Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
Here is the latest in our year-long look at one cool comic (whether it be a self-contained work, an ongoing comic or a run on a long-running title that featured multiple creative teams on it over the years) a day (in no particular order whatsoever)! Here‘s the archive of the comics posted so far!
Today we finish our Halloween Countdown of Cool Halloween Comics with one of the most brilliant Halloween comic tales you’ll ever read, Scott Hampton’s amazing “The Upturned Stone,” which was recommended to me to feature here by my pal, Zack Smith (whose site you can check out here).
This story originally appeared in the September 1993 edition of Heavy Metal magazine, but it has since been reprinted on its own a few times (although I actually don’t know offhand if any of the various reprints are currently in print – you can get a copy easy off of Amazon, though).
Anyhow, the story is a coming of age story about four ten-year-old boys in…hmmm…I was going to guess 1970 but then I realized the story actually identifies it as 1969. Well, I was close!!
So that’s the basic set-up…the pumpkin turns into a fairly dour jack o’ lantern, and then later, Pete’s mom serves the boys pumpkin pie made from the pumpkin!!!
But sure enough, Pete begins to get spooky dreams that appear to be the memories of the murdered boy.
When he mentions this to his two friends while the trio are camping, it turns out he is not the ONLY one to be having these dreams!
Only, as it turns out, they each are just getting one quarter of the tale…the part they’re missing is the END! As you may recall, the fourth boy from that fateful night did not live in their neighborhood. So they go to seek him out and see what HE’S been dreaming about!
And when they find out, they must then figure out what they’re going to do about it all.
Hampton has such a brilliantly spooky way of delivering the dream sequences that it just sends a chill down your spine. Definitely not something that you want to be reading late at night (which is, of course, right when I read it).
I won’t spoil any of the spooky dreams, but instead, I’ll show this quick unrelated ghost story from the comic…
Spooky, right? And that’s just a QUICK bit – I bet you can imagine how scary he can make it if he has time to set the scene.
What really stands out about this tale (besides Hampton’s awesome painted artwork) is how good of a job Hampton does in developing these kids’ personalities and setting them up as just your average, everyday kids. There’s a funny bit where Pete and his friend Mark give their other friend, George, a hard time about the time they convinced him that the f-word was just another way to say “eat” – and that’s followed by a rough scene where George almost counters Mark’s teasing about the “f-word means eat” incident by making light of the fact that Mark’s parents both abandoned him, leaving him to be raised now by his older brother.
But really, the highlight of the comic is the way Hampton depicts the ghost story aspect of the comic, especially the climax of the tale, which is mostly silent…eerily silent.
This might be the best Halloween comic book story I’ve ever read, so I heartily recommend you seeking it out (and then not reading it late at night in a darkened room).
Happy Halloween, everybody!!!
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