Monster - from Scream!

In Review: Monster, from Scream! comic

Monster - from Scream!

Writers: Alan Moore, John Wagner
Artists: Heinzl (Alberto Giolotti), Jesus Redondo
Introduced by Ian Rimmer, Scream!‘s editor
Paperback, 192 page, includes the series text stories from various Holiday Specials etc
Publisher: Rebellion
Out: Now

Monster - Episode 1 Page 1

Monster - Episode 1 Page 2
Opening pages from the first episode of “Monster”, scripted by Alan Moore

The Book:

IT CAME FROM THE ATTIC!

Twelve-year old Kenneth Corman buried his abusive father outside his creaky old family home. The thing that had killed him was inside, lurking in the darkness of the locked attic.

For all of his young life, Kenneth had been plagued by a feeling that there was something horrific dwelling in his house of secrets. But he had to know what was up there. He had to know what had killed his dad. And now he would face the horrors behind the attic door…

Never before collected, this is the only series to have been created by Alan Moore and scripted for the rest of its run by John Wagner. Two comic book legends in one forgotten classic!

This stand-alone collection contains the entire run of “Monster” from the 1980s comics Scream! and The Eagle.

Kenny's first sight of his Uncle Terry
Kenny’s first sight of his Uncle Terry

The Review: This review contains minor spoilers because it’s practically impossible to review without some discussion of what the actual monster is – be warned!

They say the light that burns twice as bright burns half as long and that is certainly true of Scream!, the IPC horror comic which started in March 1984 and ran for just 15 regular issues and several holiday specials.

Scream! was something special and is fondly remembered by those of us who were of comic-reading age when it hit the news-stands. And although the cautiousness of its publishers meant that the writers were restricted in the amount of genuine horror content they could use, Scream! still managed to produce stories that were imaginative, well-written, exciting and memorable.

Little wonder that it is still so highly thought of today and that it is the subject of its own rather excellent tribute website, Back From the Depths.

Kenny is haunted by recent events in "Nightmare", including the accidental death of his bullying father at Uncle Terry's hands
Kenny is haunted by recent events in “Nightmare”, including the accidental death of his bullying father at Uncle Terry’s hands

So here we are in 2016 and what a pleasant surprise to see one of the best Scream! stories getting major exposure once again. I’d always assumed that the excellent Hibernia would continue to be the only ones flying the flag for classic material like this and it really is nice to see the Scream! logo on the front of a mainstream graphic novel.

Back in 1984, I remember discussing issue one of Scream! with fellow pupils at school when the comic first came out, and on the basis of the first issue we were all of the same mind that “Monster” was by far the best story.

Uncle Terry takes on a shark on his way to find Kenny in Australia. We checked - there's no hook.
Uncle Terry takes on a shark on his way to find Kenny in Australia. We checked – there’s no hook.

The reason? Well, I suspect that it’s because it utilized that most mysterious and exciting of plot devices – the secret behind the closed door. We were all hooked on the story because we wanted to know what our young hero Kenny would find when he entered the mysterious room in his house. You see, Kenny’s abusive father had died and that room contained a horrible family secret – the pathetic and terrified form of Kenny’s deformed Uncle Terry who had lived in torment for years, kept by his own family like a caged animal.

That first episode, unlike the others, was the only one written by Alan Moore and drawn by Heinzl (Messrs Redondo, Grant and Wagner would pick up the baton from episode two onwards). And that initial installment does stand alone as an entity in its own right.

The trouble with closed doors, of course, is that once you reveal what’s behind them, the mystery is gone. So brilliant though the rest of the story is, it never quite recaptures the wonder and anticipation of that first Alan Moore-scripted episode.

Throughout "Monster", villains take on Terry and end up worse off. It's not that great for the authorities, either...
Throughout “Monster”, villains take on Terry and end up worse off. It’s not that great for the authorities, either…

But fear not. The subsequent chapters are still pretty superb in their own right. With a Fugitive-type vibe, the story follows Kenny and his uncle as they go on the run and try to avoid the authorities. And the authorities are quick to judge them. Policemen, doctors… there are many unsympathetic people who the two friends encounter on their travels.

Like Frankenstein’s monster, Uncle Terry is not really a monster at all. He’s a good man whose been dealt the worst possible luck in life and who has to cope with the many prejudices that are thrown at him.

For all the violence of Monster, there's plenty of humour, and an occasional tender moment, too, when Kenny and Terry are on the run
For all the violence of Monster, there’s plenty of humour, and an occasional tender moment, too, when Kenny and Terry are on the run

It’s interesting that the two Scream! stories which transferred over to Eagle when the two comics merged were the two adventures which had no genuine supernatural content. “The Thirteenth Floor” was about a computer powerful enough to create another reality and “Monster” was about a human being who happened to be deformed. So “Monster” was an adventure story really and it therefore fitted into the context of Eagle very well.

That said, occasional attempts to give it a ‘spooky’ flavor, such as when Uncle Terry ended up in the House of Horrors at Blackpool Pleasure Beach, were welcomed by this reader.

Terry’s journey is a long one and he finds himself in scenarios as varied as a boat in choppy Scottish waters, being trapped in a caravan, being surrounded by sharks and even riding on a rollercoaster. But despite these many dangerous situations, the ending is refreshingly upbeat and gives hope for the future. Then it was all over, “Monster” being one of several stories brought to an end to clear the decks for the new Eagle and Tiger in 1985.

I genuinely think that “Monster” is one of the best British comic strips ever created and this collection does seem to have been warmly welcomed, even getting exposure in the Guardian earlier this year (and one of the most mixed up reports on a British downthetubes editor John Freeman ever read outside of a local newspaper on Blastr).

“Monster” has adventure, scares and genuine pathos so whether you are familiar with the story or not, I suggest you give this book a try.

“Monster”, Scream! © Rebellion

Published by

Ian Wheeler

Ian Wheeler

Former Co-ordinator of the Doctor Who Appreciation Society. Publisher and Editor of comics-related fanzines. Contributor to books on Doctor Who from Virgin and Miwk Publishing. Contributor to cult TV fanzines and periodicals.

One thought on “In Review: Monster, from Scream! comic

  1. Good review! Nice to see from the preview pages that Rebellion seem to have done a good job on the art repro too – a tough one, given Redondo’s smudgy inks pose a bit of a challenge.

    Also nice to see you crediting Giolitti as “Heinzl” – from what I could gather through conversations with a couple of Italian artists, the inks were almost certainly Giolitti though the pencils on that opening episode may have been one of his studio team – as he is rather unappreciated for his work in British comics (particularly that epic opening run on Doomlord).

    (Further: I found this among my notes for a possible article on Giolitti, from a conversation with the Italian comics historian, Alberto Becattini:

    “In my opinion [Giorgio] Cambiotti pencilled at least the old man’s faces on pages 2 and 3 of Doomlord’s second story, whereas it seems to me that he pencilled all of Monster (the boy looks like Cambiotti’s style, as do the rest of the layouts – – typical Cambiotti elongated figures). Very often in the 1970s and 1980s would Giolitti use Cambiotti as a penciller, even on Turok and Starstream, for instance. Previous pencillers had included Giovanni Ticci, Sergio Costa and Massimo Belardinelli.”)

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