This particular series was one of the best…and most disturbing…to appear within the pages of EERIE during its heyday of the early to mid-1970s, before the title…and the entire Warren empire…began losing steam to a combination of mass defections of its best talent, less personal attention given to the company by James Warren due to his mounting health problems at the time, the fiscal "implosion" of the comics market during the late '70s, and the general waning interest in horror comics that was quite evident by 1980 (which caused Warren to make a futile attempt at forestalling its own impending demise by trying to switch over to more or less standard super-hero fair in all of its titles except for CREEPY, and the sci-fi oriented 1984/1994 [a HEAVY METAL knock-off], this being a genre in which Warren could not hope to compete with Marvel and DC, who specialized in this area, and who had most of the top talents in their stable during this time). Nevertheless, in its day, Warren made remarkable inroads towards displaying the diverse types of social issues and themes that could be tackled by horror stories, rivaling the sci-fi genre (to which Warren also experimented with) in terrifying readers into mentally deconstructing, analyzing, and considering such issues and themes via the nightmarish tableaus unfolding before them on those large, black and white printed pages. "Night of the Jackass" is emblematic of Warren at its best and most chilling in this regard, dealing with the negative side of the urban landscapes roiling about in the capitalized Industrial Revolution, and the hopeless, poor, and downtrodden people it left in its wake, along with their frequent and often self-destructive attempts to "escape" this life by becoming addicted to mind-altering drugs.
This series focused on that controversial theme at a time when many people writing in comics wished to confront the issue directly, over which Marvel and DC were both fighting and defying the draconian dictates of the Comics Code Authority during this era (and successfully, at that) to delve into this topic within their four-color pages (with wonderful story arcs in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN and GREEN LANTERN/GREEN ARROW, respectively). Warren never had to deal with the totalitarian Comics Code, because they were, in effect, "magazines" rather than "comic books," and were thus technically expected to be aimed at a more "mature" audience. And if it's one thing that the Comics Code Authority didn't respect above all else (other than the concept of democracy, of course), it was its perceived audience.
As such, for the most part, the sky was the limit for the social issues that Warren Comics would explore, usually with a success rate that ran from admirable to excellent. "Night of the Jackass" was a series that dealt with a commonly perceived social problem in society in a non-politically correct fashion by tacking chilling horror elements onto it, and leaving its readers with an experience that they would not soon forget. In fact, along with Vampirella, Pantha, and the Rook, "Night of the Jackass" was the only series to come out of the Warren line to date that its semi-successor, Harris Comics, attempted to revive in the 1990s. Unfortunately, outside of their Vampirella revival (which was met with great and continuing success), Harris failed to competently restore any other Warren properties to similar renewed stardom, including "Night of the Jackass," which was returned in a major story arc in VENGEANCE OF VAMPIRELLA (which had long-lasting effect on one of Vampi's major supporting characters), and then gravitated to its own projected pilot of a mini-series entitled HYDE-25 (after the name of the drug used by the socially downtrodden to initiate the "jackass" effect; see the synopses below).
As such, this series dipped heavily into the far-reaching literary and cinematic legacy of Dr. Henry Jekyll/Mr. Edward Hyde, and these elements, along with the direct crossover of this series with that of Vampirella in the 1990s, firmly brings this series into the Wold Newton Universe [WNU]. Thus, any creative mythographer or fan of the Jekyll legacy across the annals of all fictional mediums who happen to be seeking out any and all possible info and appearances of Henry Jekyll's serum derivatives wherever they may appear would do well to read this series [it was collected in EERIE #115, though not having checked out that reprint issue myself, I cannot guarantee that those stories were reprinted without alteration at this writing...Warren was notorious for altering stories it reprinted in its periodic collected editions, particularly when you consider the massive story alterations it performed in its reprint collections of "Dax the Damned" and "The Mummy Walks"].
Creative mythographer Dennis Power has already written an online series of articles on the Jekyll legacy called "Hyde and Hair," which traces the trail of the Jekyll family and their handiwork throughout the WNU from his perspective, and is also well worth seeking out by the many WNU enthusiasts and/or Jekyll and Hyde fans, as well as prospective creative mythographers who may wish to research the subject.
Overall, "Night of the Jackass" was a bleak and morbid portrait of suffering humanity and the nightmarish lengths many of the worst victims of an industrialized society combined with a moribund economic system will sink to in order to lash out at a civilization which they believe to have discarded them like so much refuse. Its chilling social commentary is replete with images out of our worst nightmares of what we may have to deal with if ourselves and our loved ones were suddenly besieged by a group of mind-addled psychopaths intent upon humiliating and torturing us in the worst ways imaginable. Humanity's inhumanity to itself was on horrific display in this series, but at the same time, we were given heroes in the personages of Claude Bishop and Samuel Garson, who represented the will and innate ability of humanity to oppose the evil that the human race is capable of, and to rise above the darkness that inflicts our society, albeit not without great cost and sacrifice.
All of the above occurs across the backdrop of late 19th century London, which was then the best example of early industrial decay, and a favored environment of many writers to set such moody and appalling horror stories. No one can forget that late Victorian London, which signaled the beginnings of social and sexual repression that still plague us today at the dawn of the 21st century, is a favored child for the settings of such arabesque tales of horror and depravity, and one of the best places (outside of modern day America and England) in which to find the proper social context for such stories to occur.
Further, the influence of the murderous sex crimes of the infamous Jack the Ripper were not only on display in this series quite clearly, but this element carried over into its short-lived revival by Harris Comics in the '90s, and the Hyde-25 serum was to have an ongoing effect on Adam Van Helsing, a long-time supporting character in both the Warren and Harris Vampirella stories, when an altered derivative of the Hyde-25 serum metamorphosed him into the posthuman entity called Bad Jack.
In the original Warren comics, Hyde-25 (m) was spelled sans the hyphen (i.e., "Hyde 25 (m)")…the current, "official" spelling was introduced in the pages of Harris Comics beginning in 1995, and it's this updated spelling that I use throughout this Index to give it a sense of uniformity.
"24 Hours of Hell"
Story: Bruce Bezaire [not credited]
Art: Jose Oritz [not credited]
The opening events of this series begin at the fairly luxurious London lodge called the WhiteChapel hotel, at some point in the late 19th century. As the mood-setting text describes it: "Above the roiling brown sea of vomiting factories, catacomb streets and coffin-like tenements clogging Industrial Revolution London, the WhiteChapel Hotel stands as a faded monument to temporary luxury gone to seed!"
Within the swank inn that was sequestered within a less-than-savory area of London are several individuals, among them the personages in the upper floors known as Samuel Garson and his new wife Denise, who are enjoying private conjugal time together [Garson's hairdo was somewhat reminiscent of an afro!]; and a morose Welsh casualty of English urban life named Claude Bishop, who sits on the roof of the building with the intention of committing suicide by jumping to his death…as the text notes, his "past of Welsh coal mines, steaming mills and dank waterfronts has led to a barren present and a future which he would end on the pavement below."
Meanwhile, an entourage of derelicts and other poor people (many appearing to be lame of leg) approach the entrance of the hotel, and are graciously bid entrance by the staff as temporary respite from the cold evening outside. Samuel and Denise Garson are in each others' arms and therefore blissfully oblivious to the vagrants entering the hotel three floors below, but Bishop, watching from above, notices that the building was suddenly closed off…and he begins to suspect serious trouble beckoning.
Upon gaining admittance into the hotel, the ensemble of tramps suddenly drop their façade of lameness, and reveal freakish physical features such as pronounced fangs and large pointed ears, as well as visages that generally invoke the impression of a madman. Several of them had weapons, such as knives, and one of them had a firearm. With a sudden combination of raucous laughter and homicidal lunacy, the bizarre vagrants suddenly began a symphony of violence, brutally stabbing to death the male staff and guests on the first floor, and sexually assaulting all of the women. One of the lunatics shouted the word "Jackass!!" with joyous depravity, and the maniac wielding the gun shot one of the guests who attempted to escape through a window.
At the top of the building, Bishop heard the screaming and the shots at the lowest level of the building, and he solemnly thought to himself, "Can it be?!"
Trying to assuage his terrified wife, Garson left the room to try and find out what was causing all of the ruckus down below. Meeting up with Bishop and several other guests on the top floor, the latter informed Garson and the rest that the situation had to be the result of a "jackassing." Such situations were already known to each of the people assembled there [see Comments below], and many of them, male and female alike, reacted with extreme horror. Only Denise Garson was unaware of what a "jackassing" actually was, and her husband explained the nature and modus operandi of the jackasses:
"There's a black market drug, darling…God only knows where it came from [see Comments below]! It changes people into something evil! Groups of them take over buildings like this one and try to inflict harm on everyone inside. Then, in about a day, the drug wears off and the users die!
"…So they're little more than a pack of cowardly suicides!"
Bishop then intervened and told Garson that he's foolish if he truly believes that. When other guests inquired as to what the bald and stern looking man before them meant by his comment, and what they can do about the situation, Bishop obliged with the following elaboration:
"Jackasses are suicides, all right! But more than that they want to make somebody pay! They smear a specially prepared drug into wounds on their wrists! It gives them the guts of ten Rippers…though it sort of makes them feeble in the head, y'know! Once they get monstrous, they love nothing so much as rape and murder! And that means victims plus time to do something with 'em. So what they do is form conspiracies and hit joints like this…safety in numbers, y'see! Once the ground floor is sealed off, nobody can escape 'em! They work their way up, floor by floor[,] killing the men, raping the women. Maybe a few are sent on ahead to keep everybody from rushin' to the top floor! In twenty-four hours, the brutes'll die, 'cause the drug is done! But that don't mean nothin'! Ain't anybody's ever lived through one of these things! So if you want something to do, I'd say get ready to die!"
When one of the other guests suggested that their situation was therefore hopeless, Garson stepped in and refused to give up so meekly. He stated that they should bring all of the guests on the second floor up to the third, and then barricade the stairs in the hope of holding the jackassers off for a while. Bishop replied, with all due irony, "I'm with you, mate. I don 't expect to live mind you, but sittin' around would be a little too much like cowardly suicide, eh?"
As the text noted, "Rather than freely give up his life, as he intended, Bishop now wants to see if something is strong enough to take it from him!" [Yep, Bezaire, like some other Warren writers, seemed to have a strong preference for ending sentences with exclamation points rather than periods, regardless of tone.]
As the two intrepid men descended down the stairs to the second floor, they quickly found themselves confronted by a jackasser at the bottom of the staircase. Garson distracted the brute by hitting him in the face with a glass gaslight cover, while Bishop quickly removed his jacket and ignited it on a nearby gaslight flame, and then tossed the blazing garment over the jackasser's head. The creature ran upstairs screaming in agony as the flames consumed his head, with Bishop drolly exclaiming, "One barbecued jackass comin' through!"
However, the burning jackasser still managed to make it past them up to the second floor, and Garson expressed hope that the other guests up there would be able to handle the injured Hydian creature. The next moment, another jackasser appeared and descended upon Garson and Bishop, and as the two men retreated up the stairs, the jackasser was struck and rendered insensate by a couch that had been hurled from the top of the stairs by some of the other guests. Reaching the top floor again, the two men noticed that the jackasser whom they had injured was indeed taken out by the people on that floor…but only after the beast had killed at least one of them. Another guest noted to Garson that they managed to save "almost everybody" on the third floor, to which Garson noted that all of the people on the first and second floors were lost to them, and they should proceed to barricade the stairs leading to the third.
Some time later, as the terrified people sequestered within the third floor anxiously awaited the inevitable attack (once the jackassers had finished having their demented "fun" with all of the people on the two lower floors), a woman named Rachel told her husband, Oliver, that the police had cordoned off the building, and must be preparing to do something to help them. Her husband disagreed, noting, "What can they do, Rachel? They've got the building surrounded…but there's no way for them to get in, past those monsters!" [Umm…the jackassers aren't exactly bulletproof, only one of them had a firearm, and Scotland Yard had much greater numbers and a lot of firearms…so what's up with that?]
Upon regrouping, Bishop discovered three firearms among each of the guests, though the other guests thought he was crazy to suggest that they could escape past the jackassers to the outside of the building down on the first floor once the attack commenced, as they had heard that the jackass conspiracies evidently always left a few "snipers" on the ground floor to deal with any possible escapees. Suddenly, the sounds of torture coupled with demented laughter on the lower floors had ceased, and one of the guests choked, "They're finished! We're next!" Garson shouted to his fellow intended victims that they should all make sure they are ready for the coming onslaught.
Moments later, the maniacal jackassers broke through their barricade, with one of them wildly yelling, "We're here! Ha ha! Arrroooo! Now you get it, nippers!" [Gotta love archaic British slang uttered through the mouth of a demented, mind-addled lunatic!]
All of the people gathered on the third floor battled valiantly against the marauding jackassers, but ultimately found themselves to be no match for the superior physical strength and maniacal fervor of their jackassed attackers, and more victims were being slain than jackassers (one male guest was hurled across the room by one jackasser in a demonstration of their strength level, with the man breaking his back upon impacting with another guest, the latter of whom instantly died when the force of his compatriot slamming against him splattered his head against the wall). Realizing that they were not going to survive in direct combat with the rampaging jackassers, Garson shouted to his compatriots to quickly make a dash for the first floor.
Just then, however, a little girl and her even younger brother were forced to watch helplessly as one of the jackassers attacked their mother and tore her clothes off, intent upon raping her [as noted before, this series pulled few punches in forcing the reader to confront some of the least pleasant "worst event" scenarios that anyone would ever want to go through]. Determined to prevent this from happening, and to spare both the woman and her two children the imminent horror about to unfold before them, Garson opened fire on the jackasser. His shots ran wild, however, and the creature was wounded, but not fatally. "Laughing crazily," and already aware that his fate is sealed by the usage of the drug anyway, the injured jackasser turned on the two small children, grabbed both of them, and leaped out the third floor window with the kids in his arms…thus causing all three of them to fall to their deaths. The horrified woman…and Garson himself…were numb with dismay at the sight.
"His nerves burnt by atrocity," Garson rushes to the closet where he had instructed Denise to hide, and he told his wife to climb a ladder he had discovered which led to the roof of the hotel. Just then a jackasser appeared behind them, and queried to Sam Garson, with malevolent sarcasm, "Heh heh heh Mind if I join 'er, matey?" Brandishing his firearm, Garson shot the beast through the forehead; the jackasser glumly turned around and looked at his own spattered blood on the wall behind him, and then slowly slid to the floor dead, with a mocking, brutal sneer affixed to his now unliving visage (this was one of the most memorable scenes in the story).
Relieved at having covered for his beloved wife, Garson quickly climbed up the ladder to join her on the roof…only to discover, to his unremitting horror, that Denise had been raped and murdered by another jackasser who had climbed to the top of the building before either of them. Screaming in terror as he figuratively saw "the heart ripped from his chest," Garson emptied the remainder of his gun's ammo into the back of the vile jackasser. Coddling the remains of his wife in his arms, Garson sank into a pile of grief-stricken flotsam.
An interminable time later, the sorrow-ridden man turned to see Bishop standing before him…who then informed Garson that two of the jackassers survived the blood-soaked melee, though he managed to escape. Summoning up the emotional strength to speak once more, Garson scolded his erstwhile ally, "You left women to the mercies of those…those…"
To which Bishop retorted, "Didn't you? What difference whether we die before or after them anyway?" To that, Garson angrily replied, "I had a wife to care for!"
