That song always reminds me of Cleveleys, a town not far from me which many local people like to think of as a picturesque and traditional seaside resort. I like to think of it as the arsehole of the north-west, although to be fair there's probably a lot of worse places I have yet to discover.
This is a very roundabout way of saying that I've just finished reading BPRD: Plague of Frogs, a graphic novel with strong overtones of The End of The World, Doomsday and all of that nasty stuff on the horizon. Those of you with normal social lives who do not read comics will probably recognize the character Hellboy from Guillermo del Toro's film adaptations. Well, the BPRD is sort of a spin-off comic from Hellboy. In the books, Hellboy starts off as a member of the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defence until he gets tired of the administration's interfering and strikes out on his own leaving the team to soldier on without him. Think X-files, if Mulder and Scully each had a supernatural ability of their own. The BPRD are a rag-tag bunch of misfits who investigate paranormal activities and crimes.
Plague of Frogs is an omnibus edition of the first 3 BPRD graphic novels (The Hollow Earth, The Soul of Venice & other stories and Plague of Frogs. In other words, it's a real brick of a book. Now the Hellboy series is notable for two big reasons: the intricate mixture of folklore, myths and legends to create a truly twisted world - and secondly Mike Mignola's crisp art and uncanny ability for drawing nasty monsters. BPRD plays to the strengths of its parent title and the first storyline, The Hollow Earth, is fantastic. By the time of the second volume, Mignola was hard at work on both the monthly Hellboy title and the Hollywood film adaptation. He took a risk and let other teams of writers and artists take on the BPRD for a series of short stories. As a result these tales are choppy - some brilliant, some no more than brief diversions that just serve to emphasize how strong the first story arc was.
By the last third of the book however, the BPRD have found their groove. At this point, Mignola is back writing and Guy Davis does the artwork (Dave Stewart colours the pages). The final story in the omnibus is the titular Plague of Frogs, a story that sets up plot-lines for years to come by introducing the frog-monsters. And if you feel your eyes rolling around in your head at the mention of the word "frog-monsters", you're not alone. Believe me, I was very cynical about the notion of a race of mutated frog creatures as the main baddies. I don't really associate frogs with anything scary or supernatural, but Mignola manages to make even a innocent frog in the background of a panel really unnerving. And by the time the frog-monsters appear, there's nothing funny about them at all.
Just to recap:
If there's one writer that's influenced Mignola with these stories, it's H.P. Lovecraft. Plague of Frogs is rife with cults, conspiracies and acolytes. The crazed servants of the Ancient Gods walk among us and work tirelessly to prepare the way for their arcane masters, who will awaken before we know it.
And then we're all for it.
Mignola walks the same path as Lovecraft, albeit with less casual racism. And that's a match made in