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Black Hole (comics)

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Limited series

Number of issues

ISBN 978-0-375-71472-6

Publication date

Charles Burns

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Kitchen Sink Press/Fantagraphics

La Perdida, Eightball, Acme Novelty Library, Castle Waiting, Love and Rockets

Black Hole is a twelve-issue comic book limited series written and illustrated by Charles Burns and published first by Kitchen Sink Press and then Fantagraphics. It was released in collected form in 2005 by Pantheon Books.


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The story deals with the aftermath of a sexually transmitted disease which causes grotesque mutations in teenagers.

Publication history

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It was published as a 12-issue comic book limited series between 1995 and 2005. The first four issues were released by Kitchen Sink Press; after Kitchen Sink went out of business, Fantagraphics republished the first four issues and the remaining eight. A compiled hardcover volume was released by Pantheon Books in 2005. This collected edition, however, lacks many pages that were included in the first publication- the ones that showed some characters' faces. These pages are considered by some critics to be essential.


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Set in the suburbs of Seattle during the mid-1970s, the comics follow a group of mostly middle class teenagers who, over the summer, contract a mysterious sexually transmitted disease known as "the Bug" or "the teen plague," which causes them to develop bizarre unique physical mutations, turning them into social outcasts.

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The story generally focuses on four central characters—Chris, Rob, Keith and Eliza—switching back and forth between their stories as they come in contact with and contract the disease. Apart from some introduction into the setting, the story starts off with Chris contracting the disease from Rob, a popular kid in school. Because of a failed attempt to warn her of his condition, Chris is not aware that Rob is infected until they are already having sex. Chris immediately feels she has been deceived and stops speaking to Rob for some time. Around the same time Keith contracts it from Eliza, a woman he meets while trying to buy cannabis at a friend's house. Although it is not made explicitly clear, Keith seems unaware that Eliza's mutation (a tail) is actually a disease that he can contract from her, although he never outwardly discusses the disease with Eliza, even after it has manifested within him.

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Meanwhile, many other teens in the town have contracted the disease, and several of them seek seclusion from society due to the severity of their mutations and build an encampment in the woods outside of town. Chris and Rob eventually renew their friendship, which culminates with Chris running away from home to the encampment in the woods. Rob, however, continues to live with his parents and attends school, visiting Chris daily at the encampment. At the same time, Keith and Eliza seem to drift apart for a while. There is a central campfire at the encampment known as "the pit", and Chris avoids this location. Later, Rob disappears and Chris starts going to the pit, where she encounters Keith, who visits daily, bringing supplies to the other teens. Keith takes a liking to Chris and offers to let her stay at a tract house that he is watching while its owners are on vacation. Chris eventually invites some of the other teens that frequent the pit to stay at the tract house, which they proceed to destroy to Keith's detriment. Eventually Keith and Eliza rekindle their relationship and Chris discovers Rob's fate. This culminates in the remaining central characters leaving the tract house and the town itself.

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Burns has said that the mutations can be read as a metaphor for adolescence, sexual awakening and the transition into adulthood.

Collected editions

Pantheon Books has released soft (ISBN 978-0375714726) and hardcover (ISBN 037542380X) collected editions of the series.


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Black hole won the 2006 Harvey Award for Best Graphic Album of Previously Published Work. While Burns also won the 1998, 1999, 2001, 2002, 2004, 2005 and 2006 Harvey Award as Best Inker for Black Hole. The series also won the 2006 Ignatz Award for Outstanding Anthology or Collection. It was the 2007 winner of the "Essentials of Angoulême" award.

It was voted the third best foreign comic book published in Japan in the Gaiman Award.

Film adaptation

In November 2005, the message board of the Comics Journal reported that Black Hole will be adapted to film by the French director Alexandre Aja (Haute Tension). In March 2006, comics news site Newsarama reported that Neil Gaiman and Pulp Fiction co-writer Roger Avary would be adapting the screenplay, and in May 2006 Gaiman confirmed this in a Time magazine interview.

In February 2008, Variety reported that the film will be produced by Paramount Pictures and directed by Academy Award-nominee David Fincher (Se7en, Fight Club, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button). Neil Gaiman and Roger Avary officially left the production of the film, with reports that their script will not be used. It is unknown who will be taking over the writing process. In August 2010, David Fincher also removed his name from production of the film in order to focus more attention on directing The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy, however as of October 2013 he was once more attached to direct Black Hole.

Director Rupert Sanders released an abbreviated live-action adaptation of Black Hole on his website as part of his pitch for the project. It features actors Chris Marquette, Whitney Able, Diane Gaeta, Noel Fisher, and Nate Mooney. The short can be seen at Sanders' website.


Black Hole (comics) Wikipedia

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