Bishop's harried response: "And I didn't! Look Garson, I'm sorry you lost her! If it'll make you feel better we can go for each other's throats all night! Seems to me though you'd rather save that 'till the brutes come for us…! And come they will!"
Garson and Bishop then sat upon the rooftop together, waiting for the arrival of their final two adversaries. When the duo of jackassers finally arrived and confronted the last two surviving guests, the text described the following tableau thusly: "It is a curiously bleak anti-climax. For these four lives, there is not one at this moment who would not welcome, each for his own reasons[,] death! They do not strive to protect themselves, but to inflict death on the others…out of lust or revenge, or a strange sense of adventure!"
As the conflict began, Garson shouted at his bestial opponent, "C'mon monster! You gotta work for this one!" Though Garson and Bishop both fought furiously, they were invariably overpowered by the greater strength of their enemy, and darkness overcame them as the jackassers beat them into submission.
The next sensation both Sam Garson and Claude Bishop felt was opening their eyes and noticing that they were laying in a makeshift hospital recovery unit, bandaged and terribly bruised…but alive. Speaking to them was Inspector Oates of Scotland Yard, who proceeded to congratulate them for being the only two known survivors "of those dreadful jackass things"…it turned out that after beating Bishop and Garson into unconsciousness, the drug wore off on their final two assailants, and they died just before they could finish the two men off for good.
As Insp. Oates told them, "You're damn lucky to be alive! Guess you'll be celebrating and all that, eh wots?! Yes, ha ha…you've got quite a lot to look forward to!"
But instead of smiling, all Samuel Garson could do was shed a tear.
Comments: This simultaneously well-written and revolting series got off to a very good start here, though a few subsequent issues of EERIE would be published before the saga would be picked up on again (which probably elicited a combination of consternation and relief in its many fans).
The artwork of the talented Jose Oritz was in full swing here, and it carried the tone and atmosphere of this nightmare-fest in good stead. Oritz craftily made the visual mood of this series as memorable as that of the equally horrific EERIE series "Coffin," where he also presided over the art chores. Writer Bruce Bezaire (assuming this wasn't a pseudonym of another writer) penned a great tale here, and expanded upon Warren's tradition of both dealing with important social issues ensconced within elements of horror and the invocation of some of humanity's most deep-seated horrors and fears, in this case the fear of being at the mercy of a small mob of homicidal lunatics, with torture, humiliation, and sexual assault on their minds. The jackassers spared no one and nothing from their bloodlust, not the elderly, and not children…not even themselves, since they were all aware that they were committing suicide within 24 hours simply by taking the drug in the first place [in the next entry in the series, it was revealed that the drug was called Hyde-25 (m), or simply "Hyde-25"…see WNU Connections below]. The protest against the ill social effects of the Industrial Revolution and urbanization against the backdrop of capitalist economics was also implicit in this series in thinly veiled fashion, and the jackassers were obviously a horrific version of the many drug addicts produced by such a society, who seek self-destructive and patently nihilistic escape from the drudgery and often despair-ridden landscape in which they dwell, as well as wreaking havoc upon the lives of those close to them in their pursuit of the addictive, escapist "fix."
The jackassers embodied and demonified the modern urban drug addict to the nth degree, and personified the nightmarish desire for revenge upon the world that the downtrodden and oppressed often harbor, and the devaluing of human worth (both in others and in themselves) that such an environment can create in those who are not fortunate enough to be on the top of the socio-economic hierarchy (and, in a strange and obscene sense, actually mirroring the attitude that those on the upper tiers hold towards those below them, even if in a sometimes veiled manner).
Obvious digs at the social and sexual atmosphere of late Victorian England were also firmly evident in this series, and the cultural attitudes of this society, conversely permissive and outrageously conservative at the same time (much like modern day America and Great Britain), were demonified by the persona of the jackassers, as well (see the Introduction above). Hence, this series can be seen as a protest to the repressive and judgmental cultural caveats that were born in that era and in which the liberal attitudes of the 1970s were vehemently fighting to overcome…but which would be embraced again wholeheartedly during the conservative 1980s and 1990s, and are just beginning to show the signs of another major future progressive challenge in the early 21st century (which the re-election of George Bush Jr. in 2004 will probably be determined to quell...good luck, George).
Also implicit here, particularly in this initial entry, was the inspiration provided by the Jack the Ripper murders. This series obviously took place just over a decade after the Jack the Ripper of the WNU made his deadly rounds against the prostitutes of the austere White Chapel district of London (where this very story takes place via the WhiteChapel hotel), and the variations of the term "jackass" ascribed to the titular menace of this series was obviously both a pun on the British proclivity towards using the proper noun "Jack" in reference to various individuals of prominence, both real and conceptual (e.g., Union Jack, Jack the Ripper, Spring-Heel Jack), as well as a pun on the foolishness of those involving themselves in substance abuse in the first place.
Though I digress here and admit that I sympathize with the plight of drug addicts, and consider them afflicted by a very serious medical illness rather than being genuine members of society's criminal element despite often resorting to criminal actions in order to supply their habit (you can thank the misnamed "War on Drugs" for the latter popular cultural conceptualization of drug addicts as outright criminals by attaching the attributes of the more violent drug dealers onto their pop culture conception), I nevertheless see such individuals who do not wish to seek help for this affliction as being a genuine danger to others around them in lieu of their propensity to lie, steal, and hurt even their family and closest friends to acquire their illicit pharmaceutical allotment.
Embodying the worst aspects of the millions of drug addicts extant in today's society, the jackassers served as one of the deadliest and most vile urban bogeymen to ever appear in the horror medium.
As for the jackassers themselves, the Hyde-25 serum gave them a degree of superhuman strength (though nowhere near the prodigious level that Edward Hyde possessed by the time of his appearances in "Van Helsing" and THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN Vol. 1), and they retained (more or less) their full sentience, but their ability to verbalize was addled by their mad and frenzied psyche, so that they would generally speak like deluded psychotics, all the while retaining an extremely wicked and mean-spirited sense of humor.
Little is known of author Bruce Bezaire (again, assuming this wasn't a pseudonym), despite his obvious skill in the art of scribe. He appears not to have worked for any comic company other than Warren, nor did he do much writing outside of this series. He remains an enigma in the annals of comicdom.
THE WARREN COMPANION had this to say about the series: "Whoever the elusive Bruce Bezaire was he conjured up a nightmare vision of Victorian England in this violent, nihilistic version of [THE STRANGE CASE OF] DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE. When the poor, the young and the excluded of society take the lethal drug Hyde-25 (m) they jackass--that is, they become superhumanly strong, unthinking monsters who attack everything in sight. Within a day, however, the user is dead, but it's an indictment of the world around them that these 24 hours of untrammeled freedom [are] worth dying for. With "[The] Apocalypse" and "Coffin," this was the third of Oritz' great strips and his stunning use of shadow here marks him out yet again as one of the finest artists of the generation" [p. 255].
Since Harris Comics would attempt to revive this series as HYDE-25 in the early 1990s (albeit unsuccessfully), it can suffice to say that "Night of the Jackass" continued to resonate in the minds of Warren Comics' fans even 20 years later, despite the fact that this series didn't run very long, going for only four entries.
The characters of Claude Bishop and Samuel Garson were to become the regularly featured protagonists of this series (though they were to be joined by Mme. Berthe Astruc by the third story in the series). Inspector Oates (forename unrevealed) was also to be a recurrent character.
Inspector Oates's rank was incorrectly identified as "Detective" in this story, an error that wasn't corrected until "Endstorm" in EERIE #65, the final entry in the "Night of the Jackass" series. However, I will acknowledge this correction by referring to him as "Inspector" throughout my synopses.
This entry was one of the few series stories that was hosted by Cousin Eerie.
WNU Connections: "Night of the Jackass," as revealed in the next entry (but which was rather obvious from the onset), had a clear connection to the dark legacy of the original Dr. Henry Jekyll, introduced in Robert Louis Stevenson's classic Victorian horror novel THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE (and based on an actual nightmare that the Stevenson of the "Real" Universe [RU] had), from which many derivatives of Jekyll's initial Hyde serum have found their way across the spectrum of the WNU from the late 19th century to throughout the 20th century. Not only have other members of the Jekyll family concocted variations of his original serum through the decades (again, see Dennis Power's online "Hyde and Hair" series of articles), but so have various other scientifically gifted individuals who were not necessarily related to the Jekyll family, including Vernon Potts from the 1974 film "Twisted Brain," the demented scientist Calvin Zabo, whose 'Mr. Hyde' persona battled the WNU versions of Thor, Spider-Man, and Daredevil during the 1960s and 1970s (Dennis Power has opined that Zabo was likely a falsified version of Henry Jekyll's alter ego), and the scientist named Warren (surname unrevealed) of Boston, Massachusetts circa 1902 in the story "Enter: Mr. Hyde" from "The Mummy Walks" series in EERIE (indexed elsewhere on this site).
As stated above, "Night of the Jackass" was (at this writing) the only Warren property outside of Vampirella, Pantha, and the Rook which Harris Comics attempted to revive during the 1990s (though, along with Pantha and the Rook, they did a botch job of it). In Harris's VENGEANCE OF VAMPIRELLA #9-10, many elements of this series directly crossed over with Vampi and her supporting cast, including the character of Samuel Bishop, who was the great-great-grandson of Claude Bishop from this series, and Adam Van Helsing even took a non-lethal variant of the Hyde-25 serum to become the uber-violent Bad Jack.
All of the above firmly brings the "Night of the Jackass" series into the "consensus" WNU.
Time Frame: This story takes place in early 1897, judging by the cold weather mentioned in the tale, and the latter year was explicitly stated in the third entry in this series.
"Storm Before the Calm"
Story: Bruce Bezaire
Art: Jose Oritz
One month after the events of the previous entry in this series, the large church known as St. Barnabas was taken over by another gang of jackassers, who captured the entire congregation who were present during an evening mass [see Comments below]. The church was cordoned off by the police as a crowd of onlookers gathered about it, with the text stating, "One cannot but ask why the Lord would allow such devastation to proliferate in His house. Why, as always, do the crowds coagulate about the wound, never moving to heal it?" [Cool metaphor there!]
Within that crowd were Claude Bishop and Samuel Garson, who were each drawn to the scene for their own reasons. Coming across each other, they both renewed their acquaintance, with Bishop expressing surprise that Garson would be among this crowd. Garson agreed that his presence there was surprising even to himself, with Bishop noting that his former ally had lost a lot, with his wife murdered by a previous group of jackassers. Garson simply replied, "Please…let that go. I've been trying. But aye! Why turn up here if I'm trying to forget? I don't know…maybe I thought I could do something." As Bishop mused whether getting himself killed this time was perhaps what Garson was seeking, they were approached by Inspector Oates, who recognized them both [see the ending of the previous entry in this series].
When Garson asked what Scotland Yard was doing about this latest jackass insurgency, the Inspector replied, "Well, sir, once the beasties take over a building there's not much we can do now, is there? You know better than most what the devils are like. Can't save two lives without losing ten, so let 'em go."
When Garson responded with disbelief that the British government could "condone this kind of savagery," Oates retorted, "Hardly condone, sir! Just trying to be sensible. If you were sensible, you'd just go home! There's nothing you can do here."
Reacting with anger and disbelief, both Bishop and Garson looked at each other, and in unspoken fashion, both resolved to intervene in the situation.
Meanwhile, within the church of St. Barnabas, the jackassers were still in the process of wreaking havoc upon the parishioners trapped there, with several people laying about dead and the women hoarded into a small group to provide "amusement" for their assailants at the latter's whim. The pastor of the church, Reverend Thaddeus Morgan, was at the crux of the torture, having been literally crucified on the large wooden cross in the middle of the church by the particularly demented ringleader of this particular band of jackassers, one who happened to possess a major personal hatred of the repressive religious institutions of the time [see Classic Dialogue below].
As he watched the carnage against his congregation unfold before his horrified and pain-wracked eyes, Rev. Morgan made a silent prayer asking for God's intervention to save the parishioners, noting his own crucifixion in the process: "Dear Lord and Saviour [sic]. If I am to die as thee, please let me first understand the reason [I have] suffered this satanic visitation from these monsters. Deliver, I pray, those of our flock thou wouldst from these monsters." [Granted the reverend wasn't exactly grammatically articulate during his silent prayer regarding the usage of "old world" English pronouns, but considering the fact that he had spikes nailed through both of his hands and feet, and was simultaneously forced to watch his entire congregation being murdered and raped before his very eyes, I think we can be kind enough to overlook those grammatical foibles…this time.]
Immediately following the reverend's silent prayers, the jackassers continued their assault upon the congregation (which included forcing a male parishioner to participate in a deadly game of teeter-totter with one of the upended pew seats, and two of the women being forced to engage in sexual activity with each other before the lusting group of jackassers).
The text enumerated the rhyme and reason behind this latest jackass mayhem thusly, particularly regarding the leader of the vile troupe:
"A being, then driven to insanity and suicide by the guilts borne of the tenets of too-strict religion, leading others…[one] who had watched a helpless family starve to death…to whom old age had come to mean rags, whiskey, and the gutter…who'd come from years in the coal mines fatally diseased and bitter. Together they have smeared the drug Hyde-25 (m) into open wounds and have been transformed into potent, depraved killing machines[,] which will render death for 24 hours…and then die, supposedly having garnered some kind of peace through revenge on society. Such brutal lusts has it's [sic] reasons, therefore, at least in the stunted minds of the villains" [see Comments section below].
In the meantime, Garson and Bishop made their way to the outside of the back entrance of the church, contemplating how to gain entry and blend in among the group of survivors, whom the jackassers were now sadistically toying with; Garson reminded him that the two of them had to use stealth, since sheer muscle power was insufficient by normal humans against the jackassers. Bishop then pointed out that with the jackassers' minds addled by the drug, they were probably "stupid enough" not to notice that the two men weren't among the original group of parishioners if they can get in quietly enough. He then produced two small daggers, one of which he gave to Garson, informing him that they could probably do "some damage" to the assembled jackassers with the weapons should they gain entrance successfully. Though Garson was obviously seeking to avenge the murder of his wife by ending the proliferation of the Hyde-25 drug on the London streets (and elsewhere) once and for all, he asked Bishop about his own reasons for risking his life by getting involved. "Let's just say it makes me feel useful and leave it at that, eh?" was his only reply.
Meanwhile, as Rev. Morgan approached death "as the cross does the job it was originally designed for" [Classic Text interlude there!], he once again began reciting a private prayer, this time to the archangel Michael, to spare the remaining innocent parishioners of death, a prayer which ended with an aloud plea. Overhearing that plea, the leader of the jackasser conspiracy noted to the dying preacher that he liked the idea of the reverend begging for his life, a type of mercy not bestowed upon him and the other jackassers by society when they were still human.
As Garson and Bishop now stood outside the secondary entrance to the church, the former asked his erstwhile ally how they would gain entrance. Bishop simply replied, "We knock…how else?" Despite the incredulity in Garson's eyes and response ("no…you fool!"), Bishop did indeed knock on the door [you gotta give that guy credit for his gumption!]. Sure enough, a jackass sentry answered, smashing Bishop to the ground with the sheer force with the sudden opening of the thick wooden door, the jackasser laughing gleefully but malevolently at every moment. Reacting desperately, Garson jumped the beast from behind and quickly stabbed him to death.
