Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Long Box #12: Evil Ernie

Words: Brian Pulido
Pictures: Steven Hughes
December 1991-April 1992

Nearing the second year of collecting comics I was still also reading Fangoria Magazine. One issue had a cover blurb about a black and white horror comic book called Evil Ernie from publisher Eternity Comics. I wasn't much for comics outside of Marvel but had something for black and white comics even in those early days so I had to check this out.

This story introduced "Evil" Ernest Fairchild who has issues. His parents beat him horribly yet wonder why he's withdrawn. To cure this 'imbalance' they take him to Dr. Leonard Price head guy at the Clearview Mental Institution. He tries this machine called the Dream Probe in hopes of being able to work out the issues Ernest has. While under the influence of the probe, young Ernest 'meets' Lady Death, who sees in him the potential to be the biggest mass killer of all time. She tells the boy she loves him and by killing dream versions of his parents she explains to him that he can show his love for her by using the rage inside him to kill others.
After the treatment, Price pays a house call and find Ernest has killed his parents. As Price explains it, Ernest killed them at breakfast then went down his block and killed 35 more people. He was finally caught but killed 12 more people AFTER he was caught.
Since then, Price has done everything he could to keep Ernest locked away and has tried to kill him to cure him permanently on a few occasions.

Then along comes Mary Young. She has a NEW Dream Probe called Neurotech which simply removes the urge to kill. She wants to test it on Ernest.
Along with Mary we're introduced to her family, she's the elder sister and watches over her younger sibling the youngest being Billy then Heather and Rick. While they support her efforts Heather has a series of dreams in which 'Evil' Ernie kills everyone including the Young family. She just passes them off as simple dreams.
Mary's efforts are back by the rather sleazy Commissioner Stone who is hoping the success of Neurotech will make him right and famous.

The first issue is told using flashbacks showing Price's failure at curing Ernest and his obvious guilt over it, Evil Ernie's growing relationship with Lady Death and Mary Young's hopes of curing him. It all comes together very well and gives the reader all he or she needs to know to understand the concept of Evil Ernie.

In the second issue the attempt is made and, of course, it fails and gives way to the birth of Evil Ernie, harbinger of mega death. He's charged with one simple task: Kill everyone. The reason? It's the only way he and Lady Death can be together on Earth. We also get the first appearance of Smiley The Psychotic Button and learn that Evil can control the people he kills, zombies he calls his 'Friendz.'

The remaining issues of the first 5-parter cover the attempts to stop Evil's dark reign or terror forever. The body count sky rockets and things get very out of control very fast.
Finally, Evil is stopped, having reached the then current levels of power he controls and the world seems like a safer place.
For now.

So, having re-read this story for the first time in about 10 years I have to say it stands up fairly well. In some places it moves to fast and doesn't seem to have a lot of smooth flow to it but this was the first attempt at a comic book by Brian Pulido and artist Steven Hughes so I give them some space there. And speaking of the art, this is one thing that starts excellently right off the bat. Hughes art is tight and all the characters are fully formed from the first appearance of them all. It's different than the usual way of seeing a character's look evolving as the issues come out.
Overall, this is a story that stands the test of time, especially considering it started out as a small, black and white, independent comic book with a fairly small print count. It's amazing that this simple, 5 part comic book series was the foundation of one of the greatest independent publishers of the 1990's, Chaos! Comics. It introduces concepts that continued to run until the companies end: all villains and no heroes. There are no 'good guys' that will come in and save the people by stopping the monsters. No, the humans are there because we need a body count. But while the story, on the surface, is just about violence there is more. Evil Ernie is doing this because he love Lady Death. What man wouldn't offer the whole world for the woman he loves?

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