that which lingers

on

Lola : A Ghost Story by J. Torres & Elbert Or

Oni Press, 2009

Hardcover Graphic Novel, 102 pages

Jesse sees dead people, monsters, demons, and lots of other things that go bump in the night that no one else can see. No one except his ailing grandmother – a woman who used her visions to help those living in her small town… the same rural community in all the scary stories Jesse’s heard as a child. Man-eating ogres in trees. Farmhouses haunted by wraiths. Even pigs possessed by the devil. Upon his grandmother’s passing, Jesse has no choice but to face his demons and whatever else might be awaiting him at grandma’s house. ~Publisher’s comments.

The Publisher’s Comments for Lola : A Ghost Story make this graphic novel sound more atmospheric than it really is. I mean, the idea that Jesse sees dead people alone makes for creepy idea. And it is disturbing when it happens (when you realize it is happening). But overall, I was hardly frightened. What it was though, was compelling.

(page 1) okay, maybe it does start out on the right foot for a “scary story.”

Jesse’s grandmother has died, bringing his family to her farmhouse in the Philippines for the funeral, a place haunted by the stories his uncle and cousin insist on recalling, stories of his grandmother’s youth and her legacy of a supernatural ability. The stories are not the only thing haunting the farmhouse.

The mystery of who JonJon was and what happened to him unfolds as Jesse comes to grips with who he is via his grandmother, still a bit overwhelmed by its most surreal/folk lorish qualities. Torres & Or cleverly reveal JonJon and the extent of Jesse’s abilities over the course of the story. They explore both the curse and blessing of it, and end with an honest uncertainty. Moments of terror and triumph find a balance in a young life just beginning (and as another has ended).

(page 10) Jesse is often depicted apart and uncertain of his landscape and its population whether living or dead.

The story is told in sepia; the gentler contrast softens the blow of a story cast in black. The renderings of the characters are very expressive, appealing. The narrative easy to follow, a well-crafted partnership of text and image. Beginning in subtlety, transitions blur with the ambiguity of what is really occurring and what Jesse is seeing. Stories come to life alongside other more disturbing things–like ghosts, and unforgettable sorrows.

I found Lola on the Teen Graphic Novel shelf, but Powells books categorizes it under Juvenile fiction. For the maximum effect of creepiness, Powells has it right. As for the Teen Shelf, is it the last page, 102? After some sense of victory, a perilous, but otherwise positive result of his gift, Jesse is reminded of the more tormentive aspects. The cover and the style of artwork appeals to the young set, but the upper end of Juvenile fiction may find the last page appropriately haunting without permanent damage…or would it. I enjoyed the shift back into the dark and disturbing, the tipping backward into imbalance and intrigue and uncomfortable ideas–and the idea that Jesse is still trying to find his voice.

*****************

Additionally: You get a bit of cultural education: words native to the Philippines are given translation in small print at the bottom of the page. old traditions meet new external influences and the more modern era.  a marvelous setting compliments of Elbert Or.

So, Lola : A Ghost Story should be good and creepy for the younger audience. I should try it out, but I can never tell how these things go with Natalya (newly 11). If I can coax her away from her Hardy Boys mysteries before the book is due back, I will let you know how it went.

8 Comments Add yours

  1. Carl v. says:

    I find the idea of what is “appropriate” for kids when looking at scary/creepy material very interesting, especially because kids mature at such different ages.

    Let me start off by saying I am vociferously opposed to young children being exposed to films that are way too violent for them to see regardless of their maturity level. There are far too many parents who take their kids to PG-13 or R rated films with violent or disturbing content. I know this because I rarely go to a movie like this and don’t see 5 and 6 year olds there. And often they are crying or begging to be taken out. That is abusive in my opinion.

    That rant aside, I think there are all kinds of wonderfully creepy things for kids that some kids can handle and others cannot. I always enjoy hearing Gaiman’s take on this since he has written two “scary” books for children–Coraline and The Graveyard Book. The reaction of parents always seems more intense than the children. I also think of Chris Priestley’s books (Uncle Montague’s Tales of Terror, for example) which I find very creepy and are the kinds of books I would have loved to read as a kid.

    I think on some level it is important to let kids choose to expose themselves to certain kinds of scary books/films/tv shows. Number one because it can be quite deliciously fun. I loved reading ghost stories as a kid and watching those old Hammer Horror movies. But I do think kids should be protected from the outright gore and art-mimicking-life violence that some films show. I myself am growing increasingly intolerant of this kind of “entertainment”. I’m getting tired of seeing violence against women, for example, particularly if it is some kind of sexual assault. I watched the Swedish version of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo for example and didn’t want to watch any more of the films despite how well done I thought it was because I didn’t like seeing the character assaulted and wasn’t entirely comfortable with the idea that I was supposed to be pleased on some level when she enacted her vengeance.

    I never know how to even describe my own boundaries as far as this goes. I’ll watch and love films like Zombieland or The Good, The Bad, and The Weird and then balk at the third episode of Season One of Luther, for example. I guess internally I just know what I do and don’t like but the lines are very blurred when it comes to actually saying I will or won’t watch this kind of film or read this kind of book.