Garson then tended to Bishop, who said he was okay, save for his arm, which may have been injured from getting struck by the door with such force. Garson, still incredulous and obviously shaken, belligerently queried, "What kind of moronic trick was that?" To which Bishop casually replied, "One that worked. Look, mate, it's like so wild in there the nits don't even know we're about yet. So we've a way in, see?
"…that is, if you're interested."
Garson was indeed interested, and the two quietly moved in, and stealthily joined the several surviving members of the congregation, still kept in a specific section of the large church's main room by the small horde of jackassers until the beasts decided to "use" one of them. The jackassers were, at the time, too busy torturing and burning some of the other hapless parishioners to notice that the men arrived. Up from his vantage point on the cross, the still living Rev. Morgan spotted the two men sneaking in, and not recognizing either of them as members of his regular congregation, he stiltedly concluded in his agony-wracked mind that they must be Matthew and James, two of the Lord's apostles sent to render "deliverance" to his beleaguered congregation.
As the two rescuers found a degree of anonymity in the crowd, one of the women who was still living asked the two unfamiliar men if they were there to help or not. Garson quietly responded, "If we can," and asked her to do as they said. Telling her in a low voice that the side aisle door was now left unguarded, Garson instructed her to crawl towards it behind the pews to see if she could get out. Shakily doing as she was told, she unfortunately almost crawled right into one of the jackassers. Nastily dragging the woman by her hair over to his demonic boss, the jackasser revealed that she was trying to "sneak out on the party." Looking to the crowd and noticing Garson and Bishop, the leader correctly tagged them as a "couple o' sneakers" who tried to help the girl escape. Grabbing Garson and hurling him to the ground with inhuman strength, the (unnamed) leader of this jackass conspiracy ordered him to have sex with the woman in front of everyone present. As the rest of the jackassers hooted and howled over the "entertainment value" of this situation, Garson quietly apologized to the woman for what he was now forced to do.
As the text explained: "Degradation and the threat of death heaped upon them, Garson can see only echoes of his lost Denise in the vulnerable beauty of the girl. He knows that if this one too is to perish, he must not be alive to witness it."
Hence, as he began disrobing for the act he was ordered to perform, Garson sneakily reached for the dagger he had hidden in his pocket and, going for broke, he fatally stabbed one of the jackassers who was standing near him in the chest.
Leaping into the fray, the leader of the jackassers began shouting, with depraved lunacy, "Spoil it[,] will you?! Spoil my fun!? No!! I'm finally makin' God eat dung t'night…! And you can't-"
But the lunatic was quickly cut off as Bishop attacked him from behind. Recalling the fate of his beloved wife, the knife-wielding Garson began attacking the other jackassers with a mad frenzy fit to rival their own. His reasons were, again, to avenge the tragic loss of his wife at the hand of such monsters, but as the text explained, "…if he could but glance to his companion now, Garson would also learn, at last, Bishop's motive."
As Garson and Bishop attacked the jackassers with frenetic desperation, the other captive people joined the fray themselves, leaping upon and attacking the jackassed villains with all due prejudice, trying their best to make their superior numbers work for them against their super-strong, homicidal assailants.
Reacting with both fear and desperation himself, the leader of the jackassers hurled Garson across the room [but wasn't it Bishop that leapt upon his back a few panels ago? Oh, well…either one will do, I suppose], causing the intrepid man to smash through a wooden support that was holding the extremely heavy oaken cross upon the wall, where Rev. Morgan was now nailed and slowly dying. As a result, the metallic bolt in the back of the oaken structure was no longer sufficient to hold it up, and the huge cross broke off of the wall and fell upon the leader of the jackassers, crushing him to death (because the reverend wasn't nailed to the top part of the cross that hit the ground, he was spared being crushed himself).
As Garson forced himself to his feet, Bishop and a bunch of the other parishioners approached him, revealing that the last few jackassers were slain by the attacking crowd, roused out of their fear by the examples provided by the latter two men.
To quote the text verbatim: "And what is left? A few lives that wouldn't have been…and a bond between unlike allies…one seeking [solace] in revenge, another, the drug of violence."
Afterwards, with more survivors from a jackasser rampage than ever before gathering about outside to seek medical attention, Inspector Oates confronted the battered and bruised Garson and Bishop, criticized them for the risk they took, and told them that he had better not ever see them in "the same country" as a jackasser rampage again. However, the terribly injured but living Rev. Morgan, who was laying on the ground before them as medics patched up his wounds, intervened here with all of his strength, saying, "…I sincerely believe these men were delivered unto St. Barnabas', by the Lord to demonstrate that such atrocities as this may be curtailed. Judge them not too harshly. They saved lives." With that said, Bishop turned to Insp. Oates and lamented, "Aye, that we did, ye feeble-minded bleeder! Come talk to us when you can say the same!"
Garson then told the Inspector that Bishop spoke for him, as well, since though the officer of the law claims to have the job of protecting them, he and the rest of the police have done an extremely poor job of stifling these jackasser rampages, or the spreading of Hyde-25 across the city's streets. Bishop then made it clear that he and Garson would be "interferin'" again in these matters. The story closed with Garson's closing words to Insp. Oates: "We're gonna put an end to this drug…with or without your help!"
Comments: This was perhaps the best entry in the entire "Night of the Jackass" series, even though all of the entries were very well done. In this particular story, writer Bezaire proceeded to deconstruct many of the concerns of the liberal 1970s by basically ambushing the values of the late Victorian era, which Bezaire's more or less open-minded time period was actively resisting in most of its literature, both fiction and non-fiction (before the conservatives once again took over the nation's ideological mindset beginning with the Reagan era, and transformed most of the liberals of the late '60s and '70s into "moderates" and "centrists"). Chief among the cultural aspects of Victorian society that were challenged in this particular story was the idea of Christian values being overly strict and broad in their parameters, inducing fear rather than peace in its followers, and demanding unswerving devotion to its dogmatic edicts rather than giving support and surcease to those in need, along with the religion's seeming inability to improve the lot of its followers in the material world, but promising them bliss and ever-lasting happiness in some idyllic afterlife only.
Mentioned specifically in the text (quoted in the synopsis above) were the rationale behind the jackassers, which was bloody revenge on a society they felt was quick to use them, and even quicker to drop them into the proverbial "gutter" once they became too old, too ill, or too economically obsolete to be of any more use to the burgeoning factories of the new industrialized society. Though the 1970s had officially entered the "post-industrial" era, these concerns were foremost on the liberal itinerary of that decade, which are now just beginning to reappear on the nation's mind as the 2000s progress at this writing. Starvation, involuntary unemployment, urban decay, hazardous work environs, and poor health conditions in the land of plenty that well-developed industrialization had created was instinctively felt by the working populace as a massive betrayal by the top tiers of capital towards those who had made this great industrial advance possible through their great toil in the first place. The massive anarchic retribution of the jackassers was most definitely a backlash against all of this, albeit a nightmarish vision of a betrayed class using the dark side of science as a means of brutally turning upon its own people to make "all" of society pay, a horrific rendition of misdirected anger and actions that elicit a dark descent of society into pure chaos, where few innocents exist, and those few being ripe for slaughter and abuse by all sides, including the debased members of their own class.
Though the ire of the mutated downtrodden in these stories was quite understandable, their actions clearly elucidated that the way of revenge is a path that leads to nothing but death and utter devastation upon both the innocent and themselves. As such, Bezaire was critical of both the society that spawned such wretchedness, as well as those members of the wretched who choose such a negatively destructive outlet for their ire. Bishop and Garson are victims of this society also, and depicted as being far from stellar human beings (particularly in the case of Bishop), but they nevertheless rise above the darkness embodied by the jackassers by choosing to help others, rather than lashing out at innocents themselves. Bishop, however, can also be construed as a classic "gray" character…as was revealed in this story, he helps others not so much due to a sense of justifiable angst, as does Garson, or by a vengeance-derived but altruistic desire to resist the evil that he feels society's authorities are not themselves acting sufficiently to stop (as does Bruce Wayne of the Batman mythos and Paul Kersey of the "Death Wish" film quintogy), but rather his violence against the jackassers serves as an outlet for his own inner rage, which is spawned by the very same source that fuels the unremitting fury of the jackassers. Unlike the latter beasts, however, Bishop simply chooses a less innocent target for his deep inner rage (that is, at least until the final entry in this series, where he embraces his dark side fully; see "Endstorm" from EERIE #65, indexed below).
Despite the strong critique of the ultra-conservative variations of Christianity, the idea of hope that such religions say they embody was also embraced in this story, i.e., that the common man can actively resist the nightmarish encroachments of such a society upon them via faith in their own inner capability of doing so and by sheer determination to overcome all obstacles in their path, no matter how daunting. Interestingly, this facet of the entire series brings one of the odd dichotomies of the 1970s to mind…the left-wing concerns of the various social injustices wrought by the industrialized society under capitalistic economic conditions being met by the right-wing solution of the lone or small group of vigilantes, who are supposed to represent the will of the common man to resist by taking matters into their own hands.
Inspector Oates, of course, embodied another fixture of the '70s popular culture…the conception of the law enforcement officer, the established protector of society, who was too stubbornly complicit with the red tape of legal procedure to be an effective deterrent to the encroachments of crime and disorder…and to have a near-apathetic attitude towards the out-of-control street crime plaguing the neighborhoods around them (a pop culture exception to this rule embodied by the maverick cop "Dirty" Harry Callahan, whose several cinematic exploits began in the '70s with the movie "Dirty Harry"). Contrary to the largely right-wing attitude of film and TV during the 1960s, where police officers were mostly respected, by the '70s they were treated as part of the problem by the cynical and liberal sensibilities of the time, but tinged with a right-wing fervor towards embodying the common man with the role of using the gun himself to take back the streets. It was thus implied by much '70s fare that the best cops out there were maverick cops, and working outside of the establishment was the only way to achieve any notable results.
The left-wing/right-wing hybrid of the vigilante, who combats that which the law enforcement agencies of society are indifferent to or lax in stopping themselves, was embodied in this series by Samuel Garson and Claude Bishop. They were seemingly the only two people who cared about the proliferation of the Hyde-25 drug on the streets, and since even the liberals of the '70s embraced the "War on Drugs" ethos of the time (and every "decent" person did by the time the 1980s rolled around, when pro-vigilante films such as "Death Wish 4: The Crackdown" and "Fighting Back" were released), this series was a classic rendition of two vigilante heroes of the 19th century who had their motives and environment interpreted through the sociological lens of 1970s concerns.
Their welcome presence at the St. Barnabas church was hardly a repudiation of Christian belief, but rather a partial validation of it. The hopes and prayers of Rev. Morgan were indeed met, albeit not in the form of gleaming, apostolic entities from Heaven, who personified purity and goodness itself; but rather, in the form of two flawed and even morally ambiguous human beings, both of whom had very human motives, though a legitimate concern for others, that caused them to tackle a menace that no one else dared confront. As such, Rev. Morgan and his remaining parishioners received their deliverance, the latter brought about by two unlikely warriors who were a hybrid of conservative spiritual entreaty and liberal secular notions of the common man, rather than quasi-divine beings possessing purity of spirit (e.g., Captain America, the Silver Age and modern conception of Superman, DC's Captain Marvel), acting to save innocents from the ill effects of their society, something that the establishment itself appeared unwilling to do.
Though I cannot be certain that Bezaire intended all of this symbolic and metaphorical imagery and situations, all of the above is certainly there and quite evident upon sufficient literary deconstruction (so I would disagree that the above analysis is strictly projection on the part of this author). Bezaire truly had a high alacrity for displaying all sides of a specific concern, both the good and the bad that can come out of any conceivable notion…the former if it's left in its proper perspective, the latter if it's allowed to be carried to its extreme manifestations.
It should be mentioned that the artwork of Jose Oritz was of unparalleled excellence here, and the freakish appearance of the jackassers, particularly that of their truly vile leader, were rendered quite demented in their facial expressions, and absolutely nightmarish to behold.
The jackassers were featured on the cover of this issue of EERIE, executed very nicely (and nightmarishly) under the paint of master horror artist Sanjulian, who was responsible for many of the best covers for EERIE during the '70s decade. He was well known for apparently looking to other, established character renditions to influence his own paintings, and the jackasser who appeared on the cover of EERIE #63 was clearly inspired by Marvel Comics' depictions of the Hulk. This is rather obvious not only when you consider the massive musculature of this jackasser (none of them looked particularly sinewy in any of the stories), but also the fact that his skin color (and that of another jackasser in the background) was rendered with a greenish hue. The jackassers who appeared on the cover of EERIE #115, the collected edition of the "Night of the Jackass" series, were also rendered with a chartreuse skin color, thus making them resemble the David Banner Hulk of the WNU (and whose adventures appeared on the live action "Incredible Hulk" TV series and its five accompanying telefilms, along with the short-lived newspaper comic strip that was based upon it). Hence, the emerald hued skin of the jackassers was actually just artistic license by the cover artist; it was mentioned nowhere in any of the stories, and when the jackassers were featured during the 1990s in Harris Comics' four-color VENGEANCE OF VAMPIRELLA #9-10, and in the HYDE-25 pilot, the jackassers' skin color did not become green.
For those who may be curious as to what the text of this particular cover of EERIE had to say about the series highlighted on it, this is what it read: "The people prayed, and all was quiet in God's church…until a murderous drug-crazed monster dropped from the rafters…and began an insane blood-lust slaughter! The Night of the Jackass!" Of course, it can thus be said that the tableau described on the cover was illustrating how the initial attack on the parishioners in the above story began, since several of the jackassers took over the church, not just one, as the cover text implied. Hence, this probably represents the opening scene of the jackasser incursion upon St. Barnabas that was not depicted in the story itself (see synopsis above). The scene depicted on the cover, however, did have a rough analogue in the story, though it took place after the arrival of Bishop and Garson, and not during the initial phase of the jackasser incursion (page 14, panel 2).
The name of the drug used to induce the jackassing, Hyde-25 (m) (often shortened to simply "Hyde-25") was officially mentioned in this story for the first time [see WNU Connections below].
Inspector Oates's rank was incorrectly identified as "Detective" in this story, an error that wasn't corrected until "Endstorm" in EERIE #65, the final entry in Warren's "Night of the Jackass" series.
WNU Connections: As noted above in the Comments section, the name of this drug, Hyde-25 (m), makes it quite clear that it derived from the work of the original Dr. Henry Jekyll, whose legacy is a major part of the "consensus" WNU chron. Much more definitive connections with the WNU were established during the early 1990s, with a story arc that ran in Harris's VENGEANCE OF VAMPIRELLA #9-10, which featured not only the Hyde-25 drug and the jackassers it created, but also brought Samuel Bishop, a direct, permanently jackassed descendant of Claude Bishop, into the fray.
Classic Dialogue: When the leader of the jackasser conspiracy in this story confronts Rev. Morgan, who was then nailed to the large wooden cross in the middle of the church, he made his pretentious defiance of the Lord known: "Ha hah hah! Where is 'e now, Rev? All me friggin' life it's been bloody God this an' bloody God that! Well, now I'm God!"
Time Frame: This story takes place one month after the events of the previous entry, and I believe that it occurs between late winter and early spring of the year 1897.
