"The Occult Files of Doctor Spektor: Volume 4" Graphic Novel Review
Written by Ilan Sheady
Published by Dark Horse Comics
Written by Donald Glut
Illustrated by Jesse Santos
1979, 200 pages
Graphic Novel released on March 21st, 2012
This month Dark Horse releases the final volume in its Doctor Spektor Archives (or The Occult Files of Doctor Spektor to use its full title). This is my first experience with the Spektor series, but having already read several volumes from Dark Horse’s Eerie and Creepy Archives I assumed that, apart from there being a lead protagonist rather than a horror host, Spektor’s Archives was going to be more of the same thing. Each individual comic displays the same beautifully painted scene of monsters, maidens and mortal danger so this already has expectations to meet, just as the comics did on their original release back in 1973 - 1979.
In reality the Doctor Spektor Archives is a collection of Scooby Doo-style mysteries, but instead of meddling kids we have a mystery solving playboy bachelor with a PhD in Occult investigation. Stumbling effortlessly into adventure after adventure and always accompanied by whichever impractically clothed girl cares to accompany him, Adam Spektor is a far cry from anything particularly original.
The stories have all the elements of a vintage horror mystery, but everything falls just a bit short of the mark. The line art by Jesse Santos is beautifully illustrated but is ruined by using fluorescent colours from, what I can only assume to be a Stabilo Boss highlighter set. Washes of bright colour replace scenery which otherwise would have been detailed and atmospheric. Instead the villains end up with an unfortunate Saturday Morning Cartoon feel. When the shambling mummy emerges from the sewers, not from pure darkness, but a light shade of violet, it’s more likely to inspire a chorus of Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds than send chills down your spine. In addition the script is nauseatingly self-explanatory. There's no hint of metaphor, sarcasm, wit or humour, just emotionless, straight-talking story pushing.
Click images to enlarge.
Everything combined makes the series one crazy hallucinogenic acid-trip which gets weirder by the chapter. By the time you are introduced to the vigilante crime fighter The Owl all expectations are thrown out the window and you just have to accept that you have no clue where this ‘trip’ is taking you.
But that’s when it dawned on me. I was judging this book unfairly. This collection isn’t in the same ilk as Uncle Creepy, Cousin Eerie and Vampirella where the stories are designed to chill your soul or reflect on your mortality. Dr Spektor is more the Flash Gordon of the supernatural or the Barbarella of mysteries. It’s 1970s cheese at its most stinky (that’s a good thing I’m told) and had there been a movie made of the series it would have instantly become a cult classic and this collection of books would have been a goldmine for many collectors.
Unfortunately it was never the case. The Doctor never made it to the silver screen nor did he get to see his story to the end. Writer Donald Glut explains in his introduction that the series couldn’t survive their comic publishing competitors (Marvel and DC being the two larger culprits) but it was obvious he had more in store for our hero as there was no clear conclusion to what I thought was going to be a ‘lost love’ subplot. The story was never concluded and it’s hard not to feel upset for the creators.
The Occult Files of Doctor Spektor has a lot of minor flaws that are possibly down to the decade it was written in. The colours are garish, its script reads like a porn movie (from what I’ve been told of them) and the plots are simply inconceivable. But isn’t that the charm of 1970s pulp stories? What lies beneath these obvious issues are some signs of great passion and dedication for the title. Researching the entire Egyptian Book Of The Dead and basing a short adventure around it is an inspired move for any writer. The creator undoubtedly has a lot of love for the Adam Spektor series but it is unfortunate that, from a review side of things, it takes more than 6 chapters for me to feel it too.
Fun fact: The sound you hear when a sarcophagus collides with your head is spelt Ka-Thud!