Almost Hidden – Stig’s Inferno
Even with this large amount of comic books that have been collected in trade paperbacks, there are still a number of great comic books that have never been reprinted (I’d say roughly 60% of them are DC Comics from the 1980s through the mid-1990s). So every day this month I will spotlight a different cool comic book that is only available as a back issue. Here is an archive of the comic books featured so far.
I want you folks to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your suggestions for comics that I should feature this month. I’d like to see what you all would like to see get more attention.
This time around, I let Travis Pelkie do a write-up for his suggestion, Ty Templeton’s Stig’s Inferno. Here’s Travis!
When Brian featured a Ty Templeton drawn Wasteland story in the Legends column a little bit ago, I thought of how Ty’s early comics series Stig’s Inferno is not collected. (I discovered that apparently the first 5 issues WERE reprinted, but it was done by Vortex in the late ’80s. Hard luck, old man!) I sent Brian a quick message about featuring Stig and he said I could write about it if I wanted.
Which to me means that *gasp* I found a series not in the Cronin Comics Collection! Oh no! [I have read Stig’s Inferno, I just figured Travis would appreciate doing the write-up – BC]
Anyway, I actually don’t own the book either. I’d only read the first 5 issues at a local library, where someone donated a bunch of ’80s and other comics, including this, an issue of Ted McKeever’s Transit, issues of Trollords, and even some of the 2000AD Monthly US versions with Morrison’s Zenith! For some reason the comics aren’t displayed any more, and the reference librarians scare me so I haven’t asked if the comics are still around.
But Ty Templeton has been good enough to allow a link on his blog [here] with nearly the whole series (issue 7 page 9 isn’t there!). There are some backup stories illustrated by Anthony van Bruggen that are not linked to, and some other stuff that I think is missing (the winners of the Stig Look-Unlike contest, f’r instance). But if you want to spend a good time laughing over one of the funniest comics ever, it’s worth your time to look this up.
Stig’s Inferno was originally published by the Canadian comics company Vortex, which had some amazing series, like Those Annoying Post Brothers by Matt Howarth, Howard Chaykin’s Black Kiss, McKeever’s Transit, Chester Brown’s Yummy Fur, and the Dean Motter created Mr X, which was first done by Los Bros Hernandez, and then later drawn by Seth. Yes, critical darling, Palookaville, It’s a Good Life if You Don’t Weaken Seth. (Vortex publisher Bill Marks and Seth were parodied in Cerebus 92, where Seth is painting Cerebus’s portrait.) The last 2 issues of Stig’s Inferno were published by Eclipse Comics, another of the really good ’80s indie publishers.
So the point is Vortex had really good comics, and Stig’s Inferno is one of the prime examples. It’s a great little romp of a comic. Every issue is hilarious, and Ty’s art improves with each issue. There are tons of allusions to Silver Age comics, and the story is loosely hung on Dante’s Inferno. I’ve internalized the humor of the book so that even after years since I’ve read it, I remember lines and scenes and there are lines that crack me up not just each issue, but almost each page. Ty later riffed on certain elements from these issues in things like Mad Dog and the Plastic Man Special that he did, and the stuff still is funny. A Ty Templeton comic is always a good time, and this is where he started.
We start off with Stig bringing home a date, Beatrice (hm, name sounds familiar). He tries to give her a head’s up about his house, which, while he built it himself, still has a “demonic-netherworld, wretched spirit talisman” on the wall. He then shows off to Beatrice his piano playing skills, with a composition of his own.
And then he finds this:
Well, one thing leads to another and the lid of the piano falls onto Stig’s head. That’s not good.
After falling falling falling in the dark, Stig awakens to find he’s fallen out of his house (again). And then:
Those were limited edition Leonard Nimoy designer jeans, too!
The cops above are investigating Stig’s death, and decide as part of that to set charges and blow up Stig’s house. (Yeah, why not?)
Stig finds an escalator, and when it breaks down, he encounters 2 demon repairmen:
The demons, Barbariccia (the short one) and Scarmiglione (the big one) take Stig off, but then get into an argument over the fact that the “shade” Stig has a shirt. And Stig gets dropped into a river, where a monstrous creature grabs his leg.
This leads to issue 3, maybe my favorite all around issue.
Stig survives his fight with the sea monster, which leads to maybe my favorite line of the series: “IMAGINE not enjoying being eaten. Everyone enjoys being drunk.”
We find that Beatrice and the police force survived the horrible explosion of Stig’s house as the investigation into Stig’s “murder” continues. We find out why Beatrice is above suspicion, and how the police deal with these “piano-scum”!
A helpful passerby translates the inscription on the gate that the police are outside. “What’s the doorway to hell doing in my precinct? It’s against zoning
Beatrice and the police are outside the gates of hell, and they have this lovely scene, with interesting background guests and funny asides.
All this time, through the first 3 issues, the “director”, his aid Bob, and his lady friend Helene have been getting ready for a party.
The director may be the lord of hell, but he’s still beholden to his lady.
The sea monster gets distracted, and leaves Stig near Charon’s beach.
So Stig’s been hanging around some surfers waiting for Charon, and he’s let onto Charon’s boat. There’s a nice bit about the legends of a shade bearing Visine, but I’ll let you find that one for yourselves. Suffice to say, Stig gets charge Charon’s boat. The director and crew get to the party. And the boat, which has been flying, now runs out of gas over the party, where Sid Vicious’s new band is playing. (I love the second panel here, btw. It was featured in a fake ad in the original comics, asking which monster smoked which cigarettes.)
Well, that’s not a good sign.
I love the bit about the obnoxious drunk at a party.
Issues 5 and 7 deal with Stig in the presence of Satan, getting thrown into the dungeon, meeting Virgil, escaping (with a nice bit about the duty of guards), getting recaptured, having frighteningly stupid demons trying to take him for further punishment, and finding out a little more about why Stig seems to attract all this attention.
Unfortunately, we only got 7 issues of Stig’s Inferno, and issue 6 was a recap. (However, it opens with a wonderful Mad homage  and gives us a recap of the first 5 issues in Ty’s more mature style. Neat to compare and contrast with the early issues.) The Stig site says that paying work called, but I’ve also read that the death of his good friend Klaus Schonefeld played a part — Klaus helped create the early issues, and also worked with Ty on a book called Kelvin Mace. Stig apparently appears briefly at the end of Ty’s Vertigo GN, Bigg Time.
The artwork really improves over the course of the series. It starts off good, with some nice background bits that shine, and by the end, we had that wonderful Mad homage, along with the lovely artwork on Helene in the last issue (). Seeing the images of her reminded me that Ty inked Mike Parobeck on the awesome Elongated Man mini from ’92, and apparently exerted more influence on the final look of that than I’d realized.
Stig’s Inferno is a major influence on my own sense of humor, and it’s a shame that the entire series (including all the back ups like Lenny’s Casino and Grill and the Plasma Monkeys) isn’t available in print. IDW should look into collecting this!
I’ll leave you with this, one of my favorite pages early on, and more so now that I know more of Cerebus: