Hey man, 90’s comics weren’t all bad. I’ve written about some of the gems before, but this column allows me the opportunity to go more in-depth (or at least repeat the same old jokes to a wider audience). The star of one of my favorite 90’s series is set to make a comeback later this year. Before the new mini debuts, let’s take a look at the book and remember why it was good. Was it the ridiculous protagonist and nontraditional art? That could’ve had something to do with it…
134. Terror Inc.
Terror Inc. was a short-lived (13 issue) series with a complex history. The main character, Terror, was originally Shreck (way cooler than that Mike Myers thing), a character created by D.G. Chichester, Margaret Clark, and Klaus Janson for Marvel’s Epic/Shadowline imprint. He received a name-change when he crossed over into the Marvel Universe, and so the Terror Inc. series was born. Okay, so that explanation was relatively painless.
The premise of the series was standard, but Terror’s super-gimmick was very interesting. Terror was a sarcastic, trenchcoat-and-fedora-wearing mercenary with the ability to remove other people’s body parts and attach them to himself, thereby absorbing the memories of their former owners, as well as their skills. He was constantly switching limbs and organs when necessary, except for his green, spiked head and left hand. No, it’s not plausible at all, but it led to wacky fun.
The head is what was left over from his origin: Terror was actually thousands of years old, having fought some weird demon creature and transferred into its body. Over time, he did the body-part-switching until he became a humanoid knight. He loved a woman, but she was killed, and he kept her left hand, sealing it in a metal glove and attaching it to his arm for all eternity, in order to be close to her. Creepy and gross, with a dash of romance. There’s your Terror for you.
In some ways, the series was very 90’s. After all, it did feature guest appearances from the Punisher, Wolverine (check out that Joe Kubert cover up above), Ghost Rider, Silver Sable, Luke Cage, and Daimon Hellstrom. Not all of the stories were that great, especially in the second half of the run, when Terror faced off against a demon named Priapus– yes, named after the Greek god of giant schlongs. No, this guy did not have a giant schlong. I’m surprised they even used the name.
It’s the first half of the run, however, that surpassed other 90’s comics, especially in terms of visuals. The first seven issues were drawn by the late Jorge Zaffino, whose moody, inky, loose artwork stood out from other books (to me, at least) and enhanced the dark atmosphere of the series. It wasn’t grim-and-gritty, no; it was powerful and expressive. My younger self didn’t appreciate it at the time, but I like it now, and I’m saddened that Mr. Zaffino is no longer with us. You can see artwork and remembrances of him at the link above, and a sample right here:
In terms of story, however, it was #8 that’s my favorite issue. This is the one where Terror borrows the body parts of a man executed on death row in order to protect his family from the mob. The memories and emotions of the guy start to overwhelm Terror, and it’s honestly touching at parts. Of course, the majority of the issue involves Terror running around in a Santa suit and killing mobsters and doing other horrible things… but it’s a Christmas issue, so it ends on a relatively happy note. This issue is the right kind of twisted.
Alright, so it wasn’t as anti-90’s as I may have led you to believe. Still, as it stands, I think Terror Inc. was one of the better offerings to be found in the 90’s. I don’t love it as much as SuperPro, but then, I am also insane. If you find Terror Inc in your local back issue bin (probably in the quarter or fifty cent box if you’ve got one), pick up and issue and see if you like it. The series was weird, gruesome, and sometimes, quite funny (“I have character! I got it from a nun and keep it in a freezer in Arizona!”). It’s everything you want out of a 90’s comic.
Since 1992, Terror’s only had a couple appearances. He showed up in one of Robert Kirkman’s Marvel Team-Up arcs, and he had a cameo in Beyond!, but that’s about it. Until August, anyway, when David Lapham and Patrick Zircher will bring Terror back in slightly-revamped form in a new MAX mini-series. They’re ditching the face-spikes, which is unfortunate, but otherwise, it sounds pretty good. You can read an interview with Zircher about it on The Pulse. It’s good to see Terror coming back; he’s definitely cool enough to deserve a return.