The Facts: U.S. webcomic written and drawn by David Hopkins. Begun 2001; ongoing. New strips published usually every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday but the schedule is variable. Extremely controversial and rated a very hard “NC-17” for violence, adult themes, adult situations, nudity, language, and horror and death of pretty much all kinds. Mainly B&W, but occasionally color.
Synopsis: This is an anthropomorphic comic, meaning the characters are human like beings with animals attributes: Tails, ears, fur, muzzles. ‘Funny animals’, like Bugs Bunny or Micky Mouse. The sort you’d see in cartoons. But there’s nothing funny or cartoonish about this webcomic.
The subject is Hell. And the things that will get you sent to it. And the torments that happen when you get there. And if you DO have to abandon all hope, ye who enter here. The protagonist is Jack, a damned soul and wizened old rabbit who is doubly cursed. In this version of Hell the roles of the Seven Deadly Sins exist and are princes of Hell, second only to Lucifer himself in the pecking order. And those roles are filled by those who, in life, most represented that particular sin. Lust, for instance, by a horrifyingly prolific and imaginative serial rapist and killer who took special joy in corrupting or torturing his victims. Gluttony by a husband and wife team who killed others… and ate them. And Wraith, by Jack. What he did to earn this ‘honor’, he doesn’t know; he has no memories of his earthly existence. And he considers himself blessed in this. Only the absolute worst of the worst of the worst can become a Sin and Jack, who comes across as a surprising decent sort, compassionate and just, has no wish to know what sort of monster he once was. Besides, he’s in enough torment as is. Part of his damnation is the second curse: He doubles as the Grim Reaper, and is constantly having his nose rubbed in the grief and pain that death – especially violent death – causes. It is a horrible task which Jack attempts to handle dispassionately and as calmly as possible.
Then, something unexpected happens and his memories begin slowly coming back. And the question becomes, as he remembers more and more, can he overcome the internal demons that made him what he was before and find redemption even in Hell? Or is he doomed to be a worse monster than ever? And while that’s going on, he still has to deal with mortals, their stories and deaths; handle the misdeeds and Machiavellian machinations of his fellow Sins, almost all of whom hate him for trying to maintain some degree of order; and seek to prevent unnecessary suffering on the part of the damned souls around him.
Review: Because of “Jack” and the events depicted in it, David Hopkins has been accused of being a pornographer, a would-be child molester and rapist and mass murderer, a woman hater, and a Satan worshiper. It is a webcomic that stirs emotions, obviously. Part of this is that Mr. Hopkins doesn’t flinch away – much – from graphically showing what his characters did and are still doing to earn damnation. Or presenting stories that don’t need supernatural elements to be horrifying.
In one, a man whose wife is dying of a virulent form of cancer goes to work for a doctor who is very close to a cure. Only to discover the doctor is sexually molesting children with the same cancer who have been placed under his care. Caught, the unrepentant doctor gives the man a choice: He’s destroyed all his notes, his research exists now only in his head. Report the molestation and get him arrested, the doctor will stop working on the cure; no one else will be able to take over; and the man’s wife, the sick children, and thousands more will surely die. Stay silent, though…
Obviously such incendiary subject matter provokes strong responses. But Mr. Hopkins goal isn’t merely to create a furor. Rather, thorough Jack, he’s apparently exploring sin and evil. The effects on the innocent. And on the guilty. And why a benevolent and omnipotent God would allow such suffering.
Art: The art started out rather rough and confused, with some problems with proportion and angles. But it has gotten much better, with greater definition and clarity. Mr. Hopkins is very good at drawing expressive faces. Even when what those faces are expressing is nothing most people would want to see. He is not so good at lettering, and it used to be speech balloons in “Jack” were a problem. Fortunately Mr. Hopkins’ wife has taken over doing that task, and she is much better at it.
Writing: Writing is Mr. Hopkins’ forte, and he is very good at creating dramatic, heart stopping, and occasionally uplifting stories. And characters who, good OR bad, are believable and interesting and compelling. One of the main characters in “Jack” is Fnar, a little boy whose mother, Jink, died while pregnant with him, resulting in his death as well. Jink was sent to Hell for some of the things she’d done; and perhaps because having him near might redeem her, Fnar went with her, aging from a fetus to an approximately 6 year old child along the way. Obviously for a child to go to Hell sounds horrific. But since Fnar died ignorant of pain, suffering, and evil, to him Hell is simply a huge playground full of people doing strange things for reasons he doesn’t worry about. And his innocence means that nothing in Hell – except his parents – can hurt him. He’s an almost always smiling waif who speaks truth without fear and experiences childhood joys, oblivious that he’s in the midst of damnation. Fnar lights up Jack’s grim existence and gives him a reason to try to be other than he is. As does Farrago, a young angel who thinks Jack can be redeemed and is willing to put herself at risk by venturing into Hell to help him. Central, an older angel who knew Jack when he was alive and knows what he did, is much more wary. Jack EARNED his place in Hell; and Central is unsure he can ever control the rage that once burned in his heart and is now only sleeping. And it’s not clear which of them is right…
Conclusion: Jack is obviously not for everybody. It’s definitely not for those under 18. Or who are easily offended, or object to the subject matter. Or have weak stomachs. Others might find it of interest.