Comics Creepshow 29: The Roberts

THE ROBERTS story is only two issues, but at only two dollars more than a regular comic, and more than double the regular comic size, there really is no excuse not to go to your local shop and pick up this book. Issue one is told from the perspective of Robert Kenneth Sprunger, The Boston Strangler. Those of you who are serial killer experts might say this is impossible, since the real life Boston Strangler was incarcerated and then murdered in prison. Well, according to Robert Kenneth Sprunger’s narration, the cops got the wrong guy.

Robert’s narration is similar to Dexter’s (you know, from the TV show ‘Dexter’). He is cold and detached, a pariah, who fantasizes about previous kills while sitting in a room full of people, who would never suspect anything of him.

What amazes me is how accurately writers Wayne Chinsang and Justin Shady are able to script the experience of being in an old folks home, and the depressing yet comical aspect of being old. I am quite familiar with both the physical and mental state of people who are well into their senior years, since I work with seniors at my day job. I can tell you that Chinsang and Shady have got their facts straight, from the way seniors constantly talk about bowel movements to the everyday routine of seniors watching game shows and always wanting decaf coffee.

With this description comes a dark narration, comparing an aging body to a prison. According to Robert Kenneth Sprunger’s narration:

“Arthritis doesn’t keep someone from wanting to ski or hike or have sex. Osteoporosis doesn’t stop one’s desire to travel and see the world. Diabetes doesn’t make someone crave candy and cake any less. Aches and pains and fear of death doesn’t stop someone from wanting to live life. It just keeps them from doing it.”

You don’t even need the serial killer angle of this book to make it scary. Because of Sprunger’s narration, I am considering capping myself before I get to 30.

On the last two BGH pod casts there has been a reference to the love a filmmaker has for a genre being shown in the films they make. The creators of THE ROBERTS must have a love for both the true crime stories of serial killers and the comic book art form, because it shows on every page. From the two page splash of Robert’s hands around the neck of one of his victims to the five small boxes that show the blood vessels bursting in the victim’s eyes, the creators are able to capture the complete brutality of someone being strangled. This visual could only work in the comic form. You add Robert Kenneth Sprunger’s perverted narration to those images, and you have yourself a first class ticket for a trip into the mind of serial killer.

In the book, "The Insider’s Guide To Creating Comics and Graphic Novels", IDW senior editor, Andy Schmidt says “Communicating and telling a story effectively in comics is as close to projecting thoughts directly into someone’s mind as you are ever going to get. In the case of THE ROBERTS, you may regret inviting in some of the thoughts that Chinsang and Shady are projecting. There is quite a bit of material, throughout this black and white book, to keep you up at night.

Take the tension between Dexter and the Ice Truck Killer in the first season of ‘Dexter’ and mix it with the attitude of Clint Eastwood’s character in “Grand Torino” and you have THE ROBERTS. It is up to you if you find THE ROBERTS as entertaining as 'Dexter' or "Gran Torino", but I can guarantee neither of those two will creep you out as much as this comic.

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