A couple of weeks ago saw the first published comic book story by Tee Franklin. She’s better known as the instigator of Black Comics Month, has led a number of comic book panels on that subject, was also behind the #TeensThatLookLikeTeens hashtag which saw Marvel and Midtown Comics withdraw a variant Iron Man cover by J Scott Campbell and replace it with another. She is also behind an upcoming Mental Health Anthology comic book which is she is also writing for. But that won’t be her comic book writing debut.
Instead, that was a back-up strip in the Image comic book Nailbiter #27, with artist Juan Ferreyra, letters by Taylor Esposito and edited by one Gail Simone. The comic is about a town that has given birth to more serial killers than any other, each with their own gimmick and in The Outfit, we get the tail of one such killer. In four pages. What can you do in four pages?
And from the first panel, there are racial overtones, a black woman seeing her black partner kissing a white woman, having an affair with her. But that’s the other thing, any such overtones are brought to this comic by the reader, the story would have played out just the same if they were all of the same ethnic background. At no point is anyone’s ethnicity made an issue, everything in that regard comes from what we bring to it. Is this a reflection of the supposed unattractiveness of the black woman? An attack on black men who always fall for white women? Or white women who “steal” black men? If it’s there, as the reader, you brought it to the party. But the visuals matter so much by going in this direction – and we’ll get to that.
Becky, Ashton and Eva. Note the divided half face of Eva on the inset panel from the onlooker, this is an image which will be returned to and is also reflective of the whole theme of the book, and where it ends up. The division of people.
So proof is discovered, this is not just a fling, this is someone having his cake and eating it, creating a situation where he has two women on the go and seems quite happy with that status quo.
And a plot is hatched to get closer to the woman in question. Through a very professional relationship. And yes, note that the outfit being picked out, being recommended, is white.
And so there is death. The woman who has stolen her man is murdered. Whether Becky knew what she was doing, whether she knew if the man in question was involved with anyone, whether she even cared or not, is not an issue here, It’s not brought up. It’s all just part of the revenge of one cheated upon.
You noted the scapels, yes? Because Eva has a different outfit in mind.
It’s a horrific scene. Somewhere in the vicinity of Tusk and Human Centipede, but also Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Invasion Of The Bodysnatchers. And that Eva is a black woman, now inside the skin of a white woman, is full of political symbolism, of personal insecurity, of making a point, cutting off some’s else’s nose to spoil your face. You get to read it any which way you want. And from a purely artistic perspective, the contrast in shade between the inside and the outside makes for an effective image on the page.
From a purely comic book storytelling aesthetic, that may be the most powerful aspect of them all. And the bisected face from before is made whole.
This is a four-page story, it has much in common with 2000AD’s Twisted Tales, a format that saw Britain’s writers master the art of storytelling in a confined space before being allowed the luxury of a twenty page comic in the Americas. But for first-time comic book writers, there is little better to help focus the mind of telling as much of a story as possible, making as much impact, and getting the reader to ask questions in as little space as is allowed.
So it’s pretty good to achieve it, first time out to bat.
The Outfit appeared in Nailbiter #27, published by Image Comics.