by Michael Vance & Dr. Jon Suter
August 18, 1999
Reviews in this issue:
Codex Arcana - Comics Legend Chas Addams
Dark Horse Presents #142. The book is 24 pages and priced at $2.95 each.
Illustrated by various artists and writers. It is sold in comics shops and by
was arguably the greatest horror writer of the 20th century. Codex Arcana
is inarguably not the best comics homage to his prose.
Lovecraft was a
master at creating an atmosphere of impending calamity, of a festering, perverse
realm just below the skin of reality. His short stories also shun the violence,
profanity and deviant sexuality that infect the horror genre today.
credit, the three stories in Codex Arcana emulate that style and the
themes that distinguish Lovecraft.
the occult, a man is sucked into an ancient book of unspeakable horror, a
psychic investigator rids a home of a Danish witch, and a machine rips open a
portal into another dimension.
But all three
stories fail in recreating that mood of horror in Lovecraft's work.
No one has ever
captured the writer's dark, gothic, dirty ambiance better than comics artists
Graham Ingles and Bernie Wrightson. Their accomplishment stands unchallenged.
The artwork in Arcana, while competent and not without charm, lacks
Lovecraftian decadence and physical degeneration of characters and setting.
also fails to recreate the inexorably slow, swelling suspense of Lovecraft's
dense prose as revelation after revelation peels reality like an onion away from
Pacing is the
weakness that underlies the art and story in Arcana. These vignettes are
visual and verbal plot outlines, lacking an emotional impact that demands a
slower pace. They are a slap in the face when a horrible, spreading disease
consuming every thought is needed.
horror, readers must still return to the EC comics of the 1950s.
Legend Chas Addams
is best known for something he never created. He is best remembered for wildly
original single-panel cartoons in New Yorker magazine.
would have thought that odd because he thought in very odd ways.
"He's in the garden." said the plain Jane blonde into the telephone.
Through the open doorway behind her was a new grave and a shovel stuck in
musicians enter a stage prepared for their orchestra, a violinist gawks at a row
of squeeze horns, a stool and a bucket of fish.
angry bears in auditorium seats try to pick a perpetrator from a lineup of
little golden-haired girls.
genius behind these dark and thought-provoking scenes actually had four names.
One was Subtle. One was Macabre. Two were well known and much beloved: Chas
something that Chas never created was The Addams Family. The tongue-in-cheek
television series and movies were based on the style of Chas' dark humor, and
several characters extrapolated from individual cartoons.
of the same way Gary Larson extrapolated his famous The Far Side comic
strip from Chas Addams' work as well. Not copied. Not plagiarized. Extrapolated.
Larson was as original as Chas.
Chas is not well represented in comic books. The Addams Family ('74-'76;
Gold Key) is not a collection of his cartoons, but a continuation a Hanna-Barbera
ani- mated TV series that was, in turn, a spin-off of the television show.
the collections of his work, Random House published hardback editions including Creature
Comforts, Chas Addams' Favorite Haunts, My Crowd, The Groaning Board, Drawn and
Quartered, Chas Addams' Black Maria, Night Crawlers, Homebodies, Monster Rally,
Addams and Evil and The Dear Dead Days.
work of Chas Addams is highly recommended.
by Michael Vance
older comics are expensive and difficult to locate. Price guides or comics
dealers help. Comic shops, conventions, mail order companies and trade journals
are best sources. Prices vary; shop around.
Questions? Comments? A comic you wish reviewed? Write: 1427 S. Delaware Ave., Tulsa, OK, 74104. Or email c/o firstname.lastname@example.org.
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