I wanted a very specific theme to come through with all the backgrounds that take place inside of Rich Jack’s mansion, one that I think I did well enough within the range of my patience: dilapidation.

The state of disrepair of his home, the threadbare edges of his clothes, they all speak to the actual state of splendor he lives within. He acts with airs and privilege––and Bodie continues to let him do so––but his existence represents more of a death rattle of the aristocracy than any actual power and wealth.

The real town of Bodie inspired this idea: what once stood as a bustling city of thousands now resides as a California State Park. Unlike another ghost town of Calico that has been repurposed into what is basically a theme park (the town itself was purchased by Walter Knott, owner of the popular California theme park, Knott’s Berry Farm), with people walking around in-character to interact with and entertain the throngs, Bodie is preserved in a state of “arrested decay.” Basically, the maintenance of the site is done to preserve the buildings in the same state that they were abandoned in. There aren’t many buildings to go inside due to the precarious structural stability of them, but there are plenty windows and doors to look in, revealing what “arrested decay” really means.

Some examples of “arrested decay” in action in Bodie. Photos taken by D. Bethel. Click for larger version.

Desks are lined up in rows in front of a chalkboard of the schoolhouse; books are scatted on the desktops and covered with dust and stained by the sun. Wallpaper hangs in strips from the walls and from the ceiling, as if disguised as cobwebs in fear of being caught for what they are. Chairs lay on their sides with broken legs beside them or with seats hollowed out and rotten away. It’s a striking sight.

Of course, most people didn’t live like this, though surely the buildings were well on their way by the time the last resident left, but it makes a strong visual to (pardon the pun) draw from when needing to fill out the world Rich Jack lords over.

However, if I had more patience and ability, I would have put more cracks in the lantern glass and mirrors. I would have knotted the wood exposed in the peeling wallpaper more. I would have scuffed every wall and had stuffing dripping from every cushion if only to make it clear that Jack is ruling over a dying world, that his fist, though balled, can’t carry a punch strong enough to save him from his inevitable fate.

The last panel was much more intense than what ended up on the page. Click for larger image.