and witches and turns it on its ear in a goofy and light hearted way that kids will really enjoy. The character of Harold is one that has some staying power as we have this very frightening creature that gets completely changed with the loss of his teeth and therefore his personhood. The things we think we know about vampires are also change throughout the story and while this kind of thing can annoy me in many traditional horror stories, they really fit here considering the age range the book is intended for.
Smiley’s art style certainly works for this tale as he uses not only a simplified art style but also a simplified color palate as well. The story is told with only three colors – black, white, and Halloween green. It all actually works quite well with Smiley using a combination of black and white lining and shading. It was interesting to see how he used the three colors in different ways, for shading, backgrounds, and the colors of the characters. It may seem very basic at first but the complexity of having to stick with those three color choices must have been like a puzzle to fit it all together well.
Probably my main critique of the story is that it often bounced quickly from scene to scene, especially in the beginning, and I would have liked those transitions to be a bit less jumpy. By the end of the comic, these transitions seemed to have been smoothed out, so this could easily be a case for Smiley finding his voice and rhythm in his first major graphic novel.