Hasslein Blog: July 2015


Hasslein Blog

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Longbox Legerdemain: Detective Comics #427

By Matthew Sunrich

"Together we've taught all the vendors of violence a bitter lesson."

Let's take a minute to discuss everyone's favorite topic: automatonophobia.

For those of you unfamiliar with term, it refers to the fear of "anything that falsely represents a sentient being," in the words of whoever wrote the article on Wikipedia. This includes dolls, mannequins, androids/gynoids, statues, puppets, scarecrows, or any other sort of effigy.

It's evidently a very common thing, and we've seen the idea played around with in countless books, films, television programs, and, of course, amusement- and theme-park rides.

When I was a kid, Six Flags over Georgia was a frequent familial diversion, and back then one of the attractions was a walk-through haunted house. All of the monsters were animatronic, and even though my young mind was fully aware of this, they always made me nervous, and I gave them wide berth. Later on, the park opened a ballyhooed "dark ride" called "Monster Plantation" (eventually renamed "Monster Mansion" for obvious reasons), in which you were propelled through the eponymous structure in little boats, and even though the creatures therein were decidedly cartoonish, they still filled me with dread.

Even though I found these sorts of rides frightening, I partook of every one I came across when we visited a fair or a new vacation destination. Though not a ride, one thing that sticks out in my mind was a shooting gallery in an arcade in Pigeon Forge, TN, featuring a seated Frankenstein's Monster that stood up and advanced toward you if you hit the target and a werewolf that would similarly emerge from behind a brick wall. (I have to mention the Ripley's Believe It or Not! Museum in nearby Gatlinburg, which was, in many respects, just as unsettling as a haunted house. I say "was" because the entire block on which it was situated caught fire at some point; they rebuilt it, but, having lost all of its irreplaceable artifacts and exhibits, it just wasn't the same.)

By the time R. L. Stine's Goosebumps series came along, I had passed the age of its intended demographic, but I was aware of several titles that involved a killer ventriloquist dummy.

An episode of The X-Files, "Chinga," written by Stephen King, centers around a series of deaths caused by an evil doll.

Who can forget that messed-up scene with the clown doll in Poltergeist? (Of course, it also taps into another increasingly common fear, coulrophobia, i.e., fear of clowns, so you get two scares for the price of one there.)

And then, of course, there's Child's Play (the first one, anyway), which I remember causing quite a stir upon its release.

There's just something undeniably creepy about something that looks or behaves like a person yet isn't one.

The lead story in Detective Comics #427 (1972), "A Small Case of Murder," written by Frank Robbins and illustrated by the resplendent Bronze-Age team of Irv Novick and Dick Giordano, is not recommended reading for automatonophobes, unless they also happen to be masochists.


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Saturday, July 4, 2015

Happy Red, White and Blue From Hasslein Books