This series is one of the most fondly remembered from EERIE, as it's a compassionate, yet eminently tragic and violent reworking of the Frankenstein legend. The fact that it's still so fondly remembered among Warren fans despite ending definitively after a mere three entries is largely testament to the brilliant artwork of Rich Corben, one of the few artists in the Warren stable who specialized in working with color, rather than black and white imagery, and his art was as distinctive for that time period as was that of John Byrne in the 1980s and Frank Quietly in the 2000s. Corben is still active here and there in the comics, as seen in his recent accomplished rendering of Garth Ennis's demented but brilliant plot in THE PUNISHER: THE END one-shot for Marvel's MAX line of comics.
The character of Child is a rather unique entity among the cavalcade of man-made creatures of the Frankenstein Monster category, since his brutish and simple behavior was not the result of a damaged brain, as was the case with most of the Frankenstein Monster copycats extant in the Wold Newton Universe [WNU], such as Henry Frankenstein I's classic Monster from the Universal film series and the various Monster copycats seen in the Hammer film series (particularly "The Curse of Frankenstein" and "The Evil of Frankenstein"), but rather because he literally had the brain of a young child (as his name suggests).
[Note: In contrast to the often brutish portraits of the Frankenstein Monster that are presented in so many film versions of the story, in Mary Shelley's original novel FRANKENSTEIN; OR, THE MODERN PROMETHEUS, shortly after his creation the Monster proved very intelligent and learned to speak quite articulately...it was the 1932 Universal film version that first introduced the idea of the Monster having a brutish, child-like mind...among the few film versions to portray the Monster's persona as it was in the novel was the 1974 TV mini-series "Frankenstein: The True Story," "Frankenstein Unbound," "Mary Shelley's Frankenstein" (the latter two both from the early '90s), and The Hallmark Channel's surprisingly excellent and faithful 2004 "Frankenstein" mini-series.]
The man-made monster known as Child basically had a gentle mein about him but, due to his prodigious superhuman strength and propensity for child-like temper tantrums if provoked, he could be exceedingly dangerous, and wasn't averse in the least to taking a human life when defending himself and others whom he cared about. In some ways, he could be considered a watered down (in regards to strength) variation of Marvel's savage-minded version of the Hulk (and Child was even green like that particular incarnation of the Hulk, to boot; in his appearance in EERIE #130, he developed yet another characteristic in common with the savage Hulk…his idiosyncratic manner of speech). Nevertheless, this three-entry series had a distinct horror-oriented flavor to it that made it much different in tone and plot structure than that of the Hulk's clearly adventure-oriented stories, and despite the obvious influence of the latter character upon the Child series in EERIE, along with the obvious elements lifted from the Frankenstein mythos, this series still stands out as having a very distinct flavor of its own, and one can easily forget its derivative elements upon a casual reading.
The sad pathos of this series, its highlighting of some of Rich Corben's best work during his creative heyday in the '70s, and what it has to add to the chronicles for creative mythographers who are working to trace all instances of the Frankenstein legacy across the breadth of the WNU in the annals of pop fiction, make this series more than worth a look on many levels.
Story: Greg Potter
Art: Rich Corben
The first story opens with the monstrous creature Child holding the deceased and bloody body of his creator/father in his arms, and mourning this unthinkable tragedy in a state of shock…and then moves on to describe how this event came to pass in linear fashion.
At some point in the early 20th century [see Time Frame below], the brilliant middle-aged scientist named Dr. Barton Clervel was standing grief-stricken to the point of insanity at the funeral of his wife Ellie, looking over her simple gravesite in mourning while accompanied by his best friend and landlord Jerome "Jerry" Liederman and the latter's young son, Henry. Ranting mindlessly in his sorrow, Clervel was ruminating aloud about his incredulity over his wife Ellie leaving him behind, and the fact that she never gave him any children, including the son he always wanted, just as his good friend Jerry had a son (Ellie Clervel was likely unable to bear children for any number of medical reasons).
Hoping to assuage his good friend's grief, Liederman told Clervel, "Barton, you've got to forget Ellie…forget the past! [Not a very warm-hearted way of putting it, I must say.] You've got your whole life ahead of you…!
"You're a brilliant scientist, Barton, with a promising future! Lose yourself in your work…try to forget Ellie! [Geez…] You can live rent free for awhile!" [It's good to see that Jerry Liederman did indeed have some compassion in his soul, despite his rather brusque way of explicating his condolences and moral support.]
Struck by an inadvertent suggestion from Liederman, coupled with his own slipping sanity, Clerval replied, "That's it, Jerry, I'll create the son Ellie never gave me!" [See Comments section below.]
As the text explained verbatim, in second-person fashion: "That was where it started, Child. That was the moment of your unearthly conception. That very same night your father put you together from pieces of biological experiments, half rotten in his long unused laboratory on Bluecherry Hill Mansion."
Dr. Clervel was then shown piecing together a huge humanoid form from the pieces of partially preserved cadavers, apparently giving this artificial organic being the brain of a deceased young child, but making sure to augment his physical capacities, possibly by incorporating biological elements of animal anatomy into the human-shaped form [see Comments section below for my analysis of this suggestion].
As Dr. Clervel mused quietly to himself whilst he performed his "unholy" handiwork: "I shall have a son who will never grow older…never become mature! Always…always will he worship his father! And I will be proud to be the father of a boy with the muscles of a bull, the eyes of an eagle! I'm going to have a son, Ellie! I'm going to have a son!"
The text then noted, "Stitch by stitch, piece by putrid piece the work progressed until the ugly, distorted frame of a humanoid child lay upon the workbench of the crazed scientist."
The result (as depicted by Rich Corben's pencils, inks, and colors) did indeed resemble a humanoid male child, but with a height exceeding that of six feet, deep greenish-hued skin, flaxen-colored hair, bluish lips, large stitches over the entirety of his body, and a massive musculature that appeared to be too much for his frame, thus giving him the "distorted" physical appearance as described in the text.
Then [in full Henry Victor Frankenstein I fashion], Barton Clervel exclaimed upon examining his grotesque handiwork, "And now, my child, life! You must have life!"
