I discovered this incredible comic at LACC during my short visit in October. I’ve met the creator DOUG LEFLER who is an incredible person full of ideas and talents.
Film director, screenwriter, film producer, storyboard artist and now… comic creator? We even spoke a little in French!
I mean… this guy knows to do almost everything and I admire someone who shows to be as passionate as him.
I was first intrigued by the beautiful cover of his comic… simple, colorful and full of promises.
And it did not disappoint. I got the first two numbers of his series ‘The heart of the Hollow World’ after he so passionately sold it to me. The way he was talking about his creation was so admirable and so fun, it was just a beautiful experience. As is his comic series.
It’s like a new take on Jules Verne's ‘Journey to the center of the Earth’ - and may I say it is MUCH better than the movie.
The story starts in 1898 with Emery, on his way to be the first man ever to visit the north pole and ‘’sitting on top of the world’’. Unfortunately, his expedition is quickly interrupted when they stumbled upon a dying man holding a notebook full of mysterious scriptures and drawings. Everything in it point to the theory of a secret world in the center of the Earth. To help him decipher the secrets of this theory, Emery leaves for the far west to meet his old professor, Quigley, described as one of the smartest man alive. They are quickly joined by the professor’s daughter (and my favorite character) Prudence - who can shoot faster than her shadow and is not afraid to show how strong of a woman she is in an era of racism and misogynistic behaviors.
Together, they decide to start working on a special machine that will bring them to this mystic place where nobody has yet to set foot. To help them finance the project, they join forces with an old acquaintance of Emery: Kinster - a rich guy who made his fortune on selling guns and weapons.
After successfully building the machine, they embark on this incredible, but dangerous, journey where they meet with dinosaurs, weird creatures and other forms of life - real, artificial or mechanical.
The story is built on 24 short chapters full of action, mysteries and awesome adventures. This story was written by an experienced mind and it shows. The writing is detailed and well structured, making the story entertaining at every pages. There’s no dead moment and you are always left wanting more after every chapter. It may look scary at first glance when you realize the story mixes dinosaurs with robots, but I can assure you the writing is good enough to make some sense out of it.
I first thought this amalgam of characters would be a little boring and unoriginal since some elements could be a little predictable - some characters are prone to cliché like love stories, love triangles or being secret villains, but it turned out completely difference than what I expected. The dynamic of funny, witted, courageous personalities made the story even better.
Of course, there IS a love story… but it’s not corny nor cliché. I actually was surprised by the ending, I thought it would’ve been like a fairytale ending, where everybody accepts everybody and everything turns out amazingly well. Which is not exactly the case and makes it an even more amazing story ending.
I also want to place some words for the butler. Blaine, who is really discrete and almost invisible (which I guess are good qualities for a butler), but the little time he has in front of the audience is always my favorite: he is funny and bring some adorable quirkiness to the story. And I think the fact that a character as subtle as Blaine still had some time to shine and be part of the story really puts forward the writing talent of Mr. LEFLER.
And let’s not forget the wonderful touch of humor! DOUG LEFLER certainly know how and when to be dramatic and how to joke around with what can quickly become sensitive subjects. The little jokes here and there make fun of the, let’s be honest, ridiculous manners of it’s time. My favorite part is when the men are asked to clean their own clothes… and have just no clue how to proceed. I guess that’s when a butler comes in handy in a lost wild world!
The only negative thing I can think of about this story is how I would’ve liked to understand a bit more about the mean guy… who is actually a girl. We learn a lot through the pages but the fixation she makes on Emery is a little too vague in my opinion. She is also the exact copy of his ex-wife but we never understand why…. It doesn’t change anything to the story, I am just curious to know what was the idea behind those details.
As for the art: Simple, yet effective. I love the colors, not too vibrant, like soft hues.
One of my biggest pet peeve in comics is when there’s so many blurry details during action scenes that you are not able to fully understand what’s actually happening. That is not the case with this series. The art is clean and clear and fit perfectly with the creator’s style.
Are you intrigued now?
I hope so, because you don’t even know the best part yet:
You can read all 24 chapters online…. for free!
How absolutely wonderful is that?
I knew about it since Mr. LEFLER told me himself at his booth. He wasn’t there to sell. He was there to share his passion and share his awesome stories…. And I can only admire him more for that ( I still bought the physical copies tho!).
If you are interested, head over http://ashfiremoon.com/ or https://scrollon.com/ (you can also download the app).
Another fun fact: the way you read this story online isn’t like you would read it on paper. It is actually made like a stop-motion effect, where you ‘’flip’’ the pages at the rhythm of what’s happening in it. It’s difficult to explain… so go read it and you’ll see!
This discovery makes me super happy and I can’t wait to share with you how amazing all of his work is.
I guess we can say I am as obsessed with this comic as Emery is obsessed with exploring the world. Which is A LOT!