Friday, March 25, 2011

FFB: Robert Bloch: HELL ON EARTH, a graphic novel adaptation by Keith Griffen and Robert Loren Fleming, et al. (DC Comics 1985)






I have a copy of The Lost Bloch, Volume 2: Hell on Earth, but I didn't get around to picking it up till just before one of my domicile-moves, and I haven't yet read the original text (the book is buried in one of the boxes, still)...I don't yet own a copy of the 1942 Weird Tales issue above where it debuted. But I did recently pick up an inexpensive copy of the 1985 DC Comics adaptation, part of a short run of ambitious adaptations commissioned by longtime DC editor Julius Schwartz, and it's an interesting though by no means flawless job of adapting the story (taken on the graphic novel's own terms, since I don't have the original to compare it to).

It has an impressively bleak and cinematic approach to the story, with stylized figures who look much more flinty than the cover image above might suggest, and from the tone of Fleming's text, I suspect it hews pretty closely to the hardboiled, rather offhandedly erudite nature of the story, which is also not a little about the estate of being a horror-fiction writer (it anticipates in part not only the likes of The Exorcist but also of The Shining--but, then, the debt of not a few horror-fiction writers since Bloch to him is fairly obvious); the biggest technical problem with the comic as a comic are some really unfortunate lettering and coloring choices in one extended passage, when taken together, wherein one character "speaks" in a slightly eccentric script in black ink in deep red "balloons" (they aren't traditional balloons, but are the next gen sort of floaters)...makes for maximum illegibility (something which, for example, also plagued at least one paperback reprint of the Alan Moore classic From Hell, albeit there it was more the size and eccentricity of the lettering that foiled readers, or at least this reader--perhaps such Hellish texts are simply damned to be so cursed). A horror-fiction writer is engaged by two paranormal investigators, an older male scientist and a younger female researcher, in a well-funded but intimate attempt to raise a demon...and through the use of the wrong spell, the trio manage to summon and entrap Satan, instead.

Mostly what the adaptation does is make me keen to read the original, which isn't the worst thing to be said about an adaptation, but I understand that this was one of the most distinctive of a short, unsuccessful 1985 series of comics chapbooks by DC (a response to the first flush of "aboveground" alternative comics in the early '80s and the success of the likes of Heavy Metal, but just ahead of the rise of the direct-sales comics store that might've been the natural home for such publications). Even for full-color on good paper in a 8.5 x 11" format, $6 was a pretty steep price to pay in 1985. I don't feel at all slighted having picked it up for half-price on my last visit to Falls Church, Virginia's, Hole in the Wall Books, the Nallys' store of some decades standing.

6 comments:

Jerry House said...

I wonder how many kids of my generation were turned on to horror, science fiction, and mysteries because of Robert Bloch's work. He was a fantastic writer in every sense. I've meaning to read this GN for some time now and you've further whetted my appetite.

By the way, does Hole in the Wall Books still exist?

Todd Mason said...

Bloch is simply, blatantly, seriously underrated...except by those folks, such as ourselves, Jerry, who Know Better.

As far as I know, Hole is still piling them up...it's been a few months, but not too many, since my purchase of HOE there.

Todd Mason said...

There is a Scrib'd ripoff? of the entirety of the comic version of HOE on the web, for those who'd at least like to take a look.

K. A. Laity said...

I *think* that my former spouse has a copy of this (all but a few of the comix departed with him, including my entire run of HELLBLAZER which I will probably get back) because I remember the cover so well.

Evan Lewis said...

Damn. A couple of nice covers.

Todd Mason said...

Kate--it's an amusing coincidence (maybe) that one of the financial backers for the demonology project is named Considine.

Evan--that impressive Hannes Bok cover for the WEIRD TALES issue, with "Hell on Earth" taking precedence over the admittedly weak HPL "Herbert West, Reanimator" and the other contributors to the issue does help suggest how much WT editor Dorothy McIlwraith was aware of how good and important Bloch's work was by '42. I rather like both the book covers, even if THE LOST BLOCH cover is a bit busy.