Using a syringe full of unknown chemicals, Clervel gave his creation "just one simple injection" of the serum, and following further histrionic (and Henry Frankenstein-like) exclamations ("Live, child! Live! Live! Live!!"), the child-like man-made monster opened his bluish-violet eyes…and rose from the workbench. Reaching out for his 'father' in an innocent manner, Clervel suddenly found himself horrified by the hideousness of his creation. Panic-stricken, he fled the room, resolving to destroy the "dreadful mistake" he had brought into existence.
[One thing I could never understand regarding this type of attitude enumerated by some WNU scientists who created man-made humanoids…which includes Victor Frankenstein I from the Mary Shelley novel that started it all…is why they would be so damn mortified by the monstrous appearance of such artificially created animated corpses upon bringing them to life when they were already well aware of what the creatures looked like prior to animating them!
Then again, they must call them "mad" scientists for a good reason!]
Returning to the presence of his creation with a meat cleaver in his hand, Dr. Clervel was about to destroy the creature…only to find him sucking his thumb, and then proceeding to cry at the blatant rejection from his father. Thoroughly touched by his creation's display of sadness at the sight of his father's refutation, Clervel's attitude totally changed, and he warmly embraced his creation to stifle his sadness, telling him, "There, child. Don't cry. Please don't cry. Dad's here."
And that was the one and only time that the entity now named 'Child' was brought sorrow by his father…over the course of the next several years, nothing but love and happiness was shared between the two. Child was very happy at his father's secluded rural home, and knew nothing about, nor cared about, anything beyond the confines of the general wooded area immediately surrounding his father's home. He delighted in the reinforced swing set his dad built for him, playing in the sizable sandbox that Clervel obtained for him, observing the wildlife around the area, and having his dad read him bedtime stories (in perhaps the only instance of humor to be seen in this touching but dreary series, one scene during the above vignette displayed a classic expression on Clervel's face when his monstrous son brought a skunk home from the woods).
One evening, Child heard his dad conversing with two angry-sounding men from downstairs, and hid at the top of the staircase to see what was going on. The two men in question were attempted robbers who told Clervel that since he was a recluse, they knew he never went to the bank, and thus had to keep large amounts of cash at home. When Clervel refused to comply with their demands for money, one of the men pistol-whipped the scientist in the face, knocking him out. Reacting with extreme anger at the sight of his dad being hurt, Child leapt from the top of the staircase in a single powerful bound, and brutally descended upon the armed man from behind, causing him to drop his piece. Grabbing the man around the neck with a single hand, Child literally crushed his throat like crumpled tinfoil (in a way cool and utterly gross scene rendered wonderfully by artist Corben), and as the second man fled for the door, Child hurled the corpse of his partner-in-crime at the fleeing malcontent with tremendous force, instantly breaking his back and sending the second criminal clear through the front door.
Child then "scurried" up the stairs as his father was still unconscious from the robber's blow, so that his dad would not realize, upon awakening, that his son was up past his bedtime. After regaining consciousness, Clervel walked outside through the shattered front door to find the mangled corpses of the two would-be robbers. Reacting with abject horror, the scientist thought to himself, "God! I've created a monster [and he was just now becoming aware of this?]…! What kind of bloodthirsty…but no! Child is the same as any other kid [once you overlook his six foot plus height, massive frame, green stitch-covered skin, and superhuman strength, of course]. He's no different from the little girl who throws sand in her friend's eyes or the boy who destroys the brother's toys [of course not…the only minor difference is that Child rips apart people's bodies, instead of kids' toys]. Child is just…stronger [if one favors understatement]. That's all. His mind isn't ready to control the power his body affords him" [um…deliberately raising him so as to shelter him from the world outside your backyard and all personal responsibility will lead to that, Dr. Clervel].
As many more years passed, Child began noticing odd changes in his father…specifically, the unfortunate effects of the aging process. Becoming more infirm with the passage of time, Clervel was now confined to a wheelchair…and Child could not comprehend why he never physically changed as time passed, but his father did.
One day, upon opening a letter he received in the mail [didn't the mailman ever notice a monster hanging around those environs?], Clervel regretfully told Child that he was just given notice that his long-time generous friend and landlord Jerry Liederman had passed away. For the first time in a very long time, Child saw his father erupt into tears, as another loved one passed from his life.
Later that same day, however, Child was outside playing in his sandbox, when he noticed the now adult son of Jerry Liederman, Henry, arrive at his father's house [didn't the two Liedermans ever notice Child hanging around the huge Clervel manse? He wasn't exactly hard to miss!]. Both surprised and happy to see the son of his best friend at his doorstep, Clervel's chipper behavior was quickly squelched when Henry informed him that he now had ownership of all of his father's assets, including Clervel's home, which he had reason to believe was sitting atop a natural oil well.
Henry Liederman then told his father's long-time friend, "I want that oil badly, Dr. Clervel. As my father's successor, I demand that you leave here immediately!" However, Clervel reminded Henry that according to his father's will, after making his final rental payment, which was due the following week, he would have official ownership of the house. Now thoroughly annoyed, the younger Liederman offered to buy the house from Dr. Clervel, but the enfeebled scientist told him that he could not sell it ("Someone will need it when I'm gone," obviously referring to Child), and this finally caused Henry Liederman to completely lose his temper. Picking up a sharpened metal poker from the fireplace, the avaricious young man brutally stabbed Clervel through the chest with the implement [and that was one hell of a skewer, considering that Liederman sent it clear through the back of Clervel's wheelchair! He must have eaten his Wheeties that morning].
Hearing his father's death scream from outside, Child dropped all of his toys in the sandbox and rushed into the house. Discovering the dead and blood-soaked body of his father, Child cradled it in his arms and collapsed in sorrow. As the text explained, "And you held Daddy for a long while in your arms, gently rocking him…gently whimpering your wordless prayer. But it didn't help! Daddy was dead, Child. It was a hard concept to grasp. Daddy was gone!"
And this brought the story to the time of the opening scene of the tale.
Still horrified and in a state of grief-stricken shock, Child was jostled from this mental state when his keen hearing detected footsteps coming down from upstairs…these belonging to the murderous Henry Liederman, who was up there searching for a copy of the lease. Walking down the stairs, unbeknownst to the presence of Child elsewhere in the house, Liederman was suddenly seized around the throat by the enraged boy-monster.
Early the next morning, Child prepared to leave the Clervel manse once and for all, no longer having any reason to stay, with a small amount of his belongings trussed over his shoulder in a (now old-fashioned style) cloth tied to a stick. Taking one last look at the home in which he spent so many happy years with his now departed creator and father, the grieving boy-creature tenderly buried his dad in his sandbox, using it as a makeshift grave, and proceeded to walk past his old swing set…where the lifeless body of Henry Liederman was dangling from.
As the creature departed the nearby environs of the Clervel estate for the first time in his entire existence, the text laments: "Now it begins[,] Child…your journey into a world you know nothing about!"
Comments: This simultaneously touching and bleak initial entry into the series had a simplistic but well-conceived plot, which was derivative and formulaic, but at the same time somehow inspired, courtesy of writer Greg Potter. This story was simply a new take on the age-old Frankenstein legend, with a few extra twists thrown in, such as the unabashed innocence-cum-ignorance of the titular feature character, and his actual depiction as a monster-child, rather than a monstrous adult with a brain-damaged feeble-mindedness, who was consequently prone to child-like wanderlust and destructive tantrums (much like Henry Frankenstein's copycat Monster from the Universal film series, and Marvel's savage version of the Hulk, who were both clear inspirations from which Potter derived the foundation of Child's character).
Despite its well-intentioned pathos, it's unlikely that this series would have been nearly as fondly remembered as it has been by fans of Warren's output if not for the terrific artwork and coloring process provided by the masterful Rich Corben, whose work was an unforgettable staple in the Warren line of the 1970s. This series and many great stand-alone horror stories drawn by Corben for the Warren titles made him one of the most popular illustrated story artists of the '70s, even though his name is not as well known to the current generation of comic book fans (as noted in the Introduction above, for some of his more recent work, see the excellent 2004 one-shot THE PUNISHER: THE END from Marvel's MAX line of comics).
This series, unlike all others in the Warren line, is distinguished by the fact that the entirety of its run was rendered in color. Though Warren was clearly not as adept as Marvel and DC in dealing with the four-color presentation of illustrated stories (just as Marvel and DC were less adept than Warren in presenting stories in b&w), the color format of this series was still well done by Corben. In fact, the entire experimental group of color tales presented in each of the Warren mags during the '70s are all memorable simply due to the constant willingness of the company to experiment with new concepts, an openness to new ideas that the competition often sought to imitate (frequently to the extreme ire of James Warren).
Due to having all three of its entries produced in color, "Child" is the only Warren series that was entirely reprinted in Warren's COMIX INTERNATIONAL title during the '70s. The latter title was an experimental, all-color reprint mag published by Warren during the mid to late '70s, and it was a showcase for the work of Richard Corben and a few other Warren artists who specialized in the color medium, a rare specialty for the image-smiths working for that company. Numerous stand-alone and series stories printed in color from CREEPY, EERIE, VAMPIRELLA, and THE SPIRIT were reprinted in the five issues of COMIX INTERNATIONAL that were published by Warren. This mag was somewhat difficult to acquire in the '70s, since its newsstand distribution was spotty, comic book shops were relatively rare back then (at least in comparison to today), and the mag was predominantly sold via mail order.
One of the difficult aspects of the Child character to understand was Warren's frequent assertions (largely in the editor's blurbs) that the boy-monster was created from the parts of dead animals, rather than human body parts. The blurb for the first story in the table of contents (probably written by editor Bill DuBay) of EERIE #57 read thusly: "When his wife died, the old scientist was left alone in the world. But the grief-stricken inventor [not quite the same thing as an expert in the biological sciences, Mr. DuBay] had an idea: create a young boy from parts of dead animals. And the result is a creature known as Child!"
How accurate is this assessment based upon the available evidence?
Not very, IMO. For one thing, Child's body was definitively humanoid, with no indication of animal parts being used, as his hands and feet were entirely human-shaped. In fact, the scene depicting Dr. Clervel's construction of his creation's body clearly showed him working with parts taken from human cadavers. The idea of Child being constructed from the parts of dead animals probably derived from Dr. Clervel's previously quoted line about giving his son the "muscles of a bull" and the "eyes of an eagle"…but these could simply have been metaphorical references to giving his creation superhuman musculature and enhanced eyesight in a general sense. It's also possible, of course, that some muscle tissue of animals could have been incorporated into the humanoid body of Child. It should be noted, as another example, that the actual eyes of an eagle are considerably smaller than human eyes, and Child's ocular organs were clearly of comparative human size and appearance (except for the texture of the irises, and I don't think any species of bird has violet-colored eyes). Hence, though it's possible that some animal tissue and even organs may have been incorporated into the humanoid form of Child, none of his exterior body parts were actually transplanted from any animal species, but entirely from human corpses, just as most of the other man-made monsters in WNU history were.
As for how Child was actually animated, it's quite clear that Dr. Clervel must have been working from notes taken from one of the many copies of Victor Frankenstein I and Henry Frankenstein I's infamous journal (entitled THE SECRETS OF LIFE AND DEATH, as stated in the film "Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man") that would often fall into the hands of similarly gifted scientists through the decades [see WNU Connections below for more on this]. Since Dr. Clervel had no elaborate electricity generating technology in his home, it's quite clear that Child was brought to life entirely by chemical means, as was the case with certain other man-made monsters. Those complex chemical processes used by Victor Frankenstein I are still not entirely understood, but these chemicals appear to have been supplemented by electricity generated through various types of technology designed to harness and tap the energy from actual thunderstorms, and though this wasn't mentioned anywhere in Mary Shelley's novel (who kept the means of how Victor animated his monster rather vague), subsequent retellings of the tale, both in the Frankenstein Monster series by Marvel Comics and the series of pulp novels by Don Glut, made it clear that Victor Frankenstein I did indeed use crude but effective electricity collecting technology, as did Henry Frankenstein I. Baron Victor Frankenstein of the Hammer film series likewise used a combination of electrical energy and mysterious chemicals to create at least his initial Monster (as seen in "The Curse of Frankenstein"). Other members of the Frankenstein clan seem to have utilized entirely chemical means to bring their monsters to life, however.
