Subterranean Press Magazine: Spring 2007
Review: Harlan Ellison’s Dream Corridor Volume 2
(Dark Horse/152 pages/$19.95)
Reviewed by Dorman T. Shindler
After a cable network couldn’t put together a sort of Twilight Zone/Alfred Hitchcock Hour/Outer Limits type show, Harlan Ellison turned to the one form that best emulates screen and teleplays: the comic book. With the help of Dark Horse and dozens of writers and artists, Ellison produced six not-so regular issues of Harlan’s Ellison’s Dream Corridor, the likes of which hadn’t been seen since the good old days of The House of Mystery and The House of Secrets. In truth, even those venerable stalwarts never looked anything like “Dream Corridor,” with its wildly careening styles (from zany to realistic to nearly abstract), and none of the stories in those pioneer anthology comic books were ever quite as dark or sharp-edged. With the exception of a story adapted by John Byrne (“I Have No Mouth & I Must Scream”), the first five issues of Ellison’s comic were gathered together and published as Harlan Ellison’s Dream Corridor Volume One. Along with the adapted stories, there were short-shorts written by Ellison just for each issue (“Chatting With Anubis” actually won a Bram Stoker Award), so fans and newcomers got a double-dose of Ellison. The series was to continue on a fairly regular basis, but sickness, lawsuits and, unfortunately, poor sales, conspired to bring about the end of the comic.
Harlan Ellison’s Dream Corridor Volume Two (none of which was issued in stand alone issues) is the final installment of what is arguably one of the wildest, most inventive, most talent-festooned titles in comic book history. And like the first volume, the stories herein run the gamut from science fiction (“The Silver Corridor”) to fantasy (“Djinn No Chaser,” “Gnomebody”) to crime fiction (“Moonlighting”) and horror (“Rock God”). As always, the art is nothing short of jaw-dropping: from the realistic styles of Gene Ha and Neal Adams (“Silver Corridor” and “Rock God,” respectively) to the whacky “funism” of Jay Lynch when bringing “Djinn No Chaser” to life. The brightly lit, brightly colored panels of that story and “Gnomebody” eventually lead into the stark black and white of Gene Colan’s noirish artwork for “Moonlighting” as well as a colored version of same; and that leads into the black and white “Rock God” piece drawn by Adams. For comic book aficionados, the contrast of the original black and white drawings by and the colored/finished version (with captions and balloon dialogues) makes for an interesting behind-the-scenes look at how one of these stories is put together. And a third—very brief—black and white piece, a few sketches by Curt Swan for Steve Niles’ adaptation of “Eyes of Dust” before he died, provides a behind-the-scenes look at how comic book scripts are written.
Finally, as with Volume One, Ellison has included two original short stories, written around paintings by Terese Neilsen and Kent Bash. The former is an ethereal painting with a touch of whimsy that matches “The Lingering Scent of Woodsmoke,” Ellison’s story written about the painting. It’s a short, sharp little jab at both the destroyers of nature and the most recent, formidable enemies of the Jews. The painting by Kent Bash, on the other hand, which accompanies “Goodbye to All That,” was painted after the author told the artist of a vision he’d had. Then Ellison sat down to write the story, producing a tale stylistically similar to much of the shorter work he has penned in the last 15 or 16 years: like a blending of Jorge Luis Borges and Donald Westlake. It has a strange, out-of-left-field whimsicality that will appeal to those with broad senses of humor—all the rest will be sadly lost (so it goes). The story garnered a Nebula Award nomination for Ellison.
Those opening this book looking for the same-old slam-bang, formulaic, super hero, action-type comics found on every creaky turnstile rack will be disappointed. Those in search of artwork and writing that define the words brilliant and original will walk away with rueful smiles on their faces, wishing the rest of the human race would go ahead and catch up already with the genius of Harlan Ellison’s wildly creative intellect.