Black Hole


Author: Charles Burns

Title: Black Hole

Genre: Graphic Novel

Publication Date: 2005

Number of Pages: 368

Geographical Setting: Suburban Seattle, Washington

Time Period: Mid-1970’s

Series (If applicable): n/a

Plot Summary: The lives of teenagers in a Seattle suburb are shaken up when they start developing inexplicable mutations due to a mysterious sexually transmitted disease. Some develop easily concealable mutations and others are so hideously disfigured they choose to hide in the woods as outcasts.  The plot follows a boy, Keith, and a girl, Chris, who find themselves afflicted with the bug.  The book addresses themes of teen sexuality and alienation in a surreal, horror context.  Burns artwork is richly detailed and filled with disturbing imagery that evokes the bleak nature of these teen outcast’s lives.

Subject Headings: Genetic mutations, teenagers, Alienation, teen sexuality, plague, 1970’s,

Appeal: fast-paced, dramatic, vivid, character-centered, explicitly violent, sexually explicit, tragic, evocative, small-town, bleak, haunting, uneasy, accessible, engaging, dramatic,

3 terms that best describe this book: Dark, Grotesque, Surreal

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Blankets by Craig Thompson

A memoir of author Thompson’s childhood and teen years growing up in a fundamentalist Christian family. This book contains a similarly realistic depiction of struggles of teen life as Black Hole though less bleak and without supernatural and horror elements.

Mutants: on genetic variety and the human body by Armand Marie Leroi

An examination of the factors that create biological abnormalities and how these mutations have affected the individuals profiled within the book. Readers interested how mutation was used as metaphor in Black Hole may be interested in the real world causes of genetic mutation and the lives of those who live with the effects of it.

One Hundred Demons by Lynda Barry

Cartoonist Barry wrote this autobiographical novel in graphic form to exorcise the “demons” of her childhood and teenage years. Readers who enjoyed the painful depiction of the inner lives of teens in Black Hole will find Barry’s recollections equally insightful.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

From Hell by Alan Moore

Readers who enjoy the horror aspects of Black Hole will be interested in this graphic novel that tells the story of the Jack the Ripper murder that gives readers a healthy dose of historical background into Victorian era London.

Like a Velvet Glove Cast in Iron by Dan Clowes

After viewing a mysterious and obscene film featuring his ex-girlfriend a man attempts to find its origins. This graphic novel features grotesque imagery and shares a similarly disturbing and surreal tone and with Black Hole.

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Set in a dystopian Great Britain this novel follows a group of young teen clones who have been created for organ donation. This novel shares with Black Hole elements of horror, teen protagonists, themes of burgeoning sexuality and a mysterious biomedical undercurrent.


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