What with the end of 2008 just a couple hours away, I thought I’d end the year with a glimpse of a comic of yesteryear, The Call of Whatever. As the name suggests, TCOW is an homage comic based in what’s often referred to as the Cthulhu Mythos, and was a part of the group called “Maritza’s Minions” due to the fact the comic’s creators, Mark and Elizabeth Sherry, were fans of Maritza Campos’s surreal comic College Roomies from Hell (back before CRfH descended into mediocrity and a storyline that failed to jump the shark… in a bad way). Like most of the Minions, the Sherrys comic ran for several years before finally coming to an end.
What made TCOW stand out (outside of its penciled artwork and penciled shading, which was consistent throughout most of the comic’s run) was the fact that the Sherrys took the traditionally horrific aspect of Lovecraftian horror and turned it into a wry and amusing comedy. The main character, Francis Black, found the Necronomicon to be dull and boring, and sent it to his uncle (who naturally enough went promptly insane upon reading the tome). In tracking down the tome after his uncle’s institutionalization, Francis encounters a pair of Star-Spawn of Cthulhu, alien spawn that have octopi heads (complete with tentacles) and (in the case of Phragdrk, or Freddie as he prefers to be called) a wry sense of humor.
The story takes several amusing turns, including Francis being transferred to Tech Support at his old job because a cultist (Greg, who was head of Human Resources where he worked) wanted the Necronomicon for himself and eventually getting the bright idea of creating a “tech support” service for cultists. The story expanded to include stories of some of the cultists (Bob and Joe), several antagonists (including the church of Arkham and a rather intense young lady named Eve who is stalking Joe, though primarily because she’s crushing on him), and even a convoluted story where Nyarlathotep ends up quitting his post as a messenger of the Outer Gods.
Unfortunately, TCOW lasted only around three years. While it accumulated over 300 strips and participated in one crossover (and gathered its fair share of filler comics from outside contributors), a combination of insufficient preparation of the script by Mark, and Elizabeth’s growing dissatisfaction with drawing the comic resulted in the Sherrys ending the strip partway through its run. Fortunately, unlike so many other comics that came to a premature end, TCOW actually managed to wrap up many of its plotlines. The ten-page epilogue (giving a “where are they now?” aspect to the comic’s end) revealed surprises that weren’t even hinted at in the storyline (such as the fact Greg and Eve were siblings). This is a shame, and it also emphasizes my belief that most comics should be mapped out ahead of time.
Given a script and more time to work on the strip, TCOW’s artist may have remained longer, and perhaps not grown dissatisfied with the comic. Likewise, by mapping out the story more, Mark Sherry might have been able to better expand several elements of the story that were only revealed at the end. Despite these issues, TCOW remains a fun comic to read, especially for fans of the Cthulhu mythos who possess a sense of humor and can accept it for the lighthearted glimpse into a genre often devoted to psychological horror.