Monstermen and Other Scary Stories
Written and Illustrated by Gary Gianni
Additional Stories by William Hope Hodgeson, Clark Ashton Smith, Robert E. Howard and Perceval Landon
Letters by Sean Konot, Todd Klein, and Clem Robins
Introduction by Michael Chabon
Dark Horse Comics
Release Date: March 7, 2012
Cover Price: $24.99
At one point early on in Gary Gianni’s Monstermen and Other Scary Stories a main character gets a curse that leaves a disturbing mark on his head. It has to be seen to be fully understood because I can only describe it as a Stegosaurus Mohawk… and it’s maybe one of the single coolest things I’ve ever seen in a comic. A few pages later it’s gone, like a ghastly sight in a haunted house, never to be seen again.
Monstermen and Other Scary Stories was originally published as back ups in Hellboy beginning in the mid-90s, though Giannis’ work seems to be about as much Edward Gorey as Mike Mignola. Many avid comic book readers will be familiar with his work, which began first on Classics Illustrated adaptations, most famously on 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. He then won an Eisner for Best Short Story for the Heroes contribution in Batman: Black and White before settling into his current gig doing Prince Valiant. Monstermen stands out in his body of work as being his most original and innovative title.
In a time that is not quite the past or present, where well-to-do gentlemen rock fedoras and pencil thin mustaches while typing away on desktop computers, Benedict, a mysterious, centuries old, knight has enlisted Lawrence St. George, a Hollywood director/paranormal investigator and a number of other adventure seekers into his secret society, the Monstermen or Corpus Monstorum to ward off supernatural threats wherever they may appear.
That’s merely the backdrop for all of the fun this book is going to have, however. Giannis strengths are largely his imaginative character designs and trippy page layouts and the writing showcases these talents generously. The stories move at a fast pace, with completely anything-goes plot twists done in the straightest face possible. And there are real scares in here; the Dracula of MonsterMen pops out unexpectedly in a story, entirely fresh, three dimensional and scary as hell.
The final third of the book, the ‘Other Stories,’ reprints lesser known turn of the century monster and ghost stories by writers such as William Hope Hodgson and Robert E. Howard, with illustrations by Gianni. Oddly it’s a very fitting end, the way the book walks away from Benedict and St. George and almost entirely into mood and period. In the end the book lets the monsters take over.