Friday, February 25, 2011

Kolchak: The Night Stalker Files #2

Earlier this week I reviewed The Spider #1 for Robot 6, but it’s not the only recent Moonstone book I’ve read. Nor is it the only one that offered an encouraging introduction to a character I’ve heard a lot about, but don’t have much personal experience with.

I do know a bit more about Kolchak than I did about The Spider. I have vague memories of watching a TV movie or two as a kid and I’ve checked out a couple of stories in one anthology or another, but none of those have actually helped the character for me. On the contrary, they gave me the impression that Kolchak’s misfortune and demoralization are such integral parts of the concept that there’s no hope that he’ll ever achieve any kind of success. I at least need the illusion that a hero may succeed, so when failure becomes a built-in part of the concept, I lose interest.

Still, enough people whose tastes are otherwise similar to mine enjoy Kolchak, so I keep trying to find a hook to grab onto. One of those people is Christopher Mills, so it’s appropriate that he’s writing Moonstone’s new comic series, which looks to be just the handhold I’ve needed.

I don’t know what happened in Kolchak #1, but I don’t need to because the second issue starts a new story arc. In it, Kolchak has been fired from yet another newspaper, but is on his way to Miami where he’s been offered a new job with a tabloid. One of the problems I’ve had with Kolchak in the past is that in the stories I’ve read he insists on being taken seriously as an investigative journalist, when he’s in fact Jack McGee from The Incredible Hulk. It might be overstating things to say that he’s embraced his McGee-ness in Kolchak #2, but he’s at least come to terms with it and is apparently being rewarded for it. Being rewarded – in my admittedly, very limited perspective – is something that’s long overdue for this character and it’s allowing me to move past Kolchak’s haplessness and enjoy the rest of the concept: a rumpled, unlikely monster-hunter.

And for his first case, he’s looking for a Florida skunk ape (in spite of the cover, which – while cool – has nothing to do with anything in the book), so I’m totally into that too.


Kal said...

I would encourage you to check out the 70s series. Kolchak worked for a 'Weekly World News' type paper so he didn't move around. He had an editor that hated him and loved him all at the same time and he was virtually fearless in pursuit of a story, stories usually filled with creatures and other assorted monsters. Plus how can you not love Darren McGavin in his frumpy coat and fedora. Really neat stuff. I would rush home from cadets on Friday night just to catch it on a midnight repeat.

Michael May said...

I must have seen one where his editor was in "hate him" mode.

I do love Darren McGavin, so after a few more issues of the comic I imagine I'll be good and curious about the TV version.

Christopher Mills said...

Hey, Michael;

Thanks for the review. Glad you liked it. Issue #2 was originally intended to be my first issue, but the Powers That Be wanted a more traditional story for the premiere. There was a concern that *this* script didn't have enough going on in it - or at least, not enough "action."

In the first TV movie, Carl was a serious investigative journalist who had worked for a major daily in New York, before a personality clash got him fired. He was working in Las Vegas for editor Tony Vicenzo, who respected him, but was infuriated by him. Over the course of the next TV movie and subsequent series, Vincenzo (who remained his editor at multiple employers in a very unlikely contrivance) eventually grew fond of Carl, even if he still found him often infuriating.

Kolchak doesn't always lose. In fact, he is nearly always the instrument that destroys the evil forces he uncovers. That his employers rarely see fit to publish his stories is frustrating to him, and has been detrimental to his professional career, but he has actually accomplished much good.

His heroic virtues are a sharp wit(a useful trait that helps him deal with the supernatural horrors he encounters), a sense of perhaps-outdated chivalry, a reluctant - but genuine - courage, and a bulldog tenacity when it comes to digging for the truth. He also feels - I believe - a genuine responsibility to warn the public about the secret horrors all around them, but he's simply outnumbered by those who prefer that those secrets remain hidden, for various reasons of their own.

My "take" on Carl now is that he's been dealing with this crazy stuff for "several years" now, and, being an intelligent guy, is no longer surprised by the things he uncovers, and has come to terms - albeit unhappily - with his night stalking life.

That said, I know that my editors have their own views of the character, and those don't always jibe with mine, and trying to strike the right balance is always a challenge.

Rich said...

My comment here should really be on your review of The Spider, but I knew since that older you'd be more likely to see this. I loved learning more about the Richard Wentworth character who (like you) I had only heard of vaguely. Although not a comic buff, I found him captivating. Philip Jose Farmer's conceit that G8, Wentworth, and The Shadow were all multiple personalities of the same disturbed individual gain more credit!


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