Every once in a blue moon I’ll pull over when I spot a yard sale that has visible books and or movies. Last Sunday was a slow morning, which afforded me ample browsing time as I crept past a yard sale not a mile from my own home. I was not arrested, as my van <i>does</i> have windows, and I spotted a healthy pile of what looked to be magazines. Stopping was mandatory.
I’m an odd ball, and I enjoy collecting old issues of Scream and Fango, and figured it was worth the time of sorting through that load of faded print.
I didn’t find a single copy of Scream. I didn’t find a single copy of Fango. I did find a lot of illustrated western magazines from the 60s… and a gem I couldn’t have predicted in this lifetime.
As it turns out, whoever was into reading those old western books also had an affinity for one burned fellow we often refer to as Freddy. And in that pile of chaos were eight – yes, eight – A Nightmare on Elm Street comics – two of which were magazine sized, black and white books. These weren’t Avatar releases; these weren’t WildStorm releases. These were the first two Nightmare books to be published by Marvel (WTF!?) back in 1989, and the first six comics to be released by Innovation, in 1991.
I paid five bucks for those eight books, and I went home feeling like I’d done the time warp again (minus the great Dr. Frank-N-Furter) and returned to my youthful days. Seriously, the grin on my face far surpassed shit-eating, and if I’d had any part in shit-eating prior to picking up those books, I’d long forgotten once that crisp five passed from my shaking hands to the wrinkled and time worn digits of a man who’d just made my week. Hell, maybe my month.
Finding Marvel’s original Nightmare run in decent shape isn’t an easy feat. And if you take to ebay (which is always a risk) figures range from $10 to $60 for the first magazine, and $43 to $60 for the second magazine. Looking at those numbers I’ll confess, I kind of feel as though I stole from that old man – whether he gave a hoot or not.
The numbers for the Innovation books aren’t all too different. You can find an issue or so for six or seven bucks, but if you’re hoping to get your hands on all six comics, you’re looking at $100-plus price tags.
Again, I got all of this magic for five bucks. And now I’m going to share with you the contents of these books, providing something of a walkthrough of the stories. I’ll include some still images from each and every book and, well, ultimately, I’m just going to spend a few hours basking in the warmth of nostalgia.
Freddy Krueger’s A Nightmare on Elm Street #1
Steve Gerber writes the inaugural issue of this brief two-mag run, while Rich Buckler and Tony DeZuniga provide the illustrations. The opening story is titled “Dream Stalker” (split into two parts, the first of which is illustrated by the aforementioned Rich Buckler, while the second part is illustrated by Tony DeZuniga) and the story opens with an obvious nod to Wes Craven’s original film, as we see the lifeless, torn to shreds body of Allison (in the film this gruesome fate befalls Tina) lying on a bed when law enforcement and paramedics arrive.
As is customary those closest to her are being interrogated first, the suspicion spotlight shining directly on Allison’s parents. It doesn’t look like the law is making any advances, and before we know it the police receive a message that indicates Allison’s state is so dire that she isn’t likely to survive. From the police headquarters to the hospital, the entire lot takes flight.
We cut to the introduction of Juliann, who’s in New York, but headed back to her hometown, Springwood, Ohio for a new gig. You don’t need to be an official genius to know that this is bad news, but the gut instinct says Juliann is our story’s heroic final girl, so it should be interesting to see how this one pans out.
Speaking of Juliann, we soon learns that at some point she lost consciousness, and she’s now trapped in a nightmare that begins tame enough, but quickly escalates. It’s a dark dream to have, flames dancing, threatening to swallow Juliann whole, when abruptly she wakes to find that she’s in her apartment, a cigarette’s cherry slowly setting her sofa to flames.
Close call, on more than a single account. But if Juliann is fortunate enough to escape the wrath of an insane, homicidal and documented child killer then her chances of indeed being the book’s heroine shoot through the roof. The fact that within just a few pages she exhibits slivers of the mannerisms that help constitute a true heroine, also makes for a powerful report.
Fast forwarding through the book a bit and we’ve seen a number of interesting occurrences. Allison is slowly recovering, details of Amanda Krueger’s presence are introduced. In fact, Amanda’s story is all perfectly aligned for readers, giving those who maybe hadn’t seen any of the film’s an originating point for Krueger, who was, as they say, the bastard son of a thousand maniacs.
This is just about the point in which the story within the book begins to veer from the familiar territory introduced throughout the films (in 1989 the fifth film in the franchise was released). And honestly, that’s a good move, as we’re gifted a lot of material that we hadn’t all seen, on more than once occasion. Krueger’s upbringing is explored on a deeper level and provides an additional reason for the darkness that always lived within the man.
This is interesting new material, making this book well worth a purchase, at any point in time. We’ve seen a large number of screen icons land in comic book pages, but rarely do we see something new that holds major relevance incorporated in these books. Marvel wins big with the decision to follow Krueger’s life from infancy to early adulthood – long before he was burned alive. The youngster lived an unforgiving life, and all of the pain he himself felt, became a burden too hefty to haul alone. He wanted to release some of that pain, and as we all know, he found a way to do that, to children in particular.
The first issue of this wonderfully rewarding set of books shows us a few more hat tips, including a nice little nod to Glen’s screen death in Wes Craven’s <i>A Nightmare on Elm Street</i>. The sequence on the page differs significantly, as it features Freddy on the bed along with his victim, and that victim doesn’t happen to be a male at all, but Juliann herself. All the same, we get an awesome body-sucked-into-a-hungry-Posturepedic shot. It works nearly as well on page as it does on screen.
With only a few pages remaining Juliann finds herself firmly ensnared by Krueger, a near-helpless pawn in his sadistic game. They’re in the boiler room. Krueger’s claws drag across the metal piping, and we can hear it, because we’ve experienced the films. That’s an interesting sensatory assault, looking at an image and hearing the effects of that image deep in your ear canals. Twists the brain up something serious.
The shift back to reality feels sharp, and that may throw the reader for a brief loop, but it only takes a few frames to gain our mental footing again. And once we do gain that footing we understand that Juliann is back at work, at a hospital, moments from meeting her newest patient, Allison Hayes.
Name ring a bell? It should.
We met Allison in the early goings of the story, fighting for her life and torn to shreds. Still in Springwood Medical, Juliann meets with the young lady, and quickly earns her trust, simply by informing her that she possesses knowledge of Freddy Krueger, “The Man of Her Dreams,” and his existence in the dream world.
The two devise a plan that resembles the original plan hatched by Nancy Thompson, in which Krueger was literally pulled into reality as a result of the physical connection in the dream state. Juliann and Allison plan to lure Krueger away from the areas he feels most comfortable, and toward territory in which the ladies will have an advantage over the monster.
But Freddy Krueger is two steps ahead and fully prepared to slaughter these ladies, regardless of location. Whether familiar to Krueger or not, the dream world is still the dream world, and the dream world is his world.