"The Children's Hour"
Story: Bruce Bezaire
Art: Jose Oritz
This story opens with a prologue sequence in Houndsditch Orphanage, London, 1897. A group of male youths (in the age bracket of about 10-12 years old) have gathered in a secluded area of the orphanage, led there by an embittered boy named Teddy Bates [see WNU Connections below…and yes, I am going to make precisely the genealogical connection that you suspect]. Bates reveals that he managed to acquire a large sample of the Hyde-25 drug, and he's encouraging all of the other boys to join him in partaking of the drug in order to teach the staff of the orphanage a "lesson." Another boy asked Bates if it was true that the drug would make them extremely strong, including strong enough to stand up to the much feared dean of discipline named Catlin, to which the ringleader of the forthcoming jackass conspiracy replied, "No mistake it will! 'An once this muck has done its work, I might even give Catlin a taste of 'is own hickory switch!" When another boy reminded Bates that he better not let Catlin hear him "bragging" in that way, the bellicose young man angrily retorted:
"Damn Catlin! Damn that hag Billingsly an' her cabbage soup, an' that right bleeder Winch with his damn letters an' numbers! An' damn Tremaine always keepin' us away from 'er precious girlies!"
In an early sequence of Classic Dialogue, the other boys begin joining in the chorus of bitterness with Teddy, one of them exclaiming, "If I gets all big an' strong, I'm gonna look up the girls' dresses!" Another haughtily laments, "Betcha I can even kiss Miss Tremaine" (with yet another boy throwing in, "Woooeee! Me too!"). And a fourth conspirator adds, "I'm gonna punch Winch in th' nose!"
When Teddy Bates assures his peers that the Hyde-25 drug will give them the "guts" to "do all that stuff," a boy named Ben Godfrey interjects and mentioned that this may not be a good idea, as he heard rumors that the drug can make people ill [that's one way of putting it, on many levels!]. Bates and some of the other boys then predictably criticized Godfrey for his seeming cowardice [read: common sense], and as a result, the boy regretfully acquiesced to peer pressure. With that decided, the boys proceeded to make large cuts on each of their arms, followed by the administration of the dreaded Hyde-25 drug (it was stored in the form of a salve in a spherical container slightly larger than a baseball).
Within seconds, the lethal drug took its effect, and (strangely) the boys actually metamorphosed into adult jackassers [see Comments section below]. With that done, the latest jackass siege was about to occur (as the prologue sequence ends).
With the prologue ended, the story now moves a few hours ahead.
As reports of this newest jackass massacre got out, people from all areas of London gathered around the police cordon to view the outside of the orphanage…two among that crowd being Samuel Garson and Claude Bishop (as the text noted of this crowd: "Most come to 'guiltlessly' partake of infamy…some [referring to Garson and Bishop] come to curtail it").
Musing to his ally, Garson says, "God's blood, Bishop, another one! This time children have taken the drug…other children are their victims…and still, the police stand idle!" Bishop replies [with a healthy sprinkling of ageist attitudes, which were another product of a combination of factors relating to both late Victorian cultural attitudes and the progression of the Industrial Revolution, each central to the theme of this series]:
"It was inevitable that the drug fall into the hands of young 'uns. They don't know what it can do! They haven't seen the horror, the lust, the awful evil…as we have! [Wait…in "24 Hours of Hell," a few children were already the victims of jackassers, and though no children or teens were shown among the hapless parishioners in "Storm Before the Calm," it's nevertheless likely that at least a few were present during the ill-fated mass in St. Barnabas that day, Oritz's artistic license notwithstanding…didn't parents take their kids to church with them back then?]
"And for sure, they don't know that when the drug wears off, they'll die!" [Which deftly displays the "wisdom" of hiding kids from such information in the first place, a practice actually begun around that period of time, when youth oppression reached its peak in the post-modern era…then again, young Ben Godfrey, to his credit, did try to warn his peers of the lethal effect he had heard that the drug had on its users.]
Garson then began to angrily question how those kids got hold of the drug, and which "madman" actually developed it [::points my finger accusingly at Dr. Henry Jekyll::]. As he reminded his ally, "Since the police will do nothing but wait out the effects of the drug and watch as its victims die, it's up to us!"
Bishop then mentioned the fact that Inspector Oates was in charge of the police cordon, and they had to find a way to get past him first ("The ruddy blockhead! Not only do he and his force refuse to act, they stand in the way of those who would").
Just then, however, an opportunity presented itself when a woman carrying a case of some sort in her hand ran past the police towards the entrance of the orphanage [I guess the sexist cops of the day never expected a woman to do something as brave as that], and as they attempted to stop her (unsuccessfully), Garson and Bishop rushed to the side of the building and entered through its windows while the officers were busy pursuing the woman.
In the meantime, two flights above in the orphanage, the now adult-sized youthful jackassers were having "a bit of fun," i.e., conducting a brutal litany of murder and sexual assault. As the text specifically stated [in a Classic Text sequence which built on the previous Classic Dialogue tidbits up above]:
"Mr. Catlin got a taste of his own hickory switch! [i.e., he was flogged until he lay dead in a bloody heap.]
"Somebody's punched Winch in the nose [i.e., he lay on the floor with his face pummeled inwards, still alive but unconscious with some of the female staff attempting to tend to him.]
"They're peeking up lot's of dresses [i.e., in a moment of truly black humor, one of the young jackassers was seen pursuing a young girl through the rooms.]
"And Miss Tremaine even got kissed." [i.e., in another moment of 'bad taste' dark humor, the hapless woman was depicted nude and laying limp, with her arms tied to the ceiling.]
As Bishop and Garson gained entrance to the ediface, the latter expresses concern over the woman who entered the building before them, stating [in another sexist moment]: "Bishop! That woman. She can't understand what she's getting into! Boys with the lusts of the most depraved rapist will suddenly thrust upon her! [I hope no pun was intended there.] The last thing we can allow them is another victim!"
Resolving to find the woman, the two unlikely allies "slink" through the building, walking past the bodies of victims tied and strewn about in various places. Finally locating the woman, they stop her and introductions are made on both sides. The woman introduced herself as Mme. Berthe Astruc, who was involved in chemical research. She told them that her husband was the first jackassing, something that occurred in Lyons two summers previous [see Comments section below]. Being a skilled chemist herself, Astruc said that she had just concocted an antidote to Hyde-25 (m), but it hadn't been tested yet…something she was now eager to do, in the hope of curing some of those who were jackassed before the drug ran its full lethal effect. Asking the men to help her test it on the youthful jackassers in the orphanage, Garson told her it would be an honor, but when he asked Bishop how this was indeed "fine news," his erstwhile ally suddenly became indignant and pushed past Astruc. He exclaimed that curing the jackassers was not the reason they were there, brandishing a firearm and adding, "C'mon! We got us some monsters to kill!"
In the meantime, one flight above, the jackass siege continued (including a particularly ghastly scene showing two young jackassers torturing a child who couldn't be older than three years of age). One of the jackassers asked the other what he wanted to do next, with his grotesque partner-in-crime replying [in another heavily-black humor moment], "How 'bout more 'o that stuff what feels good?" to which the other reminded him, "Yeah, 'cept Tremaine's dead" [okay, I'm going to ignore the silliness suggesting that those boys actually didn't know what sex was, regardless of how strict those Victorian orphanages were regarding the dispensation of biological information (as if kids have ever actually needed school to learn about the "facts of life"), and I'm instead going to chalk it up to how the drugs addled their minds].
Just then, Bishop kicked open the door and began unloading his firearm on the rampaging jackassers, killing two of them and wounding a third. The other young jackassers rose to the challenge of dealing death to the unexpected interloper with malevolent glee, as Bishop shouted to Garson to split from him and make this a "good fight."
At this moment, Garson, to his consternation, began to suspect the true motive for Bishop's fervent desire to take on the jackass conspiracies wherever they may arise. As the text explained:
"What is that darker, more pervasive mood which crowds the fresh exhilaration of terror in Bishop as he flees a yapping[,] gibbering death? What is it that crawls the nape of his neck and squats in his stomach, polluting the clean rush of blood under his temples? The man cannot think about it. He can only act, and in acting, feel…feel emotions which had long since died when jackassing resurrected them, and dared him not to abandon life as well.
"Is the shadow across his honest, excited fright also fear, then?
"…an unhealthier fear of losing this challenge to live?
"And is that fear tainted by the yet darker suspicion that such selfish exploitation of atrocity may be sicker than the suicide he once contemplated?
"The man isn't certain he wants to know…"
As the two jackassers chase Bishop into an empty room full of beds, and they proceed to tear the furniture apart to find him, the errant adventurer surprises them by leaping down from a rafter on the ceiling and begins firing upon them. However, only one of his targets is killed by the fusillade of bullets before the gun ran out of ammo, and the second then rushes towards Bishop shouting, "You're mine now, 'ero!"
"Meanwhile, down the hall," both Garson and Astruc enter a room to find two jackassers who were holding a group of youths captive in there. As the two beasts lunge at the "company" that suddenly appeared before them (one after Garson, one after Astruc), Garson throws a rope to the kids, hastily telling them to attempt to use it to climb down the window.
Garson then quickly side steps his maniacal adversary's attack, the latter of whom (luckily) accidentally impaled his head on a gaslight fixture due to the inertia of his lunge. As the other jackasser tore at Astruc's clothing, Garson intervened, shouting [in another amusing sexist moment], " 'Ey, monster! Where's yer courage? Can't you take on a man!" Garson tackled the jackasser, but the beast quickly takes the advantage due to his enhanced level of strength. Acting hurriedly, Astruc regroups and takes a syringe containing the liquid antidote to Hyde-25 out of her carrying case, and plunges it into the back of the creature ("Dear God! Pray that it works!"). Yelping in agony, within seconds the jackasser reverts back into the trembling form of a young boy, begging the two people before him for mercy before collapsing dead of exhaustion. The serum was successful in promptly reversing the transformation, but this early version of the antidote caused the reverted human to die just as he would when the drug's effects naturally wore off after 24 hours.
Moments later, a "bruised and bloodied" Bishop burst into the room, asking if his allies needed assistance (he had a bloody dagger in his hand, which revealed how he overcame his single jackasser assailant when his piece ran out of ammo). Revealing that he had slain the jackassers who attacked him, Bishop asked what became of those who had pursued Garson and Astruc. Garson replied, "Dead or duped. We lured two into a closet below stairs. And there they are, locked in. We'd best get out now."
However, Bishop refused to leave the place without finishing off the two remaining jackassers trapped in the closet [but don't ask me how the two creatures, each with a superhuman level of strength, didn't manage to batter their way out together…the first entry in the series depicted jackassers smashing through more formidable barricades]. Garson reminded his ally that there was no need to kill the two entrapped jackassers, as they would both die in there once the full 24 hours since they first took the drug had elapsed [actually, considering the fact that they were simply barricaded in a closet, I would agree that they should have been slain in case they broke out and attacked more people before themselves expiring; hence, I would opine that Bishop was trying to do the right thing, albeit for the wrong reasons].
With the full revelation as to Bishop's true and less than altruistic motives for opposing the jackass massacres now too evident to ignore, Garson lamented, "So! I finally see what you're about! Since WhiteChapel, I've wondered and now I realize…you enjoy these things! Well, man, if you intend to vent your bloodlust on two pitiable creatures who can do no more harm in the little time the drug leaves them…you'll have to go through me first! By all that's holy, you're no better than the beasts themselves!"
Hoping to validate his rationale, Bishop queried Astruc as to why people go jackass in the first place. She dolefully replied, "Why…revenge."
Turning to Garson, Bishop tells him, "Ho, revenge, eh? And you y' pious hypocrite, since y' lost yer wife, what keeps you comin' back t' face th' monsters? Revenge…just like them." Garson looked away from his ally shamefully.
Mme. Astruc then interceded in the dispute and reminded them both that irregardless of their motives, the fact remains that they both save lives. She then tells them that her research into finding an improved antidote that doesn't kill those whom it reverts needed to continue, but she could not do it alone. She asked both of them to assist her, and informed her two new allies that because of her wealth, they would "want for nothing" if they agreed to help her. Bishop, once again revealing his dark motives for confronting the jackassers, replied, "Listen, I ain't proud I need these things t'get by, but I didn't start 'em either! I'll help y' mum, though I can't say I wish y' luck…I don't know."
Garson's response was, "Regardless of my reasons, I at least can honestly say I want to see an end to jackassing. I accept…though I'll not take lodgings with you if that's what Bishop chooses to do." Astruc was pleased with the responses, telling the two men that together perhaps the three of them can help formulate an antidote that will revert the jackassers without killing them, and likely put an end to the jackassing massacres altogether.
The crowd now disperses as the victims have their wounds tended to, and Bishop, Garson, and Astruc quietly leave the scene, as Insp. Oates leered at them.
Comments: It was never revealed precisely how the Hyde-25 drug transformed tween boys into adult-sized jackassers. Presumably, it stimulated their glandular hormones to initiate a sudden, accelerated growth spurt into full adulthood, though when one of the boys was hit with the antidote, he reverted to his original height again. It was thus possible that this was simply a size transformation, akin to that of the additional mass eventually accrued by Edward Hyde by the 1890s (see "Van Helsing" and the first two volumes of THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMAN and its cinematic version), and that this was simply the drug's way of appropriately enhancing the physiognomy of the youths. I'll let the more scientifically and medically inclined creative mythographers and other researchers work this one out in the future.
This story introduced Mme. Berthe Astruc into the proceedings, and though "Night of the Jackass" ran for only one more entry after this tale, her presence initiated a turning point in the series' direction.
This particular entry in the series was rife with amusing sexist and ageist comments, all of which are noted by me via explanatory brackets in the synopsis above.
The writing by Bezaire was as fine as ever in this story, and you had to love how he interpreted the English and Welsh pronunciations of words, phrases, and usage of slang in the dialogue (with many examples provided via the quoted dialogue in the synopses and Classic Dialogue sections of this Index). And of course, Jose Oritz's artwork was fittingly competent, but for some reason less sensational than in the previous two entries.
The focus on youth oppression in this story, and the acknowledgement of their plight in a society where adults try their best to shelter them from the reality of the world, deny them even their basic civil rights solely on the basis of their young age, impose cultural notions of "innocence" and asexuality upon them, and often use "discipline" as an excuse to flaunt adult authority by bullying them, including within the oppressive atmosphere of the autocratic learning institutions that had fully developed during late Victorian society, was exemplified in this story. It's to scribe Bezaire's credit that he tackled this highly controversial issue in the above story, something that you wouldn't see in comics (and virtually nowhere else, either, except in the intermittent youth liberationist literature prior to the days of public access to the Internet), other than being dealt with in highly vague terms in the popular X-Men and Teen Titans comic book franchises of the conservative 1980s, as well as Marvel's once popular POWER PACK comic. With the proliferation of youth liberation organizations and web sites on the Net beginning when the revolutionary informational medium of cyberspace came of age in the late 1990s, this subject is now slowly but surely being dealt with more overtly and less cautiously in the illustrated story medium, with well-received comic books over at DC, such as Peter David's YOUNG JUSTICE and its even better successor series, Geoff Johns's brilliant new TEEN TITANS comic of the early 2000s. And Marvel is following in the latter books' stead, albeit a bit more cautiously, with the steps begun by the short-lived NYX and NEW MUTANTS Vol. 2 series, spin-off's of the still uber-popular X-Men franchise that forms a sizable portion of the Marvel Comics empire, as well as the highly popular ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN and ULTIMATE X-MEN, which are part of their 'Ultimate' continuity line of books.
