Villain Spotlight: The Man Jack
Good afternoon my denizens of the dark. I come to you today with a look at someone that may or may not be one of the most intriguing villains I have ever had to pleasure of meeting. The trouble is, there isn’t that much to him, and there isn’t that much written about him. He is more of a living specter who walks the earth, but doesn’t seem to belong to it. The funny thing is, he is only mentioned a few times throughout this book, but he has such a menacing and engrossing presence that it would be a shame for me to not introduce you all. The book I am referring to is a brilliant piece of fiction titled “The Graveyard Book” by Neil Gaiman. If you all know me, you know that I love Mr. Gaiman and look forward to every novel he writes and every episode of Doctor Who he creates for us. So it will come as no surprise that I chose this gentleman for this week’s Villain Spotlight. Boys and girls, I give to you…The Man Jack.
The book opens up with a haunting and horrifying scene of Jack stalking through a house in the dark of night. You have no idea why he is there, but you immediately are compelled to find out. The way Gaiman describes The Man Jack is absolutely brilliant. He does not fetter you with a flamboyant or over the top character like a lot of other books do, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but sometimes a little simplicity can go a long way. Black coat, blackish eyes, and a heart just as black make up The Man Jack. He carries a knife in a fashion that you can almost see it held limply but securely in his hand as he stalks through the darkened house, searching for whatever he is looking for. It only takes a few moments for him through an internal monologue to let us know what he is after, or rather who he is after. This is not The Man Jack’s house, it is his prey ground. He is the lion in the tall grass waiting to pounce on his unsuspecting victims…and pounce he does. He walks through the house and systematically murders everyone in the building; father, mother, children…none are spared the sharp kiss of his knife. The way Gaiman lets us know what he is doing is something to behold. He does not give a true reason at first, but you know he has to do this for something much bigger than just plain murder, otherwise it would not be a Gaiman novel. However, not all things go according to plan, and someone escapes from the house, much to The Man Jack’s disappointment. Ever being the professional though, he calmly walks out of the house and proceeds to attempt to locate his missing prize.
As soon as he leaves the house, you get a slightly better glimpse at who The Man Jack could really be, which is absolutely anyone. That, in my opinion, is the most terrifying aspect of his entire character. Tracking his prey to a graveyard somewhat near the house, The Man Jack attempts to cross the fence, but is stopped by someone with a bit too many questions for his liking. At this point is where we see his true ability, which is to cover up his murderous persona with that of a general, likable person. It is simply wonderful to behold such a stark contract in character. One minute he is creeping through a house with absolute murderous intent, and the next he is your goodly neighbor who was concerned about a young boy crawling into a graveyard with no supervision. How do you even distinguish or combat such a foe? It is what gives people like Mystique from the X-men such a great ability to completely mess with your head and make you question who is really who. You know of their existence, but is this really them that you are talking to at the moment, or someone completely different? It makes you ponder on whether or not this person is split into two different people mentally, or just such a good disguiser of their true being that you can never tell which is the true version of that person. It provides multiple layers to the character in a way that is neither suffocating nor exhausting. It is just the right amount of spice to season The Man Jack to our and Gaiman’s taste. I love him for that. He gave us something simple, and made it complex without the needless side dishes of constant “woe is me” or “ I am evil so I kill because I can” plot devices. Unfortunately, The Man Jack fails in his mission, and is not able to locate the child and is turned away at the gates of the graveyard, but he is not the type to take it laying down.
We come to find that even though years have passed by, The Man Jack has never stopped looking for the boy, who has now become a part of the graveyard in such a fascinating way, that it would bring me great sorrow and anxiety to tell you in detail. I normally make my spotlights slightly spoiler heavy, but this one I care too much about to make you aware of all of the wonderful things and people you encounter in this book before you all have a chance to read it. The Man Jack is not finished, and he proceeds to continue looking for the boy all over the area. He is a stout professional, and will not stop until he completes his intended task, which makes me feel bad about myself as I can’t even finish a salad without bitching. We find out as well that he is not necessarily alone in his tasks, as he has an extended network of people who “support” him, and by support I mean are terrified of him but still see the need for him to exist. There is something to say of that mainly because fear is somewhat spotlighted in this novel in different, yet exciting ways. He has not the same ability as some of the other characters, but his being able to do the same thing without a supernatural element is something to be admired. Not many people can do that, case in point; Scarecrow. His ability to switch between personas is also made prominent during one part of the book which I will not mention, mainly because it is so amazing that I would not want to spoil the surprise. I have read many a book in my life with many different twists and revelations, and this one got me hook, line and sinker. It was just the sheer out of left field factor that really gave the narrative a nice punch when it finally happens, and you’ll be slapping your head that you didn’t think of it earlier. That is all I can say. Or more all I will say, as once again, no spoilers in this one.
I really, really wanted to talk more about The Man Jack, but I simply can’t as you really need to read the book to fully grasp the character that is The Man Jack. He is not your typical variety of antagonist, and generally doesn’t appear throughout most of the book, but his presence is unmistakable and constantly felt throughout the entire novel. He always seems to be right around the corner, yet not there at all, and it provides an eerie feeling to the whole adventure. It gives a constant sense of foreboding that really ups the anxiety and charm factor of the events being played out. Also, the graveyard just seems like an awesome place to be. I hope you all have enjoyed reading this one today, just as much as I have enjoyed writing it. There is really something to be said when you can create such a character that it stays with you regardless of “screen” time. But then again, The Man Jack is beyond most of the normal descriptions of characters. He is a stalker, a murderer, a villain, but he is also much more than that. He is the shadow on your wall in the dark of night, he is the knife that slips between your rib cage and strikes directly at your heart, and most of all…he is The Man Jack.
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