Mr. Monster issue #1.
Published by Dark Horse Comics in 1988.
Story Written and Drawn by Michael T. Gilbert
The Story :
One night, Kelly Friday is visited by her mother at the Stearn Manor, her home and that of
Doc Strongfort Stearn aka Mr. Monster. Kelly shows her mother her recent discoveries from
the Stearn vaults. These discoveries concerning Doc's father Jim Stearne, the Mr. Monster of the 1940s. Chief amongst them was the evidence that her mother Gloria, had been Jim's assistant, much as Kelly is of Doc's. Seeing all the memorabilia of that time causes some very emotional memories for Gloria. She recalls how Jim Stearne had became Mr. Monster back then and how they had later parted and why. She explains to Kelly, the situation that now exists between Doc and his late father, even the different spelling of their family name between them. She further describes her feelings for Jim, what he was like to her truly, but also, she still seems haunted by him and those days.
The Review :
This was the first in an eight issue mini-series that broke from the more traditional style of Mr.Monster stories that had been published prior to this one. Those stories had been short and more in an almost Twilight Zone-esque tone with a good deal of humor added to them. Here, we have the first and
opening chapter to the origins of the character of Mr.Monster and insight into the family history.
The story was an entertaining and well paced one for an opening issue for a series. I found it intriguing enough to want to continue to see where it was going. The dialog was its self, smooth and well balanced for the quantity presented. I thought it worked rather well with the story. The origin story, a reprint, was typical one of the golden age of comics, it was simple and not very remarkable for today. This contrast was interesting with the greater depth of dialog and plot being presented and hinted at in the main body of the comic. A nice mixture of classic formula with a more modern writing style included plus it was very different from the previous work involving Mr. Monster. This story was darker and left little humor for the reader in comparison.
The artwork was a wonderful romp for me with it's cartoony style and dark tones. I enjoyed the use of zip tones within the black and white work that I thought enhanced the feel of the story. It was like watching an old style classic film of the black & white age. I felt there was energy with the layouts, which were themselves, clean and helped moved the story along and good pace. The designs helped convey fun with darkness and emotions rather well in the story, I think.
This was not my first Mr.Monster comic as I was already a fan from the previous run from Eclipse Comics. But this was, as I said, the first chapter in a more seriously minded graphic novel for the character(s). It was wonderful then and it still is now, as it held up quite decently I think. The art is still enjoyable as it's style was a rare one then and still is now. It was a dark and almost dramatic romp with hints of humor at the edges of it. Here, the creator Michael T. Gilbert shines, in my opinion, with his best over all work. Yes, I got hooked on his artwork with his previous series and very much so with his Elric of Melnibone adaption work. That series which he had done with P. Craig Russel (VERY much worth a look folks) from Pacific Comics, prior to this. Despite already being a fan of his artwork, the story hooked me. I was left wanting to see the rest of the story as it had left me curious for more of it. I did continue and was not disappointed with it as a whole. I think it's a great little gem from the late 1980s and worth a little scrounging about for. Sadly, Dark Horse never bothered collecting it into a trade, it seems. They should, I think, as it's a nice bit of reading and a joy to look at while being a bit of something different for these days.