MINOR SPOILERS BELOW
The original Shockheaded Peter or Struwwelpeter was published in 1845 by a German doctor and writer named Heinrich Hoffmann. Apparently, Hoffman was having trouble finding a Christmas gift for his three-year-old son and decided that writing his own twisted and bizarre tales of children being horribly punished for their moral failings would capture the true spirit of the holiday for his toddler.
Struwwelpeter has a long history of adaptation and/or inspiration in various mediums, from stage musicals to film, television, and comic books. As pointed out by the website for the British Library, the original Struwwelpeter book “was ground-breaking in the way it arranged the text around the pictures – paving the way for modern comics.” Additionally, Struwwelpeter has been referenced or appeared in Grant Morrison’s Doom Patrol run for DC Comics, the 2000 AD strip London Falling by Simon Spurrier and Lee Garbett, and in the Wildstorm Comics series, Top 10.
Turning back to the subject of this review, Shockheaded Peter - Part One (written and created by E.B. Kogan and Jessica Silvetti, with artwork by Giuseppe Sabè Di Stefano), this latest take on Struwwelpeter is described as “a crossbreed of Labyrinth and A Nightmare on Elm Street with Tim Burton vibes sprinkled on top.” This description is quite apt, as this first volume of the story introduces us to our teenage heroine, an off-kilter outcast named Ruby and the dark presence that inhabits her town of Winding Springs, doling out violent and twisted retribution to those deserving it. Part One touches on themes of conformity, entitlement, and class struggles, but seems to be mostly “setting the table” for the narrative feast ahead. Kogan and Silvetti craft a world full of characters that seems reminiscent of the dark fairy tale tone present in films like The Dark Crystal or Edward Scissorhands, while tempting their lead character with an understandable desire to see the more detestable citizens of Winding Springs receive their “just desserts” at the hands of the titular monster.
Artist Giuseppe Sabè Di Stefano brings a unique style and feel to the pages of Shockheaded Peter - Part One that serves both the dark, foreboding nature of the story, while also honoring the more exaggerated and cartoony elements present throughout. It’s not the easiest task to bring into being visuals that capture both the whimsy and dread present in a tale like Shockheaded Peter, but that does not appear to be an issue here.
FINAL VERDICT: Shockheaded Peter - Part One is off to a good start, but, ultimately, much of its success will depend on what’s around the next dark corner. Part One raises a number of intriguing mysteries (Where did Shockheaded Peter come from? What insidious condition has afflicted Ruby’s father? Will Ruby truly “join forces” with Shockheaded Peter in order to “right” the injustices present in both her town and her life?), but the narrative strength of these enigmas, and the story as a whole, are dependent upon the final answers. Readers who enjoy Tim Burton’s early filmography and the terrifying allure shared by both urban legends and creepy folklore could find this one an intriguing read.
Creative Team: E.B. Kogan (writer/creator), Jessica Silvetti (writer/creator), Giuseppe Sabè Di Stefano (artist)
Publisher: Self-published via Kickstarter
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