BELA LUGOSI’S TALES FROM THE GRAVE #1 (October 2010, Monsterverse Entertainment) Various artists and writers. Variant cover by John Cassaday
This is a well-done labor of love produced by several admirers of the classic horror comics of the past. If you are enjoying the recent revival of CREEPY from Dark Horse Comics then you’ll want to investigate this title as well. In my earlier review of the first issue of CREEPY I was a little critical of the title, and in later reviews warmed up to it as the next issues made great strides in quality of story and art. I see the same kind of potential here. I don’t love everything about Issue #1, but I’m just excited to see this book. I think some great things are in store. (It did very well in pre-orders, so I’ve heard).
Kerry Gammill (of Spider-Man renown) is publisher/editor-in-chief of Monsterverse and seems to be the guiding light (or blazing torch) of this title - - - his name is all over the contents with writing, art and coloring credits. It’s a very full first issue, with seven stories, an art gallery, and a biographical text piece on “Lugosi & Dracula”. Bela acts as narrator, introducing each tale and commenting before and after in a fashion reminiscent of TALES FROM THE CRYPT, uncle CREEPY, cousin EERIE, etc. Occasional co-host Nosferina is very eye-appealing and might give Vampirella some competition.
Many of the tales have the obligatory twist or surprise ending, as might be expected from a horror comics anthology. I enjoy these and don’t mind even when I can guess at the eventual outcome.
Kerry Gammill starts the mayhem with story and art on “Unpleasant Side Effects” with a script from Sam F. Park and color assist by Mar Omega. It’s a tale of a brilliant scientist absorbed in his work and leaving his neglected fiancé in the care of his able assistant. Jealousy enters the picture just as he’s on the verge of a break-through in reviving dead animals, with a side effect of hideous mutations. He needs a bigger subject in order to finalize his discovery of immortality - -and that back-stabbing assistant will do nicely.
“A Strangely Isolated Place” features a story by James Farr of a bitter old man who summons three creatures of the night to exact vengeance on the woman who broke his heart and ruined him. Thing don’t work out quite as planned in this interesting depiction by artist Chris Moreno of overlapping panels with captions that move the story along.
One of the most interesting stories in this issue is “Mark Of The Zombie” by artist/storyteller Rob E. Brown. The background on each page resembles aged parchment, and along with the various shades and hues of brown and black it makes a perfect canvas for this story, set in the 19th century. An archaeologist for the British Museum returns from an expedition to the voodoo lands of Haiti with a mummified human heart wrapped in poison-coated barbed wire. It’s the fabled Heart Of Duballah, which possesses the power to summon zombies - - and of course they come calling. The art style of Brown is very detailed and perfect for this grim story, also full of fine lettering and crammed with text and information (a little dictionary of voodoo terms as a bonus).
“Eyes Of The Prairie” by Derek McCaw with at by Rafael Navarro is set in the old west. An obnoxious and mean-spirited cowboy rides into a dusty town haunted by an old legend, makes bad jokes and puns about it, and then becomes the butt of the joke. It plays out very quickly and abruptly ends after four pages.
The best four-page short story in the book is “The Good Doctor” with story and art by the popular John Cassaday (who also drew the variant cover). It’s a different art style for Cassaday, here - - done in black and white and very cartoonish in a delightful way. It will remind you of a popular episode of The Twilight Zone with a classic horror spin that also acknowledge the tale of the Frankenstein monster’s origin.
There’s a gallery of Lugosi portraits by several artists, with the most stunning and impressive being those done by Jeff Preston and Kim Loh. The two-page “Further Adventures of Dr. Vornoff & Lobo” with story, figures and photography by Joe Freire takes an amusing Robot Chicken approach to dark humor.
Nosferina presents the last story here as part of the Lost Lugosi Film Theater, a neat little touch that pretends to depict old undiscovered films starring Lugosi from the 30’s and 40’s vaults. In “Midnight Museum” by Martin Powell and Terry Beatty an attractive actress is admired by the charming Lorenzo The Great (Bela Lugosi) who invites her to a private tour of his “studio” featuring some unusual taxidermy. It will remind you of the classic “House Of Wax” film that featured Vincent Price.
From the mixed bag of Issue #1 I found four good pieces to recommend, well worth the price of admittance = “Unpleasant Side Effects”, “Mark Of The Zombie”, “The Good Doctor” and “Midnight Museum.” That’s not a bad start at all.