Alfred Hitchcock: Master Of Suspense (NBM Comics Biographies) by Noel Simsolo and Dominique Hé (graphic novel)

‘Alfred Hitchcock: Master Of Suspense’ is a graphic novel biography of film director Alfred Joseph Hitchcock that narrates his entire life from birth to death. His circumstances on entering the world were pretty good as his father owned two greengrocers’ shops which his elder brother inherited when their dad died young. Alfred was born into the catholic faith and it’s hinted that this makes him a rare sort of Englishman a bit exotic. It’s not all that rare. On the other hand, the one true church was sterner in the good old days and, schooled by Jesuits, young Alfred learned the difference between good and evil. That would be the main theme of his career.

The story is revealed in a series of flashbacks with Alfred telling someone over dinner about his early life. First up is Cary Grant but Grace Kelly also features prominently, with Carole Lombard guest starring later. Cattle or not, he seems to have got along well enough with some of his stars. Hitchcock frequently confesses to being a voyeur and was obsessed with beautiful blondes but, apart from one well-reported incident with Tippi Heddren on the set of ‘The Birds’ hinted at here, he didn’t have major trouble with female stars. He did, on the other hand, make them do repeat takes of certain scenes just because he enjoyed watching them, especially when scantily clad. He had a very close relationship with his wife, Alma Reville, a script editor who undoubtedly helped his career. Close, but not necessarily physical so much, though they had a daughter.

The Hollywood greats of the era are rendered well enough to recognise in the illustrations but for extra clarity the dialogue refers to nearly everyone by both names. This gets clumsy at times but is forgivable as no one will know every bit player. Overall, the art and storytelling are terrific, especially considering the quality had to be maintained over three hundred pages. Dominique Hé did a great job. Oddly, it reminded me of old works by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby from the 1940s. Partly, this was the page layouts and panel size but also the urban settings, the cars and outfits and the use of shadows, especially when showing scary scenes from the movies. Being visual, a graphic novel is the ideal medium to show such things, second best only to film itself. It’s obvious from what’s shown that Hitchcock was a meticulous creator, utterly devoted to his art.

Hollywood gossip that is common knowledge now, for anyone who cares, is casually mentioned in the dialogue. Things like Cary Grant’s bisexuality, Montgomery Clift’s homosexuality and so on. It seems Grant had an affair with Sophia Loren and wanted Hitch to cast her opposite him. As a gentleman who preferred blondes, the Master refused, though he cast Ingrid Bergman in three films and they became friends. He didn’t treat all actors like cattle but was often a bully if he could get away with it and played some horrible practical jokes. Geniuses are not necessarily nice.

An excellent, informative biography and a long read, well-researched that’s worth it for anyone interested in Hitchcock. It made me want to see the films again. Regrettably, I joined the gadarene rush to ditch DVDs and gave my box set of fourteen films to Oxfam. Maybe I’ll buy them back. Maybe I won’t! Ooh, the suspense.

Eamonn Murphy

August 2023

(pub: NBM Publishing, 2022. 320 page graphic novel hardback. Price: £33.35 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-68112-289-2. EBook price: £19.99 (UK)) 

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Eamonn Murphy

Eamonn Murphy reviews books for sfcrowsnest and writes short stories for small press magazines. His works are available on Amazon and on Kindle Unlimited.

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