Further, it would appear that (possibly) the entirely chemical 're-agent' invented by Dr. Herbert West I, and then further developed by his late 20th century familial successor, was derived from the work of Victor Frankenstein I (see WNU Connections below).
The fact that one "simple" injection of the unknown chemical gave life to Child is a strong indication of the above (though of course, in actuality, from a "Real" Universe [RU] perspective, we all know that scribe Potter simply didn't want to waste any of his allotted panel space in the book to explain anything…and his charitable readers were graciously expected not to ask any questions…which would make we creative mythographers rather ungracious from the perspective of that school of thought).
Child's level of superhuman physical abilities appeared to be roughly on par with those of other man-made monsters, i.e,. most of the various Frankenstein Monster copycats, though his physical agility was clearly on the level of the original Monster, something that most of the copycat Monsters didn't appear to possess to any discernable degree. Like the other such Monsters in this category, he didn't appear to age to any appreciable agree, and his physiology was more or less indifferent to the passage of time. All of his other physical abilities, like that of the original Monster, e.g., eyesight, hearing, etc., were superior to human. He also seems to have possessed such Monsters' enhanced ability to regenerate damaged tissue to an incredible degree.
His intellect and emotions were on the level of the typical 5-year old child of the modern, post-Victorian era, and though he could understand human language to a simple degree, his father had evidently never taught him how to speak (though he was doing so in simplistic, third-person fashion when he appeared as one of the "Time Force" in EERIE #130; see the Comments section for "Childhood's End" down below, and my Index to "Vampirella and the Time Force" elsewhere on this site).
This series was largely told through captions in a second person narrative style, mainly because Child himself never uttered any dialogue, in a manner similar to the way Marvel writers composed stories of the Man-Thing.
The setting of this story was a secluded, wooded area where Dr. Barton Clervel's home, called Bluecherry Mansion, was situated. As revealed in the next entry in the series, it was located someplace in New England.
WNU Connections: Child was brought into the "consensus" WNU via his major appearance in the "Vampirella and the Time Force" story in EERIE #130 (which is indexed elsewhere on this site).
However, other strong hints connecting him to the greater WNU were evident in this opening story.
For starters, the work conducted here by Dr. Barton Clervel was clearly derived by studying the work, and likely one of the journals, of any number of the Frankenstein clan who had performed the procedure of re-animating dead organic tissue via chemical and/or electrical means from the late 18th century onwards. Dr. Clervel used entirely chemical means, so it's likely that he studied either the work of Victor Frankenstein I (see Mary Shelley's FRANKENSTEIN; OR, THE MODERN PROMETHEUS) or that of Baron Victor Frankenstein who appeared in most of the Hammer Films' Frankenstein movie franchise ("The Curse of Frankenstein" ; "The Revenge of Frankenstein" ; "The Evil of Frankenstein" [1963, though it's possible this tale featured a different member of the Frankenstein clan]; "Frankenstein Created Women" ; "Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed" ; and "Frankenstein and the Monster From Hell" ; another Hammer film featuring a different, younger member of the Frankenstein clan who also created a copycat Monster appeared in "Horror of Frankenstein" ).
Though it's uncertain how complicated the chemical procedures utilized by the various scientists (both within and outside of the Frankenstein lineage) to animate their man-made Monsters were, the simple injection used by Clervel in this story implies that he may have studied some of the notes of another infamous WNU scientist (evidently unrelated to the Frankensteins) who had developed a means to re-animate dead organic tissue…Dr. Herbert West I, who first appeared in the novella "Herbert West, Reanimator" by H.P. Lovecraft (that incident occurred during the 1920s…a descendant of the original Dr. West, also with the forename of Herbert, conducted similar horrific experiments with re-animating the dead during the 1980s, recorded in the three movies "Re-Animator," "Bride of the Re-Animator," and "Beyond Re-Animator"). The chemical created by the first Dr. West, which the second Dr. West referred to simply as the re-agent, was typically injected into more or less intact dead bodies that weren't pieced together from many cadavers, and since they lacked a soul (which had passed from this plane of reality), the re-animated corpse would react in an entirely psychotic manner to the world around them (the same would occur with dead animals who were injected with the re-agent).
However, it appears that in regards to entities that are pieced together from many corpses, such as Child and the rest of the man-made monsters, they apparently have a metaphysical capacity to house a soul upon being activated. As such, they do not become inherently psychotic upon being brought to life (their frequent sociopathic behavior was generally the result of a combination of brain damage [which wouldn't occur if the head was attached to the body without removing the donated brain from its cranial casing, which will inevitably damage the delicate organ] and how the creature was treated by the social environment in which it was created). This metaphysical aspect relating to the soul may be one of the universal laws of the WNU that has not yet been fully explored by creative mythographers at this writing, but it's certainly something that the uber-rationalistic Herbert West would have scoffed at considering, though his late 20th century descendant made an unsuccessful attempt to address this problem in "Beyond Re-Animator."
Further evidence of the above hypothesis of mine appeared in the film "Bride of the Re-Animator," where a female man-made monster, who was stitched together from numerous corpses, wasn't instantly psychotic upon being brought to full organic life by an administration of the re-agent by Dr. Herbert West II and his accomplice.
Hence, in the WNU, it's possible that the first Dr. Herbert West (and that of his late 20th century descendant) studied the work of the Frankenstein clan, and simply wanted to use their development of chemical re-agents to find a way to revive the original people who died, rather than piece a new one together from the raw material found in several disparate human (or even animal) corpses, though Dr. West II later worked on a project to create a new human in that manner, possibly after being inspired by further study of the work conducted by the Frankenstein clan.
In "Bride of the Re-Animator," Dr. West II revealed that the re-agent was acquired from the organs of certain reptile species, who have a natural, latent ability for extraordinary regeneration as part of their biological make-up. It's unknown at this time if Victor Frankenstein I studied reptilian physiology and made the same discovery when formulating the chemical means to bring his Monster to life.
So as per my above theory, it would appear that Dr. Clervel may have used a variant of Dr. West I's re-agent to bring Child to life soon after piecing him together, and Dr. West I had developed his re-agent after studying one of the Frankenstein journals.
