I never thought I'd say this, but I've hung up the cape and fangs this Halloween. I still love the spirit, however, and while I may not brave the costumed crowds this weekend, I'm going to spend it immersed in my favorite festivities: watching scary but funny movies (The Monster Squad), listening to creepy, tongue-in-cheek music (Type O Negative), and reading Horror comics. The latter is especially inviting, as Dark Horse Comics released three frightfully king-sized collections in time for All Hallow's Eve.
Cracking open the deluxe Hellboy editions is like trick-or-treating at the doorstep of your neighbor and being offered a homemade caramel apple instead of the usual factory-sealed chocolates. Volume 3, the most recent installment, collects over 300 pages of Hellboy stories in a sturdy, well-crafted hardcover.
Volume 3starts off with Hellboy encountering cult-fave Lobster Johnson for the first time, and it doesn't take long for Hellboy to run into ancient mutant amphibians, talking-pig demons, and giant, evil worms. It's a crazed blend of Sci-Fi and Horror--and one that manages to satisfy both appetites. Senior Managing Editor Scott Allie offers a new introduction, calling
this stage in Hellboy's career "the turning point, in every way," and
director Guillermo Del Toro's
intro is republished here as well. New to the bundled stories are over
30 pages of creator, writer, and artist Mike Mignola's sketches, pencils, unused panels, and designs.
Last October, I howled the praises of the first Creepy collection (now up to Volume 4), and my Lon Chaney impression continues with Creepy's "cursed cousin,"Eerie. Feel free to judge Volume 2 by its cover, where Frank Frazetta pits two sword-wielding beasts against a backdrop resembling a psychedelic brain. And speaking of bad trips, Steve Ditko and Archie Goodwin help kick off the first chapter with "Deep Ruby," a story about a jeweler held captive by the titular gem. Ditko lets loose with the bizarre imagery and "freak out!" expressions, although I was most impressed with "Cry Fear, Cry Phantom," another Goodwin-penned tale, but with art by Jerry Grandenetti. Some of the panels were shocking in their direction, with a German Expressionist/ Dr. Caligarivibe. It's disorienting in the best way. Volume 2 also includes an interview with Frank Frazetta from 1985, as well as all of the original fan letters and kitschy ads ("Ants--Real ones, too"¦Live Delivery Guaranteed: $2.98").
Worth noting: The pages are not only heavy enough to lie flat when opened, but they also have extended margins so that the artwork doesn't curve down into the spine. Mignola's canvas is on full display in this oversized tome.
Just in case readers have too much fun with the above and forget to switch on a nightlight this weekend, The Marquis: Inferno might very well be hiding under the bed. This dense paperback comes from not only the pen but also the mind of Guy Davis (B.P.R.D.), who has conjured up a legitimately terrifying and thoroughly disturbing eighteenth-century nightmare. Not for the squeamish, The Marquis: Inferno is a historical fantasy set in Venisalle, where citizens hide their sins behind lurid, distorted masks. Vol de Galle, a paranoid man battling spiritual doubt, receives a hallucinatory vision where he is granted special sight through a mask of his own. As The Marquis, he sees devils parading as humans, and he is charged with sending them back to Hell. Much of the fun of the early half of the book is trying to unravel if de Galle is truly on a higher mission, or if he's a schizophrenic serial killer. Davis avoids the traditional devil imagery of horns and wings, and breeds his own appalling vision of damnation with plenty of gnashed teeth and tentacles. Keep the flashlight close.