In this feature, I ask comic creators that I like a lot to recommend a great comic that they’d like to see spotlighted. They pick the comic and then I write a review of the comic (of course, this runs the risk of them picking a comic that I don’t like, but there’s so many great comics out there to pick from that I find it hard to believe that that will ever actually happen).
I was doing this as a weekly feature earlier this year, but I didn’t think it was getting enough attention, so I figured I would instead do it every day this month, make it a bit of a thing. Draw some attention to these great books being recommended! We finish with the comic that inspired me to do this bit in October, as this Halloween comic was suggested months ago, so it is just too perfect not to post ON Halloween!
Our final creator is Dustin Nguyen. Nguyen has been killing it as an artist for the past decade and a half, working mostly for DC Comics and Wildstorm. He has had a particularly strong stint drawing Batman, both on Detective Comics and Batman: Streets of Gotham (both with Paul Dini and inker Derek Fridolfs) and on his own Lil’ Gotham series (which he also did with Fridolfs, who also co-wrote it). He is currently working on the creator-owned series Descender with Jeff Lemire. Dustin’s suggestion is Scott Hampton’s classic Halloween tale, “The Upturned Stone.”
This story originally appeared in the September 1993 edition of Heavy Metal magazine, but it has since been reprinted on its own a few times (although I actually don’t know offhand if any of the various reprints are currently in print – you can get a copy easy off of Amazon, though).
Anyhow, the story is a coming of age story about four ten-year-old boys in 1969…
So that’s the basic set-up…the pumpkin turns into a fairly dour jack o’ lantern, and then later, Pete’s mom serves the boys pumpkin pie made from the pumpkin!!!
But sure enough, Pete begins to get spooky dreams that appear to be the memories of the murdered boy.
When he mentions this to his two friends while the trio are camping, it turns out he is not the ONLY one to be having these dreams!
Only, as it turns out, they each are just getting one quarter of the tale…the part they’re missing is the END! As you may recall, the fourth boy from that fateful night did not live in their neighborhood. So they go to seek him out and see what HE’S been dreaming about!
And when they find out, they must then figure out what they’re going to do about it all.
Hampton has such a brilliantly spooky way of delivering the dream sequences that it just sends a chill down your spine. Definitely not something that you want to be reading late at night (which is, of course, right when I read it).
I won’t spoil any of the spooky dreams, but instead, I’ll show this quick unrelated ghost story from the comic…
Spooky, right? And that’s just a QUICK bit – I bet you can imagine how scary he can make it if he has time to set the scene.
What really stands out about this tale (besides Hampton’s awesome painted artwork) is how good of a job Hampton does in developing these kids’ personalities and setting them up as just your average, everyday kids. There’s a funny bit where Pete and his friend Mark give their other friend, George, a hard time about the time they convinced him that the f-word was just another way to say “eat” – and that’s followed by a rough scene where George almost counters Mark’s teasing about the “f-word means eat” incident by making light of the fact that Mark’s parents both abandoned him, leaving him to be raised now by his older brother.
But really, the highlight of the comic is the way Hampton depicts the ghost story aspect of the comic, especially the climax of the tale, which is mostly silent…eerily silent.
This is one of the best Halloween comic book story I’ve ever read, so I heartily recommend you seeking it out (and then not reading it late at night in a darkened room). (NOTE: This is an old review of this book from when I featured it in the Scariest Comics Ever month).
Thanks for the recommendation, Dustin! And all the other amazing creators who shared their recommendations throughout the month!
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