Next, we must consider a possible connection between Dr. Barton Clervel's lineage and that of the Frankenstein clan. As seen in Mary Shelley's novel, Victor Frankenstein I's best friend was a man named Henry Clerval, which has sometimes been spelled "Clervel," as scribe Greg Potter interpreted this particular surname in this story. So, is it possible that Dr. Barton Clervel is related to the Clerval/Clervel family who had established a long-time friendship with members of the Frankenstein family, and that is how the Dr. Clervel of this story was privy to the Frankenstein notes and/or journal in the first place? I will leave future creative mythographers to take up this question, particularly those great folks who comprise the MONSTAAH crew.
Time Frame: The time period in which this story took place was never really established, but at least two decades passed from the time Child was first created up to the end of this story. It appears from the clothing of the people seen within the series, along with various architecture shown throughout, that this story took place starting no later than the early 1920s, which would have given Dr. Clervel time to have studied the work of Dr. Herbert West I, if we are to conclude that he did indeed formulate a sample of the re-agent for use in bringing Child to life.
It should be noted that the somewhat affluent Dr. Clervel had no TV in his house, which would be unlikely if this series didn't take place in the early part of the 20th century. He also evidently had no radio in the home, as this device had become common in households by the 1920s, though the reclusive man may simply have had no desire to have such a conveyance in this home, which he may have viewed as a needless extravagance since he went so many years of his wife without one prior to its sudden mass popularity (which is the same reason many older couples of the present have little interest in purchasing a home computer).
"Mind of the Mass"
Story: Greg Potter
Art: Rich Corben
A few hours after leaving Bluecheery Mansion, Child discovered a tiny New England village (too small to be a true 'town,' as it was referred to in the text) within the heavily wooded area in which he resided (he was carrying only a small amount of his belongings in a cloth rag tied to a stick and his beloved teddy bear, which he considered a friend). Fascinated by the sight of this series of houses, something he had never seen the likes of before, Child entered the village, and innocently began exploring the streets. He soon came across a little girl sitting down and playing tacks, and he was struck by her appearance. Approaching her, the girl was terrified at the sight of the hulking boy-creature in front of her, and she began running, only to cut her foot on a rock and fall flat on her face. Walking up to the girl to help her, the boy-monster was suddenly blasted in the back by a shotgun shell, courtesy of the girl's father, Jonathan Neveson, who believed that Child was a burly man out to harm the girl. Quickly recovering his teddy bear, the injured and horrified creature fled into the woods, with Neveson and other villagers in pursuit. Tripping on a large fallen tree in the woods, Child was grief-stricken when a subsequent shotgun blast struck and shredded his teddy bear. Picking up the tattered pieces of his lifelong friend, Child fled deeper into the woods, the nasty wound on his back rapidly healing.
Locating a lone cabin within those woods, his keen sense of smell picked up the fragrance of a freshly baked apple pie, and he entered the small hovel. Helping himself to the pie, he is soon discovered by the sole resident and owner of that cabin…a blind old woman. Curious as to who entered her home, when she got Child's attention, he made a whining noise, worried that he did something wrong by eating the pie. Realizing that her unexpected visitor sounded just like a child, she touched his face and torso so that she could more closely "see" her visitor. She then noticed that her company was no ordinary child, but she felt concern for him just the same. Hearing the villagers descending upon the cabin, where they correctly suspected that the hulking individual they were pursuing had sequestered himself, the old woman quickly hid Child in the darkness of her home and confronted the irate people outside her door, who were being led by Jonathan Neveson.
Asking them what they wanted, Neveson told her, "We're after a child molester, old woman! A big, ugly fella. You hiding him in your cabin?" She [very foolishly] replied, "If I am, it's none of your affair!" [Don't you just hate it when the plot of a story requires the writer to make a central character do or say something much more stupid than most real people with even a small degree of common sense would never even consider?]
When Neveson demanded that she step aside to let them check her cabin, she chose the tactic of taking advantage of their incessant superstitions (the very reason she didn't live among them) by pointing her gnarled walking stick at them and saying, "Hold if you value your souls! By the powers of my great lord and master, Satan, I curse the first man who crosses my threshold." Sincerely, but incorrectly, believing the woman to be a "witch" [i.e., a "gothic" witch, a devil-worshipper rather than a Wiccan], the men flee, but Neveson warned her that they will be back. Returning to the interior of her cabin, the old woman informed Child that she isn't truly a witch, but by playing upon their superstitions in that manner, it keeps them from bothering her. She then told her guest that before the villagers return, she will feed him and repair his teddy bear for him (because of her blindness, she never noticed the huge wad of dried blood on his back, clearly visible due to the attendant hole in his sweater, that was the result of receiving a shotgun blast…the wound already appeared to be almost entirely healed).
Meanwhile, Neveson and a mob comprised of probably every able-bodied man in the village was at the door of the town judge, demanding a warrant for the arrest of the old woman on the grounds of her being a witch [it appears that in the WNU, several such enclaves of people living in small villages in remote rural areas in the U.S. and England well into the 20th century retained the devil-fearing ways, including paranoia against gothic witchcraft, which engulfed much of both nations during the Inquisition in the RU; see WNU Connections below]. The judge refused on the grounds that no proof was in evidence to convict this woman [at least a mere accusation was no longer sufficient to get someone convicted and burned at the stake!] and becoming enraged, Neveson struck the judge, yelling "Hang your proof!"
Turning to his fellow villagers in the mob, he then decreed, "Listen! We don't need a warrant! The Bible says that when men are gathered together in God's name, he'll do whatever they ask! Well, we're gathered in his name now! We're out to get us a witch woman! We're doing God's will by ridding the Earth of her kind!" [Yep, just like a group of people who thrive on ignorance and intolerance as their very social foundation…they always say that they are doing it because God told them to. But according to their brand of theology, isn't it supposed to be the Devil that tells people to commit violent and destructive acts? It can become quite difficult to tell the difference between God's word and the Devil's way in the eyes of such people.]