All of the above titles do justice to youths, oppose the notion of inherent youth incompetence, and make an unstated case for their eventual civil emancipation, much as the character of Wonder Woman did for women in the 1940s [via her own mag, her lead feature status in SENSATION COMICS, and her role as a member of the Justice Society of America in ALL-STAR COMICS (where her character debuted in a solo back-up story in issue #8 of that book), even though, despite her highly formidable power and fighting skills, she was relegated to being the JSA's "secretary" in order to conform to the sensibilities of the time (blah!)…this was, of course, before the ultra-conservative Comics Code Authority more or less forced DC Comics into "dumbing down" the character of Wonder Woman in the 1950s to make her more acceptable to the infamous and loaded notion of "family values," including stripping her of her independent spirit, making her chase around supporting character Steve Trevor like a love sick puppy, and removing any suggestion of bisexuality in the Amazons (as well as getting rid of her former supporting character Etta Candy for the same reasons…then again, this was the same time period where DC also temporarily removed the venerable character of Alfred Pennyworth from the Silver Age Batman titles and replaced him with Dick Grayson's Aunt Harriet for many years, due to similar allegations of homosexual allusions pushed by the infamous psychiatrist Dr. Frederic Wertham in his book SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT, a heavily biased condemnation of the comic book industry)].
The emphasis on Bishop's lust for the blood of the jackassers as an outlet for his own inner rage, and as the reason for his abstention from suicide, was also duly emphasized in this story. Bezaire adroitly called into question the moral notion of a person who enjoys combat and conflict for this reason, i.e., those who would actually prefer to kill, rather than help, a dangerous (or potentially dangerous) individual if the latter opportunity presents itself. Bishop's metaphorical dance with his own dark side would come to a head in the next, and final, Warren entry of this series.
In this story, the precise year was established (1897; it was incorrectly given as 1906 in HYDE-25 #0). It was also revealed here that the jackasser massacres had been occurring for two years now, meaning that the first jackassing took place during the summer months of 1895.
WNU Connections: Okay, here it comes.
Is it possible that the ringleader of this particular jackass massacre, young Teddy Bates, could have been related to the infamous serial killer known as Norman Bates, whose grisly exploits were recorded in the novel PSYCHO, along with its accompanying film franchise (as well as an early 1990s remake of the first film)? It should be noted that this story was published about 14 years after the first film in the series was released, and many years before the release of the second film. The first movie in the franchise, which is considered a classic, was released in 1960, and it was over 20 years before the second film, also quite good, was produced. It was followed a year or so later by a lackluster third entry, and then concluded years later in a made-for-premium-channel telefilm that was very well done, and which definitively concluded the saga of Norman Bates (and in a positive manner), while also presenting his "secret origin" (to use DC Comics' parlance).
To my knowledge, Norman Bates and the events of his life have been brought into the WNU.
Of course, there is no substantive reason to believe that the character of Teddy Bates from this story is a familial relation to Norman Bates, who was born decades later, and whose parents lived in America, not England. Of course, there is also no reason to suggest that his father's family didn't immigrate to the Americas from England sometime in the early 20th century, and that Norman's father was born and raised (as was he) in the United States. In fact, nothing was revealed of Norman Bates's biological father in any of the four "Psycho" films (or the two novels from which the film series was derived).
I will leave interested creative mythographers to tackle this issue and perform further research on this matter in the future, if any are ever so inclined.
Time Frame: This story took place sometime in late winter or early spring of 1897, shortly after the events of the previous entry in the series.
Story: Bruce Bezaire
Art: Jose Oritz
The narrative preface sums up the status of this series…along with the Hyde-25 drug and the jackassers themselves…in a rather adept fashion:
"It begins with the drug…Hyde-25 (m). The suicide drug! One small dose smeared into an open wound will transform a man into a powerful, conscienceless monster…who will ravage, rape and kill for twenty-four hours! Then he will die!"
[Interestingly enough, in the course of Warren's "Night of the Jackass" series, no woman had ever taken the drug. The effects of the Hyde-25 drug on a woman would be interesting to observe, but considering the actions of female politicians (particularly those closely associated with the White House during the Bush II administration(s), and those of the American female military officers who were in charge of the Iraqi P.O.W.'s in the recent Abu Ghraib prison scandal, I doubt the results of the drug on women would differ much from the mutagenic effects it induces in men. Some women jackassers were observed briefly in HYDE-25 #0, though none were ever highlighted.]
This story opens in the home of Mme. Berthe Astruc's home in Devonshire, England, a short time after the last entry in the series (the year was explicitly given as 1897; see Time Frame below). Both Claude Bishop and Samuel Garson had moved into the spacious and expensive manse with her, and she had now been working on an improved antidote for the Hyde-25 (m) drug for an undefined period of time [about a month, I would conjecture; again, see Time Frame below]. Garson and Astruc were entertaining Inspector Oates, who was insisting that they no longer involve themselves in the jackass raids. When Garson asked Oates why the British government has been enforcing a "hands off" policy regarding police intervention, the Inspector angrily replied, "You bloody well know the reason, Garson! Every man we send in to put a halt to the jackassing is murdered by those drug-taking monsters!" [Again, I must ask how even the usually sparsely armed or unarmed jackassers could withstand a carefully planned, heavily armed police raid…and again, I must digress.]
Garson pointed out to him that such an assessment was incorrect [and logically so!], using the example that he, Bishop, and Astruc had all survived direct involvement in a jackass raid. Oates told Garson that it was simply "by the grace 'o God and dumb luck" that the trio had survived [but three times in the case of Garson and Bishop? That's quite a bit of "dumb luck" there!]. Garson then informed the inspector that the risk of involvement was beside the point, since "unlike the Yard, we recognize a human obligation to help." Oates jeered at this response, telling Garson that Bishop, for example, was obviously only involved in the jackass incidents for his personal pleasure ("If that sullen bloke Bishop has any obligation, it's to nothing outside himself!").
Garson retorted, "Don't impart his motives to me. He assists Mme. Astruc as do I! But I will have no part in his reason!"
Just then, the three are interrupted by the sounds of Bishop's near-hysterical laughter emanating from behind the door leading to Astruc's lab. Extremely unnerved at the prospect of his presence there, the chemist runs into the laboratory, followed closely by Garson and Oates. She finds, to her extreme dismay, that Bishop was reading over her notes, and that his laughter was stemming from the bitter irony of what was written therein…that Mme. Astruc was herself the inventor of the Hyde-25 (m) drug [see Comments and WNU Connections below]. Garson reacted with extreme incredulity, while Astruc told Bishop that he had no right to peruse her notes. His response: "To the contrary, Mme! It was you what had no right! No right to invent that murder drug!"
Now beyond tolerance, Astruc ordered Bishop to leave her house at once. Suddenly becoming apologetic and sorrowful, Bishop said that he only wished to help, to which Astruc replied that he was only out to exploit, and she proceeded to push him out of her house and slam the door on him. When Garson confronted her about the validity of what Bishop had read from the notes, Astruc said that it was indeed the truth, and she begged her friend and ally for his forgiveness. As she explained it:
"The drug was meant to elevate man, not debase him. I will never know how it survived the first experiment! But I have been paying for that ever since…seeking to assuage my guilt in the antidote. I am so close now…please do not desert me."
But Garson wasn't being amendable to her explanation, telling her, "You can still ask my help, knowing that you…your drug took my wife from me? Think of it! I saw something of what my wife might have been, in her very murderess!"
The disillusioned man then left Astruc's home over her impassioned pleas, with rueful contemplation on his mind over what he had just learned. However, this melancholy reflection quickly turned to complete horror when he looked into the corner of the hallway and noticed Bishop crouching there…and also noticed by the latter's now jeering, maniacal laugh and freakish appearance that Garson's friend and ally had just gone jackass.
The now panic-stricken Garson swiftly ran back into the house and slammed the door shut, shouting to the two other people in the room that Bishop had obviously taken the Hyde-25 drug and was now jackassed, just as his now homicidal and super-strong former compatriot punched his fist through the door. Quickly opening the door so that the jackassed Bishop's forward inertia would cause him to fly into the room blindly, Oates and Astruc swiftly threw a blanket over his upper torso to befuddle him and enable them to evade his attack. As Astruc noted that Bishop must have found the sample of the drug she was using for experimentation in her lab, she and Oates fled the now recovered Bishop down the stairs into the basement area, though Garson managed to trip the rampaging jackasser from behind. Oates then stepped in and broke a chair over his back, stunning the beast [see Classic Dialogue below] and then rushed into the next room, the pantry, locking the door behind the jackasser. The inspector told his two allies that they must not allow Bishop to leave the house, as he would end up killing dozens of innocents, to which Astruc replied they should get to her lab, as there she would be able to try the new version of the antidote she had been working on…of which Oates reminded her, "To get to the lab, we'll have to go past…him!"
That plan was quickly squelched, however, when Bishop broke through the door, thus forcing the beleaguered trio to flee anew and to lock themselves into the cellar. Oates was able to quickly bolt the door shut. Astruc told them that the cellar door was proof against both explosions and fire, and that despite Bishop's now enhanced strength, he would be unable to break in there (though not for lack of trying, as he ceaselessly pummeled the heavily-reinforced entrance barrier).
Of course, she also noted that now, they wouldn't be able to get to the lab, which would force them to remain in the cellar for 24 hours, until the drug wore off and Bishop died.
Garson then gave his thanks to Oates, telling him that he proved himself to be a self-sacrificing individual after all, and that he had misjudged him, blaming him for the government red tape that had prevented he and his troops from acting on the jackass massacres [with more than a bit of overly histrionic dialogue]. Garson and Astruc also learned that Oates had apparently been injured in some manner during the melee [but don't ask me how, since nowhere was this evident in the preceding dialogue and artwork].
When Astruc queried as to why Bishop would do such a thing, Garson explained:
"Why does any one use your drug, Mme. Astruc? Because it gives them hideous powers to avenge the wrongs they have suffered at the hands of their fellows. But more…
"…when it wears off, it ends what they thought a worthless existence. It's obvious now that Bishop was suicidal! He as much as said he needed the excitement of jackassing to live! He knew you might have the cure…and when you turned him out--!"
Now in a state of barely controlled emotional turmoil and regret, Astruc merely said, "Don't lay his corpse at my door yet, Garson." To which he reminded her that Bishop will indeed be dead within 24 hours…if they prove unable to kill him first.
Now shedding many tears over the horror her chemical serum had wrought, she lamented, "You said it yourself…I might have the cure! Think about killing him if you must. I will think about saving him!"
Noting that she kept spare lab supplies in the cellar, Astruc was determined to spend the next several hours attempting to create a duplicate of her new antidote, though Garson was leery of the fact that they would have to open the cellar door and confront Bishop again in order to administer the inoculation. Hours later, the Bishop-jackass was still pounding futilely on the cellar door, and Astruc, feverishly at work on duplicating the new antidote, mused to Garson, "The beasts are single minded! It won't occur to him to seek other victims until he has dealt with us."
Finally, still hours later, Garson noticed that Bishop had suddenly gone quiet, just as Astruc completed the duplicate antidote and prepared a syringe. Suddenly, without warning, Bishop burst the cellar door open, having located the dumb-waiter over the past few hours. Exclaiming, "You'll not have her until you've dealt with me, monster!" Garson rushed his homicidal former ally, and the two grappling foes went crashing through a table filled with equipment and chemical vials. However, as always, the strength of a normal human man is no match for someone who was jackassed, and Bishop easily and gleefully kicked Garson off of him, the latter's body slamming up against a wall. As the Bishop-jackass approached the stunned Garson to finish him off, Astruc called out to the jackasser, untying the front of her blouse and flauntingly exposing her cleavage to him, reminding the beast that it was her that he wanted. Successfully lured away from Garson, Bishop took the bait, and when he was upon Astruc, the chemist succeeded in jabbing the antidote-filled syringe into his back. Screaming in agony, Bishop fell insensate and reverted back to his human form. Getting back to her feet, Astruc checked the fallen former jackasser for vital signs, and learned that he was still alive…the new Hyde-25 (m) antidote was a success.
Recovering himself, Garson told Astruc that she may have been killed pulling that stunt. Looking up at her friend and ally, the chemist blithely queried, "Concern for the murderess of your wife?" To which Garson replied:
"Please, Berthe…don't taunt me with something I said in anger! I see now. Where I had to bear one death…you've had hundreds! [Not to mention the fact that Berthe Astruc actually lost her spouse to the drug, as well.]
"The drug is your responsibility, but those who use it are not. If Hyde-25 (m) did not exist, they would find other means…of that I am convinced…from watching one whom I had befriended reach his limit. They can never be beasts to me again! Only unfortunates!"
A moment later, the now once-again human Bishop began regaining consciousness. Approaching his two allies with great shame and sorrow on his visage, the intrepid bald Welshman had only this to say:
"I…I'm sorry…! It…was terrible! I felt…lost…hopeless! All of a sudden, it weren't just th' jackassin'…but that ye're my only friends! Did you know that? I didn't…!
"B-but you rejected me…sent me away! I-I didn't know what else to do…where else to turn!"
Still feeling that he had lost the only friends in his miserable existence, Claude Bishop turned to leave Mme. Astruc's house once and for all…even though Sam Garson called to him, telling the man that they were sorry, also.
Bishop's response: "It's over now. You've got your antidote. It works. You won't be needin' me!"
Garson began calling to him again, telling him that they still needed him and his friendship, and that there was still much for them to do…but Bishop didn't heed.
At that moment, the now recovering Inspector Oates [nice to see writer Bezaire didn't completely forget about him] put his hand on Garson's shoulder, and told the man to let Bishop go. As Samuel Garson and Mme. Berthe Astruc sadly watched their friend and ally walk out of their lives, the inspector told them:
"This jack-assin' thing…the Hyde drug…has caused him enough hurt! It's done! We know it! He knows it! We've got the means to eliminate the drug forever! And that's just what we'll do! [::Insert Nancy Sinatra joke here::]
"The storm is over!"
Comments: This interesting tale about despair, the drastic lengths people will go to give their lives meaning, the importance of friendship, and the 'gray' aspect of human nature, along with questioning how much blame lies on the structure of society, and how much lies upon the actions of the people that a given society produces, provided an excellent commentary by scribe Bruce Brezaire that brought this highly memorable series to an end. The character of Claude Bishop was at times distasteful, and at times sympathetic, but overall, Bezaire managed to instill a bleak humanity and emotional definition in the man that will cause several readers to identify with his plight, even though many will continue to bemoan his way of dealing with it (and rightly so, IMO). Sometimes in life, there are situations where no simplistic "good guys" and "bad guys" exist, but rather shades of greater or lesser evils. Few other stories exemplified that dichotomy and complexity to human nature, and the way society effects how human behavior develops, as well as the examination of these themes provided by this series.
It should also be noted, in true eerie fashion (yes, pun intended) that the revenge-and-suicide motif darkly embodied by the jackassers is a repeating one throughout many incidents involving abuse and despair, and would be central to the focus of the infamous RU Columbine incident over 25 years after this series was published…though the latter kids used firearms and explosives, rather than the fictitious Hyde-25 drug, as their means of both vengeance and suicide against the people whom they believed had belittled them as human beings (thankfully, at least their poorly constructed explosives failed to ignite).
And as always, Bezaire's words were matched by an equally competent performance by artist Jose Oritz, who rendered the expressions defining Bishop's pathos with great skill. Cheers to him.
This story was the only one in which supporting character Inspector Oates was actually part of the action, rather than a simple nuisance/impediment to Garson, Bishop, and Astruc involving themselves in the jackass raids.
