Missed Directions: WildStorm's A Nightmare on Elm Street

All Cut Up: One disappointing element in the Avatar handling of the New Line horror-slashers, was the lack of structured story.

Back in 2006, WildStorm Comics acquired the licensing rights to New Line Cinema’s line of horror movies, including A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Before this, adaptations of these popular slasher flicks were handled by Avatar Press. Exactly why New Line switched over to WildStorm is not too clear. Perhaps it was because New Line and WildStorm are both under the umbrella of the Time/Warner Corporation. But that has been the case since the mid-'90s. More likely, Avatar’s somewhat erratic publishing schedule was the deciding factor, although WildStorm has certainly been late on more than a few books.

The good news for comics fans was that those beloved homicidal scamps known as Freddy, Jason, and Leatherface would now be handled by top-drawer comics professionals. Not to impinge the name of Brian Pulido, the Chaos! Comics founder who led the charge for Avatar’s New Line books, but as anyone familiar with his Lady Death and Evil Ernie books would be able to tell you, Pulido was more about blood and guts than about story.

That particular brand of story-telling would seem par for the butcher-knife course when it comes to these 1970s and ‘80s antagonists of cinematic bloodbaths. But therein lays exactly the point. Take for instance, WildStorm’s A Nightmare on Elm Street series. Firstly, the premiere issue sports a brilliant cover by none other than Tim Bradstreet, probably most well-known for his long run as the cover artist for Marvel’s The Punisher during the Garth Ennis years. So in this case you can judge a book by its cover, especially when the book is also written by Chuck Dixon.

Dixon was DC Comics’ main workhorse through the 1990s, penning extended runs on Detective and Robin, just to name two, while also creating Bane, the monstrous ex-con who broke Bruce Wayne’s back during the Knightfall storyline. Dixon’s ability to write great dialogue while simultaneously taking these characters into new territory was just a part of what made him a fan-favorite, and then he turned this ability onto Freddy Krueger.

In the interests of full disclosure, this writer must say that his knowledge on the Nightmare franchise is far from complete, but Dixon defies the stereotypical teenage slasher formula right throughout the series. While the basic premise remains the same -- Freddy haunts the dreams of Springwood’s teenagers and kills them in their sleep to avenge his own murder by the parents of that sleepy ‘burb -- Dixon plays well with the attendant plot-lines. In the first arc, our heroine actually finds an adult who will listen to her and believe in her nightmare writ large. Freddy also finds himself outwitted by a small girl in a coma, which is a sleep-related plot point that seems like it should have been exploited already. Elsewhere in the series, Freddy finds himself pitted against an ancient Aztec sleep demon. I almost want to say you can’t make stuff like that up, except that Chuck Dixon already did.

Woefully, WildStorm’s A Nightmare on Elm Street series lasted only eight issues. In fact, all that is left today of this line seems only to be Freddy vs. Jason vs. Ash, which pits the main characters of the Nightmare, Friday, and Evil Dead films against each other. Sounds like fun, sure, but to not allow Chuck Dixon to go even further with his vision of Wes Craven’s most famous creation is a Missed Direction.

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