Waking up from an impromptu nap after putting the finishing touches on Child's teddy bear, the old woman heard the large mob of rioting villagers outside of her cabin door. Opening up the door to confront the torch-bearing crowd, she commented, "You've brought the whole town with you this time! [Good hearing that lady has!] What can I do for you?" Yelling less than kind comments such as "Death to the witch!" and "Kill the hag!" the rioting villagers seized her and quickly tied her to a large stake placed in the ground near her home, with copious piles of timber wood strewn about it. Ignoring the woman's desperate pleas that she wasn't truly a witch (of any sort), the villagers began throwing their torches into the piles of wood, thereby igniting the stake around her. As the old woman began burning to death, her last thoughts were concern for Child, and she yelled to the boy-monster to "Save yourself and run!"
Now realizing that the monster-child was indeed in the cabin, Neveson told two fellow armed men named Ben and Curly to rush into the small edifice with him to kill the creature. Witnessing the death of his new friend through the cabin window, Child resolved not to run, but rather to await the arrival of his nemeses…and to make them pay for killing the kindly old woman.
Breaking through the cabin door, Neveson immediately spotted Child, and fired a shotgun blast into the creature's knee. Collapsing in agony, the boy-monster grabbed the leg of an extremely heavy oaken table near him, just as one of Neveson's accomplices yelled at him to quickly reload his rifle [umm…not that I mean to encourage this, but couldn't either Ben or Curly fire at the creature with one of their rifles while Neveson reloaded, or did they already agree to let him have exclusive rights to the honor?] Pulling the heavy table over his head with a sudden heaving of his tremendous strength, Child crushed all three men to death underneath the massive piece of oaken furniture.
Forcing himself to his feet despite the spikes of pain cascading across his knee, Child leaned his back up against the stone wall of the cabin [yep, it was made with stones, rather than wood] and pushed and strained with every erg of his superhuman strength, blood flowing down from his mouth as he bit his bottom lip in response to the strain. Finally, just as he reached the immediate limits of his endurance, the strong stone wall gave way, and as he intended, Child succeeded in dropping the heavy stone structure on the other rampaging villagers outside, crushing each and every one of them to death.
With the bloody task of self-defense and payback accomplished, Child collapsed in tears in front of the burning corpse of the old woman who had kindly befriended him…and paid for this act of kindness with her life. When he had shed all of the tears that he could, long after the fire had finally burnt itself out, Child left his repaired teddy bear…his lifelong friend…in front of the skeletal remains of the old woman, to watch over her forever, as the boy-monster despondantly departed the area.
Comments: Once again, this story claimed, in the text, that Child was constructed from the remains of animals, via the following passage: "In your sheltered past, you have known only two men. Your father, the man who created you…from pieces of dead animals and carcasses! And Jerry [sic] Liederman, the man who murdered your father only short hours ago." I discussed in the Comments section of the previous entry in this series about whether or not Child was likely to have been constructed out of the bodies of dead animals…in short, my conclusion was that while spare parts of animals, such as certain pieces of musculature and internal organs, may have been lifted from certain animal species, most of his spare parts…including his head and all of his limbs…came from human corpses.
Another error of note in the above passage was the blame given to Jerry Liederman for killing Child's creator/father, Dr. Barton Clervel…that assertion was incorrect. Jerry Liederman was Dr. Clervel's best friend, and was generous to him throughout his entire life, until he died of natural causes. In actuality, Clervel was killed by Liederman's adult son, Henry (for full details on this, see the synopsis for the initial story in this series, indexed above). Another classic Bill DuBay editorial flub!
Finally, it should be noted that Child actually met two other men in the first story of the series…the two criminals who attempted to rob his father (both of whom Child killed in defense of his dad).
The name of the small village that Child encountered in this story, and which he more or less eradicated most of the adult male population of, was not named. Nor was the identity of the blind old woman revealed. The village-cum-town was said (in the text) to be situated somewhere in the New England states.
As any creative mythographer or horrorphile will be aware of after reading the above synopsis, or the original story, this tale was quite derivative of major aspects of the Frankenstein legend, both from Mary Shelley's novel and from the Universal films. As I noted before, this series was high on pathos, with a truly sympathetic monster, but low on sheer creative originality.
In the case of elements lifted from the Mary Shelley novel, the ill-fated and short-lived friendship between Child and the kindly blind old woman was highly reminiscent of the original Frankenstein Monster being befriended by the kindly blind old man named DeLacey…until fear and superstition (albeit of a different sort) tore them apart (though luckily, Delacey wasn't actually killed in the book version, making him more fortunate than the old woman in this story). Similar situations apparently occurred with Henry Victor Frankenstein I's copycat Monster as seen in "The Bride of Frankenstein," as well as this sequence being spoofed in Mel Brooks's "Young Frankenstein."
In regards to the elements lifted from the Universal films, the appearance of angry, torch-bearing villagers bent on killing Child in this story were a staple of the aforementioned Universal flicks, and were seen in "Frankenstein" (1932), "The Bride of Frankenstein" (1935), "Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man" (1943), "House of Frankenstein" (1945), and even the prologue of the much more recent "Van Helsing" (2004). In fact, there was even an oddly parallel incident involving the copycat Monster in Universal's original "Frankenstein" (1932) that dealt with the Monster encountering a little girl, which sparked off his pursuit by the villagers, much as what occurred with Child in this story. In the latter case, however, the little girl from "The Mind of the Mass" was lucky…the girl who played a similar role in the Universal film reciprocated the Monster's desire for friendship, only to be accidentally killed by the creature when he innocently tosses her into the water after seeing her throw flowers in the lake…not realizing at this early stage in his existence that people can drown in water.
This story added elements of social commentary, though in a rather hammy manner, by opposing the superstitions implicit within the more ultra-conservative attitudes harbored by certain extremist elements of Christianity, particularly the ceaseless intolerance that many of the zealots among the more right-wing Christian faith systems can harbor, a favorite pastime of Warren writers during the '70s. However, it was done much better in other stories published by Warren during that decade, including the brilliant "Anti-Christmas" by Gerry Boudreau from CREEPY #68, also illustrated and colored by Rich Corben (and reprinted in COMIX INTERNATIONAL #2).
WNU Connections: As noted above in the synopsis, it would appear that in the WNU, not only is "gothic" (i.e., satanic) 'witchcraft' a reality, but many rural towns and villages retained not only ultra-conservative, paranoid, and violence-inducing superstitions against the existence of such dark magick, but even local laws designed to deal with practitioners of the dark arts in much the same fashion as was done in America (at least within the New England states, particularly Salem, Massachusetts) and Great Britain during the Inquisition carried over in these remote areas well into the 20th century (albeit at least now, elements of American jurisprudence were added to these archaic penal codes, insisting upon proof before an indictment was made, unlike the "guilty until proven guilty" attitude of the more distant past).
