My local library (okay, local bookmobile) had a copy of the first Alan Moore Swamp Thing trade, and by Gord that thing haunted my tiny dreams - you want to know the real reason that the New Guardians didn't work? It's because one of their members was an insane mass-murdering monster, that's why - but the stand-out performance in the field of Freaking Out Wee Johnathan was the three-part tale of the Monkey King.
For those of you not familiar with the comic in question, well, that's just sad, as this is basically exactly what a shared-universe horror comic should be. In brief, it's the tale of a shape-changing monkey demon that fears on fear and terrorizes the inmates of a home for traumatized children. It's an utterly loathsome thing, and that is compounded by the fact that it's a little bit adorable. And then quadrupled by the twisted tenderness that it treats the boy that it has adopted as its master with. And also it ends up fighting Swamp Thing and the Demon, which is one of the best ever team-ups.
And Alan Moore really delivers on the "takes the form of your worst fear" front. No giant snakes or whatever here, oh no. This thing comes at you as the existential fear of cancer, homeboy. I cannot express how much better that is than the usual treatment of the fear power - I recall reading a book where someone's greatest fear was a villain who beat them up once, which is maybe valid, but sure as hell didn't scare the crap out of me while I read about it. Or for the next ten years, for that matter.
So yeah, the Monkey king was terrifying. Case closed. I read these books again recently and was almost as freaked out by the thing as back in the day. Thing is, I read a heck of a lot of books in between, so am in a position to recognize several other ways in which this story is awesome:
1. The secret origin of the Monkey King
Turns out that Kirby did it:
Yup, the Monkey King turns out to actually be something called the Kamera that Jack Kirby came up with in the original run of The Demon. And let me tell you: twice as adorable; almost as frightening.
2. Speaking of the Demon...
As I said, the Demon gets involved in this story, and he's terrific. Even though the basic character design involves a brutal, beastlike head, I think that this is one of the most effectively inhuman versions of him that I've ever encountered. Plus Alan Moore writes rhyming dialogue that works.
3. Oh god, this.
This scene - in which longtime supporting cast member Matt Cable has been in a devastating drunken car crash and gets a visit from a horrible fly - freaked me the hell out in my youth, even though I had no idea what was going on. Since then, I've come into some knowledge, and knowing doesn't help. If anything, it makes it worse. Don't swallow your uncle-in-law, Matt. You'll only end up as a raven.
4. Best takedown ever.
The Demon Etrigan shows everyone just how to take care of a fear-powered demon monkey.
And that's why the Kamera will not be making any more appearances. Hey, if you have to go out...