Review by Frank Plowright
One Eight Hundred Ghosts is a slim, but oversized hardcover, a graphic novella rather than a graphic novel, but with greater weight and narrative density than many books at double the page count, with a killer compacted plot and an artistic vision to match.
G. Davis Cathcart is an individual and quirky cartoonist who’s largely unknown, yet seemingly the fully formed creative spirit despite that, and as such falls into a long line of similar talents unearthed by Fantagraphics Books over the decades. Some influences are obvious. It looks as if Cathcart’s gone through a year’s worth of Popeye strips, clipped forearms, erased the tattoo and drawn the rest of the comic around a succession of massive forearms. Is it relevant? No. Is it striking? Yes, but then so much about the art is. Look at other places and the mind-boggling density of Geof Darrow comes to mind, while lead character Cedric is drawn with a big round head, like an African American version of Frank Sidebottom. On every page there’s so much to see. Backgrounds are filled, the 1980s is nailed and if scraping for fault it could be noted that expressions don’t always match requirements, but that’s small potatoes.
The core of One Eight Hundred Ghosts is a heist, but not your traditional caper. After a few comments about artistic plagiarism Cedric is on a mission. He’s already sent his consciousness to the future on several occasions, but this time there’s greater purpose: he’s going to jump forward from 1980 to eavesdrop on Michael Jackson’s recording sessions for Thriller, copy it note for note, and release it himself in 1982.
It’s all very self-aware, Cathcart even titling one chapter ‘The Twist’, but he never stops surprising. Cedric is a complete dick, making Eight One Hundred Ghosts even funnier, and if this is what Cathcart supplies first time out, god, has he got a career ahead of him.