Growing up, one of my favorite trips each month would be to the baseball card store. My mom would usually take me there after my orthodontist checkup so I could pick out a new pack of Topps. And without fail, each time I’d convince her to also let me get a copy of Tales from the Crypt.
I loved these horror comics and their pun-ey GhouLunatics hosts – especially the CryptKeeper. Nothing could take my mind off another month of braces like the one-two punch of a good scare and laugh.
In the same vein comes this month’s CLE Read: The Lake Erie Monster, a Cleveland-based horror anthology comic.
The book is written and illustrated by John Greiner and Jake Kelly.
Separately, the two have created murals and posters for Cleveland indie institutions like the Beachland, Grog Shop and Melt (check out this time-lapse of Kelly’s mural for the Cleveland Heights Melt).
Then in 2011 the two collaborated on an exhibit for Heights Arts. Ten Imaginary Movies featured a series of movie posters inspired by 1970s horror films. Kelly and Greiner created fictional actors and directors, reviews and movie memorabilia.
Two pieces of this exhibit were comic book covers for film #1 The Lake Erie Monster. After the exhibit ended, they decided to move forward with an “adaptation” of it. First published last April, each quarterly issue features the ongoing Lake Erie Monster story, followed by 2 stand-alone tales.
In The Lake Erie Monster, pollution from a decaying 1970s Cleveland has found its way into the waters of Lake Erie. And something menacing has grown in the murk.
A pair of journalists, a group of nosey kids and a van of worried hippies have realized something’s up as Clevelanders are found brutally murdered by the lakeside.
It’s a campy trip – with plenty of gore rolled into a sardonic look at this era in Cleveland history. Although the grainy illustrations and palette were a little difficult to jump into at first, I got used to it by the end of issue 1 and found its rough-around-the-edges, vintage aesthetic lent itself very well to the tale’s grislier parts.
Although I enjoy the simmering suspense of the ongoing main story, it’s the backup tales I most look forward to when I pick up a new issue.
My favorite from these has been “Greens,” which tells of a trip to the farmers’ market that turns very strange when one unsuspecting shopper picks up some mysterious vegetables.
These stand-alone stories give me that quick horror fix I seek.
Cryptkeeper fans will also rejoice that Lake Erie Monster is home to its own GhouLunatic: the fantastically frightful Commodore.
With a middle name like Hazard, it’s not surprising that Commodore Perry has been haunting Cleveland since the 1800s. Sure, he’s lost a few teeth (and a bit of skin), but he’s retained the same style and swagger that brought him victory in the War of 1812.
The Commodore currently makes his residence on a secret floor of the Terminal Tower where he answers fan mail and pens his one-page “Commodore’s Cleveland” story for each issue.
From the most-cursed three acres of land in Cleveland to the Tree Man of Train Avenue, you’ll learn a few tall-tales from Cleveland’s past. And the Commodore’s wise-cracks alone are worth the $5 for the comic.
The Lake Erie Monster is published once a quarter. After inquiring at Comics Are Go!, whose recommendation got me hooked on the first issue, I was told the fourth issue should be out in the next couple of months and I’ll update when I learn more.
In the meantime, though, you can purchase digital and print copies of previous Lake Erie Monster issues from the Shiner Comics online store.
The newer installments can also be found at area retailers and comic book shops like Big Fun, Joy Machines and Comics Are Go! (many of whom are also featured in the comic with hilarious ads designed by the comic’s creators).
I’ll be back in April with James Renner’s The Man from Primrose Lane. Described by the Associated Press as “a thriller and detective story, plus science fiction and romance with a little near-future dystopia thrown in,” I’m looking forward to it.
I could also use some more recommendations. If you have any Cleveland-area books you’ve enjoyed reading, please leave a comment below.
This is the latest in my CLE Reads series. Check out my previous installments: