Art & Writing by Stan Silas | Published by Titan Comics | Format: Paperback
At first glance this book looked a little, er, different. Or strange. Yes, let’s go with strange. ‘I am 8 Years old and I kill People’ is a pretty attention grabbing tagline after all. Norman had previously been the ‘star’ of graphic novels by creator/writer/artist Stan Silas, and is now moving into the more difficult territory of monthly comic books. Norman is unique in that while most 8 year old kids want to be Superman or Batman, Norman wants to not only be like Freddy Krueger or Jason Voorhees, but to surpass them. Norman also has the perfect victims right under his nose…his fellow classmates. As you are probably realising, Silas may be approaching this with his tongue very firmly planted in his cheek.
Before talking about the story, the first thing that has to be mentioned is the art. Stan Silas draws in a sort of all ages manga style, but with a western Calvin and Hobbes/ Charlie Brown type influence too. This makes the violence and killing both more jarring and, of course, more comical as we just don’t expect it. It looks exactly like a book a child could be reading, but is exactly the sort of book a child should NOT be reading, with its violent situations and adult humour and language. Oh, you’ll laugh at the visual humour, but then feel a little guilty that you did. Or maybe that’s just me. The style of the art, usually many small panels in an orthodox grid style page, also allows for a deceptively dense amount of story to be squeezed in.
Norman, as we quickly see, is not like other kids. Apart from the whole serial killer thing, he has an imaginary friend in the shape of a little purple clad devil that hovers constantly on his shoulder, teasing him and arguing with him constantly. Is it a manifestation of Norman’s conscience? is it real? Who knows, I don’t think it really matters as Norman thinks it real and that’s all that counts. Silas has an interesting way of writing as well, as we meander through several minor plot threads as well as following Norman. There is not a driving narrative, more frequent check-ins with different characters along the way, and a series of situations, often humorous, that just play out.
For me, it’s all a little hit and miss. Norman, despite his predilections, is actually quite a sympathetic character. Although he always tries his best, quite often he comes up short, and is ultimately just another of that literary staple, the lovable loser. The humour is mostly amusing enough, though at times a little too slapstick in tone, so much so that you feel that scene is only there to work in a certain visual gag or character joke. Apart from the ongoing antics of the teacher, the other character to get a lot of attention was Grace, who had a significant amount of pages dedicated to her this issue and seems to be a good foil for Norman, a nice counterpoint to his world view. Is she just like him? He thinks so, and wants her as his sidekick. Grace doesn’t seem like sidekick material though, a fact Norman may soon discover.
Norman is amusing enough to make you chuckle, and certainly has a high novelty value, but I’m not sure if this can be sustained in a monthly comic book. There was a lot of humour, funny dialogue, and amusing character interaction but very little in the way of actual story. This can be excused in a single issue, or a graphic novel, but not in a ongoing series. For this book to be a success it probably needs to lay deeper roots that it currently is doing, but that is something Stan Silas is more than capable of doing.
Interesting, novel, different. Always worth giving something like that a chance.
Norman #1 is out now from Titan Comics