THIS REVIEW OF CREEPSHOW #1 CONTAINS MINOR SPOILERS.
by Clyde Hall. The cauldron ingredients for a memorable horror anthology film are elements also found in classic horror anthology comics. It’s why Amicus Productions’ Tales from the Crypt (1972) and Vault of Horror (1973) were based directly on stories from EC Comics titles of the same name. The most watchable movies of this sort, Trilogy of Terror to Cat’s Eye to Trick‘ r Treat, all keep firm focus on these principles, but few as firmly as the George A. Romero and Stephen King collaboration for Creepshow in 1982. It not only took its inspiration from horror comics but also made a fictional comic book part of the story framing.
Fictional until now, that is, with the launch this week of Image Comics/Skybound’s Creepshow #1. In the Afterword, SFX and make-up maestro Greg Nicotero (Executive Producer/Director of the Creepshow and The Walking Dead TV series) relates how this new five-issue series completes a multidecade cycle. Comics inspired the films, films led to the TV series, and now the popularity of the show and the films has led back to new, original comic book spookery.
The tales presented in Creepshow #1 are “Take One,” written and drawn by Chris Burnham, and “Shingo,” written by Paul Dini and Stephen Langford with art by John McCrea. The first is a grim cautionary tale regarding the importance of following trick-or-treating rules, and the second is a humorous account of eleventh-hour party arrangements gone horrifically wrong. True to formula, both stories have the right blend of aforementioned elements readers seek out in their Samhain season comics fare.
First, there’s a distinct disconnect from normal cause-and-effect. Reality as we assess it is strained, stressed, or completely shredded. As in “The Crate” segment of the original film, we have questions but few explanations. These monsters haven’t heard of physics and logic and don’t care. The facts don’t always add up, but that won’t keep these living nightmares from stalking and probably eating you. Scripters Chris Burnham, Paul Dini, and Stephen Langford draw heavily from this well for both stories. We share the uneasy dread descending on the central characters as their plights develop, but the creative team keeps the form and nature of the preternatural threats distinctly divergent.
Another ingredient: Putting our lesser angels on display. In such stories, human nobility has taken a sabbatical, and antagonists cause no end of harm through bullying and selfishness. Swaggering, boastful tormentors or calculatingly cruel manipulators, they sow seeds of discord later harvested as a bumper crop of comeuppance. Again, the original Creepshow movie had E.G. Marshall portraying the archetype for this character in nasty and neurotic tycoon Upson Pratt, a man who relished treating people like cockroaches. Burnham’s story reflects this trope most effectively; well enough, you’ll relive your worst schoolyard moments. Not since the Warren Publishing days of Creepy and Eerie have I encountered such realistically despicable excuses for human beings. They’ll set your teeth on edge in the best scary story ways.
The third necessary ingredient is inappropriate hilarity. Sometimes it’s a form of gallows humor; other times, it’s pure slapstick. But in the moment, any snort or snicker between frights will do. King provided it in the film version with his bumpkin character Jordy Verrill and throughout his entire screenplay, where villains had moments of levity committing their dark deeds.
Dini and Langford do the comedic heavy lifting in “Shingo,” with caustic but humorous observations about divorced couples, children smarter than their parents, and kid’s party entertainment. Burnham’s story, “Take One,” does have a passing resemblance to the wraparound segment of the film Trick ‘r Treat, and both stories follow well-worn horror anthology paths. But there are variations enough for an enjoyable Halloween read.
Chris Burnham’s “Take One” artwork best captures the comic illustration style we saw in the original film. It’s queasily detailed and deserving of its “M for Mature” rating. John McCrea’s art on “Shingo” tamps down on the gruesome, focusing more on the absurdity of the title character. McCrea’s is more stylishly slick than Burnham’s work, creating a pleasing contrast in stories with equally contrasting tones.
Either of these stories would adapt handily into a segment of Shudder’s Creepshow series, just as the original film segments could have been broken into great stories for an EC-style comic book. In both cases, the creators knew their source material intimately, and the results make for, as the Creep might say, a “Boo-nanza” of treats for your Halloween reading pleasure.
Image Comics / Skybound Entertainment / $3.99
Written by Chris Burnham (“Take One”); Paul Dini and Stephen Langford (“Shingo”).
Art by Chris Burnham (“Take One”); John McCrea (“Shingo”).
Colors by Adriana Lucas (“Take One”); Mike Spicer (“Shingo”).
Letters by Pat Brosseau.
Creepshow #1 is available now. To snag a copy of your own, click this.
Check out this 4-page preview of Creepshow #1, courtesy of Image Comics: