I’ve never been into comics.
I’m sorry, I know, it’s not cool is it?
I’ve tried. When I was a teenager, I collected Roman Dirge‘s ‘Lenore’ series; I enjoy the Marvel adaptations of Stephen King’s Dark Tower and Talisman as well as Alan Moore’s ‘From Hell‘ but that’s about it.
Collecting comics should appeal to my slight OCD and hoarding personality (settle down ladies, I’m taken.) yet for some reason they just…don’t.
I imagine there’s plenty of comics I’d like, I imagine that you’re probably grimacing at the screen thinking ‘you just need to read…so-and-so’, but it’s not going to happen. Sorry.
Perhaps it’s because I never liked superheroes. I still don’t. In fact, my view of superheroes is mostly indifferent, maybe a little contemptuous. It was the same as when I a kid. Superman, Captain America, Batman; whatever the darkness in their personalities, I just found them smug, slightly self-righteous goody-two-shoes who remind me of the clever, good-looking people I always knew I would never be anything like.
What I liked when I was young was the bad guys – Skeletor and Hordak, General Kael from ‘Willow’ – the guys dressed in bones and skulls, the guys who dwelled in lairs; they were my guys.
I think comics never appealed to me because in them, good always prevailed, my guys were always thwarted in the end. I imagine there are comics where the bad guys win, but when I was seven, I had no idea where to find them and really didn’t have the impetuous to try.
Or I just preferred books.
Then a comic came along and scared me in a way that I had never been scared before. It was a pivotal moment in my development into a fan and a creator of horror.
It was a comic you’ve probably never even heard of, a story by a writer whose name is lost to time (or to my limited detective skills). It was called ‘The Doll’.
Okay, a bit of backstory: In the late 1980s, there was a short-lived series of toys made by the Tonka company called ‘Supernaturals’.
I wont bore you with a lengthy description but in the advert below, you’ll see why they appealed to a seven year old me…
I had a few of them, they were ok, not a patch on Modulock, but pretty cool.
Then came the Supernaturals comic. At seven, i only ever really read the Beano, so the artwork of Dave D’Antiquis and Antony Williams was a welcome change. Plus, it was the Supernatural baddies who hosted the comic. I liked that.
I don’t recall the stories of the Supernaturals in those comics. Alongside them, a letters page and a centre spread poster was a totally unrelated comic strip.
The Doll was the most terrifying thing I had ever read in my life.
The Doll was a dark story, something that certainly would not be deemed remotely suitable for children today.
Here’s a synopsis:
A boy (Simon Wickham) moves in with foster parents who are still grieving over the death of their own child.
Simon, staying in the dead boy’s bedroom (of course!) finds an old trunk on top of the wardrobe that contains a creepy old ventriloquist’s doll.
Simon shows his find to foster parents whereupon dad takes it from him to put in the bin.
Perhaps the most chilling part of the story comes next – dad returns to the house from the dustbin and declares he’s sure the doll scratched him.
I will never forget that final panel in that first episode – an image of thedoll rising from the dustbin (remember this was a year before the first ‘Child’s Play was released)
As the subsequent 40p episodes of the comic was released, I found myself flicking past the Supernaturals strips with a morbid fascination for this terrible story that trilled and terrified me in equal amounts. Simon and his family try many times to destroy the Doll, yet like Michael Myers, always manages to come back.
As the Doll story progressed the Doll terrorised Simon, strangling him, burning him, biting him and finally taking possession of his brother.
In the final episode of the Supernaturals comic (episode 9 – the only one I still own today)., the Doll made the front cover. This was perhaps testament to its power.
When I tried to sleep, I saw that face. felt the presence of that relentless, indestructible creature. The terror that comic strip induced in me has never truly left me. When I am writing and need to summon something from that bubbling, black pit at the depths of my imagination; it is the Doll’s face that leers up at me from those dark waters. It is that fear that I strive to induce in my readers.
The last episode of The Doll finishes in a suitably horrific way (below), yet there were, to my knowledge, no more ever published.
Digging about online, even contacting the Egmont Publishing Group has revealed no credit for the writer or even the artist of The Doll. This creates a suitable aura of mystery around it; even today, that thing’s face sends a chill through me. Whoever drew it managed to capture a cruel malevolence, a sneering horror I have never seen replicated in a visual form.
The Doll’s place in the dark recesses of my nightmares will take something monumental to usurp.
Maybe I should read more superheroes?