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Saturday, July 31, 2010

Halloween Man: Superdeformed is genuine fun

Drew Edwards' Halloween Man is an independent comic that is as pure of heart as it is clever. Here is a story that unabashedly calls on the spirit of horror-- classic horror, modern horror, B-movie and forgotten horror, all of it-- to endow a hero to fight the powers of darkness in much the way that horror empowers its own enthusiasts to face the darkness in our own lives. I've been reading the comic for years, on and off, and I can't think of another story that comes closer to the feeling Ray Bradbury summoned in The Halloween Tree: a joyous celebration of Halloween.

Here's the thing: Halloween Man is not a horror comic. I'm sure Edwards could write a horror comic, but Halloween Man is a super-hero comic, with all the rules found there, peopled with characters that are all a sly wink at the trappings of comic books. Halloween Man himself is the revived writer Solomon Hitch, killed by a vampire and brought back to life by a John Constantine-like necromancer called Morlack. Morlack brings Solomon back with this wonderful incantation, as he holds one hand on the body of Solomon and another on the glowing screen of a television tuned to the late late show:

I call on the spirits of Cunningham and Karloff for the undeath. I call on the might of Romero, Raimi, and Savini to cast this dead sould back to flesh. I summon the long dead Halperin and his fellow Lugosi... those dead of Fall... give this soul strength!

Isn't that awesome? When Solomon comes back and gets his monster-fighting legs under him, he's a scarred, intelligent zombie who must slake his hunger on evil demons. He's aided in this endeavor by a brilliant and beautiful scientist girlfriend, who fits him out with Marvelesque pseudo-scientific weapons, like Spirit Guns that shoot ectoplasm harvested from Solomon's own body.

Halloween Man: Superdeformed, a manga-sized paperback that collects Halloween Man's origin and a number of stories-- including one exciting three-parter in which Solomon is accused of murder-- gives the reader a great tour of Solomon's world. Solomon isn't alone: not only does he have scientist Lucy on his side, but he's teamed up with a gigantic creature called Man-Goat ("a man with the power of a man-sized goat," as he constantly reminds us,) the aforementioned Morlack, a Tony Stark-like ex-boyfriend of Lucy, and more. The tool around in a hovercraft coffin. There's an insane gee-whiz nature to all of this; I love how the stories are very quick and heavily worded; this is compressed storytelling of the old, pre-Bendis era. In this one volume we get a look at a brilliant riff on the Avengers, the legend of the Headless Horsemen, and even the modern vampire gang (in a thoughtful and scary tale told from the perspective of the creatures Solomon hunts.)

A word about the world-- Halloween Man takes place in a place called Solar City, built over the ruins of the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex in Texas. This is where Edwards turns what could be a one-note idea into a series with legs. Solar City is peopled with demons, vampires, heroes, and innocent bystanders, allowing Edwards to use Solomon as our guide through his own take on all of comicdom, a la Kurt Busiek's Astro City. Solomon Hitch is a man with no place except among his friends, rejected by the heroes of the city and distrusted even by the monsters who sometimes need his help.

Halloween Man is contagious good stuff.

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