Monday, October 18, 2010

Front List / Back List: Tales From The Crypt #9 "Wickeder" and Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark by Alvin Scwartz

You were hoping I'd embed this intro, weren't you?

Hello kiddies, the DA has an absolutely horrific pairing for this October embalming, er, installment. Back from the dead we have his Lowness, the Crypt Keeper himself, purveying putrid puns and making even the stiffest zombies giggle like a schoolghoul.

On the other hand, from way back in the darker depths of the back list we have Alvin Schwartz infamous Scary Stories series, replete with library banning and morbid illustration.

We're keeping it light, I mean dark, this week and you'll be all the worse for it.

From The Front List

Tales from The Crypt #9: Wickeder by Stefan Petrucha, David Gerrold, Jim Salicrup
Rick Parker, Mr. Exes. Graphic Novel/Horror. Papercutz. Trade paperback. 64 pp. ISBN: 9781597072151. $6.99.

Papercutz has done us all a disservice, okay enough with the Crypt Keeeper speak, service then, by resurrecting the lost goldmine of kitsch that is Tales From The Crypt. Most famous of course for the John Kassir voiced puppet that starred in HBO's decade running (1986-96) series by the same name, Papercutz has brought the series back to its a comic.

Originally published by EC Comics in the 1950's, Tales From The Crypt is now remembered more for its smuttier, albeit still very funny, TV version. The origins though were somewhat more innocent than HBO's rendering and the targeted audience much younger.

Existing in a half-light between out-and-out horror and the zany pun driven, current affairs slapstick satire of Mad Magazine, Tales From The Crypt has a special role in that it is designed to manufacture laughs as well as the occasional disgusted cringe. Whereas the HBO series was aligned more to the horror side of things, Papercutz comic is concerned more with getting snickering laughter.

The main attraction to the ninth installment of the Papercutz series is the return of their most successful character (aside from CK of course), the Diary Of A Wimpy Kid spoofing "Diary Of A Wimpy Dead Kid." See how that's done? He's not just wimpy. He's also dead. Hijinks ensue.

Beyond the story of a young zombie's struggle to fit in (with help from his witch mother and newly found pet skeleton dog) there is also the politically oriented spoof, "Kill Baby Kill", where an attractive politician (clearly Sarah Palin) flirts and flits her way around a new oil rig while pouring scorn on the environment and its protectors alike. This is the Crypt Keeper's tale mind you, and strangely no one has a keener sense of justice than him. It's a macabre justice of course and typically enforced with a ruthlessness that would make even Rudy Giuliani blush. In the case of our buxom would-be presidential candidate, her comeuppance is found at the bottom of a corpse filled sea.

The title story is of course a lurid take on Gregory Maguire's novel and theatrical darling, Wicked. "Wickeder" is rounded off by the misappropriation of words in a title, which has us reading "Sales Of A Death Man" instead of, well, you know...

The illustration is quickly done and what it lacks in detail it makes up for in the way it lends itself to the largely slapstick comedies being told. Tales From The Crypt is once again what it should be: a wonderfully campy comic that will garner snickers from adults and that developmentally important combination of laughter and fear that children are so susceptible to. Wait... Does that sound weird?

Wah ha ha ha ha ha!

From The Back List

Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark by Alvin Schwartz. Illustrated by Stephen Gammell. Children's Literature/Horror. Trade paperback. ISBN: 0064401707. 8vo. $5.99.

* Quick Note: I was unable to determine which of the Scwartz books contains the Tailypo story I mention in this post. I believe it was the first. In any case, they're all equally disturbing books.

When I first learned of the Papercutz reissues I instantly new what I would pair them with. Another Crypt Kepper of sorts, exists in Alvin Schwartz. I don't think it is a stretch for me to say that at least half of you reading this can remember one of his infamous anthology's stories that severely disturbed you in your formative years.

For one there is Gammell's illustrations, which are like Goya sketches from some darker place version of the world. The blood is always black and ample, regardless of how sanguine a story might actually be. The point is: Gammell's illustrations are perfect matches for Scwartz morbid tales. Extremely morbid tales, mind you.

So morbid in fact that Scary Stories in its various volumes and installments is one of the most banned books in US history. With stories where scarecrows end up tanning a farmer's hide on rooftops and evil forest entities (I have friends that can't sleep in a forest without fear of being flayed into an unrecognizable pulp by Tailypo) viciously murder unfortunate people who fail to engage in proper forest etiquette, the violence of the stories told by Schwartz is not exactly an inexplicable reason to warn children off of them.

Scwartz isn't just making up nasty tales to leave dark impressions on children. He is as much a folklorist as he is a children's book author. The stories that populate the Scary Stories franchise are culled from folk legends and lore. They might even be educational. The world isn't all sunshine and cool breeze, after all, and personally I think some desensitizing goes a long way in dealing with that fact. Especially if you're living in Tailypo's fetid grove.

If you haven't had a chance encounter with these books in a while then now is the perfect time to treat yourself. The stories are well-told and their brutal endings can still evoke fear, even in adults. If anything, you might learn something. Like don't cut off a strange animal's tale or tease a scarecrow. Otherwise you might end up in one of Alvin Schwartz's horrifying stories.

Plus if you read enough of them you might just know how to handle an enraged cat-creature looking for its tale. Oh, who am I kidding. Tailypo is going to carve you like Thanksgiving turkey.

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