By Anne Nocenti & JohnBolton (Marvel)
Once upon a time Marvel led the publishing pack in the development of high quality original graphic novels: mixing creator-owned properties, licensed assets like Conan, special Marvel Universe tales and even new series launches in extravagant over-sized packages (a standard 285 x 220mm rather than the now customary 258 x 168mm) that felt and looked like more than an average comicbook no matter how good, bad or incomprehensible (a polite way of saying outside the average Marvel Zombie’s comfort zone) the contents might be.
This terrifically appetizing tale, developed under the company’s creator-owned Epic imprint, applies the psychic tensions and apprehensions of the Cold War era to Alice in Wonderland territory and features a punky heroine and two sterling young boys who all take an inadvertent side-step into a graphic and ephemeral twilight zone with some long-lasting repercussions.
James or “Spike” is a rather nervous lad, dwelling far too much on the perilous state of the world, terrified of germs and war and atom bombs whilst his little brother Edward (“Captain Zebra” to you) is far more fun-loving, but still overly-impressionable. The birds tell Edward not to worry, but Spike is always afraid and he’s very convincing…
One night scary dreams prompt them to end their night-terrors by getting the Bogeyman first. Setting out for the nearest spooky old house, the lads are prepared for the worst and find it in Joy, a foul-tempered punkette runaway crashing in the old dump. Together they explore the deserted domicile and accidentally fall into a surreal otherplace of familiar monsters and cuddly weirdness.
Although it seems a dangerous and unwelcoming land the true threat is Joy, who draws a picture of her own self-loathing which comes to horrifying life and gives frantic chase…
Combining Bolton’s hyper-real and exceedingly lush painting with Nocenti’s barbed and challenging sense of whimsy, this slight but hugely entertaining fable is a treat for those adults who sometimes wish they weren’t, and a lovely reminder of why kids like to be safely scared sometimes.
© 1988 Anne Nocenti and John Bolton. All Rights Reserved.