J.C. Vaughn’s highly anticipated Bedtime Stories for Impressionable Children is here! From American Mythology, the first issue features three stories that a daycare owner, Uncle Alonzo Del Vecchio, tells the kids. These stories are not at all appropriate for children, and this book should not be mistaken as an actual book of children’s bedtime stories. For us adults, though, this is quite the compilation of creepy stories!
The first story is called, “40 Whacks.” With my horror-obsessed mind, I went straight to the old rhyme: “Lizzie Borden took an axe, and gave her mother 40 whacks; when she saw what she had done, she gave her father 41.” As it turns out, I was right. The story is about a kid whose parents and sister beat him. He finds comfort in an old antique store, where the owner gives him an axe, claiming that it was Lizzie Borden’s. He also makes sure to mention that old antiques have powers that can make people do things without thinking. We can guess what comes next… He goes home, his sister takes the axe, and it’s all downhill from there.
This is a great story, especially with the inclusion of Lizzie Borden. I’m not saying that in the sense that murder makes for great storytelling, but history does. When there is clear inspiration for any comic book, it comes across really well. “40 Whacks” is no exception.
I do have just a few qualms with Jim Shooter’s script, though. It’s pretty predictable, and ends rather abruptly. That’s to say that the transitions aren’t too smooth, but for a small story in one issue of them, it certainly gets the job done.
Joe James’ illustrations don’t have very clean lines, but it’s an art style that really works with the script. The line work isn’t realistic from afar, but close-ups look more like anatomically correct human figures. Even so, the extraneous lines here and there take away from that reality and make the story look more like a dream-like sequence. In this case, I’m actually not upset about that. I think this art style is perfect for the opening story. It’s dark, with heavy shadows, and creepy, with a tone that is eerie enough to make us want more.
The second story, “Flash of Inspiration,” is about a trouble-making teen, Steve Winowski. He was caught making out with a mob boss’ daughter, and he has his men take the boy out to the desert for some “fireworks.” Luckily, he escapes, but his life isn’t much of anything worth living afterwards.
James Nelms serves as writer and artist on this story. The writing is smooth with good transitions, a linear plot, and a clever delivery. His artwork is more realistic than James’, with a bit more expression on the characters’ faces. There’s one panel that shows the entire strip in Las Vegas, and it is beautiful. This is some seriously detailed background work, and it comes across just beautifully.
The third and final story, “One of Those Mother-Daughter Things,” is written by J.C. Vaughn himself (and illustrated by Gene Gonzales). In it, Steve is dating a girl who won’t stop complaining about how much of a monster her mother is. One day, Steve gets a call from his girlfriend, who says she has killed her mother. Steve rushes over, but the mum isn’t as dead as she seemed.
Vaughn’s writing is fluid and keeps up a steady pace throughout the entire story. It is, like the rest, really short, which kind of sucks. I want more! Otherwise, there is a leveled mix of dialogue and caption boxes that tell the story equally well.
Gonzales’ illustrations are very angular. They don’t have too much realism to them, but because of their cartoonish nature, show emotion really well. The deep shadows and inclusion of actual monsters gives the story a darker tone leading up to the kill, but honestly, this story doesn’t feel all too scary—at least not as much as the former two.
Between the stories, there are segments of conversation between Del Vecchio and the kids at daycare. These are pretty entertaining, as Del Vecchio doesn’t see anything wrong with the stories he’s telling, but the kids are all in awe over this man’s lack of babysitting skills. They’re all actually realty mature, and Del Vecchio just cannot judge what’s appropriate or not.
Overall, this is a great book to start the series. This issue has a ton of creepiness and eerie tones. I do wish the stories were longer, but that’s pretty much the only thing wrong with the book. Horror fans are going to love this and even some impressionable children. Read with caution!
Written & Illustrated by: Various