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Visual Novel / When Heaven Spits You Out

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"Jesus, are you listening?"

"Even in the darkest hours, light comes into every life."
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When Heaven Spits You Out is a series of graphic novels by Ruairidh MacVeigh that follows the story of 11-year-old Ryan Hanson, who lives in the rough inner-city of Baltimore with his mother, Jinny, younger brother, Mark, and his abusive, alcoholic father, Simon. The story, set in 1971, establishes Ryan's life of poverty and sadness in the decaying city, showing the relationship he leads with his parents and brother and how he survives day-to-day. The novel is set against the background of America's economic and social decline during the 1970s, and world events within the timeline of the story, such as the launch of Apollo 15 and the Attica Prison Riot, are used as a means of dating each instance of the novel's progression; appearing in either background newspaper articles or on the television.

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By the end of Part 1, Ryan has been sent to a boarding school in rural Pennsylvania, where he meets a young, Jewish girl named Janie Hanzlicek; with whom he strikes an immediate friendly chord. However, the shadow of Simon hangs over Ryan, as his father will not allow him to associate with a Jew, throwing their possible future association into doubt.

The comic is available in digital form only at Comixology. A novelisation of the comic is also available on Amazon, which generally follows the same plot but is told from the perspective of a 30-year-old Ryan recounting his twisted childhood, and also elaborates on some scenes which are not illustrated in the comic.


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    In the comic 

  • The Almighty Dollar: Ryan and Frank are amazed when Peter presents them with a $20 bill he stole from his dad's jacket pocket.
  • Author Appeal: Given MacVeigh's track record of writing period pieces with copious amounts of historical tidbits and transport - such as cars and planes - there is a wide scope of this due to the 1970s setting.
  • Awkward Father-Son Bonding Activity: In order to make up with Ryan after breaking his arm, Simon takes Ryan to the park for a walk, although Ryan is initially reluctant to do so. Once there, the pair do very little interaction, mooching silently around the lake while walking their dog, Chester.
  • Back to School: Part 1 shows Ryan finish Elementary School, and move on to High School by the end.
  • Baltimore: The setting of the series.
  • Befriending the Enemy: While Simon considers Janie to be the enemy of all decent people - because she's Jewish - Ryan still makes friends with her.
  • Belief Makes You Stupid: One instance of this is when Ryan is at church and is forced to kiss the feet of a figurine depicting Jesus on the cross. Needless to say, this fills him with discontent.
  • Big, Screwed-Up Family: The Hanson family.
  • Bittersweet Ending: While Part 1 ends with Ryan happy to be living away from his twisted home and making a new friend at High School, he is knocked off balance by the fear of his father; who won't allow him to make friends with a Jew.
  • Boarding School: Port Royal High School; where Ryan is sent to attend at the end of Part 1.
  • Boy Meets Girl: Ryan and Janie.
  • Break the Cutie: Ryan and Mark on multiple occasions.
    • Jinny included after a violent argument on Ryan's birthday.
  • Christianity Is Catholic: The only arm of Christianity depicted in the series is Catholicism.
  • Cool Uncle: Aunt Josie - Jinny's twin sister - cares deeply about the welfare of Ryan and Mark, and even helps to manage the festivities at Ryan's birthday.
  • Daddy Didn't Show: Simon demonstrates this when he doesn't attend Ryan's birthday; instead having an all-day binge.
  • Dark Shepherd: Ryan's local priest instills the fear of god into his followers through threats of eternal damnation for those who are misled, weak or useless.
  • Darker and Edgier: The decay of 70s America is explored, both in terms of the social and economic stagnation of Baltimore.
  • Dinner and a Show: Jinny and Simon's bickering is not forestalled by breakfast, lunch or dinner.
  • Downer Beginning: Within the first few pages, Ryan has his arm broken by Simon during a drunken rage.
  • Downer Ending: Ryan's hopes of a happy life away from home are crushed by his father's insistence on him not making friends with a Jew.
  • Drugs Are Bad: As shown in the opening scenes with a pair of stoned teenagers collapsed in a heap on the street.
  • Dysfunctional Family: If it weren't for Simon, Mark, Jinny and Ryan would make a somewhat happy family.
  • Dysfunction Junction: The entire Hanson family.
  • Emancipated Child: Ryan, when he leaves home to go to High School.
  • Elaborate University High: Port Royal High School in rural Pennsylvania.
  • Establishing Character Moment: In the first scene we see her, Janie is in the middle of her evening prayer, kippah and all, both establishing her Jewish faith, but also her devotion to it.
  • Establishing Series Moment: Within the first twenty pages, the dire poverty of Ryan's life, as well as the abusiveness of his father, are established and illustrated.
  • Everybody Cries: Mark, Ryan and Jinny are all left in tears after a vicious argument with Simon on Ryan's 11th birthday.
  • Fell Off the Back of a Truck: Peter claims that the $20 in his possession just 'happened' to fall out of his dad's jacket pocket.
  • Forbidden Friendship: Ryan and Janie.
  • High School: Becomes Ryan's new home at the end of Part 1.
  • Hammered into the Ground: Simon throws Ryan to the floor with such force it breaks his arm.
  • Hereditary Hairstyle: Inverted. Ryan and Mark have very blonde hair, while Jinny is a redhead and Simon has brown hair.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Shirley, a hooker who lives on Ryan's street, is shown to be a kind and generous neighbor.
  • Injured Limb Episode: Almost the entire of Part 1.
  • Inner City School: Ryan's elementary school at the beginning of the series.
  • Meet Cute: Ryan and Janie's meeting at the end of Part 1, when Ryan accidentally walks in on Janie during her evening prayer.
  • Moment of Weakness: Multiple instances throughout the series, either caused through the trauma of Simon and Jinny's arguments or from physical violence from Simon against his kids:
    • When Jinny states that he appears to be ready to mentally crack due to the abuse he suffers, Ryan, who is eavesdropping with Mark on the nearby stairs, begins to cry and almost breaks from the revelation. It's only the presence of his brother that pulls him out of his despair.
    • Another instance is when Ryan's train departs Baltimore on the way to boarding school, leaving his brother and mother behind. As he takes his last glimpse of them, the weight of his situation hits him, and he is nearly overcome with emotion. However, he is able to quickly recover and relax into the journey ahead.
  • New-Age Retro Hippie: Some are seen throughout the series; usually either off their face on drugs or playing hippie music.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: After Simon breaks Ryan's arm, Ryan has to make out that his injury is due to his own clumsiness.
  • Parental Obliviousness: Simon demonstrates this when he doesn't attend Ryan's birthday; instead having an all-day binge.
  • The Patriarch: Simon Hanson.
  • Prayer of Malice: The teaching's or Ryan's local vicar, who instills fear into his congregation while condemning the weak and useless to everlasting damnation.
  • Prayer Pose: The first thing Ryan sees Janie doing when they meet.
  • The Protagonist: Ryan Hanson.
  • Real Is Brown: Set in 1971, brown is represented prominently throughout the series.
  • Red Light District: Essentially where Ryan lives in Baltimore.
  • Scenery Porn: The comic captures a wide variety of long-gone scenes from the seventies, ranging from the idealised rural America of the Pennsylvania countryside to the urban ruin of Baltimore.
  • The Scream: Ryan, after Simon breaks his arm.
  • '70s Hair: As this starts in 1971...
  • Son of a Whore: Kelly and Shaun; Shirley's children.
  • Single Mom Stripper: Shirley, after two boyfriends abandoned her when she was carrying their respective children.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: The series illustrates both the innocence of being young in the 1970s (before mobile phones and the internet), but also shows the urban, social and economic stagnation of the United States; especially in Baltimore.
  • Sticky Fingers: Peter.
  • Street Walker: Plenty on Ryan's street.
  • Suspicious Spending: Played with. Peter steals $20 from his dad's jacket, and then spends it with his friends, Ryan and Frank, as soon as possible in order to cover up his crime.
  • Taking the Bullet: After being caught spying on their parents argument, Ryan is captured by his drunken father and subsequently has his arm broken; allowing Mark to scamper away to safety.
  • Tear Jerker: Pretty much every scene involving Ryan, Mark and Jinny with their father/husband Simon.
  • The Vicar: Ryan's local holy father, who's demonstrably passionate though bigoted as to his views on the Catholic faith.
  • When You Coming Home, Dad??: Simon is frequently absent from family events due to his drinking addiction.
  • Woobie Family: Ryan, Mark and Jinny.
  • You Have to Have Jews: Janie Hanzlicek.