It was revealed in this story that "over a dozen" jackass massacres in all had occurred in the London of the WNU from the summer of 1895-early spring of 1897 (as per my conjectures from the evidence and text available in the four "Night of the Jackass" stories published by Warren). Sam Garson and Claude Bishop were only involved in the last four (counting Bishop's own jackassing in "Endstorm"), Mme. Berthe Astruc in the first jackassing (involving her husband, mentioned but not depicted in the series) and the last two, and Inspector Oates (forename not revealed) directly involved in the last one only.
As was revealed in this story, Mme. Berthe Astruc was the progenitor of the Hyde-25 drug, and she elucidated her cryptic reasons for creating the chemical as part of an attempt to "elevate" humanity (evolving the human race into a more physically superior form?). Though her intentions appear to have been genuinely on the side of the angels, she was a classic fictional scientist whose intentions were not matched by the results, along with the all-too common trend to fear scientific advancement.
This story featured the final appearances of Samuel Garson, Claude Bishop, and Mme. Berthe Astruc to date (not including the flashback tale of truncated reprint material that appeared in HYDE-25 #0; see below).
Warren's "Night of the Jackass" series was collected and reprinted in EERIE #115, i.e., the EERIE 1980 Yearbook (Warren's equivalent of what most of the four-color comics referred to as an Annual). Portions of each of the four "Night of the Jackass" series were reprinted as a single preface story (and colorized) 15 years later by Harris Comics in HYDE-25 #0.
This series was picked up again in the 1990s via Warren's semi-successor, Harris Comics, first in the second story seen in HYDE-25 #0 (chronologically speaking), and then in a story arc featured in VENGEANCE OF VAMPIRELLA #9-10, where the "Night of the Jackass" elements crossed over with Vampi's world, and her lover/ally Adam Van Helsing attempts to become a more formidable adversary of supernatural evil (after an ad hoc group of monster hunters gathered by him were killed in battle) by taking a variant of the Hyde-25 serum to become the entity known as Bad Jack. This story arc, and HYDE-25 #0, introduced Samuel Bishop, a direct descendant of Claude Bishop who was permanently jackassed due to alterations done to his great-great-grandfather Claude Bishop's genetic structure by the Hyde-25 serum, as a result of the latter having been temporarily jackassed in "Endstorm." Samuel Bishop would be a maniacally dangerous opponent of modern jackassers, taking up the mantle from his great-great-grandfather.
The Harris appearances of Samuel Bishop, and its short-lived continuation of the "Night of the Jackass" saga, are indexed below. It all begins, chronologically, in the story "Return of the Jackass" from HYDE-25 #0.
However, the Harris execution of the attempted revival of the "Night of the Jackass" series as HYDE-25 left something to be desired by the readers, and the pilot mini-series was quickly shown the door (in fact, Harris has proved inept at reviving any Warren series except for the highly popular Vampirella).
WNU Connections: It would appear obvious, from within the context of the "consensus" WNU, that Mme. Berthe Astruc (assuming this is her real name) was utilizing a variation of the original Hyde serum created by the first Dr. Henry Jekyll in her attempts to "elevate" humanity. It's thus quite possible that she was seeking the same beneficial effects on the human species by utilizing the general components of that chemical formulae, as was Jekyll himself (who was seeking a chemical means of eliminating the propensity for violent and sociopathic behavior in human beings, but only ended up stimulating such tendencies to the nth degree with the resultant concoction). Other examples include the scientist named Warren (surname not revealed), who used a variation of these chemical components to transform himself into a super-strong and utterly savage Mr. Hyde-like entity while actually seeking a chemical means of curtailing the aging process in humanity; his monstrous alter ego was slain in battle with the Jerome Curry Mummy, as seen in the story "Enter: Mr. Hyde" from "The Mummy Walks" series, which also appeared in the pages of EERIE during the 1970s (and indexed elsewhere on this site). Also, the chemical formulae created by the teen science "whiz kid" Vernon Potts in the 1974 revenge thriller "Twisted Brain," which was likewise designed to improve the human condition.
Though it may be said that Mme. Astruc was unaware, at least initially, that she was using a variant of Henry Jekyll's Hyde serum components in 1895, she certainly must have known of this after its horrific effects became evident following the death of her husband, the first person to undergo the jackass effect, since the drug was coined "Hyde-25 (m)" on the streets, which is an obvious allusion to Dr. Jekyll's Hyde serum. It wasn't clear in the Warren series, however, whether Astruc herself gave it that name, or more likely, those who were peddling it on the streets of London christened it thusly. It was also never actually revealed in the Warren chronicles precisely who was selling the drug, and where the suiciders were going to acquire it…not to mention how the poor, the unemployed, and the youths (who had all but lost their right to work by the 1890s) managed to purchase what one would imagine to be a financially expensive drug.
There would appear to be much more to the story of Mme. Berthe Astruc and the development…and subsequent street distribution of…the Hyde-25 drug than was shown in this series (as she only appeared in two stories). This is an area demanding further research by other creative mythographers, particularly those who have an interest in chronicling the Jekyll legacy across the history of the WNU.
It's the personal opinion of this author that a personage by the name of Prof. James Moriarity, who was known to be active in London again during the mid to late 1890s (see THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN Vol. 1), may have had a motive for distributing this drug across the London streets as one of his experimental schemes, as he would view the downtrodden of society to be utterly expendable wretches (something the upper echelons of the British government wouldn't be likely to disagree with him about). The fact that the Great Detective was then feigning his own death, and was thus not available to investigate the jackass incidents and possibly uncover Moriarity's hand in this affair, may have also spurred Moriarity to carry out such an abominable experiment (Moriarity was working for Her Majesty's Secret Service, and with such profound influence at his disposal, he may have also been behind the official orders given to Scotland Yard to turn a "blind eye" towards the jackass massacres…something Inspector Oates would not have been directly aware of).
Is the Moriarity connection possible? I look forward to other creative mythographers either building upon or refuting this conjecture of mine in the wake of further research. It should be noted here, in all fairness, that some creative mythographers believe that Moriarity is overused in various conspiracies occurring in the late Victorian England of the WNU, and it's in deference to this critique that I mention it here.
Also be sure to see Harris's VENGEANCE OF VAMPIRELLA #9-10, HYDE-25 #0, and Dennis Power's online "Hyde and Hair" series of articles.
Classic Dialogue: Regarding Garson and Bishop's remarks (in a previous story) of Inspector Oates being nothing but "idle" during all of the jackass massacres…
…when the jackassed Bishop was tripped down the stairs by Garson, and Oates stunned the brute by smashing a chair over him, the police officer simultaneously shouted, with all due irony, "And this 'un's from the idle inspector!" [emphasis mine]
Time Frame: This story was mentioned in the opening text as occurring in 1897. I would conjecture that it occurred about a month following the previous entry in this series at most (though not likely to have occurred less than three weeks), which, as per my extrapolation, I believe would set this tale sometime in the spring of 1897.
"Night of the Jackass"
Story: Bruce Bezaire
Art: Jose Oritz
Comments: The preface story in this four-color pilot (the title being derived from the entry for this issue on the Vampirella Revealed web site) is a colorized reprint that condenses the four "Night of the Jackass" stories from EERIE (all indexed above) into a single, quick narrative to familiarize the reader with the concept, using the dialogue and artwork of the original stories, but adding a few brief explanatory captions throughout to better explain the progression of the series from one point to another.
At one point, the highly abridged preface reprint features the title page of "Storm Before The Calm," the second entry in the series, with the title plate included and colorized.
It's made clear in this abridged reprint that the jackassers do not have green skin, as they were depicted as having on two EERIE covers during the 1970s (#63 & #115).
The only truly original addition to this reprint story (not including the few brief explanatory captions which were added) that is noteworthy to the reader is the reproduction of an issue of THE LONDON TIMES featuring an article describing the jackass massacres.
The date of that WNU issue of THE LONDON TIMES was given as Tuesday, April 2, 1906, which is incorrect, as the "Night of the Jackass" series in EERIE made it clear on more than one occasion that the four stories (to which this article alludes to) took place in 1897. My personal observations of the series have caused me to speculate that the 1897 date is correct.
Here is the aforementioned LONDON TIMES article reproduced in its entirety:
By MC Chadwick and DC Bogart
Special to the Times
LONDON- The Whitechapel Hotel is the latest host to the violent, orgy-like outbursts that have stemmed from the monster-creating drug, HYDE-25.
Users of the drug, also known as Jackass, barricade themselves in hotels, churches and social clubs, using their artificially enhanced strength to embark on destructive, frequently homicidal sprees. Law enforcement officials have expressed a "hands-off" policy. Detective Oates of Scotland Yard commented, "When the Jackass rage is on them, they're impossible to stop. My men get slaughtered along with everyone else. The city is powerless. The damn monsters are killing up the populace, and there's bloody little we can do about it but wait for the drug to run its course." The effects of HYDE-25 wear off in twenty-four hours, killing its users.
Opinions vary on the reasons why such a deadly drug has become popular among London's poor. While many blame the prevailing moral decay in the slums, the Rev. Jeremy Hotch-kiss of St. Bartholomew's Mission offers a different point of view. "There is nothing for them here. Nothing but another day of hunger, desperation and disease. Poor souls, they are deluded in their lust for revenge against the rich, but most of them have already lost everything."
Ultimately, the motivation of the users remains a mystery, since no one has ever survived a HYDE-25 attack.
The Whitechapel was reported to be fully occupied this weekend, because of the spring holiday. Registered guests include Mr. And Mrs. C. [sic] Garson, occupying the Honeymoon Suite, Mr. Samuel [sic] Bishop, and several others. (See "Whitechapel Guest List", Section A2). Rumors persist that Bishop, described by associates as "a destitute drifter," may have instigated the HYDE-25 attack. "He was badly off on the drink last week, and said there was no use in goin' on," claimed fellow long-shoreman Henry Griffin of the East End.
"No matter who started it, it's a tragedy," remarked Detective [sic] Oates, "By the time this sees print, they'll all be dead[."]
The article was accompanied by a photo of a jackasser attack, which was a b&w reproduction of part of the cover of EERIE #115 (truncated so that the mag's title and cover blurbs weren't visible, of course).
It's obvious that this faux newspaper article was rife with errors, which may have been the result of the writer attempting to recall details of the original "Night of the Jackass" series by memory alone, without having the stories directly in front of him when he was typing up the article (an error I've made myself once too often). It's unfortunate that the editor of this issue didn't catch the flubs, however (particularly the date of the occurrence, and the forenames of Samuel Garson and Claude Bishop).
It's quite clear that this article (which proceeded the abridged reprint), within the context of the WNU itself, was composed during the initial attack of the jackassers on the Whitechapel Hotel during the first story in the series, "24 Hours of Hell." And it's also evident that Claude Bishop, suspected of initiating the attacks in the article due to his known suicidal funk attested to by a co-worker quoted in the article, was exonerated following the incident.
Time Frame: As noted above, contrary to what the article on THE LONDON TIMES stated, the events depicted in this abridged reprint of the entire Warren series took place from late winter to early spring of 1897, and not early spring of 1906.
"Return of the Jackass"
Story: Tom Sniegoski
Art: Jim Webb (with inks by Steve Mitchell)
Within the walls of an unidentified asylum, Samuel Bishop is sequestered within a padded room, and also entwined by a straight jacket. He possesses the physical characteristics of a jackasser, i.e., large pointed ears, pronounced canines, and arched eyebrows. As explained in the course of the story, Samuel Bishop is the great-great grandson of Claude Bishop. When Claude was temporarily jackassed (as seen in "Endstorm," indexed above), his genetic structure was altered, giving him a mutated gene for manifesting permanent jackasser characteristics in his offspring, including his entire familial lineage that is directly descended from him. Samuel Bishop was such a descendant, and his propensity for violence, and the need to channel it, has caused him to be frequently confined to the maximum security section of various mental hospitals. Additionally, he also possesses the enhanced physical strength and reflexes of a typical jackasser. In addition, he has an ability to somehow sense or perceive other jackass activity, apparently no matter where in the nation it's occurring [though also of Welsh descent, Samuel Bishop was living in the U.S.]
By the early 1990s, a new variant of the Hyde-25 drug is being dispensed on the streets, this time across America. It's also known by various street names, including 'Jekyll's Little Helper' or simply 'Jackass.' With this version of the drug, users are not required to make a wound in their arms, and then rub the drug into it in the form of a salve; instead, the new version is in the form of a patch, which is stuck to the arm, initiating the metamorphosis to the jackass state within moments.
Confined to the aforementioned asylum, this introductory tale basically focuses upon Bishop wrenching about in agony with his desire to dispense violence as he senses the latest outbreak of the Hyde-25 beginning across the nation, in this case perceiving a particular man who enters a convenience store with a patch containing the drug, and then using it to go jackass, after which he quickly kills one man with his bare hands, and then proceeds to brandish a firearm and brutally slays many other customers in the store. Before leaving, he pours gasoline on the floor, and sets fire to the establishment; he escapes by leaping through a window [for dramatic effect, of course, because it's beyond me why he couldn't simply exit through the door].
Bishop thusly describes the new jackasser outbreaks in his own musings, while thrashing about in his padded cell:
"If I wasn't in here, I would be drawn to it, to the acts of violence. I can practically see them unfold, a production of my mind's eye. The location, a home, place of employment, the local convenience store…
"…doesn't matter where. The outcome is always the same."
"Hyde-25, Jackass, has grown in use over the last five years, I know this. I feel it. These feelings ignite the monster in my blood, the legacy of my great-great-grandad's [sic] one time use of the suicide drug. The bodies are piling up outside. I told them this would happen, told the men in the dark suits after one of my last little excursions into violence. They chose to ignore my warning, to lock me away. In a way, I agreed with them. I was dangerous. I still am. Hyde-25 is becoming an epidemic of shrieking, bloody violence. They, the powers that be, don't know how to deal with the monsters. Never did, even in the olden days of great-great-grandad. They'll be coming to see me soon, the men in the suits that make the rules, and they'll tell me that I'm needed, that the people, the innocents, need my help.
"They need me to stop the violence."
With that thought filling his head, Bishop begins laughing maniacally in his cell, startling one of the doctors outside, as he is well aware that the powers-that-be whom he mentioned will soon free him to nullify the latest epidemic of jackasser outbreaks.
As Bishop himself notes at the end of the story:
"I laugh at the thought until my sides ache, the presence of the drug tainting the air, cutting my good humor short…
"…like the hungry shark tantalized by the scent of spilled blood. They will need my help, the help of the jackass. I am excited."
Comments: This story was a halfway decent re-introduction to the "Night of the Jackass" mythos, though I am not a fan of Tom Sniegoski's writing. He's a renowned author of several prominent Vampirella storylines of the '90s under Harris, but I thought his authorship was a mixed bag, punctuated with both good and bad dialogue and scenes, all in the same story. He tends to have instances of witty dialogue combined with tedious meanderings, which do not stand out enough from much of the dreck we saw in comics during the '90s, a low decade in many ways for the entire medium. With a better artist, this situation may have been improved; Jim Webb was competent, but hardly anything to compare with many of the break-out artists we saw during the Image explosion during this same era.
This story was just a prologue to what was intended to be a regular, ongoing series. The cover date of this comic was April, 1995. Following this story, we saw an advertisement for HYDE-25 #1, which was scheduled to be released in August of '95. Of course, we all know that this series was not to be. Instead, Sniegoski would incorporate Samuel Bishop and other elements of the "Night of the Jackass" series into a story arc that would run through VENGEANCE OF VAMPIRELLA #9-10 (indexed below). It was here that we fully grew to appreciate the character of Samuel Bishop, and saw him as a potentially cool successor to his great-great-grandfather, even though he was largely portrayed as a monstrous version of the Punisher.
