Friday, November 09, 2012

Funny Side of Maine Comics

As this weekend brings with it the second coming of Maine’s first big neo-traditional comic book convention, the Coast City Comicon, it seemed appropriate to concentrate the Strange Maine lens on weird Maine comic tie-ins.

Over the decades, Maine has appeared repeatedly in various genres of literature, and comic books are hardly to be excluded from this category. My first inkling of this came with a note from a friend who thought I should know about a story purported to appear in an apocryphal 1970s issue of Doctor Strange #53, titled “The Creeping Oozing Murder From Maine.” Someone else told me about a giant killer lobster story featured on the cover of a Silver Age era comic. The stories range from superhero tales to old horror comics, and include a few homegrown horrors such as Glenn Chadbourne’s infamous encrusted artwork.

That’s not even counting all the Stephen King comic adaptations, or the comic book artists and writers who have lived here in the past, and those currently calling Maine home!

Now, I really wanted to show you guys that darn Doctor Strange issue, but I have been searching for it with no luck. Like much of the comic book world, this difficulty is compounded by the fact that Doctor Strange was also published as Strange Tales for many years, and that there is more than one era of even the self-titled “Doctor Strange” series. I found one of the #53s, but it didn’t have that particular story in it. So we will have to make do with other odd Maine comic book stories, and perhaps sometime in the future I will find the missing issue and cry “Eureka!” in a maddening agony of glee.

Meanwhile, did you know that along with the legendary Collinsport of Dark Shadows fame, Maine is also the location of the fictitious Harrow’s Point, part of the grisly Tomb of Dracula storyline? Over at the wiki on Headhunter’s Horror House (, I found a synopsis of the role of this ghostly Maine place -- if you are lucky, you will never find it for yourself.

A small island off the coast of Maine, Harrow’s Point is crowned by an old lighthouse, where at the turn of the century, the Victorian-era lightkeeper fell prey to a vampire after a shipwreck (it’s a long story), and began to prey on victims of his own. An attentive priest/vampire hunter, one Bishop McFarland, noticed what was going on and like any good Van Helsing, he dutifully drove a stake into the monster's once-human heart. However, what thoroughness he possessed left him and for some reason instead of destroying the remains properly, he locked the vampire’s skeleton inside a room in his cabin.

Some time later, another unlucky man accepts the position of lighthouse keeper which had been invountarily vacated by his predecessor with the encouragement of stake-wielding Bishop McFarland.

The new lighthouse keeper, Frank Neal, moves his family to Harrow's Point despite the protests of his wife (whose vampire senses were tingling, apparently). Of course, things don’t go very well for our new lighthouse-dwelling family. Matters are not helped by the fact that the local MD is named “Doctor Chowder.” Interestingly enough, this issue of the comic (Tomb of Dracula Vol. 2 No. 4, April 1980) also featured the first half of a 2-part interview with … you guessed it! … Stephen King, the Maine master of horror himself.

Maine monsters and other weirdness aren’t limited to bygone decades, though. You will find mention of Maine scattered within any number of current comics. Of especially note is the homegrown title of Hopeless, Maine by Tom and Nimue Brown, set to be released by Archaia (publishers of Mouse Guard and other comic goodies) the week following Coast City Comicon. Though now dwelling in Britain with his ladylove, Tom Brown’s creative heart doesn’t stray far from his home here in Portland, Maine.

Hopeless, Maine is set in a mysterious coastal town in our fair and freaky state, a place where anything can happen, and not in a good way, necessarily. The star of the comic is the mysterious Salamandra, shown here in the opening spread from the “Personal Demons” storyline. Check it out when it hits the stands on November 14th, or catch up with the story online at

Lighthouses in Maine do seem to be a favorite of comic writers. And fictive Maine does not just feature Harrow’s Point and Sal’s lighthouse in Hopeless. Did you know that Aquaman spent his adolescent years growing up off the coast of Amnesty Bay, Maine, in Curry Lighthouse?

Lighthouses, mermen and vampires aside, I think one of my favorite Maine comic book characters is still M.O.D.O.K (the acronym for Mental Organism Designed Only for Killing). That little freaky villain, with his zappy powers and robotic levitating body, was invented (or so the story goes) by George Tarleton, a native of Bangor, Maine.

How many other weird Maine comic book characters and locations do you know? You might be surprised…


Coast City Comicon takes place November 10th and 11th at the Double Tree by Hilton Hotel across from the Maine Mall in South Portland.

1 comment:

Gordon Holmes said...

Maine certainly seems to be a great location for books, etc. It certainly is in my own book. Do you think it's because, as in my case, writers wrote about the area because of it's what we know? Or do you think something else comes in to play? I can tell you this- location is everything with a book!