Similar WNU enclaves harboring the inquisitional way of thinking appeared in EERIE's "Curse of the Werewolf" series, in the town of Dwarves' Bay, England, circa 1902, indexed elsewhere on this site.
It would be interesting to find out some information on the Rev. Montague Summers of the WNU. He was a RU eccentric occult researcher who dressed in medieval clerical clothing during the 1930s, and was also perhaps the last man in the modern era to harbor utterly medieval ways of viewing the "devil's brood" in the world. He wrote many well-known paranoia-ridden, but rather finely researched, treatises on vampires, werewolves, and witches that would be more at home during the 16th century than any decade of the 20th.
Time Frame: This story took place only a few hours after the last entry in the series, which I believe to be sometime in the late 1930s, or thereabouts.
Story: Budd Lewis [uncredited]
Art: Rich Corben [uncredited]
Sadly wandering away from the site where lay the scorched, skeletal remains of the blind old woman who had befriended him (see "Mind of the Mass" from EERIE #58, indexed above) and his patched up teddy bear to forever watch over her, Child soon comes across another village (or town, as the text sometimes likes to call it), the bullet wound in his kneecap fully healing along the way. While en route, the boy-monster contemplates what his dad had always told him, about his having a soul, how the soul makes humanity divine, and the beauty and promise of Heaven [see Comments section below].
Upon entering the outskirts of that other rural village, Child looked up to notice a shooting star falling from the heavens…which is also witnessed by a little boy observing from behind the wooden fence surrounding his home. Rushing over to where he saw the glowing object land, Child discovers a baseball-sized object that resembles a radiant, beautiful multi-colored gemstone. Believing that the enigmatic object was a piece of Heaven fallen from the sky that would now make Child special and loved by all the people who had inexplicably hated him before (as he remembers the many bed-time stories read to him about Heaven by his late father), the boy-monster was overjoyed to have this bauble. As the second-person narrative of the text stated:
"Ohhh! A star fallen from Heaven! Daddy often talked of Heaven and how wonderful it will be when we get to go there! Heaven is full of twinkling delights! And you know this is a piece of Heaven for sure, don't you?"
The little boy observing from behind his fence also smiled jubilantly at the sight of the glowing jewel now being handled by Child in front of him. Deciding that he was hungry, the boy-monster hid the mysterious jewel under some brush, and went off in search of food. Seeing where the monster-child hid the jewel, the little boy went over and retrieved it. Also looking at the glowing bauble with a smile of delight on his features, the boy noticed that the object began to hum and throb, and suddenly it exploded into shards of dust that hit the child in the face, causing him to fall unconscious.
Upon returning to recover his shining star, Child noticed that some adults had driven up to the area and found the boy laying insensate; two of them, clearly being the boy's parents, were crying terribly. They then drove away with him. While trying to find his jewel, Child instead found its dusty remains laying on the ground, and once again in his tragic life, he was in emotional anguish, this time over his loss of what he believed to be a piece of Heaven that was sent to him by the angels. Deciding that the people he had seen must be responsible for taking his shining star from him, and deciding to "fix them" in revenge, just as he had done when people hurt him before, he proceeded to run into the village, this time specifically seeking out the boy whom he believed had cost him such a special treasure.
Upon entering the tiny village, Child was easily able to find the motor-car used by the people he saw driving the boy away. Inside of the local doctor's office, also used as a hospital unit, the boy lay upon one of the beds looking extremely ill, with the dust on his face having grown into several large, star-shaped creatures adhered to his facial skin. A local physician, Dr. Caan, was examining the boy, and came to the following conclusion about those apparently alien entities attached to his face (as Child looked into the window and listened):
"Never seen nothin' like it! It's a kind of spore! I got a theory…these things attach to the skin, on the face, near the brain…can't be sure, but I believe these creatures are actually feeding on the electrical impulses generated by the brain. Since the boy was sedated, they've become inactive. Less electrical charges emitted during sleep. If we rip them off, they'll leave the boy horribly disfigured…if we leave them on…they'll reproduce more spores! And if they're cut, they'll leave something akin to a tick's head and grow another body. [Dr. Caan is a hell of a theoretician for a "mere" tiny village physician!]
"Any and all factors are unknown and frightening! Where'd they come from? Damned if I could tell you!"
Deciding to take his revenge on the boy for the slight that he believed the kid had committed against him, Child leaped through the window, and quickly pummeled Dr. Caan aside, the old physician's head slamming into the wall (apparently dying in the process). Taking the unconscious boy in his arms, the child-monster crashed through the front door and ran into the woods, determined to hide from the villagers and finish off the little boy there. One of the other doctors present, who was understandably panic-stricken, told the staff to call the town sheriff, and report what just happened.
Within minutes, the sheriff and a posse was pursuing Child, determined to save the little boy's life. As Child fled in terror up a large hill, one of the sheriff's deputies (a man named A.D.) fired a shot from his rifle, hitting the boy-monster clear through the shoulder. Stunned by the blast, he was soon hit in the right arm by another shot. Then a third well-placed shot hit Child in the side of the head, taking off one of his ears.
Noticing with much astonishment that Child was still alive despite taking all three of those shots, the sheriff ordered his men to rush up the hill and save the boy.
Now utterly wracked by his injuries and the blinding pain accompanying them, Child was jostled from his misplaced rage, and suddenly remembered another thing regarding Heaven that his father had always told him about…the Christian proverbs to love even your enemy, and the notion of forgiveness. With that in mind, Child, shedding many tears, hugged the unconscious boy gently and warmly as his way of forgiving him…unaware that he was also providing salvation to the youth. Upon hugging the boy, the spores affixed to the latter's face, evidently seeking a host body whose neural impulses were more active, transferred themselves onto Child's facial dermis. As the spores began rampantly feeding upon the neural energy of the boy-monster, Child looked up into the starry sky, and recalled his father's ruminations about Heaven, and how one could fly there and be together with their loved ones forever…and as the pitiful man-made monster's life-force began ebbing due to the feeding of the alien spores, his soul left his body and sailed to the world beyond this one.
