Did You Hear What Eddie Gein Done? by Eric Powell and Harold Schechter
Albatross Funnybooks (August 2021)
224 pages; $26.99 hardcover; $25.64 e-book
Reviewed by Chad Lutzke
Why are so many of us fascinated by true crime, particularly when it comes to serial killers? While in the comfort of our homes, settled in a favorite chair and feeling content with a belly full of food, we make the oddest choices in the media we consume — subject matter that takes us out of our emotional comfort zone, like learning about people doing unimaginable things to other people.
We’re a strange breed.
I was reminded of such after experiencing my own morbid excitement while seeing the title of this graphic novel: Did You Hear What Eddie Gein Done?
If you’re reading this review, then you most likely take an interest in serial killer pop culture yourself. If that’s the case, this graphic novel is absolutely for you. If you’re simply wanting a horror story, you may leave unsatisfied…and/or disturbed.
I think most of us are familiar with who Mr. Gein was, but for those who aren’t in the know, here’s a quick rundown: In the 1950s, Ed Gein robbed fresh graves and made use of his collected bits to start a nasty arts and crafts hobby by going full DIY on his lampshades and chairs and creating cereal bowls, gloves, belts, masks, and even a full body suit, all using the skin and bones of the deceased. On top of that, he also killed two local women. This behavior sprouted during an intense period of grief after his verbally abusive mother passed away. Plain and simple, Gein was not right in the head — a product of his mother’s creation.
Later, the atrocities Gein committed became fodder for the books Psycho and The Silence of the Lambs, as well as the film The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. His story was an unclaimed vein to mine for truly horrific storytelling. And now it’s captured in a 224-page comic book.
Did You Hear What Eddie Gein Done? is a graphic biography of Ed Gein which goes over his childhood, the graverobbing, the murders, and getting busted. Just like your typical biography, everything in it is factual, and where there may be speculation, it’s presented as such. It’s clear that Powell and Schechter did extensive research when creating this, using history that’s been recorded, right down to Gein quotes from interrogations and hearings. This factual display is the problem if you’re looking for a different type of story. There are absolutely no liberties taken with this. This book is not My Friend Dahmer. This is a straight-up biography presented in a storytelling manner, but it’s done with a great vision that sets the tone right away for a drab, 1950s winter, starting with the isolated farmhouse on the cover and continues with the vintage wallpaper inside that splits each chapter. The stellar black and white illustrations within keep the gloomy setting intact, making the whole thing feel like you’re watching a story unfold within that era.
The artistic decisions are what make this feel less like a textbook lesson on Gein and more of a fantastic visual voyage of what really happened, right up to his death. One of those artistic decisions (and you could even call it the one liberty taken) I appreciated most had Gein fantasizing, wherein the art style changes, and we find ourselves in the mind of Ed Gein as he himself reads a comic book.
While I personally would have liked to see some liberties taken with the story, I understand that’s not what they were going for; however, in their delivery there was one tiny problem I had. When you’re reading something like this — a tale you’re familiar with — there’s always one key point you anticipate. For me, it was the discovery of what was hanging in Gein’s shed. There was no buildup and seemed to happen almost prematurely. Had the story not been told in such a perfectly paced manner up to that point, I wouldn’t have even noticed.
After the whole tale is told, the book closes with a section that touches on the cultural impact of Gein and includes some interesting interview transcripts, almost as a way of reminding you this really happened, the story is real, and we live in a world full of monsters. If you’re one of the strange ones who like to be reminded of such, and find fascination in true crime, this book is a must have.