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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Basil Wolverton's Gateway To Horror #1 [1988] (Random Comics Theatre)

Random Comics Theatre

Basil Wolverton's Gateway To Horror #1 [1988]

Dark Horse went to the Wolverton well frequently in their first decade, including two specials which reprinted some of his 1950s work for Marvel. Unfortunately the reprints were in black and white, something I'm normally all in favour of, but Wolverton's bizarre nightmarish creations always seem to be ideally suited to the lurid colouring he expected the work to be printed with.

This was the second of the specials, reprinting four Marvel stories, two of which Wolverton wrote and drew and two written by Dan Keyes (who later went on to write the science fiction classic FLOWERS FOR ALGERNON). Steve Bissette supplies the cover, a great combination of some of the insane imagery that Wolverton supplied in these and other stories into a new, even crazier, image.

"Gateway to Horror" opens the book with a tale of two men following a map to a lost mine in their jeeplane (yes, a jeep/plane hybrid oddly just thrown in without any real explanation. The story would have worked the same with just a jeep or just a plane). They find an old cabin where they're infected with a gravity increasing liquid, as they find they've stumbled on an invasion from an underground civilization. So they blow up the tunnel, but have no evidence to prove their story, leaving the surface world unsuspecting of the invasion plans.

"Where Monsters Dwell" had its splash image re-drawn by another, unknown artist. A reporter who has been writing stories mocking a crazy scientist gets sent to a strange dimension full of odd creatures and where humans mutate on arrival (the scientist apparently had a lot of enemies). Great depictions of the alien dimensions and the beasts there, and clever twist at the end.

"One of Our Graveyards is Missing" is the first of the Keyes written stories. Very short and simple, and not really that logical, but some good artwork. A graveyard vanishes in a small town. The police look for suspects and find a stranger who reveals that his alien race needs bodies for experiments. Sure, that makes sense...

"They Crawl by Night" is also written by Keyes, and is the best story in the issue. Just pure craziness in a Kafka sense, where a man already in an insane asylum goes even more off his rocker when he sees strange crab creatures. Of course no one believes him until it's too late. Just wonderful stuff, and Wolverton's art is excellent throughout, just disturbing in so many ways.

The issue also includes extensive notes on the background of the stories.

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