Comics

The Night Stalker

Sam Gafford

The Night Stalker

Publisher: Moonstone
Writer: Jeff Rice
Item Type: Comic
Contributors: Gordon Purcell and Terry Pallot (Artists)
Amazon

Ever since the debut of the landmark TV movie, The Night Stalker, the cry has been, "When are we going to see a Kolchak comic book?" Now the answer comes in this new volume (the first of several already planned and in production) featuring the intrepid reporter of the supernatural. While it's very existence is a fulfillment of many Night Stalker fans, it does leave a little to be desired.

The saga of The Night Stalker is a long and convoluted one which is why it has taken so long for a comic version to appear. The basic plot of the original story involved a reporter (Carl Kolchak) discovering that a serial killer operating in modern Las Vegas was a real life vampire and being unable to convince anyone that what he knew was the truth. This was a unique creation in the terms of TV movies but it was Darren McGavin's amazing portrayal of Kolchak that really gave the show life. He showed the many aspects of Kolchak perfectly highlighting his greed and ambition to find the right story to propel him back to a major city paper but also his burning desire to print the truth.

The rights to the character have been tied up in the courts for years and there have been questions as to who created what. The story was originally written by journalist Jeff Rice and, from there, adapted for the TV screen by noted writer Richard Matheson. The TV movie was produced and directed by Dan Curtis (creator of cult favorite Dark Shadows) who also produced and directed the sequel, The Night Strangler. A third movie was reportedly in the works when it was decided to go with a regular weekly series which, after a year of decent enough ratings, disappeared from the TV screen. This cancellation is also a matter of debate. Was it because of disappointing ratings? Did McGavin tire of playing the role? Could the writers not maintain the quality and fall into a 'monster of the week' formula? All have been put forward as reasons for why The Night Stalker never made it to a second series. Indeed, there still exist scripts that were approved but never filmed. And yet the series would not die!

The Night Stalker became a true cult phenomenon despite the fact that it was not shown widely after its cancellation. It was shown as a late night filler for a brief time but the fans kept the memory of the series alive and kept clamoring for a return to the adventures of the intrepid Kolchak who was much against the traditional TV screen hero formula. As time crept on, it became apparent that a cinematic return to the original Night Stalker was not to be. The principals could not come to terms on questions of rights and McGavin could not be lured back to the character despite several attempts. Add to that the death of Simon Oakland, who played Kolchak's ever suffering editor, Tony Vincenzo, and the cruel advance of years, it was just not possible to bring back the Kolchak everyone remembered. Even a brief appearance by McGavin as a retired FBI agent on The X-Files only served to remind people how influential The Night Stalker had been as a series and how revered the Kolchak character had become.

Truly, the only way to return to the series of old was through novels or comics. A few amateur Kolchak novels were published in the early 1990s but garnered little attention. Now comes Moonstone's version of The Night Stalker and it is definitely a good return to the original but falls short when compared to the movie.

Perhaps the problem comes from the fact that this volume is a straight adaptation of the original movie. As such, the Kolchak fan cannot help but compare it to the original and analyze it in terms of what was omitted and what was left in. Under such a comparison, the comic is bound to be found lacking. This is particularly ironic considering that the writer of this first issue is none other than Jeff Rice who created the character in the first place. Add to this the fact that the artwork by Purcell and Pallot, although good, is not particularly effective. It is fairly static and does not convey the mood or atmosphere of the movie or story. It almost takes too much of a realistic approach and looks more like a documentary or 'classic comic' than a horror novel. If you are not a fan of the original series, but might have just heard something about it through The X-Files or other sources, it might be more effective because it does stand on its own and carries itself well as an effective plot. But, it is unlikely that many people picking up this book would NOT be familiar with the show and the book is particularly marketed towards this niche.

Where this book does succeed is in capturing much of Kolchak's character and the interaction between Kolchak and Vincenzo. Strangely, the vampire almost takes second stage to Kolchak and his antics. (This is to be expected in that it is Kolchak who is remembered by fans but the title, The Night Stalker, was meant to refer to the vampire and not Kolchak.) Also, the time period for the book is a nebulous "modern '70s" which is meant to be in tune with modern times but remind the reader of the original time period of the movie. It is in this manner that the book has the strongest advantage over anything else as, in a graphic medium, Kolchak/McGavin can be perpetually 40-ish and never age. The actors can pass away but the comic can always recapture those moments.

Overall, this is a fine addition to the movie but it does not add anything significant to the character or the series. Moonstone plans to begin original stories soon and that will be the truly acid test as it will be harder to bring Kolchak into new areas not already covered by the TV movies and shows. Only time will tell.

Music

The Best Metal of 2017

Painting by Mariusz Lewandowski. Cover of Bell Witch's Mirror Reaper.

