Neely Covers Comics to Give You the Creeps!
Tom Neely, writer/artist
I Will Destroy You, May 2010
Tom Neely’s “cover versions” of various classic (or in some cases just old) horror comic covers have been a highlight of the Internet ever since he started putting them up on his site and on Robert Goodin’s never-miss-a-day Covered site. So naturally a collection of them is gonna be a treat if you’re into that sort of thing. But I think this minicomic is worth the price admission for more than just horror-hound eyecandy.
For one thing, it’s more like an eye-dessert cart, in large part due to the colors. People ought to be studying that lush midnight blue background in Adventures Into Terror, that sickly purple twilight in Beware the Clutching Hand and Unearthly Spectaculars, the candlelight effect giving way to a rich orange shadow in Creepy #79. That the comic’s paper holds them as well as it does is a testament to Neely’s skill as a self-publisher in addition to his instincts as a colorist.
For another, this collection is a sort of capsule version of the horror gospel according to Tom Neely. Not so much in the selections as in the interpretations, a picture emerges of what it is that Neely finds frightening; put simply, it’s the vulnerability of the body. His figures are both rail-thin and out-of-shape, a brand of body horror not far removed from black-and-white photos of the prisoners of Andersonville or Auschwitz. They grasp and point with arms that look like they could be snapped in half like twigs–honestly, Beware the Clutching Hand could serve as the title for Neely’s whole oeuvre. And there’s a horror of hair here as palpable as anything outside of The Ring. Weedy black locks cascade out from the heads of women like snakes and sprout from the heads and faces of men like anemones, suggesting an intense loathing of the way our bodies behave beyond our control. It’s like a zombie apocalypse perpetrated by sentient armpits and groins. All told, it’s much more than a series of kitschy nostalgic pin-ups. Creepy? You betcha.