    And yes, now is the appropriate time to say, “Where did all this come from, and what does it have to do with the graphic novel I reviewed?”.

    LOL!

    1. L says:

      🙂 actually I was tracking you. I appreciate your comments, how you feel on the subject-matter of image/caution.

      Once, N was reading what was essentially a story-form summation of some classics collected into a hefty volume she hauled from the Library children’s section. It had Robinson Crusoe and she was reading aloud how the cannibal’s were ripping someone apart over the fire (or some such thing) and Sean and I looked at each other–the only pause in the car–N just kept going (she was 9?). Then I speculated that she has no image to recall or connect with that scene. She can guess contextually that it was gruesome and not-good, but what illustration would her brain give her?–still a curiosity.
      Comics/graphic novels present a difference because they provide the image for the reader, often in place of the text. a reference is created and whether she registers it or not is less of a question.

      [N presently informs me that she feels illustrations in books have less an effect than moving picture because of the lack of movement and sound.]

      I become very angry when I am at a theater and there is a toddler crying out when the Balrog comes on screen and I bet the parents wondered why the kid couldn’t sleep that night, or several after. good grief, the kid’s age is a time when they believe their PBS pals are real! This is not my only experience in the theater and my concern isn’t that they just ruined my evening but what suffering that child is experiencing. So unnecessary. Is that we are overly normalized? no longer sensitive to the effects? that desperate to see the film in theaters? wonder how that came to be… I could go on.

      I agree w/ you that finding scary things is fun as a child. N comes to this later than some of her peers, but has embraced it fully and it takes me back to my own adventures. I notice, though, that I have put plenty of books in her way that some of my peers cringe over.

      I worry a bit still about what she is delving into (their effects) but I am glad to see her take off. I do not care much for the bulk of YA on the shelves so I am hardly set to follow her around. I feel I am already about to live some of my Junior High years w/ N entering Middle School this year and that will be more than enough…certainly scary enough. 🙂

      I have become more and more conscious of how film effects my self, even violent images in art–more I wonder how it has shaped and continues to shape me and my attitudes. also, sometimes I am aware that it hurts and I am haunted. I feel it is okay to have boundaries, which sounds absurd in the admittance because shouldn’t that be a given? I wonder. Visual as much as text is meant to have an effect. I think that same discussion we have about film is appropriate to illustrations as well; esp. regarding age; they find plenty of parallels.

      Really, I appreciate you so much Carl!

      1. Carl v. says:

        Thank you, I do you as well.

        I know just what you mean about movies. It is annoying on some level to have a child disturbing the enjoyment of a film because they shouldn’t be there, but like you I care more about just what they are being put through. I use this example a lot: I was at I Am Legend with a friend of mine. I had already seen it and knew that it had its dark and scary moments. A kid one row behind us was truly begging his father to take him out of the theater, and that was before anything truly scary happened. There was such a build up of the mood that the child was sensing bad things were about to happen. It was heartbreaking to hear this child pleading with his father, saying “please” and imploring without whining or crying. The father just kept saying stuff like “oh it’ll be alright, nothing bad is happening.” I was more than pissed off about the whole thing. Finally, when the film was nearly over he relented and dragged the child out of there. Which to me was worse at that point because the kid could have at least seen that some people made it out of the situation alright.

        I don’t know if parents don’t want to spend the money on babysitters or if they are that clueless about what a film is going to be like or what, but whenever that happens I feel tempted to step out and call protective services to report the abuse! 🙂 It is just so wrong and so uncalled for. And you just know those same parents are then at home at night yelling at their kids when they can’t sleep and making the child feel like there is something wrong with them just because they have a healthy sense of what is right and wrong.

        Sounds like you guys are going about things the right way with N, allowing her own interests and curiosity to give you a clue as to what might be okay for her to read and to watch. Unless a child has fears that continue on well past the time they should and are debilitating the child’s development, I don’t think we as parents need to force our kids to face fears by exposing them unnecessarily to violent or scary images. And if they do reach that point they probably need counseling of some kind and not cold exposure to scary stuff.

        Exposing ones self to scary things as a child can be so delicious if done according to the child’s expressed desires coupled with parental wisdom about what a child should and should not be exposed to at certain ages/maturity levels.

        I agree with both you and N in that things you read don’t always have the same impact as things seen. I think a lot of that depends on your experience coupled with how visual you are in your imagination. Reading about sexual assault or murder can still be unsettling in a book depending on the detail given, but actually seeing it performed realistically on screen with all the sounds and everything can be so much more visceral and disturbing. I think part of that is because the information is not just entering our eyes but also our ears and those combined senses make the impact that much more powerful and real.

        The older I’ve gotten, and especially now that my daughter is 19 and making more of her own decisions about these kind of things, the more vocal I’ve become about what I think is okay or not okay. I’ve gotten past the point where I can be accused of having a double standard about what I am saying vs. what I am doing with my own child and although I’m not an old man, I’ve gotten older and with that age has come a desire to promote a societal view in which we work to protect and treasure the innocence of our children as the world strips that away all too quickly without our helping it out in the process.