There's common ground between all 20 metal albums despite musical differences: the ability to provide a cathartic release for the creator and the consumer alike, right when we need it most.

With global anxiety at unprecedented high levels it is important to try and maintain some personal equilibrium. Thankfully, metal, like a spiritual belief, can prove grounding. To outsiders, metal has always been known for its escapism and fantastical elements; but as most fans will tell you, metal is equally attuned to the concerns of the world and the internal struggles we face and has never shied away from holding a mirror up to man's inhumanity.

Keep reading... Show less

In Americana music the present is female. Two-thirds of our year-end list is comprised of albums by women. Here, then, are the women (and a few men) who represented the best in Americana in 2017.

If a single moment best illustrates the current divide between Americana music and mainstream country music, it was Sturgill Simpson busking in the street outside the CMA Awards in Nashville. While Simpson played his guitar and sang in a sort of renegade-outsider protest, Garth Brooks was onstage lip-syncindg his way to Entertainer of the Year. Americana music is, of course, a sprawling range of roots genres that incorporates traditional aspects of country, blues, soul, bluegrass, etc., but often represents an amalgamation or reconstitution of those styles. But one common aspect of the music that Simpson appeared to be championing during his bit of street theater is the independence, artistic purity, and authenticity at the heart of Americana music. Clearly, that spirit is alive and well in the hundreds of releases each year that could be filed under Americana's vast umbrella.

Keep reading... Show less

Two recently translated works -- Lydie Salvayre's Cry, Mother Spain and Joan Sales' Uncertain Glory -- bring to life the profound complexity of an early struggle against fascism, the Spanish Civil War.

There are several ways to write about the Spanish Civil War, that sorry three-year prelude to World War II which saw a struggling leftist democracy challenged and ultimately defeated by a fascist military coup.

Keep reading... Show less
8

Beware the seemingly merry shades of green and red that spread so slowly and thickly across the holiday season, for something dark and uncertain, something that takes many forms, stirs beneath the joyful facade.

Let's be honest -- not everyone feels merry at this time of year. Psychologists say depression looms large around the holidays and one way to deal with it is cathartically. Thus, we submit that scary movies can be even more salutary at Christmas than at Halloween. So, Merry Christmas. Ho ho ho wa ha ha!

1. The Old Dark House (James Whale, 1932)

Between Frankenstein (1931) and The Invisible Man (1933), director James Whale made this over-the-top lark of a dark and stormy night with stranded travelers and a crazy family. In a wordless performance, Boris Karloff headlines as the deformed butler who inspired The Addams Family's Lurch. Charles Laughton, Raymond Massey, Gloria Stuart, Melvyn Douglas and Ernest Thesiger are among those so vividly present, and Whale has a ball directing them through a series of funny, stylish scenes. This new Cohen edition provides the extras from Kino's old disc, including commentaries by Stuart and Whale biographer James Curtis. The astounding 4K restoration of sound and image blows previous editions away. There's now zero hiss on the soundtrack, all the better to hear Massey starting things off with the first line of dialogue: "Hell!"

(Available from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)

2. The Lure (Agnieszka Smoczynska, 2015)

Two mermaid sisters (Marta Mazurek, Michalina Olszanska) can summon legs at will to mingle on shore with the band at a Polish disco, where their siren act is a hit. In this dark reinvention of Hans Christian Andersen's already dark The Little Mermaid, one love-struck sister is tempted to sacrifice her fishy nature for human mortality while her sister indulges moments of bloodlust. Abetted by writer Robert Bolesto and twin sister-musicians Barbara and Zuzanna Wronska, director Agnieszka Smoczynska offers a woman's POV on the fairy tale crossed with her glittery childhood memories of '80s Poland. The result: a bizarre, funy, intuitive genre mash-up with plenty of songs. This Criterion disc offers a making-of and two short films by Smoczynska, also on musical subjects.

(Available from Criterion Collection / Read PopMatters review here.)

3. Personal Shopper (Olivier Assayas, 2016)

In the category of movies that don't explain themselves in favor of leaving some of their mysteries intact, here's Olivier Assayas' follow-up to the luminous Clouds of Sils Maria. Kristen Stewart again plays a celebrity's lackey with a nominally glamorous, actually stupid job, and she's waiting for a sign from her dead twin brother. What about the ghostly presence of a stalker who sends provocative text messages to her phone? The story flows into passages of outright horror complete with ectoplasm, blood, and ooga-booga soundscapes, and finally settles for asking the questions of whether the "other world" is outside or inside us. Assayas has fashioned a slinky, sexy, perplexing ghost story wrapped around a young woman's desire for something more in her life. There's a Cannes press conference and a brief talk from Assayas on his influences and impulses.