    In the book 

  • Adaptation Inspiration: The book, while following the same general story as the comic, expands greatly on the character of Ryan, making it a retrospective story by his older self rather than real-time as depicted in the comic. It also dives deeper into the wider decay of American society during the late sixties and early seventies to help set the scene.
  • The Alleged Car: Simon's Envoy Special sedan is described as being a rusty, broken down wreck.
    "Our chariot of choice was a clapped out, partially rusted Envoy Special sedan from the early sixties; its stout body and round headlights looking starkly out of place among the boxy, modern replacements that passed it on the open highway."
  • The Almighty Dollar: Ryan and Frank are amazed when Peter presents them with a $20 bill he stole from his dad's jacket pocket.
  • The American Dream: A major theme that is explored more in the book than the comic is the concept of the American Dream and its place in the decaying society of the time.
    "The American Dream isn’t some kind of washed up movie actor; pensioned off to a dusty retirement home in southern California while occasionally making guest appearances when people start to feel nostalgic. It’s a real thing; a living part of our country’s spirit that can be bestowed – like a dream come true – on anyone."
  • Angry Black Man: Ryan states that due to the strong presence of the Black Panthers, he, his brother, and his friends, can't play safely outside for fear of being kidnapped or killed for either ransom or as a political statement.
  • Cool Car: The Dino 206 GT that Ryan encounters on the way to the Park with Simon.
    • The Alleged Car: A stolen Corvette which is dragged out of the lake at Druid Hill Park after being deposited there by the thieves.
    "A little way beyond, a stolen Corvette – unceremoniously deposited the previous night by a gang of joyriding youths – was winched ashore under the supervision of two policemen."
  • Darker and Edgier: Compared to the comic, the book goes into greater detail as to the scale of the social and urban decay, with coarser language and descriptions of events that help set the ruined scene.
    "Two years prior, a young girl walking by herself had been lured into a car by a man asking for directions. She eventually turned up six months later in the Delaware River, barely recognisable as a human being. Without witnesses, the soulless beast who’d left her that way was never caught. Since then, we’d all taken extra steps to make sure none of us ended up the same way."
  • End of an Age: As part of the book's description of American society's decay during the late sixties and early seventies, many symbols of the national character are noted as ruined or dilapidated.
  • It Began with a Twist of Fate: According to Ryan, the only reason he decides to recount his life is due to a letter from his long-estranged brother, Mark, who had spent years searching for him.
    "The decision to write this account of my life came suddenly; inspired by an unexpected letter received from my younger brother, Mark, about two weeks ago. This is the first time I’d heard from my brother for twelve years; apparently, he’d hunted me extensively in the hope that we may one day meet again."
  • Refuge in Audacity: Having stolen $20 from his dad's jacket, Peter attempts to use it in order to watch the recently released Klute at a nearby cinema, despite the fact that this is an R-Rated movie and all three of them are 10-years-old.
    "Since he’d procured the money in such an underhanded manner, the expectation was to take it as far as we could."


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