Hello, my friends. It’s a glorious season for Halloween, so what better way to continue our demonic drive towards that fateful night than with two terrifying tales for the price of one. Now that our first story has shambled on, it’s time to tune in for our second story as I welcome you back to 2021’s featured theme known as…
We’re also keeping things separate from the big two of DC & Marvel as we once again bring in the San Diego-based comic company known as Idea & Design Works (or IDW) Publishing. Over the years, I’ve spotlighted several of their horror-themed works. In 2017, I reviewed Christopher Belmont’s five-part fight against Dracula in “Castlevania: The Belmont Legacy” , while 2018 saw me talk about a two-part comic continuation of Bram Stoker’s classic tale via a table-top board game with “Dracula’s Revenge”. 2019 brought about the 15th Anniversary of Edgar Wright’s famous zom-com “Shaun Of The Dead”, so I ended up covering its adaptation. Finally, 2020 had a four-part venture of elderly spooks teaming up with a young girl to save her grandfather’s castle from being demolished for the sake of building condos in “Grumpy Old Monsters”. Now, IDW’s contribution will see a small-screen presenter being put under an unfair light as we being our venture into…
Published in April 2004, this inaugural chapter ended up selling 7,130 copies upon its initial release. Steve Niles writes the story, while Breehn Burns does double duty by taking care of both artwork and the lettering. So, what kind of creepy uneasiness will begin to unfold? Let’s take to the airwaves and find out.
We open on the outskirts of an old house as some narration describes how a man named Aleister Green was “thoroughly destroyed” by the citizens of his hometown, even revealing his grave in close proximity of the building. From there, we get informed about Aleister’s background. Over a quarter-century and for three different TV stations, he was an L.A.-based weatherman who had built up some minor celebrity status within the city. He actively interacted with the local science fiction & horror communities, the latter of which saw him become an expert in macabre literature and horror film. Not to mention, occult activities became widely-accepted within the City of Angels. He even created his persona of Aleister Arcane and became the character on an annual basis for his station’s Halloween weathercast and his network’s own horror movie festival. After several years of his popularity building up, he eventually got a job offer from a TV station based in his hometown of Jackson, Oklahoma, to which he accepted. As such, the 61-year-old man and his wife Delia moved to the Sooner State, where he would go on to host a weekly Saturday Night creature feature program as Aleister Arcane.
Unfortunately, he began to come across some pushback from his studio executives, mainly regarded the relatively harmless antics of his persona, particularly when he cut off a fake hand. Despite Aleister questioning how this act is blasphemous, the executives tell him that it’s about the moral content that their sponsors will continue to support and that they’re concerned about how his program affects their children. Green tells him that their children shouldn’t even be up that late, due to his show being on late at night and that fact that everything he does on his program is fake. Unfortunately, the executives refuse to budge as they proceed to place severe restrictions upon him, ranging from the banning of spilled blood, severed limbs & various slasher weapons to having zero mention or display of witchcraft, skeletons and any kind of monster. However, Aleister was only furious by the trivial orders placed upon him. As such, he only ramped up his on-screen act with over-the-top displays of bloodshed. Even though he didn’t get fired from the station for his actions, this still led to some brewing hostility from the locals. He would receive some complaining mail from them, his wife Delia assures him that this nonsense will pass and that he should attend the upcoming town hall meeting to present his case. At said gathering however, the ignorant citizens blamed him and his show’s content for making their children become misbehaviorably, filling their heads with “terrible thoughts”. Alesiter calmly argues how science fiction and horror actually invigorates their imagination and rarely ever creates their “violent behavior”. Not only that, but facing their fears is actually “therapeutic and healthy”.
Sadly, the locals refused to listen to his reasoning and were looking for any reason to finally get him fired. Eventually, the citizens got their wish as Aleister learned that “some pumpkin-headed dirt-eater” had chopped off his younger brother’s hand. With that incident being used as the biggest example against Green, the station ultimately caved in to the overwhelming pressure and canceled his show. As a lawsuit now loomed over him, his wife Delia sadly became sick, starting off as a cold before her elderly form ultimately succumbed to growing illness and did her in via a heart attack. By the time that he was brought to trial, he was in “such a dark hole of despair”.
Despite the angry crowd practically calling for his “head on a stick” due to his “defiance”, the jury couldn’t find any legitimate connection between Crane’s macabre act and the proper motivation that led to the dismemberment of a young boy’s hand. As such, he was exonerated. However, the victory was bittersweet for Aleister since the long-standing turmoil has left him in emotional shambles. As a result, he ended up living in self-solitary confinement within his own home, while the town’s citizens lived in semi-fear of him. Over time, the scandal and any notion of late-night horror faded away as he lived as “a forgotten relic” who waited for his end to come.
We then shift ahead to the present day as Aleister’s solitary Halloween night gets disturbed by the sound of his door bell. He tries to tell a small group of trick-or-treaters to go away, but one of the kids starts to make her way inside in the hope of finding some candy. Suddenly, she notices some amazing objects within his house as Green ultimately decides to let them in. The children find themselves in absolute amazement at his vast horror collection, especially with certain props that were in certain classic films. During this, the young girl recognizes him as the “sinner scumbag” that her parents helped get his program pulled in order to get their town “saved”. When Aleister says that they “put a man out of a job”, she says that it was a bad thing that they did to him before introducing herself as Lauren. From there, a friendship begins to spark between her and the former horror host.
Over a certain length of time, Lauren and her friends Jacob, Devon & Andy would begin to develop a deep appreciation for Green’s previous tenure, ranging from the viewing of several horror films & past episodes of the Aleister Arcane show to reading several and even learning numerous magic tricks from the elderly man. With a small audience to share his legacy with, he was finally able to climb out of the emotional funk of his past and actually feel happy once again.
Over time, Lauren became the most friendly and highly-intelligent of the group. As such, she was “the perfect pupil for Aleister”. Unfortunately, Aleister’s age was finally catching up to him as he became more and more exhausted. By the time that Autumn rolled around, his health was in fatal decline, especially from “a sudden cold”. One day, Lauren and her friends visited Green, bringing some soup to his bedside. With the former horror host feeling his life slipping away, he gives one last confession to them. He says that he was angry for a long time following his tragic fall from grace, before he suddenly starts asking for forgiveness for what he’s just done. He mentions “something terrible” and even how “everything starts with me” before he wearily warns them to run, since he prophesizes about some “dark skies”. And so, Issue 1 ends with Aleister passing on as the narration says a fuse has now been lit as Jackson, Oklahoma is about “pay dearly for its sins”.
Overall, this is an emotional start to the story. Aleister’s humble rise, tragic fall and brief respite gets transcribed really well, especially when his forced decline coming as a result of his hometown feels like that the citizens are fully-engrossed within old-school 20th Century Conservatism. Niles does a really good job with his writing in making the reader feel for Green and for how he unfairly forced into giving up his horror-themed formed of entertainment, especially since it happened during the same time that he lost his wife to an illness. There’s also some wholesome levity when he meets Lauren and her friends, since this helps him relive his glory days by teaching them about horror’s past, thus allowing him to do his part and preserve the genre & his legacy through them. Aside from their mild cursing, the children are nicely-handled and feel very genuine with their curiosity towards his work & their developed caring. As for the horror theme that this series should present, it’s mainly subdued throughout the majority of this issue and is only present within the job that Aleister had. However, the ending does present an effective and looming terror for its hook for the next issue, since it seems like he set something sinister in motion in order to get back at the civilians of Jackson, Oklahoma for what they did to him. It sets up a mystery for the kids to solve throughout the next few issues and it places them as our central protagonists moving forward. Finally, the artwork is something of a certain taste. There are some moody shots that wonderfully blends lights and shadow in order to create some emotional moments for the story. On the flipside however, the style does leave a few moments of mainly single-color backgrounds and items that leaves the overall presentation a little sketch at times, though this is mainly during the second half of the book as its mostly well-detailed throughout. In the end, this is more of an emotional ride than horror-fueled, though it feels like its saving that for what’s to come. Even still, this is a good start to this three-part tale that’ll make its young adult audience feel engaged throughout, neatly establishes its characters & situations and leaves its readers with some eager anticipation about what’s to come. So, what sort of grim sense of dread awaits Lauren, her friends and the townsfolk that condemned Aleister to his grim fate? Stay tuned to your terror tubes as Halloween continues to creep upon us and I unveil what awaits us for this spooky series.
Aleister Arcane (created by Steve Niles) is owned by Idea & Design Works Publishing.