Hello, my friends. Well, it’s October and Halloween is in the air. In the spirit of the leaves changing colors, the temperature slowly going down and the kiddies prepping their costumes for the glorious night of trick-or-treating, I think it’s time that this blog takes a break from the big two of DC and Marvel. For this month, we’re going to give some much-needed highlight to an independent horror series called…
Created by John Greiner and Jake Kelly, this five-issue series was published by the Shiner Comics Group in Cleveland, Ohio. Originally published on a quarterly basis, the first four issues were released from Spring 2012 to Winter 2013 before the fifth issue saw its publication in Spring 2014. How did this series come into creation? Well, it all started with an urban legend.
Known as Bessie or South Side Bessie, this mythical creature is basically the Great Lakes version of Nessie The Loch Ness Monster. Most sources I could find say that the first documented sighting was on July 1817, though there is a reported sighting dating as far back as 1793. All accounts describe it as a sea serpent ranging around 30 or 40 feet long. Over the years, there would be more reported sightings and far-fetched tales.
Then in 2010, co-creator Jake Kelly did a series of paintings called “Ten Imaginary Movies” where he created posters for made-up films done in the style of ’70s horror/exploitation. With the help of John Greiner, they would go on to make various memorabilia for these “movies”. Shortly following a 2011 exhibit, they set out to create a comic book “adaptation” of the first fake film. So, how did I come across this series to begin with?
It was this fateful day back in 2015 when I played various video games of the past, bought some memorabilia and even snagged some comics. It was when I came across a vendor who just so happen to have the first four issues for sale. Interested, I scooped them up. Later on, I would get to know about the brief history of this series. So, with that lengthy introduction out of the way, let’s get to the comic itself.
The cover is exactly like the movie poster that it’s based on and it’s also a scene that will take place in the book itself. Similar to the “Justice League: The New Frontier Special”, this is a comic with multiple tales. So, let’s kick off the push to Halloween and see what terror lies beneath the Forest City’s coastline.
We open in August 1973 just off the coast of Cleveland, Ohio where two shady men have secretly stowed some drums of toxic waste onto their rowboat. Not caring how they get rid it, they proceed to dump their metal barrels into the bowels of Lake Erie.
We then cut to sometime later where a photographer named Tiger is involved in a photo-shoot with a bikini-clad woman named Cheri. While the outdoor session is going on, they’re unaware of something lurking by.
After a short while, she asks for some marijuana. Just as Tiger is prepping it up, he’s suddenly stunned to see scaly hands rising up over the formation. With no warning, the creature grabs Cheri by her ankles and pulls her down as she violently smashes her face on the rock.
Screaming for her life with a bloodied nose, she ends up meeting her fate as she’s dragged into the lake. Afterwards, the creature rises up and goes after Tiger. Even though he’s nervously taking pictures with his worried hand, he’s too timid to run away as he ends up getting violently decapitated.
We then cut to a police station the following day where we find out that Cheri has a sister named Katie and is reporting her disappearance (along with Tiger) to a cop alongside her boyfriend Bobby. However, the police officer isn’t any help at all.
Outside, Katie is worried about her sister since she’s never pulled this sort of act before. Just then, she remembers that it was the breakers that Cheri & Tiger went to yesterday and that they should go there to investigate. Bobby agrees, but says that they’ve got to pick up a friend from work.
Shortly afterwards, they arrive outside of a record store where they pick up their jokey friend named Shelly. After Bobby informs him of their situation, they proceed to make their way towards the breakers.
Meanwhile, we cut to two reporters heading into a bar as they talk about working on their next big newspaper story. One of them brings up the fact that mutilated creatures have started to wash up on shore and is trying to find a catchy angle to work with.
Back with our main characters, they arrive at the breakers to discover that Tiger’s van is still parked there with Cheri’s clothes inside the vehicle. After making their way down towards the coastline, they begin their search. Just then, Shelly discovers a joint formerly used by Tiger.
Immediately afterwards, his camera is discovered by Bobby as he attempts to pull it out of the lake. Despite the soaked device being initially stuck, he does manage to pull it out. However, Part 1 comes to an end as they discover Tiger’s decapitated head still attached to the strap, causing Katie to scream in terror.
