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Comics Herstory: Emily Carroll

24727085Emily Carroll is a writer and artist from Ontario who has been terrifying readers since 2010. She gained notoriety for her webcomic, His Face All Red, which, after publication on her site, made rounds (and still occasionally pops up) on various sites.

Carroll began her comic career in webcomics, publishing fairy tales, romance, and dream journals in addition to horror stories. Her illustration work has appeared in Paste Magazine, Wolfen Jump online anthology, and Spera. Carroll also illustrated the graphic novel Baba Yaga’s Assistant, written by Marika McCoola and published last year.

In 2014, she published her first collected work, a book of short horror comics titled Through the Woods. Visually, the book is stunning. Carroll stretches the medium, using a combination of art, coloring, and lettering that builds the suspense of each story. The illustrations themselves are layered and rich, giving the book an otherworldly feel.

What makes the book truly special, though, isn’t just the visual element. The stories are creepy, yes, but can feel ambiguous. However, when these comics are read as a way to understand reaction to trauma and trauma itself, they become much more accessible. The horror of seeing something that cannot be there is grounded in the very real horror that comes with various types of loss.

91bldt8cbtlThis theme is also exemplified especially well in Carroll’s webcomic, Margot’s Room. As with the print medium, Carroll pushes the boundaries of webcomic by forcing readers to interact with the comic in order to read it. Clicking on the comic (available on her site) takes the reader to a screen with a poem written over an empty bedroom with bloodstained floorboards and a broken window. In order to read the comic, readers must click on various objects in the room, all related to the poem at the top of the page.

The order in which the reader is supposed to click on the objects is given, but somewhat subtly. The end result of this is that it forces the reader to interact with the trauma that the main character has gone through. The fact that the order isn’t immediately clear points to the disorienting nature of a traumatic experience, and this produces a visceral sort of fear.

Carroll continues to push the boundaries of storytelling in any given medium, which makes her an exciting artist and storyteller to follow. These stories are valuable not only for their aesthetic appeal (which is not a small amount of appeal) but for forcing readers to consider the source of the horror in the story–what constitutes horror for the characters and why.

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