It’s time to head back to the age of glorious televisual treats and the last days of Monster Matinees and B-Movie Bonanza’s with David Dastmalchian’s wonderfully reverent ode to a bygone era of hauntingly cheap and spookily spectacular shows. Count Crowley Reluctant Midnight Monster Hunter is the story of a burned out, alcoholic journalist, who having thrown away every chance she’s ever been given ends up replacing a local TV station’s long-time, beloved Horror Host, Count Crowley, who for some strange reason (cough, monsters, it’ll be monsters, cough) suddenly stopped showing up to the job that he diligently, and without fail, did so well for so long.
Opening with a surprisingly snappy start that in a couple of pages tells it’s audience all they’ll ever need to know about Jerri Bartman, the aforementioned former newshound, before reverting to flashback in order to tell the tale of her fall from grace, Count Crowley is a heartfelt, nostalgic and darkly humourous tale of the dying days of a much missed and fondly remembered television institution; one that inspired generations of monster kids to become the artists, actors and writers who would gone on to shape the world of television and literature in their own image. Oh, and did I forgot to mention that it’s all about monsters? Silly me, how could it not be? After all Count Crowley is a monster hunter, it says so on the cover, and Dastmalchian’s book smashes though the thin veil that separates the realm of the supernatural from our own and plunges it’s obstinate, begrudging hero into a world that she refuses to believe in.
There’s an air of tragedy surrounding Dastmalchian’s protagonist who’s back story, which will obviously slowly reveal itself in future issues and will doubtless explain her subconscious desire to commit career suicide and overwhelming need to crawl into a bottle and never leave. Jerri Butler, has hit rock bottom, and there’s nothing more appealing than a journey of redemption especially if it involves battling monsters and all manner of things that go bump in the night, both of which seem to be her fate. Dastmalchian had made a believer, and a Count Crowley fan, out of yours truly by the end of page six. Count Crowley, is the sum of its influences, namely EC Comics, Fright Night and an undying passion for the period it celebrates, it’s writers uncanny knack for dialogue and story-telling, his sharp, dry wit and the sumptuous art and gloriously retro colours of Lukas Ketner and Lauren Affe which make Count Crowley look and feel like it’s a previously undiscovered and, up until now, lost classic from nineteen eighty four. I think I’ve just found my newest most favouritist comic… Tim Cundle