Review – That Texas Blood Vol 1
Publisher: Image Comics
Writer: Chris Condon
Artwork: Jacob Phillips
Colours: Jacob Philips
Cover Artists: Jacob Philips. Variants by Sean Phillips & Duncan Fegredo
Publication Design: Sean Phillips
Release Date: 13th January 2021
Reviewing That Texas Blood Vol1 I was struck with how it had me on edge. Four pages of vibrant blood red on the inlay, as we get titles and credits, compounds that feeling of unease. Then a warm introduction to the seemingly mundane life of Sheriff Joe Bob Coates. On the morning of his 70th birthday, he muses with his wife about how he thought he’d feel different. Next he starts the groundwork on the case of reclaiming his wife’s best casserole dish. Everything seems pleasant, a little too pleasant. Witty back and forth between characters gives way to hint at something darker, something animalistic running in the blood of the fictional Ambrose County.
That Texas Blood began life as a feature script that Chris Condon was hitting a brick wall in securing funding for. Talking with Lost’n comics , he said he was inspired by how the film Whiplash secured funding based on a short film. Which, was like a miniature version of the final feature film. However, Chris wanted to do a short that was telling a parallel story to his intended feature and not a condensed version of it. But funding for that short was still hard to find. Condon commissioned Jacob Phillips to do concept art for the film and loved it. Eventually he opted to make the story as a comic book with Jacob as the artist.
Condon has mentioned multiple influences leading him to write That Texas Blood. Shakespeare, North by Northwest and Darwyn Cooke’s Parker series are actively referenced in the book. The X-files and the connected work of Stephen King, are strong structural influences as That Texas Blood is an anthology series.
After our introduction to Sheriff Joe Bob in ‘The Casserole Dish’, we meet Los Angeles-based writer Randy Terrill. Randy is returning to Ambrose County after the sudden and mysterious death of his brother. This story stretches out from issue two to issue six and is subtitled, ‘A Brother’s Conscience’. Randy seems at first to be quite mild mannered and unassuming like Joe Bob. But Randy is more in line with the story told in issue one than its main character, we start to see darker elements emerge in him too, in parallel to them developing in the plot.
Texas itself and the stories Condon associated with it were another influence. The expansive landscape gave him the idea that anything could happen and he has baked that sense of hanging anticipation into That Texas Blood. When the quieter and easier going moments are broken up, they are done so in shocking fashion and the choices made give you no reassurance that you can expect what’s coming next.
Review – That Texas Blood Vol 1 continues below
In a youtube interview with Angelo Callazo, titled ‘From Screenplay to Comic’ ; Chris broke down the journey from screenplay to comic script to comic page. A scene involving a snake is highlighted, in the original screenplay with production costs in mind, Chris wrote it so that a real snake and snake wrangler wouldn’t be required on set. They could bring the snake alive off screen with the use of sound effects. This idea carried to the comic and you don’t really see the snake, it’s out of shot. Jacob then omitted the sound effects so that the visuals could tell the story.
Condon mentioned many other similar instances throughout the book, stressing that both the writing and the art of the book were a collaboration. He’d suggest the shot types for the panels or pictures for Jacob to reference, Jacob would do as was laid out or he’d ‘fiddle’ with ideas reframing them and shaping their telling. Chris said he gave all script pages to Jacob with the idea that he could change whatever he wanted.
Jacob Phillips’ artwork is reminiscent of that of his father, Sean Phillips. It makes sense. He took an interest in his father’s work from a young age, learned under him and did his first professional work with him.
Jacob likes to reference what he draws and you can see it in the work. There’s authenticity to the figures and settings. In the detailing and colouring of the book, Jacob uses a scribble like marker effect that features prominently. It depicts the lights and shadows at play in most scenes, giving a sense of subsurface scattering. Sometimes it adds texture to surfaces, representing glass here, grass there. It can be used for wistful clouds in one scene, or to convey the dead heat on the freeway in the next.
Beautifully emotive colouring is rich on the page. We see so many shades of day and night, light and shadow. Flashes of red denote anger or violence, the colour’s vibrancy jumps in scenes where moods flare or metaphorical imagery is introduced. Alternatively backgrounds are white and blank to focus us on the action. There’s a lot of variation in all of the above and a lot to love about the art of this book.
So in reviewing That Texas Blood Vol1 … it’s great, go get it. Everything’s done tremendously well. It’s funny, warm, smart, shocking and exciting. An exceptional opening book for both writer and artist. They compliment each other very well. I look forward to hearing both their names in the future but especially when they’re in the same breath. That Texas Blood is continuing as an ongoing series.
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