Ever since the first grade, the year I fell in love with horror, I chose my Halloween masks as carefully as I could. That year, I was a ghost. A white shawl stretched down from the ghoulish mask, and I loved twirling around, which somehow seemed like the spooky thing to do at the age. Some of my favorites were the green swamp monster mask from third grade, its face covered in rubbery moss, and the blue demon from fifth grade, with its red eyes that I could barely see through. The best Halloween costume I ever got, though, was for second grade. It was an incredibly realistic werewolf mask with a mane of black and grey fur blasting out in all directions. I bought gnarled claws to put on my fingers to complete the look. As I stalked down the street, my claws crossed in hopes that I would get a bunch of peanut-butter cups this year, you can bet I was the scariest seven-year-old on the block.
Werewolves were always a huge part of Halloween. I was honestly more terrified of zombies and demons, but there was something different about werewolves. Something utterly thrilling. I remember racing home from my friends’ house after a Halloween viewing of the Goosebumps: The Werewolf of Fever Swamp TV special – my dad leaped out from behind a bush wearing that mask I’d loved years before, and I screamed as if I’d never seen it before. It was an exhilarating fear. There’s no fun in being cursed or being stalked by a rotting corpse, slowly lumbering your way, reminding you just how nasty your body will look once your soul is choked out of it… but when you’re being chased by a werewolf, you’re prey, and your only chance is to run until you can’t run anymore. Werewolves awaken that primal survival instinct – they’re the exact kind of roller coaster fun that makes Halloween my favorite holiday. So, of course, Halloween isn’t complete without a tale of full moon horror. Last year, I revisited Stephen King’s The Cycle of the Wolf. This year, it’s Curse.
Curse is a four-issue miniseries written by Michael Moreci and Tim Daniel with art by Riley Rossmo and Colin Lorimer, and lettered by Jim Campbell – one of the finest in the business and a friend, whose trademark creepy monster voices are on display here. Published by Boom! Studios, this tale of terror first debuted in January 2014. Lorimer handles most of the art, it seems, but the way Rossmo’s distinctive, nightmarish work is integrated is very clever. The story follows Laney Griffin, a man whose life has been plagued with tragedy. His football career – then, his only purpose – was cut short after a seemingly simple mishap in his college days, and things only got worse from there. His beloved son Jaren has leukemia, and Laney’s crappy insurance has left him with little options. The closest thing he has to a helping hand is Nora, his sister-in-law who wants to help Jaren’s treatment financially in exchange for custody – but Jaren is all Laney has, and he refuses to lose him to the disease or Nora. He’s recently out of work, so he has been chasing the bounty on a creature – or a murderer – that has been savagely eviscerating townspeople and animals. In his pursuit of the creature, Laney is scratched by it but manages to shoot the hulking, horrific monster. He chases it down until it shifts back into a man – though, the long-haired, sinewy, white being that stands in the wolf’s place is almost as demonic as the monster itself.
There is a vicious dichotomy between the story of this devious, hateful werewolf that Laney imprisons and the human drama of Jaren’s illness and the devastation the leukemia has reaped for Laney. Like The Babadook, which told the tale of a mother losing her grip on herself due to her child’s behavior, Curse seems to dare the reader to compare two aspects of the story. Sure, there’s a werewolf, but isn’t the real horror the thought of helplessly watching your child die as you desperately try and fail to save his life? By adding the supernatural element, the Curse team has given physical form to a monster – but when that physical form, as horrifying as it is, especially rendered by artists such as Rossmo and Lormier, pales in comparison to something that could actually happen to any of us… could anything be more frightening?
On the first page of Curse, Laney asks the captive werewolf if he’s cold. He might as well be asking the reader, because after reading this story, a tale of horror that burrows into your gut and leaves you both unsettled and moved, the answer is yes.
I’m chilled to the damn bone.
PAT SHAND writes comics (Van Helsing, Robyn Hood, Charmed: Season Ten) and pop culture journalism (Sad Girls Guide, Blastoff Comics). Though he clearly loves werewolves and all the rest of the classic monsters, he stands by his opinion that there is no supernatural beast as underrated and unjustly unappreciated as a good, old fashioned blob monster.