(Available from Criterion Collection / Reader PopMatters review here.

4. The Ghoul (Gareth Tunley, 2016)

The hero (Tom Meeten) tells his therapist that in his dreams, some things are very detailed and others are vague. This movie tells you bluntly what it's up to: a Möbius strip narrative that loops back on itself , as attributed to the diabolical therapists for their cosmic purposes. Then we just wait for the hero to come full circle and commit the crime that, as a cop, he's supposedly investigating. But this doesn't tell us whether he's really an undercover cop pretending to be depressed, or really a depressive imagining he's a cop, so some existential mysteries will never be answered. It's that kind of movie, indebted to David Lynch and other purveyors of nightmarish unreality. Arrow's disc offers a making-of, a commentary from writer-director Gareth Tunley and Meeten along with a producer, and a short film from Tunley and Meeten.

(Available from Arrow Video)

​5. The Illustrated Man (Jack Smight, 1969)

When a young man goes skinny-dipping with a mysterious stranger (Rod Steiger) who's covered with tattoos, the pictures comes to life in a series of odd stories, all created by Ray Bradbury and featuring Steiger and Claire Bloom in multiple roles. Nobody was satisfied with this failure, and it remains condemned to not having reached its potential. So why does Warner Archive grace it with a Blu-ray? Because even its failure has workable elements, including Jerry Goldsmith's score and the cold neatness of the one scene people remember: "The Veldt", which combines primal child/parent hostilities (a common Bradbury theme) with early virtual reality. It answers the question of why the kids spend so much time in their room, and why they're hostile at being pulled away.

(Available from Warner Bros.)

6. The Hidden (Jack Sholder, 1987)


In one of my favorite action movies of the '80s, a post-Blue Velvet and pre-Twin Peaks Kyle MacLachlan plays an FBI agent who forms a buddy-cop bond with Michael Nouri while pursuing a perp -- a bodiless entity that plugs into the human id. In the midst of slam-bang action comes a pivotal moment when a startling question is asked: "How do you like being human?" The heart of the movie, rich in subtext, finds two men learning to embrace what's alien to them. In pop-culture evolution, this movie falls between Hal Clement's novel Needle and the TV series Alien Nation. On this Warner Archive Blu-ray, Sholder offers a commentary with colleague Tim Hunter.

(Available from Warner Bros.)

7. Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (David Lynch, 1992)

Speaking of Twin Peaks, here we have a textbook example of a movie that pleased almost nobody upon its release but has now generated such interest, thanks in large part to this year's Twin Peaks revival, that it arrives on Criterion. A feature-film prequel to David Lynch and Mark Frost's original TV serial that answered none of its questions and tossed in a raft of new ones, the film functions as one of cinema's most downbeat, disruptive and harsh depictions of a middle-class American teenage girl's social context. Sheryl Lee delivers a virtuoso performance that deserved the Oscar there was no way she'd be nominated for, and she wasn't. The extras, including a 90-minute film of deleted and alternate takes assembled by Lynch, have been available on previous sets.

(Available from Criterion Collection)

8. The Green Slime (Kinji Fukasaku, 1968)

Incredibly, Warner Archive upgrades its on-demand DVD of a groovy, brightly colored creature feature with this Blu-ray. As a clever reviewer indicated in this PopMatters review, what director Kinji Fukasaku saw as a Vietnam allegory functions more obviously as a manifestation of sexual tension between alpha-jock spacemen competing for the attention of a foxy female scientist, and this subconsciously creates an explosion of big green tentacled critters who overrun the space station. While we don't believe in "so bad it's good," this falls squarely into the category of things so unfacetiously absurd, they come out cool. There's a sublimely idiotic theme song.

(Available from Warner Bros.)

If the idea is that earth, water, fire, air and space constitute the core elements of life, then these five songs might seem as their equivalents to surviving the complications that come from embracing the good and enduring the ugly of the Christmas season.

Memory will never serve us well when it comes to Christmas and all its surrounding complications. Perhaps worse than the financial and familial pressures, the weather and the mad rush to consume and meet expectations, to exceed what happened the year before, are the floods of lists and pithy observations about Christmas music. We know our favorite carols and guilty pleasures ("O Come All Ye Faithful", "Silent Night"), the Vince Guaraldi Trio's music for 1965's A Charlie Brown Christmas that was transcendent then and (for some, anyway) has lost none of its power through the years, and we embrace the rock songs (The Kink's "Father Christmas", Greg Lake's "I Believe In Father Christmas", and The Pretenders' "2000 Miles".) We dismiss the creepy sexual predator nature in any rendition of "Baby, It's Cold Outside", the inanity of Alvin and the Chipmunks, and pop confections like "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus".

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image