The cover of this issue featured original renditions of Claude Bishop, Samuel Garson, and Mme. Berthe Astruc, as they each wielded appropriate weapons in preparation for battling a group of jackassers, all three of whom were standing beneath a large vignette of Samuel Bishop's visage and fire-arm wielding hand, a way cool ode to both generations of jackasser opponents.
WNU Connections: This story made it clear that new jackasser outbreaks began occurring in America since about 1990, and were escalating in their usage for five years. It wasn't revealed how often this occurred in the U.S., England, or elsewhere in the world between the 1890s and the 1990s, however. The drug offered here was obviously improved over the original version, something one would expect since nearly a century elapsed since the first batch was invented by Mme. Astruc, who was likely working from Dr. Henry Jekyll I's notes (as I speculated above).
Classic Dialogue: Upon ruminating over hypothetical jackasser scenarios in his cell, Bishop muses: "…the user will dance with the Devil. Dance? No, the user will screw the Devil, and everyone who is caught in the fallout of their horizontal jig." Nice way of putting things, Sam.
Time Frame: I believe that this story occurred early in the year 1995.
"Vampirella of Draculon"
Story: Forrest J. Ackerman
Art: Tom Sutton
Comments: This was a colorized reprint of the first ever Vampirella story, from Warren's VAMPIRELLA #1. It was a special treat offered to those who purchased this book, and obviously intended as added incentive to get readers to buy this comic and to give the proposed HYDE-25 series a better chance by hopefully providing a sales boost for the pilot (it didn't work, of course). This fun and outrageously campy initial take on Vampi was presented here in color for the first time, and it was also reprinted by Harris in VAMPIRELLA CLASSIC #1 (where it works much better in b&w, IMO).
"To Be More Than Human"
Story: Tom Sniegoski
Art: Buzz and Kevin Sharpe (inked by Rod Ramos)
The story begins with Senator Adam Van Helsing somberly walking down the streets of Boston, Massachusetts in the pouring rain. His mind was in a state of emotional devastation over the total annihilation of a team of monster-hunters he gathered together to battle a race of demonic werewolves known as the Slash, who had now manifested and begun to form a nest on Earth. Van Helsing had convinced himself that tackling the forces of evil was much too dangerous for normal human beings, and that he must become more than merely human to give him a needed edge in such a battle ("A man has to be almost more than human to deal with this supernatural threat. Fire with fire. Hopefully I can get what I need here"). He strode towards the home of a notorious underworld figure in the world of the paranormal, a disreputable but very well connected personage by the name of Mr. Montie, whom Van Helsing believed had the answer to what he needed to become posthuman.
Meanwhile, Vampirella and her stalwart ally and friend, the aged stage illusionist Pendragon, were stranded on a deserted road in the middle of nowhere, and were trying to find themselves a ride. Vampi convinced Pendragon to let her try to hitch them down a ride (which wouldn't be difficult with the outfit she had on, as she was well aware). Sure enough, a large, ominous looking truck pulled up before them. The grateful Pendragon entered the vehicle without thinking, only to find a demonic being at the steering wheel, pointing a firearm at him, while saying, "The rumors are true. You and the rogue witch are in the area. Too bad for you. Didn't your mother ever tell you it isn't safe to hitchhike?" [Btw, this demon's truck had a gear shift that resembled a length of human vertebrae with a skull head for the handle, the area around the speedometer was adorned by human bones, and the seat appeared to be coated with reptilian skin.]
Using her preternatural reflexes, Vampi quickly pulled her ally aside just in time to prevent him from being blown away. Vampi then attacked the creature, baring her talons and pulling her bat-eared adversary through the front window, after which she ripped his throat out with her fangs. She and Pendragon now had a truck to leave the area ("I do hope I remember how to drive a standard," the aged illusionist said to himself).
Meanwhile, Adam Van Helsing and Mr. Montie were discussing business, with the former growing agitated when the latter brought up his recent tragic failure to him, a tragedy revolving around Van Helsing's team of monster-fighters being slain during a battle with the Slash. Montie also made it clear that he was aware of Van Helsing using his political connections to bring together a large network of monster-fighters, as well as his romantic relationship with Vampirella. The emotionally besieged Van Helsing then revealed to Montie that he needed a means of becoming posthuman, and this was the reason that he and his team never attempted to take the unscrupulous man down.
Mr. Montie agreed to give Van Helsing the means to become posthuman in exchange for the latter performing an errand for him. "There is a man, a killer by nature," Montie told him. "He is a threat to me and must be eliminated.
"…His name is Samuel Bishop. They call him the Jackass."
Elsewhere, Samuel Bishop, a.k.a., the Jackass, stood in front of a decrepit urban tenement building, investigating the rumors that Hyde-25 was being sold there by drug dealers. It was here mentioned that other street names for the drug included, 'Jack,' 'Jekyll's Little Helper,' and 'Jackass' (two of which were noted the story "Return of the Jackass" from HYDE-25 #0, indexed above).
As Bishop noted to himself, "Jack, Jekyll's Little Helper, Jackass--all street names for the monster-making narcotic Hyde-25--a drug that makes crack look like baby aspirin. It doesn't just play with the mind, the drug reaches into the darkness of the soul and sets it free, turning the user into a blood-thirsty monster! [See WNU Connections below.] My great-great grandfather was a user. Surprisingly, it didn't kill him, but it did play with his genetic make-up a bit. The drug had affected his seed and before he knew it, he was responsible for giving birth to strange-looking children--prone to fits of extreme violence.
"I've lived with the curse of my ancestor and continue to experience its demonic influence. I've taken it as my job…my purpose…to see that the drug never again gains a foothold as it did back then! I'm not afraid of violence. I've lived with it all my life.
"Matter of fact, I've learned to enjoy it!"
During the above inner musings, Bishop viciously disposed of the man guarding the door to the tenement by crushing his nose with a brutal palm heel strike, displaying both his knowledge of the martial arts and his astounding reflexes in the process. And the smile on his face after doing so was ominous.
Pulling two firearms from within his trench coat, Bishop began hunting the four remaining dealers that he knew to be in the building, and he had heard that the newest player dealing in Hyde-25 was a mysterious individual whom he heard referred to as "Mr. M" on the streets. Locating the room where three of the dealers were located (one of whom was female), Bishop kicked the locked door down with ease, and littered the room with gunfire, shouting "Say hello to the nice drug dealers, boys!" Within minutes of exchanging gunfire, Bishop managed to transform the trio of deadly dealers into bullet-ridden corpses.
As he got back to his feet, Bishop turned to see that the fourth dealer had entered the room, with an uzi pointed at the maddened Jackass. "Go out of the room for one minute--look what happens!" the nastily leering dealer lamented.
Bishop dove to the ground behind the table (where the stacks of drugs were spread out) to avoid the coming barrage of gunfire, only to accidentally drop his gun upon landing. However, cleverly noting that one of the dealers had a gun laying on the opposite side of the table, Bishop stepped on the side of the wooden counter closest to him, causing the piece of hard oak furniture to flip over, simultaneously providing him a shield from his adversary's gunfire as well as propelling the gun on the tabletop in the air and into his hands. Saying "I hope this bad boy's loaded!" to himself, Bishop tested it…and shot his opponent directly through one of his eyes.
Bishop (to himself): "Think that's everyone. Not bad for one against five. Probably be sore in the morning."
Testing the reliability of his informants, Bishop tasted the drug laying on the table to confirm that it was Hyde-25. It wasn't…it was merely heroin. "Gotta get better informants. This could get tiring. It's a good thing I like my job!"
Far away, Vampirella was sitting on her bed thinking of her lover, Adam Van Helsing, telling herself that it was too long since she was last at his side, and wondering how he was faring, wherever he was.
Back at Mr. Montie's abode, the latter personage offers Van Helsing what he was looking for…Hyde-25. In Montie's own words:
"This, Senator, is the answer to our problems. It is called Hyde-25 and, administered in the proper dosages, can transform its user into something more than human--something you will need to be in order to complete your mission and perform the small task I have asked of you."
Van Helsing, familiar with the rumors of the drug, told Montie that he heard it was dangerous, and even fatal. To that, Montie replied, "When given in the proper amount, the drug taps into mans' full potential. Thoughts become sharper. Decisions made more quickly. Your physical make-up will change as well--to accommodate your new heightened state of consciousness.
"You will be man as he was meant to be!"
Again, a world weary but desperate Van Helsing reminded Montie of the dangers he heard was associated with the usage of the drug.
Montie simply reminded him, "There are dangers we must all face if we are to make our dreams come true!"
Acceding to Montie's statement due to his current beleaguered emotional status, and wanting to become posthuman more than anything, Van Helsing partook of the Hyde-25 drug.
Just then, via her psychic rapport with her lover, Vampirella realized that something was amiss with Van Helsing. Immediately after taking a large dose of the Hyde-25, Van Helsing began painfully metamorphosing, his body wracked with spasms and blood flowing from his mouth as the transformation commenced. Reacting to this from afar due to their psychic connection, Vampi began losing control of her mental state, becoming extremely violent and erratic, and struggling to take control of herself.
In the meantime, the transformation of Van Helsing was complete, as he sported the enlarged pointed ears, distended canines, and long fingernails that are characteristic of the jackassers, along with a sense of extreme elation ("My god! Never dreamed that it could be like this…to truly let go! Yessssss!!").
Elsewhere in the city, Vampi realized, due to her psychic connection to her lover via the enchanted rings each of them wear, that Van Helsing had changed, and suddenly had the potential for great evil ("You are nearby and in danger, and may God have mercy on the souls of those who have wronged you."). Quickly sporting her bat-like wings, Vampi flew into the night, seeking out her lover to help him against whatever danger she sensed in his midst.
Back at Montie's home, the dangerous man opened a cabinet to reveal a plethora of firearms that he believed would assist the now permanently jackassed Van Helsing on his errand as payment for the Hyde-25 metamorphosis…the elimination of Samuel Bishop. The jackassed senator grabbed a large shotgun that he felt would more than suffice on the mission. And turning to Montie, he said, with a vicious smile on his face, "And Montie: Don't call me Van Helsing anymore. That weakling is dead and gone! Call me Bad Jack!"
A short time later, Bishop was lighting himself a cigg elsewhere in the city when his keen hearing detected the latch of a shotgun being clicked, and he quickly dove for cover behind a car as an unknown assailant opened fire on him. That assailant quickly proved to be Bad Jack, and the war of the jackassers had commenced.
The two exchanged gunfire, but both failed to hit the other. Tired of the contest, Bad Jack shot the car in its engine, causing the vehicle to explode, and Bishop barely managed to leap for cover in time. Pouncing on his adversary before he could get another clear shot at him ("I don't think we've been introduced!"), Bishop punches Bad Jack in the face, causing him to drop his weapon. The two then engaged in fisticuffs, with Bishop quickly proving superior in fighting skills, which enabled him to gain the advantage.
Just as Bad Jack found himself in serious trouble, however, Vampirella arrived from up above, and seeing that her lover was in danger, she descended upon the battle and swatted Bishop aside. She then shouted to Bad Jack (still not realizing the extent of his transformation) to stand aside, as the she-warrior decreed that Bishop was hers alone to battle.
Now realizing that he was in serious trouble, the Jackass deftly told himself, "This is not good."
Comments: This potentially terrific story, the first completely depicting Samuel Bishop in action, was flawed by Tom Sniegoski's uneven writing, going back and forth between really cool stuff to substandard dialogue and bad attempts at witty remarks from the characters. Bishop was portrayed with much potential, and he was clearly intended as a knock-off of the then very popular Punisher (whom Marvel was then publishing in no less than three monthly titles) who could hang around comfortably in the horror genre. Nevertheless, the character was also distinct from Frank Castle in many ways, and probably did deserve a shot at a solo series. However, IMO, Harris picked the wrong writer and/or artist to pull this off, which resulted in that series to end almost before it began, due to poor fan response.
Nevertheless, the first of this two-issue story arc was a fun romp, even though the artwork (carried out by two artists due to scheduling problems) was merely adequate.
Here we learned more of Samuel Bishop, and we also learned that the Hyde-25 drug had been improved (if you want to call it that) so that sufficient dosages would permanently jackass someone who had taken it. This issue of the mag also introduced Adam Van Helsing's Bad Jack incarnation, a direct result of the latter partaking of the Hyde-25 drug to become posthuman, which would have major ramifications for the character and Vampirella's entire world for the rest of this comic book series, and beyond.
WNU Connections: This story arc featured a direct crossover between Vampirella and elements from the "Night of the Jackass" series, thus further cementing the latter's inclusion in the "consensus" WNU.
The description of how the Hyde-25 drug works, as explained by Bishop early in this story, was very similar to how the initial Hyde drug created by Dr. Henry Jekyll I was described, thus making an even closer connection to the infamous scientist's legacy, and further testament to this drug being an auxiliary extrapolation of Dr. Jekyll's initial pharmaceutical donation to the world.
Time Frame: This story takes place sometime in late 1995, probably a few months after Bishop's appearance in the "Return of the Jackass" story from HYDE-25 #0.
"Bad Jack Rising"
Story: Tom Sniegoski
Art: David Perrin (inked by Caesar)
This story begins with a prologue revealing that an underground group of wealthy businessmen who deal with the supernatural known as the Danse Macabre has struck a deal with the demonic lupine race known as the Shaft. The Danse agrees to provide the Shaft (short for "Shaftmar") with a safe haven to establish a nest in exchange for the demonic lupine race providing the Danse with some of their arcane knowledge. Also (in a particularly grotesque scene), the Danse agreed to provide the Shaft with food, consisting of human body parts and internal organs, which the leader of the nest was voluminously devouring at the feet of the Danse representative.
Meanwhile, continuing where last issue left off, the confrontation between Vampirella and Samuel Bishop had now began. Just as Vampi told her lover Adam Van Helsing (now Bad Jack) to step aside and allow her to take care of Bishop, Bad Jack took advantage of the distraction by pushing his lover aside and shooting Bishop in the shoulder with a pistol he had hidden in his jacket. Vampi was shocked at her lover's uncharacteristic outburst of extreme violence, and she reminded him that she could have defeated their adversary short of killing him. Bad Jack then informed her that he had a debt to pay off, that the Adam Van Helsing she knew was gone for good, and that thanks to Mr. Montie, he had ascended to posthuman status. Vampi was once more startled that he allowed someone to do this to him, but her lover was elated over the transformation.
Holding his pistol in the air, Bad Jack decreed, "There's a war against darkness going on all around us--ghoulies and ghosties and long legged beasties…I've got a bullet for all of them!"
Sadly asking her lover if he had a bullet for her also, she again pleaded that he allow her to help him. With a smile of gleeful sadism, Bad Jack again reminded her that the Van Helsing she knew and loved was gone for good, telling her, "He and his merry men took on the Slash and were destroyed. It was too much for the guy! I'm sorry, Vampirella, he's gone…and so am I!" With his last statement meant to be taken literally, Bad Jack fired a few rounds in Vampi's direction to cause her to dive for cover, thus allowing him to escape with remarkable speed.
Recovering to find that her transformed lover had departed from her line of sight, Bishop then suddenly stepped up and revealed that his metallic cigarette lighter in his coat pocket had ironically saved his life by deflecting Bad Jack's bullet, which would have been a lethal heart shot ("Don't think I'll ever quit smoking, now. Wouldn't seem right.")
