These three anthology collections all say “One-Shot” on the cover, but I’m going to treat them like the earlier anthology miniseries. First, because the format is so similar (although these use the (roughly) 75-page saddle-stitched format DC often employed at the time, in place of the usual four issue miniseries). Second, because there is one story that is presented in three parts, split across all three anthologies. Another thing they have in common is that they all share titles with earlier DC Comics anthology series.
The original Ghosts was a horror comics anthology series published by DC Comics for 112 issues from September–October 1971 to May 1982. The stories were not limited to ghosts–for much of its run the series had subtitles including “Tales of the Weird and Supernatural”–and this anthology follows suit. Al Ewing, Rufus DayGlo and Chris Chuckry’s “The Night After I Took The Data Entry Job I Was Visited By My Own Ghost” opens the collection with an actual ghost story, but played for laughs. For the protagonist taking a data entry job meant the death of his dream of being a rock synthesizer player, effectively murdering his old self and the whole world that would have resulted from the other career path. His ghost becomes so popular that he reconsiders his choices, only to be visited by another ghost.
The most high-profile Vertigo ghosts would have to be The Dead Boy Detectives, which spun off from Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman. Revisited by writer Toby Litt, artists Mark Buckingham and Victor Santos, colorist Lee Loughridge, and letterer Todd Klein, they star in “Run Ragged;” this collection has the first of three parts. They accept the case of finding a missing ghost cat named Twinkle, but run afoul of Mr. Locke, headmaster of a ghost school called the Isle of Dogs Ragged School.
“The Boy and the Old Man” presents some of legendary artist Joe Kubert’s last work. He had written, penciled and lettered it before he passed away. So the story is presented here with his loose penciled artwork, which is enough to tell the tale of the two humans and their fight with a demon. Other highlights include “Treasure Lost” (a science fiction story with Paul Pope’s artwork and David Lapham’s script); Gilbert Hernandez’s “The Dark Lady” (a ghost story with a delightful twist ending); and “Ghost-For-Hire,” about a ghost haunting business (Geoff Johns, writer; Jeff Lemire, artist; José Villarrubia, colorist).
The original Time Warp was a science fiction comic book anthology series published by DC Comics for five issues from 1979 to 1980, and this was the only Vertigo title that re-used the original logo. This nine-story collection opens with another blast from DC past: a Rip Hunter, Time Master story. Written by Damon Lindelof, with art by Jeff Lemire and colors by Jose Villarrubia, “R.I.P.” opens with Rip running from a dinosaur. Every time he thinks he has no escape he is visited by another version of himself offering to take his place so that he can get away in the visitor’s time sphere. Tom King and Tom Fowler (colors by Jordie Bellaire) contribute “It’s Full of Demons,” a traditional time traveler changing the past story. Nice reveal at the end. “The Grudge” (Simon Spurrier, writer; Michael Dowling, art & color) depicts a lifetime of scientific discoveries through the lens of a personal grudge match between two competing scientific geniuses.
The Dead Boy Detectives are back with “Run Ragged Part Two: Let Slip the Dogs.” Vertigo stalwart Peter Milligan wrote “She’s Not There,” with art & color by M.K. Perker. It could have been in the Ghosts anthology, as it is about a company called Your Ghost Inc. that claims to be able to generate a facsimile-ghost with all of a deceased person’s feelings and memories. Mr. Loftis thinks he is bringing back his late wife, but as the story closes the specter begins to become self-aware, which would make for quite a sequel. Matt Kindt wrote and drew “Warning Danger,” a tale about two future warriors enacting a war in the form of a duel. It’s full of the sort of detailed notes about the weaponry that he has used in other stories, like Super Spy and MIND MGMT. Closing story “The Principle” (Dan Abnett, writer; Inj Culbard, art & color) returns to the theme of time travelers trying to change the past. The twist is that it is the Protection detail’s job to prevent well-intentioned travelers from changing history–in this case Hitler’s murder–because the causal reverberations would be catastrophic.
Exceptionally high success rate for me with this one. Not a single story I didn’t like, and several that were memorable.
The original The Witching Hour was a comic book horror anthology published by DC Comics for 85 issues from 1969 to 1978. South African novelist Lauren Beukes (with artist Gerhard Human and colorist Giulia Brusco) sets “Birdie” in 2020 Cape Town. Surreal as it looks, it is based in reality. But Birdie is a witch, and she gives some gangsters answers that they can’t handle. “Mars To Stay” (Brett Lewis, writer; Cliff Chiang, artist) tells the story of a Mars colonization gone bad. There are no witches, but “people don’t need monsters.” Writer Kelly Sue DeConnick, artist Ming Doyle and colorist Jordie Bellaire contribute “Legs,” a creepy story about spiders real and more than real.
“Fellow Travelers” (Matthew Sturges, writer; Shawn McManus, artist & letters; Carlos M. Mangual, colors) reimagines Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller as defendants in an investigation of the House Un-Natural Activities Committee. It is a literal witch hunt, but between Monroe’s witchcraft and Miller’s writing they can imagine a different world. Part Three of “Run Ragged” concludes their story, and prepares the way for the then-upcoming Dead Boy Detectives monthly. These stories were reprinted in the first trade paperback collection of the series, which explains the feeling of déjà vu I had reading them. I really had read them before! “Rise” concludes the collection (Mariah Huehner, writer; Tula Lotay, art & colors) with the tale of a modern woman traveling the U.K. She takes shelter in a cave, where she becomes posseted by an ancient witch. The witch begins taking revenge on the contemporary town where she was murdered, her host resists, and things do not end well.