They Only Come Out at Night: Recommended Reading for Halloween

Nocturnals_5.preview Looking for something scary this Halloween? Maybe a little bit of monster fun? Allow me to recommend one of the overlooked masterpieces of the last 15 years: Dan Brereton’s Nocturnals.

The Nocturnals got their start at Malibu Comics in 1995, at the height of the comics boom. Malibu was already a successful company with their Ultraverse line of superhero comics. In 1995, they created another imprint for creator owned comics. The line would feature comic book superstars like Walt Simonson, Jim Starlin and Marv Wolfman. And it would include a painted horror comic by relative newcomer, Daniel Brereton.

The first issue introduces us to Doc Horror and his daughter Eve. Doc Horror and Eve look normal enough but they have their secrets and they hang out with a cast of monsters. Doc Horror takes an injection to contain what he calls “a rather nasty virus” but what we later find out is lycanthropy. Doc Horror, it seems, is a werewolf. Eve, short for Evening, carries a plastic pumpkin full of plastic toys. We soon discover that she is able to manifest those toys into monstrous apparitions. Eve later adopts the codename, Halloween Girl.

NOCS-stardoceverockinghorse.preview Doc Horror also has his friends. Polychrome is a translucent wraith, with white and blue skin. Starfish is a tadpole/human hybrid (along the lines of Abe Sapien from the Hellboy series). Firelion is a firestarter, a big blonde guy with the ability to create and control fire. Gunwitch, a scarecrow who reeks of death, also appears in the first issue and will eventually become a regular ally. The cast also includes Komodo, the Dragon Boy, who escaped from a monster factory and Raccoon, the Bandit, who works with criminal organizations or Doc Horror as the mood strikes him.

Dan Brereton’s art is dark and moody, perfect for a monster mash-up. It helps create an environment that is a blend of classic noir and horror. There’s even a shot of classic western in there; the first issue has a great firefight featuring Firelion and Starfish while Gunwitch evokes classic gunslingers like Clint Eastwood.

The characters are also distinct and memorable. Polychrome and Starfish are instantly recognizable. Eve is both familiar yet distant, resulting in a character that is endlessly interesting. And the zombie scarecrow Gunwitch proved popular enough to earn his own mini-series.

3.preview The first Nocturnals mini-series lasted 6 issues, but that wasn’t the end of the story or, using the term loosely, the team. The Nocturnals even outlived their original imprint and company. Dan Brereton moved them to Dark Horse in 1997 for a short story that appeared in the Dark Horse Presents anthology and was collected as Nocturnals: The Witching Hour. Then, Dan Brereton found a third home for his creature creations at Oni
Press. Oni published a one-shot, “The Troll Bridge,” and two mini-series, “The Dark Forever” and the aforementioned “Gunwitch” between 2000 and 2002. Last year, Image Comics
became the fourth host of the Nocturnals, publishing a one-shot called “Carnival of Beasts.” These stories are available in four trades not including the Image story (Black Planet, Dark Forever, Unhallowed Eve and Gunwitch: Outskirts of Doom) or two archives collecting everything
(Black Planet and Dark Forever).

PatrickDDP1Need something different for the kids? Don’t forget about Jill Thompson’s Scary Godmother and Magic Trixie books or Art Baltazar’s Patrick the Wolf Boy.

Baltazar is now known as the hilarious genius behind Tiny Titans, a DC kids’ book that’s as much fun for the grown-ups as it is for the young-uns. Patrick the Wolf Boy is the book that got Baltazar noticed. Baltazer self-published Patrick through Blind Wolf Studios before Devil’s Due picked it up and collected the stories in a series of digests. Patrick is a wonderful delight. He has a little bit of Dennis the Menace and Calvin & Hobbes in him, but with the added difficulties of being a werewolf. The art is cute, the gags are clever and our kids love it.

Magic Jill Thompson is another writer/artist who blends horror and humor into her stories. Her Scary Godmother was popular enough to land in a TV movie. It’s aimed at adults, but it’s not over the head of most kids. Magic Trixie is like a junior version of Scary Godmother (that’s not meant as an insult- plenty of junior versions are interesting in their own right like Muppet Babies or Young Indiana Jones). She’s a little girl who has all of the normal problems of a little girl, like annoying baby sisters. But she’s also a witch, who gets a dragon as a pet in one story and has a sleepover with her best friend who happens to be a werewolf in another.

Happy reading!

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Comment by Mark Sullivan (Vertiginous Mod) on November 3, 2009 at 3:55pm
I haven't read Magic Trixie, but Jill Thompson's earlier Scary Godmother books are also great. I think they all have Halloween themes; the two I've read both did.
Comment by Dagwan on November 2, 2009 at 11:38am
Next year I think Baby Bean will be old enough for me to read her the Legend of Sleepy Hollow issue of Classics Illustrated on Halloween without scaring her too much. That's something my dad did with me for several years when I was little.

I'll even be using the same copy of the comic!

"Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read." -Groucho Marx

Check out the Secret Headquarters (my store) website! It's a pretty lame website, but I did it myself, so tough noogies

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Comment by Doc Beechler (mod-MD) on November 2, 2009 at 9:50am
I like that Doctor Who novel as well...and Nocturnals...and Patrick...and Magic Trixie! ;)
Comment by The Baron on November 1, 2009 at 6:07pm
Yeah, I read that one, that's a good one.
Comment by Cavaliere (moderator emeritus) on October 31, 2009 at 5:16pm
It's not a one day read but I just this morning finished a good Halloween story: Doctor Who: Forever Autumn, a story with the Doctor and Martha. It isn't a horrific slasher story, don't worry. It does take place at Halloween in a small American town and has lots of terrific seasonal elements.

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