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The Gothic

A Reader


Edited By Simon Bacon

What is the Gothic?

From ghosts to vampires, from ruined castles to steampunk fashion, the Gothic is a term that evokes all things strange, haunted and sinister.

This volume offers a new look at the world of the Gothic, from its origins in the eighteenth century to its reemergence today. Each short essay is dedicated to a single text – a novel, a film, a comic book series, a festival – that serves as a lens to explore the genre. Original readings of classics like The Mysteries of Udolpho (Ann Radcliffe) and Picnic at Hanging Rock (Joan Lindsay) are combined with unique insights into contemporary examples like the music of Mexican rock band Caifanes, the novels Annihilation (Jeff VanderMeer), Goth (Otsuichi) and The Paying Guests (Sarah Waters), and the films Crimson Peak (Guillermo del Toro) and Ex Machina (Alex Garland).

Together the essays provide innovative ways of understanding key texts in terms of their Gothic elements. Invaluable for students, teachers and fans alike, the book’s accessible style allows for an engaging look at the spectral and uncanny nature of the Gothic.

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Grant Morrison, Dave McKean, and Gaspar Saladino’s Arkham Asylum (1989) – Gothic Comics (Julia Round)


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Julia Round

Grant Morrison, Dave McKean, and Gaspar Saladino’s Arkham Asylum (1989)

Comics are a dynamic medium whose subversive potential is well suited to Gothic tales. Whether brightly coloured fantasy, literary graphic novels, or DIY fanzines, the comics medium problematizes cultural worth, distorts reality, and transgresses borders and boundaries. This chapter argues that Anglo-American comics are Gothic in cultural, conceptual, stylistic and formalist ways, using Batman: Arkham Asylum.

Arkham Asylum was first published in October 1989 as part of a Gothic wave of titles from DC Comics. Hellblazer (1988–2013) had pitted working-class warlock John Constantine against demons and the supernatural. Sandman #1 (Gaiman/various, 1989–2015) was released 29 November 1988 (cover dated January 1989), featuring occult magic and quickly introducing fan favourite Death as a perky Goth girl with a top hat, elaborate eye make-up, and silver ankh. The start of 1989 then saw the release of James O’Barr’s fatal love story The Crow (Caliber, January 1989), followed by Batman: Gotham by Gaslight (DC, February 1989), which brought Jack the Ripper into Gotham.

Arkham’s release was dogged with controversy as DC censored and postponed the text in case its transvestite Joker impacted negatively on the Tim Burton movie (Baisden 1989). The comic continues to receive mixed reviews: although it has an average Goodreads score of 4.1, over 20 per cent of readers score it poorly and the comments demonstrate real vitriol towards this ‘incoherent’ ‘overrated’ ‘mess’, naming it...

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