Shaun Lucas

“Perhaps they were inspired by Mary Shelley’s classic ‘Frankenstein’ novel. Or perhaps they were inspired by their own lunacy.”

On Sept. 21, 2022, R. L. Stine, A. L. Kaplan and Roman Titov released the first issue of the horror comic series “Stuff of Nightmares.” Known for creating the children’s horror franchise “Goosebumps,” this comic marks Stine’s first venture into creating horror for adult audiences. Issue one gives a strong start to the series, allowing Stine to delve into a more serious tone supported by gruesome, yet stylish art.

Brothers and scientists Jordan and Issac Cameron aim to create life from the dead, with their assistant Stella delivering organic materials for their experiments. As suspicion builds amongst the townspeople near their lab at White House Beach in Cape Cod, the trio must remain calm and hide their experiments from public discovery. The story itself is also told through the narration of The Nightmare Keeper, a mysterious entity who collects, in their own words, “the bizarre, the ugly, and the strange.”

Given the issue acts as a beginning chapter to the story, there is little I can discuss of the 25-page release without spoilers. Fortunately, this should imply that the story gets exciting from the very beginning. As someone who has read “Goosebumps” books, it is good to see Stine’s fantastic pacing with simple, yet effective storytelling remains with his transition to adult work.

Also within the brief issue, the characters’ personalities get established through perfectly. Issac seems as if he will be the anchor throughout the entire story in terms of being the most interesting of the main trio, but also in terms of his effect on the plot. Issac also pays homage to classic “mad scientist” characters throughout the comic. 

Kaplan’s art is great, with pretty clean linework and consistent character modeling throughout. While there were certainly exemplary panels that stuck with me after reading, no piece of the comic felt cheaply illustrated. I also liked how the grounded human characters contrasted with the revolting experiment designs without breaking cohesion in the style.

Perhaps what made Kaplan’s art even more fantastic was Titov’s coloring. I adored the color schemes, and each panel brings the reader’s attention to the colors without being overwhelming. Some truly phenomenal panels are simple in linework, yet perfectly show motion and tone through coloration and shading. The color schemes rotating based on setting felt natural and added depth to the comic overall.

While their inclusion seems as if it will be limited to the beginning and end of each chapter, The Nightmare Keepers’ monologues were my favorite aspect to the comic’s writing. I feel narrators work well in horror comics, allowing for the author’s voice to shine and also to present context without compromising character dialogue.

Writing was fine, albeit nothing too revolutionary. Stine’s works usually involve taking a standard horror scenario or monster and creating an entertaining and easy-to-consume story. Despite writing for adult audiences, likely a good bit of them being readers and/or viewers of Stine’s work, Stine seems to be remaining conservative in storytelling for now. I do have a hunch that plot twists are coming, especially given how much happens in the first issue.

I look forward to seeing more of The Nightmare Keeper and his collection. Their design is only displayed in shadows, but I like what the creators are hinting at so far.

“Stuff of Nightmares” starts strongly, and I am excited to pick up the second issue on Oct. 26, 2022. The first issue shows the authors will not shy away from graphic imagery and that every moment counts. If you are curious what your favorite scary storyteller from your childhood is up to, stop by your local comic store and check out the first chapter of a promising tale.

“Stuff of Nightmares” #1 gets an 8.5/10.