Writer / Artist
Alternative editions:
Flood graphic novel review
Alternative editions:
  • North American Publisher / ISBN: Dark Horse - 978-1-61655-729-4
  • Release date: 1992
  • Format: Black and white
  • UPC: 9781616557294
  • Contains adult content?: yes
  • Does this pass the Bechdel test?: no
  • Positive minority portrayal?: no
  • CATEGORIES: Slice of Life, Wordless

Far too infrequently in comics (and everywhere else) something truly different, graphically outstanding and able to subvert or redirect our medium’s established forms comes along. Generally, when it does, it’s ignored amid whining that there’s nothing fresh or new in view.

Happily that’s not what happened with Eric Drooker’s Flood! – A Novel in Pictures when first released in 1992. A New York City native, he’s a profound and legendary left-leaning activist, thinker and a creator of street art before becoming a designer and illustrator. Drooker’s political stance and creative influences make his pictorial narratives both contentious and greatly favoured by a readership ranging far beyond the usually cloistered and comfortable confines of the traditional comics community.

Following the traditions of artists and printmakers such as Frans Masreel, Lynd Ward, Otto Nuckel and Giacomo Patri, Flood was produced in linocuts and spot-colour: three discrete section chapters created between 1986 and 1992. You only need to look at the news to see that the subject matter has never been more immediate or telling.

These symbolic, spine-tingling observations and tumultuous progressions are generally dispensed without words as lone protagonists – or perhaps alienated, excluded victims – struggle to survive and find meaning in a world that just don’t care. The Man in View restlessly moves past centres of employment that shut down when you’re not looking, trudging cold, mean, directionless streets and alleys at the bottom of canyon-like skyscrapers or riding bleak subways while the pitiless skies look down and just keep spitting more and more rain.

Following a damning indictment of the modern world and warning of the social apocalypse to come from Luc Sante’s trenchant introduction, the journey into oblivion begins with ‘Home’ as a simple worker discovers he’s no longer wanted. Slowly making his way back to the little he still possesses, he witnesses the city and his life in a new way. That peregrination takes him below the city in ‘L’: into the tunnels trains share with lost, abandoned and forgotten people who have been reduced to their most primal elements. ‘Flood’ then brings us to a lonely garret where an artist and his cat toil to finish a treasured prospective masterpiece while the waters rise all around them. The deluge is here and everything’s about to change forever.

This is a disturbing parable of immense depth and potency made all the more effective by Drooker’s intense visualisations. We know the consummate power of images over words, but they also impart greater liberty as the reader’s mind is free to attribute as much meaning to the narrative as their own experiences will allow. The result is sheer poetry – and what’s increasingly looking like prophecy.

Flood! is in its fourth edition now; the latest from Dark Horse being a deluxe (167 x 235 mm) hardback in black, blue and white including a revelatory conversation with the artist first seen in The Comics Journal conducted by Chris Lanier. It’s supplemented with a superabundant wealth of sketches, full pages, roughs and illustrations adding great insight to what has gone before and sets us up nicely for Drooker’s impressive follow-up work – Blood Song: a Silent Ballad. At the moment neither is available in digital editions but hope, like great art and timeless stories, springs eternal.

Terrifying, lovely and irresistibly evocative, this is a nightmare vision you must see and will always remember.