The Black Dahlia (a crime graphic novel)
Based on the novel by James Ellroy
Adapted by Matz w/David Fincher
Illustrated by Miles Hyman
Lettered by Deron Bennett
Nowadays, almost everybody is at least partially familiar with the case of The Black Dahlia. This is the story of Elizabeth Short, a young woman who was viciously murdered in Los Angeles in 1947. Though over 150 suspects were developed throughout the course of the investigation, the killer was never apprehended.
The general known case summary is as follows:
On January 15, 1947 Elizabeth Short’s dead, nude and mutilated corpse was found in a vacant lot in a highly undeveloped area of Los Angeles at the time, known as Leimert Park. A local woman was the first to discover the decedent in two pieces at about 10:00am while walking her three-year-old daughter.
The body had been completely severed at the waist and totally drained of all blood. The young woman had been sliced across the mouth, the split going from ear to ear like a wicked smile of death. (There is apparently a name for this, it’s called the Glasgow Smile. I don’t know what’s creepier, the fact that it was done OR the fact that it happens often enough that there’s a name for it.) In addition to the already heinous site, there were cuts and slashes on other parts of her body including her thighs and breasts, in some areas, flesh was completely removed. The two halves of the body were positioned about a foot apart and posed in a sexually revealing manor, her arms above her head, bent at the elbows and her legs spread apart. Her intestines had been carefully and distinctly tucked under her buttocks.
Little evidence was found at the crime scene; a heel print near tire tracks and a cement sack with watery blood inside. It would also be later discovered during autopsy that she died by exsanguination due to the lacerations on her face and several severe blows to the head. The severing of the body in half was found to done postmortem as there was very little to no bruising at the incision line. It was also suspected that because of trauma sustained to various parts of the body that she may have been sexually assaulted but, no spermatozoa were found during the autopsy examination.
A number of suspects were developed throughout this case. People called and claimed to be the killer, some sent letters, an address book was mailed to The Los Angeles Examiner along with some of Short’s personal belongings including her birth certificate and various business cards and other small items. Over 750 investigators worked on this case meaning hundreds of people were interviewed, some suspects and eventually either ruled out or there wasn’t enough evidence to proceed further.
This unsolved case eventually brought a spotlight down on the LAPD and whether or not they were working to their full capacity and ability when trying to solve various violent crimes, particularly those of women and children.
There was also speculation that Elizabeth Short’s murder could have been related to another series of crimes that had happened about ten years prior known as “The Torso Murders” or the killings of “The Mad Butcher of Kingsbury Run”. This theory was later ruled out for various reasons.
Another idea was that William Heirens was her killer. Some alleged that there were many similarities between the murder of Suzanne Degnan and Elizabeth Short. This theory was never proven either. (His conviction for the murder of six-year-old Suzanne Degnan has remained highly controversial.)
Many other theories have been investigated and dismissed over the years. To this day, a lot of questions surrounding The Black Dahlia murder still go unanswered with the fascination with the case growing more and more as time goes on.
This graphic novel was a great fictionalization of the basic story of Short’s murder. There aren’t a lot of actual facts in this book so, when you read it, don’t start thinking that this is how things really happened. Although the basic crime is still the same, the story surrounding is entirely fiction as far as I know.
Also, if nudity or graphic violent images or even profanity offends you, then this is not something you will want to read. I happen to think that it’s entirely up to the author whether or not to use such aspects and it’s up to the reader whether or not to view said chosen aspects.
You also have to understand that this happened in 1947. There weren’t all these documentation rules about crime scenes and suspects and all the procedures and regulations to follow. In 1947 they didn’t even have Miranda rights yet. Investigators could do pretty much anything they wanted to when questioning suspects or running down leads. Violence was often a part of police work in many jurisdictions at that time. The Press were allowed to enter crime scenes as the cops were investigating, they were even sometimes asked their opinions about the scene and the suspect themselves. The Press!!! So, do understand that the depictions of these 1940s police officers and investigators will be different than what we would normally consider when thinking about such characters now that it’s 2018.
Other than telling the story of the discovery of the body and the investigation, it also tells tales of the investigators themselves.
The artwork is interesting. There is an entire muted tone to the color scheme and most of the colors are what I would consider fairly neutral, earth type tones. Again, there are very graphic images depicted in some of these pages. I will say that the makers really did try to get the actual body images as accurate as they could, it seems.
I was a little disappointed at first because it was so much more fictional than I had thought but, it actually turned out pretty good. It IS strictly an adult graphic novel though. This one is not suitable for kids.