The Legacy of ‘The Doll’

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..

THeDoll2

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.

THeDoll1

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.

THEDOLLpage3THEDOLLmelting

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.

THeDoll3

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?

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About Matt Wesolowski

Matt Wesolowski is an author from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne in the UK. He is an English tutor and leads Cuckoo Young Writers creative writing workshops for young people in association with New Writing North. Wesolowski started his writing career in horror and his short horror fiction has been published in numerous magazines and US anthologies. Wesolowski's debut novella ‘The Black Land‘ a horror set on the Northumberland coast, was published in 2013 by Blood Bound Books and his latest horror novella set in the forests of Sweden is available in 'Dimension 6' magazine through Coeur De Lion Publishing. Wesolowski was a winner of the Pitch Perfect competition at 'Bloody Scotland'; Crime Writing Festival 2015, his subsequent debut crime novel 'Six Stories' will be available through Orenda Books in the spring of 2017 View all posts by Matt Wesolowski

4 responses to “The Legacy of ‘The Doll’

  • Ste

    Jeez, I remember this too. It absolutely terrified me and I had nightmares but was fascinated by it. The art and story were brilliant- I remember that melting face image above, and another panel with the doll about to swing a shovel at someone in a shed. The other panel I remember was a Christmas edition where the doll was dressed as Santa in the background. It made such a lasting impression that I occasionally search the net looking for it too- I’m glad I’m not the only one who remembers it!

  • MJ Wesolowski

    Hi Ste, so glad you found this post and glad to hear from someone equally scarred by The Doll. I remember both those images you mention – there was another one where Simon Whickham pursues The Doll into some sort of shed/basement that is filled with slugs…that stayed with me a long time too!

    Quite a while back, I managed to get in touch with the company that printed those comics to try and get hold of the back issues or even a writing credit for the Doll…both were thwarted…leading to to believe that there are some rocks it may not be best to look under!
    Thanks for reading
    M

  • Mike Tse

    Hello Matt,
    I have been searching for details about this comic for YEARS!! I remain equally scarred by this horrific character, and like you, have the image of this Doll firmly embedded in my memories.
    As of September 2016 I am 38, but what a great age to have discovered this comic all those years ago. It fills me with a creepy nostalgia thinking about reading this on my single bed with Creepshow running on a 14inch TV, eating Wham bars, Pez and a rainbow-coloured, jellied scorpion!

    Thanks for taking the time to put this together! I’d love to read these again someday, but sadly I have lost all of these many years ago!

    All the best,
    Mike

  • johnfsfreeman

    While I still haven’t as yet been able to get an ID on the artist on “The Doll”, I have linked to your article in this piece on Super Naturals comic: http://downthetubes.net/?p=36516

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