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Smuttynose the Comic Book

Maren Hontvet (c) Bob Oxman on


It was inevitable. The chilling Smuttynose Murder story has been adapted into a novel, a film, a ballad, a ballet, a theatrical production, a pulp detective story and more. Now comes the comic book version, and so far, so good.





A Graphic Novel of a Graphic Murder Begins

MORE on the Smuttynose Murders

Smuttynose Comics
By Bob Oxman
12 pages, first installment $2
Contact the author via email to purchase a book: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (scroll down)


There is nothing funny about homicide, but "comics" have long ago moved away from humor. In truth, the 1873 double-murder on Smuttynose Island lends itself very well to the graphic novel format. Author / illustrator Bob Oxman offers a fresh perspective on the oft-told story, best known as the source of the novel and film Weight of Water by Anita Shreve. But many artists had interpreted the story before Shreve, and it appears, many more will follow.

The story continues click here

Smuttynose Graphic Novel by Bob Oxman / SeacoastNH.comOxman’s style is probably best described as post modern. With the exception of the captivating in grayscale, the story panels are largely black and white, stylized, even child-like in their depiction of human figures. The format is simple, mostly six square panels per page. The block lettering is casual, even primitive compared to the slick graphic novels available today.

Where this tiny comic shines is in the writing itself. The author knows the story cold and has done his homework. The characters, flat on the page, are more rounded in their dialogue. Instead of jumping right into the gory murder, Oxman begins at the beginning and isn’t afraid to let the exposition fill the entire first issue of the comic series. As a post-school experiment, this sample is a promising start.

Bob Oxman attended the Center for Cartoon Studies, a comic book school in White River Junction, VT. The Smuttynose graphic novel idea evolved from his senior thesis there. The author says he found an "invaluable" resource for his research. He also visited the state archives in Maine to read some of the full transcript of the Smuttynose murder trial.

The first number in the series is told from the view of Maren Hontvet, the only survivor of the island murder. It begins in Norway before Maren’s marriage to fisherman John Hontvet who spirits her away to the Isles of Shoals and a largely isolated island just off the coast of Maine. Future numbers, Oxman says, will "tell the story through a variety of voices based on what was said in court." The trail let to the hanging of Louis Wagner, a Prussian immigrant and dory fisherman who had lived with the Hontvets on Smuttynose Island before moving to Portsmouth. "There is some element of fiction or speculation woven in as well, "the author says, "but I am trying to stay true to the facts, while keeping the story intriguing and entertaining."

"The story for me was never just about guilt and innocence," Osman told "It's about character development, isolation, exploring history, and about the fatalistic or macabre draw the crime resiliently held for so long. As an origin story the first issue is, I admit, mostly fiction depicting Maren and her family's life in Norway and how settling in on that desolate place might have been."

Bob Oxman’s first self-published comic includes an edition of just 75 copies, printed largely for friends. Oxman, who works full time in a museum, is cutting his teeth with the Smuttynose story, and has made copies available via a friends web site. -- JDR


The date is March 5th 1873. The moon shines down on the snow covered rocky pockmarked face of Smuttynose Island, Maine. Three young Norwegian women fall asleep waiting for their men to return from a short voyage to get supplies in Portsmouth, NH. A shadowy figure enters the house, brutally butchers two of the women with an axe, and then sits down for a cup of tea. Was an innocent man hung for the crime?



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