Review by Frank Plowright
In the era before widespread television, the tales of mystery and the supernatural broadcast as Inner Sanctum chilled radio listeners across the USA, among them the young Ernie Colón. Years later he decided to adapt some of them as comics.
As Colón is adapting stories originally designed for radio, when voices and sound effects would originally have been predominant, so beyond any scene setting instructions he’s relatively free to extrapolate details, and does so beautifully. One story takes place in World War II era England, and the period detail is correct down to the ubiquitous frayed posters advertising Bovril. Others have a more abstract quality, the mood dependent on shapes and shadows, or feature twisting, loosely rendered monsters.
Impeccable old school draughtsmanship characterises Colón’s artwork. When sophisticated black and white horror comics had their heyday in the 1960s Colón was drawing stories of Richie Rich and Caspar the Friendly Ghost, but he began contributing to the likes of Creepy and Eerie in 1969, and these stories echo the professionalism of that material. Throw Colón anything to draw and he’ll provide it looking stylish and complete.
If the art is extremely accomplished, the stories lag well behind, and what thrilled the young Colón in the 1940s is material that has possibly now had its day. The scripts are uncredited, and the process unexplained, so it’s not certain if Colón worked from recordings or extemporised around his childhood memories. Either way, several of the surprises no longer really surprise, the more moody pieces lack the evocative writing of a Lovecraft, and there’s a puzzling disparity in length. Stories of greedy individuals getting their due desserts, people haunted by terrors unseen by others and predictable twists no longer really cut it in a world where The Walking Dead is a long-running TV show. An old-fashioned precursor to that closes the book, and it’s tame in comparison, a talking corpse dispensing grisly vengeance to his murderers.
Colón has always been a tremendously under-rated artist, respected by professionals, yet never developing a fan following, and there’s a case to be made for Inner Sanctum being worth buying just to see his exemplary professionalism and imagination. However, it’s unlikely the stories will impress.