Review by Ian Keogh
By the late 1960s a significant proportion of DC’s income came from mystery and supernatural themed anthologies. Although employing different editors and titles, they broadly followed the same pattern of gathering spooky stories ending with a surprise, often not a very pleasant one for the protagonist, and that’s the theme revived for young adult title Deadman Tells the Spooky Tales.
Major differences between then and now are cartooning that would have been anathema to the readers back in the day who wanted their supernatural thrills drawn as realistically as the content allowed, and that there’s just the single writer. Franco Aureliani has a fair track record with projects aimed at younger readers, and pitches his spine-tinglers at the appropriate level, offering surprises and thrills, but avoiding any real darkness with the exception of the opening story. ‘The House of Madame Pyka’ is drawn by Andy Price near enough naturalistically, and has an uncharacteristically grim ending. The remaining content offers a few shivers, but pitched at a different level, although Thomas Boatwright’s ‘Mannequins’ is hardly cheery either.
Deadman’s presence is as an old-fashioned host, introducing each story and commenting on the previous one in sequences drawn by artistic star turn Sara Richard, whose internal art (sample left) is even more imaginative than her creepy cover portrait. The other sample art is from Morgan Beem’s ‘Fall’, the longest story here at sixteen pages, and over-extended in presenting the terror of living leaves.
Anyone familiar with DC characters will pick up on a couple of nods to the wider DC universe, but only Man-Bat stars in a strip. On the whole Deadman Tells the Spooky Tales follows the pattern of its DC predecessors, as even allowing for the stories being pitched at a younger age group, it’s the cartooning that resonates.