I’m a big fan of Edgar Allan Poe. Sure, I like to read his short stories and some of his poems, but I think what I love most is the almost mythological character the real person has become in our imagination. If you read too much into his sometimes sordid and sad life, you might get depressed. However, if you willingly suspend your disbelief and you submerge yourself into his stories, his characters, his wonderful Romantic Gothic style of writing, you can’t help but have warm feelings toward this author who has given us such chills.
And that is exactly what the team at Hocus Pocus Comics has captured with The Imaginary Voyages of Edgar Allan Poe, a wonderfully whimsical and warm-hearted homage to Poe and what I think is the world of Poe-inspired imagery and imagination that has in many ways supplanted the man himself in terms of his legacy. What do I mean by that? Well, I guess I mean that as I was reading this first issue I felt like I was seeing familiar allusions to specific Poe stories as well as classical texts like Virgil’s Aenead and Dante’s Inferno (guest-starring Virgil). It made me think of Neil Gaiman’s use of Morpheus (Dream) in Sandman as well as Rod Serling’s TV show Night Gallery. So, I think this comic for me captured the influences on Poe and the world of Gothic horror that Poe influenced himself for generations to come. So, I felt right at home, and I appreciated the dialog and imagery that accompanied me as the reader though this first issue. Part adventure story, elements of fairy tale plots (or quest-based computer games), and lovely art throughout.
If you get a chance to read the opening pages of this comic, you may experience deja vu. I know I certainly did. And there is good reason. When we meet Irving, Poe’s rat-manservant cum Virgil to Poe’s Dante into the depths of Spindle Towne, he calls Edgar Allan Poe by the surname Poo. It dawned on me then I have read this comic (or rather an Ur-version) of this comic before! Some 10 years ago! Deja vu, indeed! (Forgive the excessive use of exclamatory punctuation) You can pick up vintage copies of The Surreal Adventures of Edgar Allan Poo though eBay and other fine used comic retailers near you.
Issue #1 of this projected 12 part series starts off fast and furry-ous (yes, I went there) when we witness Edgar Allan Poe’s dream-self escape from his mind and fall into a dream world. There he meets and is rescued by his anthro-Poe-morphic (ha!) rodent manservant, Irving, who “Ushers” (yes, I am horrible) Poe into Spindle Towne, part of the world of Terra Somnium. In this first issue, Poe is the innocent stranger in a strange land stumbling through the world, and the primary plot points are divulged to us, the reader, through Irving’s interactions with the other residents of Terra Somnium. Who is the Nightmare King and what is he after? Who are the Maghi and why is Irving determined to escort Poo… er, Poe that is, there? And who was that mysterious armory shopkeeper who gives Poe a special “gift” and will that gift help or hinder Poe in later issues? To find out the answers to this these questions, you should consider visiting the Kickstarter campaign page for this comic: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/dwightlmacpherson/imaginary-voyages-of-edgar-allan-poe-1-ks-exclusiv.
What I liked about this comic: The story is quick-paced and the reader is immediately thrust into the adventure. The art is solid, there is no mistaking that Poe is Poe, and the panels that highlight the comic’s setting are fun and intriguing and the this is a comic where you can definitely make the argument that the colorist (Andrea Messi) really contributes to the artistic quality of the book. Also, the cover by David Hartman is really eye-catching and similar but not identical to the interior art, which is nice, it’s a great cover, but you are not at all disappointed by the interior art (the tragic flaw of so many comics of the 90’s!).
What I loved about this comic: The choice to have anthropomorphic world is interesting. Nothing springs to mind as to this being inspired or influenced by a Poe story, but is makes for a really whimsical world to set this comic. The choice to include so much Greco-Roman mythology and imargery in terms of characters and settings is brilliant. First, because I love Greco-Roman mythology. Second, because Poe grew up and lived in an America that embraced the Greek Revival style. Archaeology was coming into its own, and 19th-century America would have seen Greek-inspired architecture being erected all while new and exciting archaeological finds were being unearthed. A lot of Poe’s stories and poems feature Gothic “Continental” settings, but even just remembering the most memorable lines of “The Raven,” with the bust of Pallas Athena and speaking of the dark Plutonian shores, you know that Poe had ancient Greece and Rome, it’s mythology and it’s ancient mystery on his mind, and in this comic we get to dive into Poe’s mind! I love it!
What I didn’t care for so much about this comic: How about some splash pages, people? I want to see a whole page devoted to art like the cover.
In conclusion, now I am determined to find my paper copy of the first incarnation of this comic at home, if only to compare and contrast the opening 20+ pages. if you like any combination of Edgar Allan Poe, talking animals, hero quests, or Greco-Roman mythology, I think you will enjoy this comic. This first issue plunged us immediately into a chase scene, teases us with larger plot points (like the Nightmare King), and leaves us hanging with a showdown with Poseidon. So, overall, I thought it was a pretty awesome first issue, and I hope I can see 11 more issues down the road.