Classic Horror Revisited: Gary Gianni’s Monstermen and Other Scary Stories
Written by Gary Gianni with other stories by William Hope Hodgson, Clark Ashton Smith, Robert E. Howard, and Perceval Landon
Illustrated by Gary Gianni
Lettered by Sean Konot and Todd Klein
Dark Horse Books
A collection of Corpus Monstrum episodes, originally from the backs of various Hellboys, make up the Monstermen of the book Monstermen and Other Scary Stories. These stories fall very much in line with Gianni’s other works, e.g. 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, Prince Valiant, and Hellboy – in the good way.
The premise of Gary Giani’s Monstermen consists Benedict, a man dressed in a tuxedo and a knight’s helmet, his assistant Lawrence St. George, a famous horror film director, and their adventures that involve dispatching malevolent spirits for his guild Corpus Monstrum. The feel of the story is that of nineteenth century gothic horror, adventure stories, and detective fiction.
The writing is a lot of fun and falls well into its genre. There are some character closures and the mystery of Benedict is spun out well, but we never really get anywhere with it. Besides how it might be too traditional for some, that is really the main issue with the writing. It feels incomplete as there are stories threads that end abruptly, others that do not lead anywhere substantial, and the omnipresent sense that we are at the beginning of a series in the process of being introduced. The introduction never ends however, because there do not appear to be more stories of Corpus Monstrum. So, unless the series is definitely a series, the writing suffers a bit from this.
All that said, the writing is fun and the artwork is fantastic. Gianni’s heavily inked style meshes with the sense of classic horror convincingly. The characters stand out well, especially the horrific ones and the various ghosts, demons, and spirits Gianni invokes. They pose with a balance between grace and unease, setting the mood for a world besieged by evil. Even more importantly however, Gianni puts thought into his page layouts, and you can tell. While reading through the comic there is pure pleasure to be found in just stopping and looking at the some of the clever or dynamic ways he stays within his set program and breaks it.
Now, this review isn’t going to go on for much longer, but one should glance at the other stories. After the adventures with Lawrence St. George and Benedict end, Gianni includes a selection of late nineteenth early twentieth horror stories with illustrations by him. Rather than continuing with the comic layout of the Monstermen however, Gianni chooses to do page illustrations in the style of something like the classic Sherlock Holmes stories. Again, his illustrations add a dynamic to the story that is entirely welcomed.
If you are interested in classic horror or adventure tales, then certainly this is a volume to be recommended. It is traditional but not rusty, and a delight to read and peruse.