The Fires of Pele

By Hollace and Paul Davids & Sergio Aragonés, assisted by Lee Mishkin, with SFX by M.D. Wolf (Paul Davids Productions/Pictorial Legends)
ISBN: 978-0-93903-100-9

Here’s an intriguing and thoroughly fabulous photo-novel oddity from the 1980s – or as it should be known, the days before Photoshop™ – that still holds the power to enchant and delight even in an era where recordings of fan-favourite shows can be bought, bartered or downloaded at the click of a mouse.

For all you youngsters: photo-novels were paperback adaptations of movies or episodes of popular TV shows which used text and film-stills instead of drawn art to reproduce the story. Inexplicably popular in the late 1970s and early 1980s, they fell from favour with the rise of video, and latterly, laser-discs, DVD and other methods of actually owning the full-sensorium original material.

Cinema releases included Alien, Grease, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, the 1978 Lord of the Rings and many others whilst TV editions included Dr. Who, The Incredible Hulk and an even dozen episodes of the Original Star Trek.

A few photo-novels such as Star Wars and Charlie’s Angels are still produced these days.

At the end of 1986 husband and wife screen writers Hollace and Paul Davids produced this excessively impressive and clever faux-fable blending the mythology of Hawaii and the Sandwich Islands with the peripatetic but well-documented wanderings of reporter-at-large Samuel Langhorne Clemens AKA Mark Twain.

An oversized 247x305mm, glossy 56 page modern fairytale, the illustrations here are original full-colour special effects cinematic plates (no cheap computer graphics packages or Photoshop, remember?) with a cast of actors creating the scenes in the manner of Fumetti/photo picture stories, further enhanced with designs and painted illustrations by Sergio Aragonés and Lee Mishkin – and the pen and ink maestro also provides a wealth of merry monochrome “marginals” of the Great Raconteur himself…

The story is beguilingly simple: whilst reporting on the Sandwich Islands for his employers the Sacramento Union newspaper in 1866, the adventuresome author encountered a race of magical Polynesian pixies known as Melehulas and was drawn into a battle between bold heroes and spiteful gods…

The great Prince Lakekua was to wed the foundling princess Analike, but the comely warrior had caught the eye of dreadful Pele, Goddess of Fire, Lightning, Wind and Volcanoes. After first trying unsuccessfully to seduce and compel the doughty warrior, Pele sent her malign kin, such as The Shark God, Moho the steam god and Earth-giant Kona to imprison the brave girl beyond the reach of man and destroy all who tried to find her.

Luckily for Lakekua, his trusty young friend Kakipoto knew such benevolent spirit creatures as the Menehulas, bestial master craftsman Kakamora and a host of other advantageous allies such as a fast-thinking, smooth talking visiting white traveller from distant shores…

Crammed with exotic scenarios, lush, incredible scenery, mighty battles, true love, talking fish, shape-shifting wizards, Demon Owls, Lizard-Ladies and the unjust wrath of the gods this is a marvellous romp in the grand Ray Harryhausen Bank Holiday movie manner and a splendid yarn long overdue for a modern revisitation.

Until then however, the original large slim tome is still readily available should you desperately need to explore the dark side of Paradise…
© 1986 Hollace & Paul Davids. All right reserved. Menehulas Photos © 1985 The Menehunes Group. All other photos © 1983 Paul Davids and Mark Wolf.