Now having recovered thanks to the inadvertent intervention of the now expired Child, the little boy was safely carried away down the hill by the sheriff and his men, who left the massive corpse of the boy-monster behind them.
Comments: This third and final entry in the series was penned by a different writer, Budd Lewis, one of Warren's most hard-working scribes during the decade (and for the few years into the '80s that Warren continued publication prior to its bankruptcy). His handle on this series was every bit as sad, depressing, and generally humorless as that of former writer Greg Potter, but the overall tone was much different. I would opine that the fantasy-like nature of this final story will be an acquired taste to readers, some finding it interesting, others thinking it was a series-inappropriate, last minute cop-out gimmick just to end the run of the series. I would say that I'm somewhere in the middle on this matter.
Almost as if in response to the previous story's condemnation by Potter of the types of zealotry and intolerance of the more conservative variations and interpretations of Christianity, this time around Lewis gave us a story rife with the positive aspects of Christianity…hope, the promise of everlasting peace, love even for those who do not love you in return (which ultimately suggests, by necessity, tolerance), and the important conception of forgiveness. All of these tenets were embraced by Child in the final moments of his life, along with sacrificing his sad and tragic existence, however inadvertently, in a manner that saved the life of a boy whom he had formerly considered an enemy.
One of the interesting issues explored in this story, a matter I raised elsewhere in this Index as per my theories regarding how the chemical processes developed by the Frankenstein and West clans work differently on artificially created organic beings than it does on intact corpses…was the notion of whether or not man-made monsters truly possess a soul. It was my conjecture that the reason Dr. Herbert West I and II's re-agent doesn't usually doesn't work on fully intact corpses is because the latters' soul has since passed from the body; in the case of man-made monsters, i.e., a new organic entity stitched together from the cadavers of many different human bodies, on the other hand, they possess the capacity (like a newborn infant) to acquire a soul upon being brought to life. The evidence was seen in all of the previous man-made monsters created by the Frankenstein clan (who were often sociopathic due to factors not related to the variant of the re-agent chemicals the Frankensteins utilized, e.g., damaged brains coupled with cruel treatment by the humans around them), as well as the female man-made monster created by Dr. Herbert West II in "Bride of the Re-Animator," who was more or less fully cognizant and without the blatant signs of psychotic behavior displayed by the intact corpses who were injected with the re-agent.
With this story, Child was clearly shown to have a soul. As the text explicated on the splash page of this tale, regarding the concept of such man-made creatures having a soul:
"Only hours have you gazed at the wonder, the awe inspiring vastness of a world that was never yours…and it doomed your sweet soul. But, Child…poor Child…do you have a soul? Daddy always said a soul makes a man divine. Can a child created in hopeless love…created from rancid dead flesh…created from nothing…have that divine spirit, that flawless heavenly spark that makes man different from beasts? In your lonely, painful wanderings have you yet become…divine?"
This particular story may have answered this question once and for all, but at the very least, it chose to explore it.
No hint was given as to the nature or possible origin of those mysterious alien spores that fell from the sky, and which just happened to do so in the very vicinity of Child (coincidence? You decide), along with the dazzling jewel-like structure in which they were encased [see WNU Connections below].
For some reason, the artwork of Rich Corben, usually so remarkable and finely honed, including in the two previous entries in this series, was noticeably below par in this story.
Though the first two entries in this series were quite derivative and formulaic, the third and final entry, like it or hate it, was at least an unexpected departure from the latter two elements.
One must question whether or not this story truly featured the end of Child. He made one further appearance in Warren Comics, in EERIE #130, having a major role in the "Vampirella and the Time Force" story (which is indexed elsewhere on this site). In that story, Child was taken by the Oriental criminal mastermind Ten Ichi from some point in the timestream to serve as one of his unwilling minions against Vampirella and her allies. While under Ten Ichi's thrall, the previously mute boy-monster displayed the ability to speak, albeit in simplistic, third-person fashion, taking even another element from that of the savage version of Marvel's Hulk (e.g., "Child not your friend," "What you doing to Child?" etc…one was half expecting him to exclaim "Child smash!" or "Child is the strongest one there is!" at some point!).
Needless to say, this suggests that Child may have reappeared at some point following this story, learned to speak (however disjointedly), and was taken by Ten Ichi at this later point in the 20th century. It should be noted that it was never revealed what happened to Child's corpse at the end of this story, such as whose hands it ended up in.
Because all three parts of this series were printed in color, though EERIE never published a collected edition, each of the three "Child" tales were reprinted in issues of COMIX INTERNATIONAL. The first story was reprinted in CI #1 (and again in #4), and the second and third story were reprinted in CI #3. Copies of this rare reprint title from Warren can be hard to find these days, however, as it never had a large print run, and it was mostly sold via mail order.
WNU Connections: Regarding the origin of the aforementioned alien spores of this story, apparently of extraterrestrial origin, I will leave other creative mythographers who are more well-versed in the various alien races inhabiting the greater WNU outside of the confines of Earth to figure this one out, or to determine if any other precedent exists for such entities in other chronicles that are considered part of the "consensus" WNU canon.
Nevertheless, one may opine that these alien spore creatures, shaped like starfish, could have had some connection to a WNU analogue of the giant extraterrestrial starfish-like creature called Starro the Conqueror from DC Comics. In the DC Universe, Starro was known to create multiple tiny versions of itself that attached to the faces of human beings, feeding on their neural energy and taking control of their minds, making them part of a hive collective connected to the greater sentience of the prime Starro entity. These little alien starfish creatures didn't seem to take over the minds of those they latched onto, and no gigantic version of these creatures was seen, but it's possible that there was much more to them than was explored in this single story.
Time Frame: This story took place about a day after the last story, with more evidence provided here that the series progressed up to about the latter half of the 1930s, during the same period of time that the early years of "The Waltons" TV series took place. The manner of dress, the village architecture, and the antique model of motor-car seen in this story all provide strong hints as to the era of when this story occurred, but no specific years were ever given in the series' text. Upon Child leaving his home following the first story, it would appear that the second and third tale all occur within just a few days, at most.