Edited By J.N. Williamson an Mort Castle (Innovation; 1992)

A two-part comic series based on stories from J.N. Williamson’s multi-volume MASQUES anthology. Apparently there were meant to be further installments of this comic but they never materialized (the two issues under discussion, FYI, are set to be republished as a graphic novel in late 2009).

These comics represent good, solid work on the part of the writers and illustrators. I’ll admit I’m not jumping-up-and-down enthusiastic about any of the contents, but that’s probably because in my view the stories chosen just don’t seem like the strongest Williamson and co-editor Mort Castle could have picked.

Stephen King’s EC Comics inspired “Popsy,” about a kidnapper who discovers his would-be victim isn’t nearly as innocent as he appears, doesn’t represent King at his best, and neither does the comic adaptation scripted by Marl Valadez–I can’t fault the nightmarish artwork by Mark Thompson, though.

Bob Weinberg’s “The Crushing Death” involves malevolent moving statues–again, a so-so story, but again, the artwork (this time by Mark Evans) is stellar. “Better than One,” written and illustrated by Paul Dale Anderson, has a guy harassed by his own cancerous tumors. Not bad, but the concept was done better by Clive Barker’s “Son of Celluloid” (itself the subject of a memorable comic adaptation).

Mort Castle contributes two stories of his own, “If You Take My Hand, My Son,” about a dying man’s horrific final moments, and “A Billion Monstrosities,” a two page quickie abut a man visited by a scary zombie-like stranger. Both are traditional scare fests, not at all bad but, like much of the rest of the contents, far from great. Bob Evans again graces “If you Take My Hand” with impressively layered illustrations.

This leaves Wayne Allen Sallee’s “Rail Rider” and Robert McCammon’s “Nightcrawlers,” for me the strongest offerings. “Rail Rider,” as illustrated by Mike Okamoto, has aberrance and creepiness to spare in its intense account of a lone man trapped on a subway platform. Novelist James Kisner adapted “Nightcrawlers,” with art by Ted Naifeh. I wasn’t too partial to the artwork this time around; it’s very old school (and too bright), whereas I feel the story would have benefited from a more cutting edge treatment (like those taken by many of the other artists featured herein). But still, it’s all-but impossible to go wrong with this powerful account of a freaked-out Nam vet who literally brings the war home, much to the misfortune of the residents of all night diner (it was also memorably adapted for the NEW TWILIGHT ZONE).

“Rail Rider” and “Nightcrawlers” appear in part 1 of this anthology, meaning that if you’re anxious to get your hands on J.N. WILLIAMSON’S MASQUES, it’s definitely the issue to track down.