Black Hole (comics)

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Black Hole
Trade paperback cover
Publication information
PublisherKitchen Sink Press/Fantagraphics
FormatLimited series
Publication date1995–2005
No. of issues12
Creative team
Written byCharles Burns
Artist(s)Charles Burns
Collected editions
PaperbackISBN 978-0-375-71472-6

Black Hole is a twelve-issue comic book limited series written and illustrated by Charles Burns and published first by Kitchen Sink Press, then Fantagraphics. It was released in collected form in 2005 by Pantheon Books. The story deals with the aftermath of a sexually transmitted disease that causes grotesque mutations in teenagers. Burns has said that the mutations can be read as a metaphor for adolescence, sexual awakening and the transition into adulthood.[1]

Publication history[edit]

Black Hole was published as a 12-issue comic book limited series between 1995 and 2005. The first four issues were released by Kitchen Sink Press, before the publisher 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, albeit without the interstitial character portraits from the single issues.[2]


Set in the suburbs of Seattle during the mid-1970s, the story follows a group of teenagers who contract a mysterious sexually transmitted disease referred to as "the Bug", which causes them to develop bizarre unique physical mutations and subsequently become social outcasts, many of them running away from home to live in the nearby woodland.

The plot focuses on two central characters who often narrate the story: Chris, a popular and respected female student, and Keith, a stoner who seems to experience anxiety. The viewpoint changes between (and sometimes within) issues. When the characters are introduced, Keith has a crush on Chris, who is kind to Keith but does not reciprocate his feelings. At a party, Chris quickly becomes infatuated with popular student Rob Fancicani. The two leave the party and have sex, Chris unaware that Rob carries the Bug. Once Chris realizes she has been infected, she and Rob do not speak for some time. Keith and Chris share a moment at another party where Keith bandages Chris' cut foot. As Keith becomes even more infatuated with Chris, she does not return his feelings. Around the same time, Keith meets Eliza, a young woman who also carries the Bug which manifests as a lizard-like tail. Despite their instant attraction, the two do not have sex.

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. Some of the infected teens, particularly females, begin disappearing, with strange statues and even body parts being found around the woods. Chris and Rob eventually renew their relationship, which culminates with Chris running away from home to the encampment in the woods. Rob introduces Chris to Dave, a mutated teen who was unpopular and bullied while attending school. Rob continues to live with his parents and attends school, visiting Chris daily at the encampment. Meanwhile, Keith and Eliza have sex, and Keith subsequently becomes infected.

Later, an unknown mutated man murders Rob as he leaves Chris' tent one night. Chris does not know of Rob's fate, and is devastated by his disappearance. Chris starts going to The Pit, where she encounters Keith, a regular visitor who brings supplies to the teens. After pressuring her for some time, Keith convinces Chris to 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. Chris becomes closer to Dave, and the two often spend time together. However, Dave's true sinister nature shows when Chris rejects his advances. With Chris locked inside her room, Dave shoots most of the teens living in the house using a gun that he had stolen from Chris' tent. Chris flees through an open window, and Keith discovers the bodies minutes after Dave leaves.

Dave is seen ordering a bucket of chicken and bringing it to his friend Rick, who murdered Rob at Dave's behest. While Rick eats, Dave shoots him in the head and then himself. Keith calls Eliza and the two flee town with survivors Carla and Doug. After dropping off Carla and Doug, Keith and Eliza check into a motel, where they are fearful of the future, but happy together. Meanwhile, Chris hitchhikes to a beach where she and Rob had spent time together. Realizing that he is gone forever, and swearing to remember him, Chris swims out into the ocean, uncertain of her future.

Collected editions[edit]

Pantheon Books has released soft (ISBN 978-0375714726) and hardcover (ISBN 037542380X) collected editions of the series. In Brazil, publisher Darkside Books released a hardcover collected edition of the series.


The collected edition won the 2006 Harvey Award for "Best Graphic Album of Previously Published Work". Burns also won the 1998, 1999, 2001, 2002, 2004, 2005 and 2006 Harvey Award as "Best Inker" for his work on the series. Black Hole 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 for the 2013 Gaiman Award presentation.[3]

In popular culture[edit]

The Knife album Silent Shout, along with the music video for the title track and some of the press photos, were inspired by Black Hole.[4]

In the 2009 film The Answer Man, Arlen Fabre (Jeff Daniels) sits with Kris Lucas (Lou Taylor Pucci) in front of two copies of Black Hole in a Philadelphia bookstore, as they bond over grief.

In the 2014 film Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, the human teenager Alexander (Kodi Smit-McPhee) gives his copy of a softcover collected edition of Black Hole to the Bornean orangutan teacher Maurice (Karin Konoval), as they form a bond important to the film's plot.

The 2012 song "The Pit", according to Silversun Pickups vocalist Brian Aubert, was inspired by Black Hole.[5]

Film adaptation[edit]

In March 2006, French director Alexandre Aja was set to direct the feature film adaptation, with Neil Gaiman and Pulp Fiction co-writer Roger Avary attached to adapt the screenplay.[6]

In 2007, director Rupert Sanders released an abbreviated live-action adaptation of Black Hole on his website[7][8] as part of his pitch for the project.[9] It features actors Chris Marquette, Whitney Able, Diane Gaeta, Noel Fisher, and Nate Mooney.

In February 2008, Variety reported that the film would be produced by Paramount Pictures and directed by Academy Award-nominee David Fincher.[10] In October 2008, MTV reported that scriptwriters Gaiman and Avary had left the production, reporting that their script would not be used by Fincher – though no replacement scriptwriter was announced.[11] 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,[12] however as of October 2013 he was once more attached to direct Black Hole.[13]

In February 2018, the project was revived when New Regency and Brad Pitt's production company Plan B acquired the rights to the film with Rick Famuyiwa attached to write and direct after making his Sundance hit, Dope.[14]


  1. ^ Appleford, Steve (2006-02-14). "Interview with Charles Burns". Los Angeles City Beat. Archived from the original (text) on 2007-04-15. Retrieved 2007-09-30.
  2. ^ "Black Hole". The Savage Critics!. 2009-02-22. Archived from the original on 2016-03-10. Retrieved 2012-07-24.
  3. ^ "ANIME NEWS: 'Taste of Chlorine' voted No. 1 translated foreign comic in 2013". AJW. Asahi Shimbun. 5 December 2013. Archived from the original on 13 December 2013. Retrieved 21 May 2014.
  4. ^ McLean, Craig (January 2006). "The Knife – Biography". Archived from the original on 10 October 2010. Retrieved 24 September 2010.
  5. ^ "Silversun Pickups - Talk about Neck Of The Woods Grammys". YouTube. May 2012. Archived from the original on 2021-12-21. Retrieved 14 May 2019.
  6. ^ Weinberg, Scott (March 8, 2006). "GAIMAN, AVARY, AND AJA TO VISIT A "BLACK HOLE"". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved May 28, 2024.
  7. ^ "Black Hole". Archived from the original on 2011-07-14. Retrieved 2011-07-19.
  8. ^ "Watch Rupert Sanders' Short Film Adaptation of Charles Burns' Graphic Novel 'Black Hole' (NSFW)". 2010-12-14.
  9. ^ Mellor, Louisa (May 28, 2012). "Rupert Sanders interview: Snow White and the Huntsman, Kristen Stewart, Lord of the Rings". Den of Geek. Retrieved February 6, 2013. I was trying to make this thing, Black Hole, that I made a short film based on with my own money to try and get something to pitch with, so I was actually pitching for projects. I wasn't looking necessarily for a big film, I was looking for something that excited me.
  10. ^ Siegel, Tatiana (2008-02-20). "David Fincher falls into 'Black Hole'". Variety.
  11. ^ Vineyard, Jennifer (2008-10-21). "Neil Gaiman On Adapting Charles Burns' Graphic Novel 'Black Hole'". MTV. Retrieved 2017-03-13.
  12. ^ "The Hollywood Cog Dazzles Us With News On David Fincher Barry Levinson The Hangover Writers and More". 2010-08-10. Archived from the original on 2010-08-19. Retrieved 2010-10-07.
  13. ^ "Charles Burns's 'Black Hole' film moving ahead with David Fincher". Digital Spy. 2013-04-11. Retrieved 2014-06-11.
  14. ^ Kit, Borys (February 28, 2018). "'Dope' Filmmaker Tackling 'Black Hole' Adaptation (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved May 28, 2024.

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