Monday, November 10, 2008

Marvel Horror

I've been working my way through the second volume of ESSENTIAL MARVEL HORROR and I have to say it's a great improvement on the first. While I love all things horror, Satanism and witchcraft occupy the basement of the genre as far as my personal interest is concerned. With the exception of THE EXORCIST films, THE NORLISS TAPES and that one episode of STARSKY AND HUTCH, I just don't find satanic rituals all that scary. So the SON OF SATAN-heavy first volume was a disappointment.

Not so, Volume Two. I skipped around a bit because I wanted to read the GABRIEL: DEVIL HUNTER stories. I know that goes against what I just wrote but I remember reading these stories from MONSTERS UNLEASHED when I was a kid. The stories are kind of boring and repetitive and terribly derivative of THE EXORCIST. They consist mostly of Gabriel being summoned to banish a demon possessing someone (usually linked to Gabriel's past somehow) and then several pages of Gabriel and the demon of the month hurling insults at each other, usually accusing each other of needing deodorant. Gabriel always comes out on top, often chasing off the demon by a shameless display of affection with his lovely assistant. Typical '70s melodrama. But the art on the majority of the stories was done by the great Sonny Trinidad and that was worth the price of the volume alone. Damn, that guy could draw, just like most of the Filipinos Marvel used in the Seventies.

Also in the volume is the complete run of THE LIVING MUMMY from MARVEL SUPERNATURAL THRILLERS. The art is pretty good, starting off with Rich Buckler drawing the Mummy to look like Lou Ferrigno in bandages then moving on to a long run by Val Mayerik. Mayerik's stuff is kind of wonky but in a good way, perfectly suited for this monster-as-superhero thing Marvel was doing then. Kind of a cross between Neal Adams and Berni Wrightson. The story started off promising, recounting the tale of N'Kantu, an African king leading a revolt against the Egyptian pharaoh who has enslaved his people. He is captured and, as punishment, mummified while still living only to be revived in modern times after spending 3000 years in a waking hell. The time he spent buried and fully aware has driven him insane and he spends the first issue on a rampage, looking for revenge against the descendent of the man who mummified him. By the second issue, the writers had already apparently tired of the insanity angle an decided the electrocution he received at the end of the first issue must have "cured" him. It's mentioned almost as an afterthought. Still, it had the makings of an innteresting story until the third issue in which it takes a weird left turn into Alan Moore territory and the Mummy is recruited by extra-dimensional elementals who what to take over the Earth. Did all Marvel's writers in the Seventies drop acid? Still the art is interesting and I'm looking forward to the BROTHER VOODOO stories. I'm sure the stories will be trippy but Gene Colan's artwork is top-notch.

With two volumes of fairly obscure stuff behind them, I'm hoping Marvel will focus next year's volume on MORBIUS: THE LIVING VAMPIRE. Starting off as an off-beat villain for Spider-Man, he proved popular enough to soon get his own stories in, I believe, ADVENTURES INTO FEAR and benefited from some great artwork by the underrated Frank Robbins. Robbins drew great vampires and though, I believe, he was unfortunately inked in several stories by Vince ("I inked every comic you've ever read") Colletta, Robbins' greatness shines through. The stories suffered from the same new-age hippy-trip stuff that was in all of Marvel's horror books back then but the artwork really brings the books up several notches. Later, Morbius starred in a series of stories in Marvel's black and white magazine VAMPIRE TALES, including one of the most poignant, memorable stories I've ever read in a comic. I won't go into plot details (my fingers are cramping) but the series was drawn, again, by the great Sonny Trinidad, turning in some of the most amazing, horrific visuals I remember from my childhood comic reading.

WIth these stories in mind, I headed off to Legend this weekend with Christian to do one of our infrequent sketching bees. Last time we did this, the waitress sold us out to our models at the bar and they got up and left. So this time, we just drew from our heads and I suggested Morbius. Without reference, I got the collar a little wrong but I think he turned out okay. I drew this in the same sketchbook as the "Old Man Isis" sketch and the paper hasn't grown on me any. It's still like trying to draw on wet sandpaper. I'm considering having some sketchbooks made up of laser printer paper, which is my favorite paper to draw on. Anyway, I hope you like the sketch.



Suzanne said...

You have captured the look on my face when I realize that Niamh's crazy friend has drawn on the walls with nail polish during their princessing session and Liam and his neighborhood soccer team has stepped in a big pile of dog POO and tracked it all over the carpet and I am trying to do something important like make dinner for twelve....AARRGGH!

How did you know?

Matt Wieringo said...

Hey, Suzanne! When I saw your name I thought you were my Suzanne! How's it going? We have to get together some time. Liam must be in high school by now!

Warren said...

Nice Morbius!

And man, you're bringing back some memories with that Marvel Horror book. Living Mummy was a bit silly, but I was a big fan of Val Mayerick's art. My favorite Marvel horror titles of the 70's were Tomb of Dracula and Werewolf by Night. Oh! And how could I forget -- Man-Thing! Steve Gerber's stories might have been trippy, but they were great! :)

Heywood Jablomie said...

Nice piece Matt!

Too bad the people got tipped off by the waitress-although they seem like they couldn't take it anyways.

I've only read a couple of the different Marvel Horror stuff and it never really clicked with me for some reason. I do agree that they had some great Filipino artists!

Brian said...

Cool Morbius. I liked him in the Spidey books, but never really followed his own adventures

Wasn't a big fan of the Marvel Monster books, but I really liked what Gene and Marv did with Dracula and I've got an almost complete run of TOD, just missing the first issue.

Suzanne said...

I've been commenting for WEEKS and this is the first time you noticed????? Darn intanets.

I guess I am not used to sharing my name and just suzanne is not enough in your case.

Liam will be 9 on Friday....Niamh is in Kindergarden.

All the best to you and the Suzanne of your Heart!

Matt Wieringo said...

Suzanne, I'm not the most observant person in the world. :) Only 9? Whew!

If you don't mind, could you please email me your phone number so the other Suzanne can get in touch? I'm not sure she's still got it. I think there was a Case of the Missing Address Book.