Jun 22, 2017
Vincent Price comics definitely up to the quality of the great man's work... on Scooby Doo
So here’s a thing that exists: Bluewater Comics got a licensing deal with Vincent Price’s estate, and has been running a line of horror comics called “Vincent Price Presents” since 2008. This fall brings a trade paperback collection of a spin-off, Vincent Price: Tales from the Darkness. Is it worthy of the Vincent Price name? Insofar as the man pretty much never turned down a role, including voice work as “Vincent Van Ghoul” in The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo, it’s entirely fair to say that this collection of four standalone horror tales is not inconsistent with parts of Price’s career. Like maybe Bloodbath at the House of Death.
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Unlike the Vincent Price Presents series, where Price is often a character (sometimes a Crypt-Keeper type narrator), he’s largely absent from this volume, except for the first of the four stories, “The Raven vs. Dracula,” where the main character is a Price-lookalike named Aubrey Pitt, a.k.a. “The Raven,” who’s apparently a running character, just your basic wealthy playboy/stage magician/comically inept occult investigator, whose butler/chauffeur is a mummy. An evil modern vampire cabal brings Count Dracula back to life, and Pitt has to stop Dracula’s evil plan for world domination, blahblahblah. It’s a perfectly serviceable 22-page vampire story, but nothing surprising; there are a few cute self-referential bits — as the Count taunts him, Pitt says “I know your weaknesses. Such as crosses. And an excruciating love of Transylvanian history” — but all in all, it’s little more than a long chase, with some neck biting and the inevitable melting Count at the end. Unfortunately, it’s also the best story of the bunch.
The second story, “Rule to the Sky,” is a loose sequel to the Jules Verne novels Robur the Conqueror and The Master of the World which were loosely adapted into a 1961 movie starring Price as the Captain Nemo-ish bad guy, Robur. In this comic, Robur is a purple-haired steampunk cosplayer (complete with nonfunctional gears glued to his top hat) who’s bent on kidnapping pioneering aviators so the nations of the world will never take war to the air. He has a flying ship that looks like a cross between a Spanish galleon and the Yellow Submarine and artist Jill Lamarina apparently did only one drawing of the damned thing, which is then Photoshopped into either a left view or a right view as needed, including the scene below where it appears to be eating the U.S. Capitol or something.
For good measure, we also get one more view of the exact same thing, in black and white, as a newspaper photograph. Who knows, maybe it’s actually a very clever joke about the cheesy special effects and use of stock footage in the 1961 film? And then there’s the character drawings, which look like they’ve escaped from someone’s DeviantArt account. Robur himself appears to be some sort of steampunk hybrid of Tim Curry and Willy Wonka:
Nobody should have to look at 20 pages of that. Lamarina is a competent artist whose other work includes “realistic” comics about the boy band One Direction, which means her work here is intended to look like it was done by a high school student who just needs encouragement and a lot of practice. No thanks. But what about the story? You’ve seen the Disney version of 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea; this just takes place in the air. Yes, of course there’s a pipe organ.
The third story, “In Shadows,” doesn’t appear to have any overt Vincent Price connections; it’s one of those monster-from-dreams haunts a woman’s real life things, and it’s entirely forgettable, except I’m not sure if it’s merely incompetently drawn, or if it’s a realistic depiction of an alternate universe where posters actually read “Weelcome Miss Haystalk 2007” and “A family tradition celebreting 50 years” — you know, like Bizarro-World. Also, there is a monster, and everyone dies.
The final story, “The End,” is supposed to be some kind of anti-war Twilight Zoney thing, in which a man in a business suit guides a bunch of people through a museum showing the horrors of war, in increasingly graphic “your tax dollars at work” vignettes of torture and slaughter. As the tour progresses, Suit Guy brings them to an electric chair and picks a young woman to sit in it, explaining, “You deserve this. You all deserve this. You will be punished for what you’ve done.” Does she get electrocuted? Damned if I can tell; looks like maybe not, but on the next page, a guy who defended her is being ripped to pieces by dogs in an Abu Ghraib simulation, and then Suit Guy is explaining that everyone on the tour is getting what they deserve, because of what they did, or didn’t do, to/for their fellow man. And then Suit Guy herds everyone to the final room, a free-fire zone where they’re all shot to death for their crimes, “Because of what you did. Your part in the horrors of war.” It’s the kind of “we are all responsible” thing that is maybe meant to be Deep, but is mostly just nonsensical — it really does feel like something that was thrown together by an earnest college freshman who wants to Say Something Important, but it’s an incoherent mess. Nice scene of a guy’s eyeball getting shot out, though. (OH! I was slightly entertained by this and am a monster TOO!)
Vincent Price: Tales From the Darkness is sort of trying to bring back the days of the great EC horror anthologies, like Tales From the Crypt or Shock SuspenStories; maybe it could have gotten away with it, if it weren’t for its own darn lackluster storytelling and indifferent art.
On a scale of Applejack to Princess Luna, Vincent Price: Tales From the Darkness is a fan-art page on Tumblr where you can’t quite tell which character is which.
Vincent Price: Tales From the Darkness $5.99 Kindle edition