Tuesday, October 10

Goosebumps Graphix 1: Creepy Creatures

stories by R. L. Stine
adapted and illustrated by Gabriel Hernandez, Greg Ruth and Scott Morse
Scholastic 2006

Squeezing more blood money from the stone that is the Goosebumps series, this time by merging with the latest sweep into graphic novel territory. Three earlier series titles -- The Werewolf of Fever Swamp, The Scarecrow Walks at Midnight and The Abominable Snowman of Pasadena -- start off this new series and, oddly, may actually breathe a little life into the stories. Though they hardly stray far from formula reluctant readers who may be turned off by the cardboard characters in the books might be able to read more depth into the illustrations.

That sounds a little backhanded.
The Werewolf of Fever Swamp starts when Grady (and who names their kid Grady?) and his family relocate to the swamps of Florida where they can do research. Bored, Grady wanders into the swamp behind the house with a friendly neighbor kid and discover a hermit living there whom, legend has it, is the werewolf. Of course he isn't, and it should come as no surprise who does turn out to be the werewolf, and in the end what's so bad about wanting to be a teen werewolf? Gabriel Hernandez' adaptation is almost as stiff as the characters he illustrates but the swift pacing makes it easy to zip along right to the end.

Next up, The Scarecrow Walks at Midnight lurches into Stephen King territory, with a slightly retarded farm hand whose superstitions and incantations from "a book" lead to an army of title characters run amok. The kids on the farm -- two slickers visiting their dust bowl grandparents and the son of the farm hand -- think the hay-stuffed nuisances are practical jokes played by each other but in the end are confronted with the truth that... uh, why are the scarecrows on the rampage? Never mind, nothing a little fire can't handle, as we all know from The Wizard of Oz. Greg Ruth's gothic handling makes every frame look creepy even when nothing creepy is being said or happening. Ironically, the weakest story in the bunch gets the best visuals to compensate. Or maybe that was the point.

Ending on a more lighthearted approach, The Abominable Snowman of Pasadena finds a pair of California kids following their dad on a trip to the tundra where he's on assignment to photograph recent citings of the Bumble. Wandering off the kids land in a snow cave where the great furry snowman is encased in ice, only to be revived by the smell of trail mix. Who knew? Once they escape and clue dad in he figures out how to pack the abominable icecube up and bring him back to Pasadena where he remains frozen due to a special snow that never melts. Huh? Yeah, and then the kids play with the snow, the brother accidentally freezes his sister, and they whip out the trail mix to revive the snowman whose body warmth is used to revive the frozen girl... man, this gets sillier the more I say it. Scott Morse's Cartoon Network style is appropriate for the story but ultimately fails to generate any attempt at a scare, much less the title creepiness.

As graphic novels go (graphic novellas? graphic short stories?) no one is going to confuse these with the work of Alan Moore or Frank Miller, but as a hook to lure that non-reading boy in the corner who is looking for something casual to read that doesn't feel like reading, this series might do the trick.

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