There are pluses and minuses to collaborating with dead writers.

On the “plus” side, if they’ve been dead as long as the Brothers Grimm, you don’t need to worry about copyright and character ownership.

On the “minus” side, it’s kind of difficult to ask them for clarification about the story, and if the ending is a bit… morbid and troublesome, you’re stuck with it.

Evidently Gareth Hinds figures the pluses win out, because he’s produced Bearskin, a comicbook adaptation of a story recorded by the Grimm boys (and is working on an adaptation of Beowulf, the classic hero-vs.-monster story of proto-English literature). And the process seems to have worked well for him, because the result it pretty good.

 Bearskin is the story of a soldier who returns from war to find that society has no place for him, and he has no way to make a living. So he makes a deal with the devil that requires him to wear a bearskin and live much like a bear for seven years, in exchange for an eventual pay-off.

Hinds did the page layouts and script himself, working from the Grimm boys’ narrative. It’s a fairly simple, straightforward story, so he had no apparent difficulty figuring out how to tell it. Nonetheless, he does so with some imaginative and effective techniques, frequently using the art and panel-to-panel transitions “tell” the story, rather than explaining it all with captions, thought balloons, and obvious “action” scenes.

Hinds’ art has a fairly sharp, angular feel to it here, which I think fits the material well. It reminds me of (even though it doesn’t actually look like) woodcut engravings… a medium appropriate for material from the Grimms’ time. It has a high-contrast look to it, with lots of solid blacks. Nonetheless, there’s still a lot cross-hatching to develop shaded and textured areas… and I’m talking about good cross-hatching, not the gratuitous crap that was trendy in superhero books a few years ago.

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