Saturday, January 02, 2010


Pitch Black by Youme Landowne and Anthony Horton, Cinco Putos Press 2008

Today was Library Day here in Port Townsend. At least for my family. We dropped off a wheelbarrow full of mostly dinosaur books and picked up a new load. One was for me and it was a lightning quick read with a thunderous affect on my being. The graphic novel, Pitch Black is a long, skinny book, content perfectly matching its subject matter which takes place mostly in NY's subways. If you have not seen this book, you gotta check it out.

The cover grabbed me right away, but within flipping through the first few pages, I closed the book and added it the pile of Elasmosaurs and Dromeosaurids, knowing I would want to read it all in one sitting and not spoil anything by peeking.

The book is about an interaction between two people from different backgrounds and their exchange. It circles around homelessness but goes so much more in depth than I was expecting. And not just homeless, but living under the subways in the pitch black of the tunnels. Some real crazy possibilities. Here are some rules given for living down there:

* Always keep a light on you.
* Try to wait for a rainy day to look for a room. You don’t want to get things all set up and then find out there is a leak and you have to start over.
* With all the juice down there, there should be enough electricity for everyone
* Anything you need can be found in the garbage.
* Always have a way out that is different from the way in.

The black white and grey in the art matches the content well. It is spooky as hell, especially when you go down into the tunnels. Simple line work and cool perspectives give this artwork a real rootsy vibe. It feels on the verge of outsider art, which matches the story perfectly.

After reading it I went online for some research about it. I was pleased to find out how the story was, in fact, a true story and that the co-writer was the character in the tale. Though you only get glimpses of the character in this book, it suits the book perfectly, leaving the reader wishing for more.

Pitch Black is a haunting, beautiful, hopeful work that I highly recommend. Respect to Mr. Horton for allowing his story to be turned into art that we, all over the world, can appreciate.

I leave you with an interesting bit about this book from the NY Times:
Ms. Landowne said that Mr. Horton’s time underground was mostly spent in and around subway tunnels under the Upper East Side of Manhattan. The book depicts the spaces he inhabited as dark and dangerous and life there as anything but well-organized.

Mr. Horton is no longer living underground. He is serving time at the Mid-State Correctional Facility, a medium-security state prison in Marcy, N.Y. In March, shortly before his 40th birthday, he began serving a prison sentence of 18 to 36 months for criminal possession of stolen property in the fourth degree. He is eligible for parole in November and could be released as early as May. State records indicate that he was also in prison from 1990 to 1991 for attempted assault and from 1999 to 2003 for assault.

In the phone interview, Ms. Landowne acknowledged that her friendship and collaboration with Mr. Horton had had its ups and downs, but pointed out that his life has been filled with struggles against addiction and despair.

Mr. Horton was not available for a phone interview, but he wrote in a letter to his publisher: “I was real glad when I received my copy of the book. I thought that it came out real good. I want to thank you for the opportunity for giving me a chance to publish my book.”
- October 7, 2008