The two then exchanged introductions, with Bishop revealing to Vampi that her lover was under the influence of Hyde-25… "As you can see, it changes people--both physically and mentally. None for the better, I'm afraid."
Vampi then told Bishop that Adam had gotten his Hyde-25 from a 'Mr. Montie,' and Bishop revealed that he had been hunting this purveyor of the drug for six weeks. Bishop also revealed that he was in the immediate area based upon a lead…which obviously turned out to be a set-up. Asking Bishop who he was, the Jackass told Vampi, "Would you believe--I'm one of the good guys?" as he produced a badge and I.D. card making it clear that he was working for a law enforcement agency as a special agent.
Meanwhile, while hiding on a dingy rooftop, Bad Jack was ruminating about his past, and realized that this dark side of him was always present, ever since his childhood, and 'Bad Jack' was actually an ersatz persona that the young Adam Van Helsing would mention through the years to blame many of the nasty actions he had committed in the past. As a few examples, when his father, the pre-eminent blind vampire hunter Conrad Van Helsing once caught his very young son sadistically torturing a butterfly, the little boy told him, "I didn't do it! I found it this way! Bad Jack did it!" [Not for nothing, but didn't mostly every young boy take their frustrations out on an insect at one time or another? I'm not condoning his action, but it's not like he was torturing a puppy or kitten or anything like that!]
Another memory reminded Bad Jack of the time when, as a young teen, Adam pulled a female peer's button down shirt open, causing her to cry and slap him in the face (she accused him of being "fresh," which was sort of an understatement), and he pleaded in his defense, "It wasn't me, Sally! Honest! It must have been Bad Jack!"
This was followed by another memory in which Adam, now later in high school, had another less than stellar moment, deliberately injuring a male peer during a football game; and he remembered that at the time, he blamed his 'Bad Jack' persona [I guess from his earliest days, he used to read a lot of Jack the Ripper accounts].
Upon recovering from this fugue, Bad Jack raised his handgun and dagger before the orb of the rising sun before him, declaring with unbridled enthusiasm, "Bad Jack…now--there's only Bad Jack!"
Later in the morning, elsewhere in Boston, Vampirella and Bishop were together looking for leads on what caused Van Helsing to seek the Hyde-25 in the first place, and to that end she called his network. She was informed that Adam and his team took on a supernatural threat known as the Slash, and the team never reported back to base. Bishop then deduced what happened…humbled by the power of the supernatural menace he had faced, Van Helsing obviously believed that he needed the Hyde-25 to raise him to posthuman status so that he could more effectively battle these menaces, and that this effectively made the situation Bishop's business. Vampi resolved to help Adam by finding out more about the Slash.
Bishop agreed that while she searched for info on the Slash, he would be looking for the low down on Mr. Montie. The two then parted as allies, both acknowledging that they would probably meet again.
Vampirella then flew to the warehouse where Adam Van Helsing's team had been. Using her superhuman strength to tear the locks off of the huge solid steel doors, she entered the facility…unbeknownst that one of the armed and armored sentries had noticed her entrance (they belong to a security unit called Dark Waltz 20), who informed the rest of the security unit that they had an intruder.
Thus, upon entering, Vampi found herself confronted by a large number of armored Dark Waltz 20 security agents, who announced that they were taking her into custody. Refusing to allow herself to be captured, she attacked the guard closest to her, slashing through his faceplate with her talons. She was then halted when several of the security agents blasted her with the taser units on their firearms. Despite being staggered by the barrage of electricity, it failed to take her down, and she proceeded to literally rip into the guards, her talons slashing through both armor plate and flesh.
The battle was ended by the appearance of Richard Esterbrook, the suit and tie wearing representative of the Danse Macabre, who was acquainted with Vampirella. The vampiric she-warrior demanded to know about the Slash, to which Esterbrook reminded her that it was none of her business, as her lover and his now departed group of monster-hunters had "almost ruined three years of negotiations with the Slashmar!"
Esterbrook described the lupine demons, and the Danse's interest in them, thusly: "The Slash is a race of lesser demons we believe traveled to Earth from the 'Other Side.' They have the ability to travel from one plane of reality to the next! The Danse Macabre would like to acquire this knowledge."
When Vampi asked him "at what price this knowledge?" Esterbrook insisted that she do not interfere out of what amounted (in his eyes) to a "personal vendetta," and he ordered the guards to take her to a detention cell. Vampi easily tossed the guards aside, and grabbed Esterbrook, roughing him up and telling the terrified businessman that the man she loved transformed himself in a horrific manner to enable himself to stop the Slashmar, and that he will stop at nothing to kill them and all who stand beside them…and that she demanded to know where their nest was, so that she may prevent Bad Jack from killing everyone and anything connected to the Slashmar.
In the meantime, Bad Jack's newly enhanced senses detected the presence of the Slash's nest, and he began heading towards their base of operations.
Elsewhere, Bishop continued searching for information on Mr. Montie, and he approached a seedy bar known as Vicky's Place, where various paranormal patrons from Boston's supernatural underworld were known to frequent. Upon entering the establishment and asking about Montie, the Jackass found himself punched clear across the room by a bouncer named Milo, who also happened to be a werewolf (possibly of the demonic Slashmar breed). Milo told Bishop that he should forget the very name "Montie," to which the Jackass made an insulting comment about the lycanthrope's dental hygiene (a joke he didn't get, btw).
Grabbing a chair by the leg, Bishop smashed Milo in the face with it, breaking most of the creature's teeth ("I know this won't kill your kind, but I bet I can make it hurt like hell!"). Then, holding the detached wooden leg of the chair, Bishop brutally and repeatedly bashed the stunned lycan in the face, reducing it to a bloody pulp, and demanding that Milo tell him "everything about the mysterious Mr. M…don't skimp on the details!"
Upon acquiring the address of Mr. Montie, Bishop soon appeared there, confronting the nefarious dealer of Hyde-25 at gunpoint…with Montie merrily informing the Jackass that he was expected, and holding the Jackass at bay by pulling a grenade out of his weapons cabinet and threatening to pull the pin. Bishop then proceeded to grab Montie by the nape of his bathrobe [the guy always seems to walk around his house in a purple bathrobe], and demanded that he tell him exactly who he is, and the extent of his operations. In response, Montie told his errant adversary that the events of the past few years were the result of the endless struggle between order and chaos, and good and evil (as per his interpretation: "The forces of good and evil are almost always at war--one trying to get the upper hand over the other!"). As Bishop saw it: "Hyde-25, Van Helsing, the Slash, Vampirella--all pieces in some cosmic game of chance."
Of course, Montie was as cryptic as can be about this metaphysical matter, telling Bishop, "Inject a little chaos into the lives of heroes and see how they fare. Its [sic] been done forever. We're surprised that you've lasted as long as you have!" Hence, Montie appears to be a deliberate chaos-monger [which makes one wonder if he has any connections to the Lovecraftian "mad god" Chaos, a major player in Vampirella's life in the past, as well as the power behind Dracula-Mordante and Dracula-Mathias's rise to power, the former in "Dracula" series published by EERIE and indexed elsewhere on this site, and the latter in the "Castlevania" video game series; see WNU Connections below].
Hoping to prevent Bishop from shooting him down, Montie provided him with a head's-up regarding an opportunity for order to triumph over chaos…the address leading "to where the climax of our little spectacle is about to happen" (i.e., the location of the Slash's nest, where Vampirella and Bad Jack were both now heading, albeit separately).
Taking the address, and realizing that "good people" would soon be needing his help, Bishop departs, reminding Montie that he hasn't heard the last of them. Sitting at his office desk, Montie haughtily told Bishop to "run" and see if he could prevent the forces of chaos from destroying Vampirella…only to realize that the Jackass had sneakily (and very nastily) removed the pin from the grenade that was sitting on the office desk.
Mr. Montie barely had time to say "Very good, Mr. Bishop" to himself before the expected explosion consumed his apartment…with a sadistically smiling Bishop standing in the hallway, throwing the pin he had confiscated out of his hand.
As Vampirella flew towards the Danse headquarters that was harboring the Slash nest, she was seen by the Dark Waltz Prime security force that was guarding the facility.
The leader of the non-armored security force within, who refer to themselves as the Blood Tango group [the various security divisions of the Danse Macabre all have dance-oriented titles, as an obvious pun on the word "danse"], ordered his men to bring the Slash demons to safety. The leader of the Slash in the nest, bearing the title Lord Slash [how creative and original] confronted the leader of the Blood Tango security force and asked him if the Slash were incorrect to trust them in protecting and hiding the nest. The security man told him that all was under control…a sentiment that was shattered moments later when Vampirella suddenly burst through the wall. Upon her arrival (with her intent to warn all concerned of Bad Jack's approach), Lord Slash shouted, "She who hunts the night! We are betrayed!"
Vampi told the "creature of chaos" before her to "hold your tongue," as she was not there to attack, but to inform them that Bad Jack was on his way. To prevent the man she loved from perpetrating an obscene orgy of violence, she told those before her that she would protect them from Bad Jack [that's a bit overly liberal and peaceable for Vampi, don't you think?]. Lord Slash and the rest of his lupine demons then approached, startled that Vampi would actually protect them [and to be honest, I was as startled as they were].
However, it was too late…Bad Jack had already arrived, using an array of sophisticated firearms, including one that was a potent mini-flamethrower, to enter the facility by blasting his way through the security guards. The crusading jackasser then began immolating the entire facility with the flamethrower. Believing Montie's word that the Danse Macabre could be trusted to protect the nest had proven to be a falsehood, Lord Slash brutally ripped out the throat of the Blood Tango leader. Vampi noted to herself: "Again the name of Mr. Montie arises! What type of game does this man play?!" Bad Jack then proceeded to unleash his bullet-spewing firearm on the human security agents.
Enraged at the callous manner in which Lord Slash killed the human head of security, Vampirella attacked and seriously injured the lupine beast by ripping into his furry chest with her own talons.
Meanwhile, just as Bad Jack was about to blow the face off of a hapless agent of the Danse, Vampi grabbed his wrist and fouled his aim, determined not to let him kill wantonly. Now believing that his former lover was as bad as the menaces she purported to battle, Bad Jack told her, "Don't know if bullets can kill you…doesn't hurt to try!" When Vampi pleaded that he fight the influence of his newly ascendant dark side ("Don't let Bad Jack win, Adam…if you can hear my voice--fight him!"), Bad Jack wasn't listening, and he punched the she-warrior in the face, his newly enhanced strength stunning her and splitting her lip.
Just then, however, the gravely injured Lord Slash was determined to get revenge on those who had violated his nest. Forcing himself to his feet, the lupine demon grabbed a sharp piece of wood, and snuck behind Bad Jack and Vampi as they grappled with each other.
Listening to Vampirella's impassioned words, the remaining personality elements of Adam Van Helsing appeared to be struggling to quell Bad Jack's rampage, and a tear streamed down the side of his face…but he then decreed that Adam's time was over, and now it was Bad Jack's time to thrive. As Bad Jack was engaged in that psychological struggle, Vampi noticed Lord Slash coming up behind him, and she shouted a warning to her lover perhaps a second too late…the wolfen demon thrust the deadly makeshift wooden dagger clear through Bad Jack's back and out the front of his chest, dealing him a mortal blow as the errant jackasser slipped to his knees moaning, "Not…fair…!"
A moment later, Samuel Bishop finally arrived on the scene and blasted Lord Slash's head off with one of his laser point guided firearms…only to find that he was too late to save the life of the former Adam Van Helsing.
Bishop could only look down with an expression of sorrow as a tear-stricken Vampirella held the skewered and bleeding body of the man she loved.
Comments: This issue brought the two-part story arc featuring Samuel Bishop to an end. It may come off as a bit of a disappointment to any hardcore "Night of the Jackass" fans, as other than Bishop and Bad Jack, the jackasser elements of this story arc were rather minimal. Most of it concentrated on the greater machinations of the chaos-mongering Mr. Montie, to which the spreading of the Hyde-25 drug on the streets of Boston was but one of his many means of fomenting chaos, apparently for its own sake. The rest of the conflict centered upon the Slash, an interesting group of demonic werewolves. They resembled gray-furred, fully bipedal lycanthropes of the Crinos phenotype (see my Index to EERIE's "Curse of the Werewolf" series for a description of werewolf phenotypes), they had a propensity for devouring human flesh, and they even had a proclivity for climbing walls and other surfaces, much like the lycan breeds who appeared in the films "Van Helsing" and "Underworld" could do. Nevertheless, this story arc was to feature the temporary demise of Adam Van Helsing, though Vampirella would later encounter him again when she discovered that he was in a section of Hell after she, too, met a temporary demise (and both would be resurrected in a later Vampi story arc).
Again, the writing of Tom Sniegoski was uneven here, with a combination of cool action scenes and occasional wry bits of dialogue mixed in with discourse that was rather standard fare for comics of the '90s. I enjoyed his total warrior interpretation of Vampirella, and she seemed a much more formidable combatant under his hand (and that of other Harris writers) than she was during her Warren days. Nevertheless, her quickness to slay her enemies in some circumstances seemed to be backed up by an incongruous tendency to eschew violence on other occasions. This type of character dichotomy is far from unheard of, but Sniegoski scribed Vampi in such a manner that it was often difficult to determine where the warrior aspect of her persona ended, and the peaceful side began…and vice versa.
The artwork by David Perrin was, like that of the other Harris artists I have seen thus far, competent but unremarkable, and it didn't bolster the less than stellar elements of the story itself, as good artists can sometimes do. The cover by Adam Hughes was quite cool, however, as it skillfully depicted Vampirella being tackled from behind by a bloody-clawed Lord Slash, with two slavering werewolves behind him (though these two, for some reason, were depicted in a Lupus phenotype, a form that none of the Slash possessed in the comic itself). And of course, Vampi's bosom was drawn so large (it appeared to be a DD cup size) that though this was titillating to the many people who seem to prefer large breasts on a woman, it seemed inconceivable that her minimalist uniform could possibly hope to keep them from falling out of it even if she was casually walking down the street, let alone engaged in elaborate combat moves or acrobatics (perhaps she glued the frontal straps of her uniform to her breasts, or something).
Samuel Bishop was portrayed impressively here, but again, the writing deficiencies of Sniegoski (IMO, that is; many Vampi fans are quite fond of his contributions) prevented the character from achieving his full potential. And because much of this story arc concentrated on elements other than the Hyde-25 and jackassers, we didn't see him in a tale that focused upon a jackass outbreak (that was to be reserved for the aborted HYDE-25 series). Since he was guest-starring in a Vampi comic, he was thus required to battle her nemeses, rather than his usual enemies.
Nevertheless, it was cool to see some revival of EERIE's terrific "Night of the Jackass" series, even if it didn't catch on.
WNU Connections: As noted before, the direct crossover between Samuel Bishop and Vampirella in this story definitively brings the "Night of the Jackass" series and its attendant elements into the WNU, in addition to its connection to the Jekyll clan.
The status of Mr. Montie as a fomenter of the forces of Chaos against Order was emblematic of the conflict occurring in the greater WNU during the latter decades of the 20th century, all of which appeared to be coming to a head by the Millennium.
The Slash were interesting in that they appear to be the first official breed of purely demonic lycanthropes introduced into the WNU (at least to my knowledge).
Time Frame: This story began immediately following the events of the previous issue of VENGEANCE OF VAMPIRELLA, thus making this story also occur late in the year 1995.