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I Luv Halloween

I have, in my decade plus of reading comics, felt many things for many of the works I come across. I have felt disappointed when I read a graphic novel that had far more potential than shown in its execution. Comics that I might have originally deemed as pure fluff, when they show untold amounts of depth during the reading, have always surprised me.

I have hated comics, I have been apathetic toward them, and I have loved them. But I have never been utterly disgusted and insulted by a comic book, until today.

I Luv Halloween, written by Keith Giffen (of Formerly Known As the Justice League fame) and with art by Benjamin Roman, is pure filth and before someone accuses me of being too conservative in my readings, please understand that I am reticent to even go as far as to call this book distasteful, save for that fact that it really is. This comic is not only grotesque; it lacks plot, meaning, character development, and is ambiguous as to even what kind of story it wants to tell.

I would love to know where Giffen, a writer well respected for his comedic and superhero work, came up with this bad idea. The story, what little there is of it, centers on a group of boys going out for Halloween, with a younger sister in-tow. The book opens with the young girl using pliers to pull the teeth out of the skulls of her decaying parents mouths, who are dead for no given reason, and we see her later wearing them as a necklace. The brother makes a joke to the effect of “they’ll need their teeth when they come back as zombies,” and they meet up with their fellow ghoul masked compatriots to go off to trick-or-treat.

This happens in the first six pages.

The children are, as one might expect, profane little buggers who talk about death and murder nonchalantly, as well as comment on the various adulterous exploits of one of their neighbors. They put razor blades into an apple and give it to a cop, resulting in another death of an old lady. The young sister finds a bra and makes a sling out of it, which she uses to kill another child, once again, simply because she can by knocking away part of his skull. She strangles another child, a bully, which I suppose makes it okay in the world Giffen has concocted.

Children are seen holding 9mm handguns and shooting other children. One trick-or-treater’s head explodes in a rain of blood and gore. There are a few scenes of children being beaten, a dog eats a woman alive, genitalia is shot off, corpses are defiled, etc.

Some of you might be thinking, clearly Giffen has tried to go to some dark and humorous place in order to make some type of comment on society. Some of you might be thinking, hey now, corpses can be funny too. While I agrees that all these things are possible, I can tell you that none of that happened in this comic. The characters and the things they do aren’t driven by a purpose and neither is the story. There is no underlying reason for anything that happens in this book. It is simply gruesome scene after gruesome scene, strung together loosely by the idea of Halloween.

And what’s more annoying is that Giffen isn’t trying to be funny, or sarcastic, or anything other than monstrous in his writing; jokes are not made and the events are barely even registered by the characters. You’ll notice I haven’t used any of their names, because it doesn’t matter what their names are because they aren’t even characters. They’re drawings: the writing equivalent of stick figure men. This isn’t a dark humor story. It’s a snuff film without the sex.

And before anyone says, “Well, isn’t this horror?” understand that horror, as a genre, has certain criteria it must meet to be more than a content-lacking pile of trash like Giffen and Roman’s effort. In horror, there is always a character or a group of characters, that we care about. They are the people we’re meant to relate to, so that when Michael Myers is chopping up a bubbly co-ed who just knocked one out with the high school quarterback, we’re not just scared of the chopping but of the fact that the character could have been us.

While horror has become far more tongue-in-cheek in the last few decades (Scream being the best example of a genre gone wrong), you have to remember that at the core of horror is meant to be fear, not gore. True horror, good horror, was about what we didn’t see which Hitchcock did best in his films. You don’t need ot see the body to be afraid of what happened to it.

What’s true for movies is as equally true for comics because they’re mediums that share many creative aspects. The Walking Dead is a horror comic at it’s heart because it features characters we want to live, characters we care about, that are struggling to survive in a world comprised of nothing but horror, this time in the form of zombies. When they die, we’re scared because of what’s happening to them, not what’s happening.

Yes, gore has its place in the horror genre because the scary can be made completely frightening with the addition of a blood soaked maw or an errant body part, but it’s not the point of horror. Movies like Texas Chainsaw Massacre work because the good guys are dying, not because you get to follow around the guy making masks out of people’s skin and see how much he enjoys it.

The artwork by Roman is a less stylized version of Jhonen Vasquez’s work, which means Roman is probably a fan of Invader Zim and JTHM. I have no doubt that is where he found such great ability to depict the horrible. Don’t get me wrong; Roman is in fact good at what he’s meant to be doing, which is inducing nausea in the reader, but coupled with Giffen’s script his deft touch with the grotesque only serves to highlight how disgusting and lacking-in-value the book really is. A collection of morgue pictorials might have been less disturbing and more entertaining than this worthless collection.

And perhaps what worries me more is that this small piece of garbage is published by TokyoPop. While I’ve never claimed to be a manga expert I do know that it’s rare that an industry so dependant on the purchasing power of the pre-teen would seek to publish something so clearly meant for adults in a format that is read nearly entirely by young adult readers. Even some of the manga that is meant for the older reader being translated from Japan isn’t nearly this inappropriate for kids, so I wonder why they decided to publish this title.

My guess is that they thought Giffen’s name might grab more attention in the comic shop ordering process, trying to get the specialty shops to carry this $9.99 debacle. If you’re a parent, do not buy this. If you run a comic shop, do not order this for the racks.

I Luv Halloween

Robert Sparling

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