This guy has kept me awake recently.
Yeah, I can’t imagine why. He actually doesn’t look as terrifying in the light of day. But. Imagine that it’s late at night, you only have one light on in the entire house, and your cats are pacing around and casting shadows on the wall and their tails make it seem like monkeys are darting around your living room. Oh, also imagine that you are a wimp when it comes to horror.
I was reading Alan Moore and Stephen Bissette’s Saga of the Swamp Thing. One moment I was wrapped up in the story of Woodrue and feeling engaged, engrossed, and all the wonderful things you should feel when you read a well written and drawn comic. I also felt safe. The story was jarring, eerie, and the Floronic Man was a monster in his own right – but I knew it wouldn’t make me lose sleep later.
So there I was feeling comfortable and happy and then… the Monkey King came along. The demon feeds on fear and uses it to kill. It scared the bejeezus out of me. I should have stopped reading. I know my triggers, and creepy animal creatures with glowing eyes that could be hiding anywhere and that sneaks up on kids while they are sleeping is definitely one of them. Monsters like this one burn themselves into my brain. But I wanted to know what happened next.
At first I just tried to skim over the panels where the Monkey King appeared thinking that maybe if I didn’t let my eyes stop to absorb that they wouldn’t remember. Then I realized the demon was appearing more and more and that if I wanted to know what was happening I had to look. I skipped to the end first to make sure everything turned out okay (I need that reassurance sometimes) and then went back to the beginning of the story and tried again. I didn’t want to put it down until the next day because I’d been enjoying the comic and Moore’s writing so much – but that’s what I should have done.
That story was the sort that completely enveloped me in fear. I was convinced every little noise in the house was the Monkey King coming after me, and I slept with the light on. When one of my cats jumped on me or touched me with a paw I thought of this panel:
I had a couple of dreams about the Monkey King that night, and they were not pleasant. The nightmares haven’t reappeared yet, but you can bet that when I hear an unexplained noise outside that I’m thinking of that thing. I don’t know if anything has scared me to that degree since I saw It at way too young an age.
But I knew it would happen… and I kept reading anyways.
That’s the power of a good story. If I can’t quit despite knowing that the words and images will cause me discomfort later – well, the creators have done something right. As a reader, it is a pleasure to come across storytelling like that. It’s rare.
Moore’s descriptive writing sucked me in and Bissette and Totleben’s art jumped off the page. I felt like I was there in the green with Swamp Thing. I felt true pity for him and became attached to him and Abby Cable in no time. My appreciation and good memories of the Saga of the Swamp Thing far outweigh my Monkey King experience.
To be on the safe side though, I’m only going to read Swamp Thing books in the afternoon now.
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