Back in 2009 actor Thomas Jane made his directorial debut with the horror noir film Dark Country, based off the short story written by Tab Murphy. While the film was originally supposed to be in 3D, Sony pulled the plug at the last minute and released all 88-minutes straight to DVD, and that was that. It was a fine film and a great debut for Jane as a director, but unfortunately it never found its deserved footing in comic and pop culture. Not that I'm suggesting that cult followings are insignificant in any way, but it has to be a letdown to work so hard on something only to have it released to DVD in the end.
Enter RAW Studios, founded by both Thomas Jane and Tim Bradstreet. Back in September the Dark Country graphic novel adaptation was released, with 55-pages of beautiful black and white illustration by Thomas Ott. Jane was a huge fan of Ott's artwork, and claims it was one of the major influences while originally shooting Dark Country, so like the movie itself it was only natural for the graphic novel to bring us full circle.
Following Ott's sequential art is Tab Murphy's original short story, followed by 40 additional pages of production art for the movie. It's fascinating to read Murphy's original story, and see what was included in the movie, and what was taken for the graphic novel. Ott's eerie style makes the story feel like something out of the EC Comics era, as we see from start to finish the story of a newly married couple taking a wrong turn while driving at night through the Nevada desert, becoming victims to strange and unusual circumstances. The lack of dialogue throughout makes it that much more unnerving, and beautifully shows how to tell a story through just the art alone.
It does feel like this graphic novel was originally supposed to come out when the film was initially set to open in theaters, for it's a fantastic companion piece to the film. One could pick up the graphic novel, love it, and track down the movie, or start with the movie, love it, and track down the graphic novel. Either way you will eventually be aware of the other's brother, and end up being a big Dark Country fan.
Thomas Jane is an unabashed comic book fan, and has been one for quite some time (does a little movie called The Punisher ring a bell?). Collaborating with both Tim Bradstreet (production designer) and Bernie Wrightson during the film, I'd say it's safe to proclaim Jane's status as 'one of us,' and 'a pretty cool guy.' Part of me thinks he originally made Dark Country just to hang out with Bernie Wrightson, and eventually get his own personalized graphic novel from Thomas Ott. Obviously this isn't the case, but I can definitely see myself doing that if I was wielding such power.
With Halloween just around the corner, this Dark Country graphic novel deserves a spot next to your CREEPY & EERIE archives, and The Twilight Zone box set. It's a damn fine graphic novel, and pairs wonderfully with the film. It's available for purchase online, or digitally over at comiXology.