'Edgar Allan Poe's Snifter of Terror' Updates Classic Horror Stories (Exclusive Preview)
For those looking for a twist on MAD Magazine that includes the input of one of America’s finest writers, AHOY Comics has just the thing: Edgar Allan Poe’s Snifter of Terror, a comic book anthology that sees comic book writers and artists re-examine some of Poe’s short stories to uncover some of today’s true horrors — with a helping of satire on the side, of course.
“Poe is still famous and his stories are still popular, not only because they're great, but I think in part because exploitation movie king Roger Corman kept them alive with some extremely unfaithful — but entertaining — adaptations in the '60s," AHOY Comics editor in chief (and Snifter of Terror contributor) Tom Peyer tells The Hollywood Reporter. "Corman was a huge inspiration for us. I wonder if I echoed his sentiments word-for-word when I told my partners, 'We can do what we want to his stories and we don't have to pay him.’”
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The first volume, released this week, collects the six-issue run of the first “season” of the series, including work by Peyer, Stuart Moore, Ann Nocenti, Hunt Emerson, Peter Milligan and many more — including Mark Russell and Peter Snejbjerg, whose “Dark Chocolate” is excerpted below.
“I can't think of any other company I've worked for that was eager to have me write a gothic horror story starring cereal mascots,” Russell (The Flintstones, Second Coming) writes in an email. “But then, I suppose, a vampire condemned to show up for breakfast and selling cereal to kids using the undead is tragically ironic in and of itself. Still, I'm grateful that AHOY let me write a comic about it.”
Indeed, a number of writers from the collection were eager to tease their tale of terror for THR readers.
“The story I 'wrote,' 'The Facts in the Case of M. Valdermar,' really amused me in its original form,” Peyer says. “Poe's whole story builds up to this big gross-out scene in which a dead body — well, I won't spoil it for you. But it read like it had been plotted by a 12-year-old who thought disgusting stuff was hilarious. In adapting it, my job was to make the ending somehow more disgusting and funnier. Most of our writers bring a lot of subtlety and careful thought to their Poe stories. I haven't tried that yet.”
“Edgar Allan Poe's tales often have a deep psychological hook, such as guilt in ‘The Telltale Heart,’ and something fantastical, making them fun to translate into visual mediums,” writes Ann Nocenti (Daredevil, The Seeds). “I wrote a twist on Poe’s ‘The System of Dr. Tarr and Prof. Fether.’ Written in 1895, it was ahead of its times, dealing with the notion that mental illness could be treated humanely, rather than with punishment and imprisonment. I had Poe himself investigate the asylum, where madness is celebrated, and he found it impossible to tell the doctors from the patients. Poe asks questions like: ‘Is madness contagious?’ ‘Is it dangerous to humor delusion?’ In the end, Poe discovers bits of his own unwritten stories, such as one about how, ummm...everyone thinks they can be the President.”
“My favorite thing about the Snifter framework is that it allows creators to smash classics of macabre literature up against the current moment,” Paul Constant (The Seattle Review of Books, Planet of the Nerds) writes. “In my contribution to the volume, 'The Sphinx,' I took a Poe story about a drunkard who panics over a moth, added a dash of Silicon Valley smugness, and then threw Werner Herzog in to see what would happen. The story, as impeccably illustrated by the great Russ Braun, turned out to be a serious dark-night-of-the-soul debate about art versus commerce set against a thrilling Godzilla-style movie.”
“It's really helpful having Edgar Allan Poe as your co-writer when you attempt to satirize modern America,” adds Bryce Ingman. “In Poe's 1845 version of ‘Some Words With a Mummy,’ a group of Victorian-era Americans argue with a reanimated mummy about whether or not America is the pinnacle of societal evolution. In the AHOY version, a group of modern Americans take a mummy on a tour of the USA with the same purpose. And our mummy finds America to be rather stressful. He's a sensitive mummy.”
For her story "Ligeria," Rachel Pollack (Doom Patrol, Unquenchable Fire) explains, “we find Poe imagining that instead of a seedy bar he's in an exotic opium den. From there his imagination conjures a magical box that shows fantastic scenes from far away — in other words, a computer and the Internet. This allows him to tell the tale of Ligeria as if it's a kind of video game — a game that is both horrifying and erotic.”
“My contribution to Snifter consisted of nudging Tom Peyer in the shoulder, usually when he was trying to work, and saying ‘Hey, why don’t you call Peter Snejbjerg? What about Rick Geary?’ and then running away before the flask of brandy could hit me on the head,” jokes Stuart Moore (Captain Ginger, Bronze Age Boogie). “I wrote one story [for Snifter], an updating of Jules Verne’s 'From the Earth to the Moon.’ I’m not sure if it’s really a horror story — but it is about the destructive antics of the Baltimore Gun Club, which seemed pretty scary to me.”
Edgar Allan Poe’s Snifter of Terror Volume 1 is available now. For a sneak peek, read on for the opening of Russell and Snejbjerg’s “Dark Chocolate….”
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