Friday, July 6, 2012

Witch Hunts: A Graphic History of the Burning Times

Having a passing acquaintance with a creator behind Witch Hunts, I was well aware of this graphic novel's conception and genesis some time ago. The long road to publication saw a mutual desire by all three participants to bring something unique to table: an original slant detailing a part of history now mired in myth but no less potent: the Witch Hunts and Burning Times of the middle ages ... a collective mass-hysteria that encompassed every shade and continent of the known world at the time.

We begin our journey with an overview, and see how – with just a few short stanzas of the Bible – the world of men and organized faith perverted religion, ushering in a whole new world of macabre justice almost unfathomable in the details. From the humble beginnings of rural towns in Europe (with local populaces at a perpetual loss to explain negative weather patterns, illness and death), they sought a scapegoat in the name of witchcraft and sexual liaison with Satan. The reality, of course, was such parlays were so rare as to be non-existent – and the only way to extract confessions and play out blood-lust was to implement obscene torture. This physical agony included everything from ‘trial by water’ to medieval devices that crushed legs, extracted fingernails, and choked an unwitting victim to the point they would invariably declare guilt. Once the philosophy was set in motion (proliferated by such witch-hunting bibles as the Malleus Maleficarum), no one was immune to the outbreak, ensuring that brother would rise up against brother, and the methods of execution became even more elaborate.

The biggest attribute of Witch Hunts probably comes in the form of its education. Even if you have an intimate knowledge of the burning times (in particular events like the Salem Witch Trials) there is still bound to be a nugget of information within these pages that will come as a surprise. Moreover, the book is philosophical at heart, and you will be asking yourself pertinent questions. Such as: is it possible an intelligent species has to go through such a brutal and arcane process to achieve eventual enlightenment? And how, exactly, does a book that millions preach contain a benign moral code undertake such a perverse reversal? The revelations contained within will entice you to seek out your own disclosure: within lie a plethora of names, dates, and situations just begging further research. 

Whether you are a graphic novel fan, a horror aficionado, or even a scholar of history, Witch Hunts is a must-have compendium of art – a project the illustrator, Greg Chapman, seemed born to. With these black and white illustrations, we find a level of sophistication previously unseen. And in a digital age of electronic prose and art, Witch Hunts is the perfect physical purchase to compliment a library. Glossy, defined, and above all educational, all three authors have outdone themselves recreating a dark epoch of human history.