The Sleep Stories, a Kickstarter comic created by Michael Walsh, is a very personal horror comic that, in Walsh’s words, “is about the universality of fear”. When reading this short graphic novel, what resonated most with me was how it navigated the fear of ‘the self’. The horror that it depicts is certainly salient in nature. However, I believe The Sleep Stories comes across as an inspection of the terror that lies in one’s own self-subjectivity.
Walsh both writes and illustrates this project, and subsequently it comes across as very intimate—as if the reader is taking a walk around the psyche. Indeed, The Sleep Stories takes on a Lacanian essence, with the horrors depicted acting like a barrier between the narrator and the rest of the world. The story’s non-linear narrative is filled with body horror, lurking shadows and grotesquely warped images. The narrator’s own transformation into something warped and non-human is only delayed by flashbacks to his childhood. Here, the terrors exist around him—yet to invade his being.
The Sleep Stories is effective in evoking the reader’s own introspection. One page shows the main character picking at a thread on his face in front of a mirror, as he compulsively seeks to find what lies beneath. In this case, Walsh uses the medium of horror to portray a very human fear. Indeed, many of us fear existing within ourselves. The impossibility of ever being able to view the self from an outside perspective can often spark a habit of self-inflicted violence. Walsh conveys this violence through the haunting images in Sleep Stories. Some readers may find this graphic novel too disjointed. However, its broken structure is integral to one of its leading concepts—that the ability to identify ourselves is almost always inescapably broken.
Perhaps the only thing I question from Walsh is, what can come next? As a single installment, The Sleep Stories is a very intriguing piece of work. However, Walsh has set out to tell stories, not a single story. I wonder how Sleep Stories can transform into an integrated and substantial run of web-comics when its message is so self-contained.
Michael Walsh’s The Sleep Stories is an original comic that delves into concepts of ‘the self’ through the medium of horror. With its disjointed narrative and haunting images, Sleep Stories makes an impression on the reader that feels deeply personal. Walsh now has the tremendous task of maintaining this quality of work to make an incorporated series.
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