  2. Jeff S. says:

    I will side with both of you on my own parental concerns when it comes to my kids ( ages 11 and 14 ) seeing and/or reading scarey or violent images/content. I’m glad I didn’t have to experience what you did in the movie that one time with the child begging his dad to leave I am Legend. I not sure if I could have contained myself or not. I feel just horrible that was done to a child. It sickens me that some people can be so self centered that they will abuse a child just because they are so into there own needs.

    Having a young boy though my biggest concern more than movies and tv is video games. The violence in video games is out of control. Many parents have no idea of bloody these games are. I struggle myself with what to let my own kids play. Right now I have let them play games where they can kill aliens or monsters but nothing where they kill people. Games like Grand Theft Auto and Military War games are ones I don’t feel comfortable letting my kids play. Heck I don’t even feel comfortable playing them as an adult.

    Man I sound like an old person now. 🙂

    1. L says:

      thanks for commenting Jeff.

      we have similar concerns w/ video games, adding how females are portrayed to the concerns, as N has played video games since she was small. She isn’t an avid gamer, but she does like to play on her DSi and/or w/ us. We did the same, if there is violence using fantasy characters seemed less worrisome. We played all the Spyros, picked up Ratchett & Clank, who doesn’t love Zelda, and The Simpson’s Road Rage (which mightn’t have been wise); she hangs out when Sean plays Metroid, but he waits to play TimeSplitters or God of War (goodness knows! I don’t even hang around for that one!), etc, when she isn’t around.

      I hate that that boy was begging his dad, but I am glad to note that he knew his feelings and his mind on the matter. As N gets older, she gets to continue to hear me opine on the subjects, engage in those conversations, and ultimately make up her mind and feelings on the matter. But while she is yet 11… 😉

      I hope there will always be options, something to occupy her time and interest until she is older and more mature; video games are more difficult, but getting better–I hope.

  3. Carl v. says:

    Video games are such an interesting conundrum. Any more the very best games are filled with stuff that I think are very inappropriate in general and especially for children. My favorite gaming experiences of late: Red Dead Redemption, L.A. Noire, Fallout New Vegas are full of F bombs and violence and all seem to have some kind of nudity and/or sexual situations in them. Very adult. And I think adult video games are fine, except they look and sound cool and so kids want to play them. Personally I could do without the “realism” of the language in most games.

    And these games, despite there violence, are nothing compared to some other games that are extremely gory. I cannot remember the name now but I saw a trailer during the recent E3 event for some fighting game and the barely clad female character was ripping people apart and pouring their blood all over herself and screaming in triumph. I was disgusted. Very much over the line of what I can or will tolerate in entertainment. And this is one of those games with no real storyline, just one on one battles and it is the kind of thing kids will eat up.

    Kind of a sad reflection on our society, really. I love the freedom that we have, but just because in America something “can” be done doesn’t mean that it “should” be done.

  4. Jeff S. says:

    I know your going to think is corny but one of my favorite quotes that I share often with my kids is: ” With great power comes great responsibilty “. I know your probably laughing at that line from Spider-man but it’s one I try and live by.

    I wish video game and movie company would take this more to heart and not be all about the almighty dollar.

    Another thing that bothers me today is the lack of restraint other parents show as well about sharing mature video games and movies with other people’s children. It really bugs me when my kids return home from a sleepover and they mention having seen an rated R movie or played a mature players video game. It’s like parents now days can’t say no or think of other people’s children. This never happened growing up. We never went to someone else’s house and they showed an R rated movie to any kids who were over.

    Also another thing that bothers me is the lack of parents asking questions before letting there kids go to other people’s homes. It seems like we are the only parents who ask will there be adults there all the time? I hear often of parents leaving kids alone. Or the other week one of my daughters friends asked to speed the night at our house and I was going to be the only parent home. I said no and the girls couldn’t understand why. Well I didn’t want to be the only one home with someone else’s teenage daughter at my home overnight when my wife was gone on a trip. I tried to explain to them that it’s not ok for that to happen in this day an age. That they shouldn’t also be left alone in houses wth older males they don’t know. This happened once with my daugther at someone’s house and she has never been allowed back over there. I don’t want my daughter at someone else’s home with a mom’s teenage boy friend being left alone with him. I can’t believe some other parent who has never met me didn’t care if her daughter came over to my house to stay overnight and she doesn’t know anything about me. So many parents are so wrapped in there own lives anymore they forget to be the protector for their kids even if it craps their fun.

    Sorry for the rambling but having a teenage daughter really causes a lot worry for a dad. 🙂

    1. Carl v. says:

      You are such a corny geek!!! 😉

      I’m right with you on everything here. We never let Tori stay overnight with people unless we had met the parents enough times to feel comfortable with them and then we had all the details directly from the parents about who would be home, etc. I’d rather err on the side of being safe about my kids and other people’s kids than be a “cool” parent and let them do whatever they wanted.

      When Tori was young we always asked parents if whatever film we were planning on letting them watch was okay, etc. I didn’t want a kid having nightmares at my house, or seeing something that offended their parents or violated their rules. Its simply a matter of being courteous and respectful of others.

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