By Franco and a few of his Fiendish Friends! – Sara Richard, Andy Price, Derek Charm, Mike Hartigan, Christopher Uminga, Abigail Larson, Morgan Beem, Justin Castaneda, Tressina Bowling, Boatwright Artwork, Scoot McMahon, Isaac Goodhart, and Agnes Garbowska with Silvana Brys – & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-7795-0384-8 (TPB/Digital edition)
Here’s a little post-Halloween treat for youngsters of every vintage to ease our communal dark awaiting us at the end of all things. Never to soon early to start traumatising preschoolers, right?
As the 1960s ended, the massive superhero boom resolved into a slow but certain bust, with formerly major successes unable to find enough readers to keep them alive. The taste for superheroes was diminishing in favour of traditional genres, and one rational editorial response reshaping costumed characters to fit evolving contemporary tastes.
Publishers swiftly changed gears and even staid, cautious DC reacted rapidly: redesigning masked mystery men to fit the new landscape. Newly revised and revived costumed features included roving mystic troubleshooter The Phantom Stranger and golden age colossus The Spectre, whilst resurgent genres spawned atrocity-faced WWII spy Unknown Soldier and cowboy bounty hunter Jonah Hex, spectral westerner El Diablo and game-changing monster hero Swamp Thing, spearheading a torrent of new formats, anthologies and concepts.
The earliest of that dark bunch was assassinated trapeze artist Boston Brand who began his career by dying in Strange Adventures #205 (cover-dated October/November 1967). An ordinary man in a brutal, cynical world, Brand was a soul in balance until killed as part of a pointless initiation for a trainee assassin.
When the unlucky aerialist died, instead of going to whatever reward awaited him, he was given the chance to solve his own murder by conniving spirit of the universe Rama Kushna. That opportunity evolved into an unending mission to balance the scales between good and evil in the world. The ghost is intangible and invisible to all mortals, but has the ability to “walk into” living beings, possessing and briefly piloting them.
You should read all his stories because they are really good; all the previous has no real bearing on what follows. I just love showing off my wasted youth.
Here he holds the hallowed position of quirky narrator and curator to a collection of terror tales entirely scripted by Franco (Aureliani) and lettered by Wes Abbott, and drawn by a host of artists…
The eerie soirée and each following vignette are preceded by our supernatural star offering ‘A Die-er Warning’ (all limned by Sara Richard). Commencing in ‘The House of Madame Pyka’ – rendered by Andy Price in tones of blue – wilful Brooke moves into an expired spiritualist’s house…
Deadman interjects between tales to test our resolve but undaunted, we see Derek Charm illuminate in living colour the shocking result of Mr. Smith’s visit to the optician in ‘Eyes’, before Mike Hartigan exposes the spook in the ‘Litter Box’ and Christopher Uminga & Silvana Brys silently show the downside of too many ‘Neighborhood Cats’…
Abigail Larson provides the art for an exceptionally effective argument for why kids should stay out of ‘The Cemetery’ and Morgan Beem captures the mordant gloom and imminent immolation of ‘Fall’ before Justin Castaneda homes in on little kids and playground bullies to expose ‘A Boy and His Skull’…
Tressina Bowling renders tall tales painfully real in ‘The Fisherman’ whilst Boatwright Artwork take a long last look at ‘Mannequins’, before Scoot McMahon peeks ‘On the Inside’ of Batman’s most tragic foe.
Franco gets artistic with ‘The Fly’ prior to Isaac Goodhart exploiting DC’s monstrous back-catalogue for fearful film show ‘Inattentive Blindness’ before Agnes Garbowska & Silvana Brys confirm that the end is near and that bright shiny colours have no bearing on safety and security in ‘The Box’.
Silly and chilling, this splendidly glitzy grimoire shows that our love of scaring ourselves and each other starts early and never stops. Fearful fun for all: get some now!
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