We then move into our back-up story called “Thousand Legger” where our wheelchair-bound nameless protagonist has just came from seeing his girlfriend named Sal over at the Crime Coffee shop. He’s also looking after her cat named Ghoulie since her building recently decided to not allow pets. After spending the remainder of the day hanging out with the cuddly creature, he then caps it off and goes to bed.
Sometime into the night, he wakes up in a groggy state. He feels something slithering on his legs, causing him to look down his bed and notice that the sheets are moving around. Getting the strength to sit upright, he proceeds to pull his blanket off in order to find out what’s moving down there.
He’s shocked to discover tentacles wrapped around his suddenly swollen legs. Not only that, but it’s leaving a burning feeling on his limbs. He rolls out of bed to escape its grasp before the monster reveals itself and goes on the attack. Fortunately, our hero is able to grab its tentacles and throw it out into the hallway.
However, the battle scars from the struggle start to appear as his arms and the right side of his face become swollen. With the burning numbness inside him, he lurches himself in order to close his bedroom door before the monster comes back in.
Suddenly, he hears his cat screeching for its life as it finds itself under attack by the monster. At that moment, he also discovers that the painful swelling in his body has quickly subsided. As such, he climbs into his wheelchair and heads out. Seeing that the monster is distracted in trying to hunt down his cat, he sneaks towards the kitchen and arms himself with a knife.
To lure the monster away from his cat, he also grabs a pan and hurls it at the vile being. However, it notices the incoming object and dodges in time before going after our hero. As it lunges towards him, he proceeds to use his knife and stab it into the creature. However, the confrontation knocks him out of his wheelchair as a vicious struggle pursues. With the monster’s tentacles sending large amounts of swelling pain into our hero, he continues to stab away in his fight for survival before he ultimately blacks out.
When our hero regains consciousness, the sunlight has risen and he finds out that he successfully killed the monster. Not only that, but Ghoulie the cat is also safe and sound. After getting back into his wheelchair, he proceeds to head outside for some fresh air.
However, the story ends with him discovering that there’s more than one of these particular monsters around and they’ve all come to get even with him.
Our final story is a one-page tale narrated by a ghoul version of Commodore Oliver Harzard Perry (the host of this series) called “Commodore’s Cleveland” where he tells us his first tale called “Treeman of Train Avenue”. He tells us about the part of Cleveland’s Industrial Flats where trains used to use these tracks that were inhabited with nearby hobos. Then in 1949, those same people started to pop up not only murdered, but mutilated as well. A man named Dwayne J. Barrows claims to have seen the murderer as a seven-foot, red-eyed monster, but the cops refused to believe such an outlandish tale. A short time later, the murders ceased. Yet in the coming years, urban legends started popping up. One bar patron claims that the killer used the trains to get to his murders and then use them again to get away. The story ends with Zombie Perry feeling that this “monster” likes to hop on the trains and return to the infamous scene to spend some time there.
Overall, this is a neat start to the series. The main story has some good set-up introducing us to the main characters and the situation, we get brief sightings of the Lake Erie Monster but its true identity is getting held off until later on and the violence is gruesome, but not out of touch with the ’70s flicks its paying homage to. The back-up story is weak in the fact that we don’t know much about our protagonist outside of a few details or even where the monster came from, but it’s effective in a claustrophobic sort-of-way in that he’s all alone and must deal with this menace without any help. As I’m not a Cleveland native, I’m not sure how much of the final story rings true in terms of fact. From what I could find about Train Avenue, it appears to be a rundown part of town that stretches from Clark Avenue to Scranton Road. Either way, our host weaves a tale that’s worthy of pondering on. The artwork is mostly rough, which I think is a conscious choice to represent the time period that it takes place in, similar to how “DC Showcase: The Spectre” resembles the look of an exploitation film of the same time period. The color scheme is muted, yet it never goes anywhere near being incomprehensible. Finally, the presentation is also nice. There’s also some ads for local businesses and events that were also done in that ’70s style, making the hand-drawn style look authentic. I recommend that you hunt down a copy and check it out for yourself. You won’t be disappointed. Until next Saturday, see you around the C-Cubed.