“One thousand lines per panel!” Windsor-Smith exclaims, clutching at his heart. It’s true. The work is his densest since Red Nails. “MONSTERS makes Red Nails look like a coloring book.” he points out. The intense linework was chosen partly because the story will be released as black and white, but whether intentionally or not, the linework also serves to create a sense of urban griminess and decay. The town is reflected in panels that stand out like a photo, exposing unsparingly every crack and smudge in the walls. The characters have faces that show years of work and worry, hands that are not soft, and clothing that looks like it has been worn and washed and worn again. All this serves to heighten the drama of the story, wherein a modern-day Frankenstein’s monster, a boy altered and created against his will, becomes the catalyst for events. The underlying themes are many, but one of the most important is a hard look at spousal and child abuse.

“ It’s an astounding piece of work both artistically and for the themes Barry is working with, “ says Karen Berger, executive editor at Vertigo. “He addresses domestic violence with honesty.” The touching story of Janet and Bobby, the decisions that can’t be changed and time that can’t be recaptured . . . all are served wonderfully by the power of the art. “This book has the potential to reach both inside and outside the comics market about an important issue.” Berger concludes proudly.

“ It’s probably gonna be 250 to 300 pages when it’s done . . .

 

“This is like STORYTELLER; everything runs at a natural pace. I do not introduce anybody with a caption or exposition, nobody soliloquizes, there is no falsification of peoples’ demeanor or temperament or personality in order to get drama across as quickly as possible,” Windsor-Smith says, “And what I’ve got here . . . this story spans from 1946 to 1964, two continents, two families. It’s a very complicated story. They’re different people but they all interweave. The story doesn’t unfold sequentially. It starts out in 1963 and the next thing you know you’re in 1947. . . I do mention the dates in captions, but that’s it.”

Windsor-Smith drags on his ever-present cigarette as I examine the densely crafted pages of what might be his masterwork. The pages are varied, from as many as 12 panels a page to full page splashes, but each is dramatic and moving. Windsor-Smith has dedicated a good portion of his career to not doing comics the way other comics are done. This is an example. “See, the comic book process is to explain everything. But adults aren’t to be talked down to, you know?” We discuss other artists who have mastered a contemporary story in comic form, such as the Hernandez Brothers, without taking standard superhero shortcuts. “We were all given brains so we can differentiate shit from shinola; we don’t need everything explained to us. Most commercial comics do that, and it just embarrasses those of us who’re in the industry but try to rise above its nascence.” Vertigo will release MONSTERS, whatever it turns out to be sizewise, in one big volume.