2017 has certainly seen its share of celebrity deaths. From famed rock musicians such as Chris Cornell, Tom Petty and Malcolm Young to veteran actors such as Frank Vincent and Harry Dean Stanton to Playboy mogul Hugh Hefner, we’ve all mourned the passing of at least one cultural icon within the past few months. Though each of these aforementioned deaths have left some indelible mark on me, no famed figure’s passing has hit as severely as that of comic book stylist and macabre maestro, Bernie Wrightson.
Perhaps best known as the co-creator of Swamp Thing alongside Len Wein in House of Secrets #92, Wrightson had also notably contributed to Creepy magazine (a horror comic periodical not unlike EC’s Tales from the Crypt) and Heavy Metal Magazine’s Captain Sternn; not to mention his own famed comic adaptation of Frankenstein. Wrightson was an unmatched powerhouse in the industry and his passing this past year leaves a void that will never be filled. The Monstrous Collection by IDW collects some of this prolific storyteller’s final work as an illustrator.
In collaboration with writer Steve Niles (the scribe behind 30 Days of Night and Mystery Society), The Monster Collection collects three stories, initially released across several issues, that seamlessly blend pulp detective noir with vintage horror. In “Dead, She Said,” gumshoe private investigator Coogan finds himself in a rather sticky situation. He’s decomposing whilst on the lookout for the man who had him killed. In “The Ghoul,” LAPD Lieutenant Klimpt and the eponymous Ghoul team up to combat demons and devious Hollywood dynasties on the mean streets of LA. In “Doc Macabre,” our titular Phd comes off as a cross between Egon Spengler and Doogie Howser as he battles the paranormal utilizing an assortment of custom gadgetry designed to decimate the dead in all their forms.
Characters from all three stories cross pollinate with one another in the shared horror-noir universe that Niles creates. Akin to many of his contemporaries (Mike Mignola, Joss Whedon), Niles’ writing style leans intentionally heavy into genre tropes and archetypes. As far a horror themed comics with a comedic tinge to them go, The Monstrous Collection falls a tad short of, say, Dylan Dog, yet lies well within the ballpark of any given Hellboy trade paperback. All considered, Wrightson’s work alone makes the volume a worthy addition to any collector’s library.