Saturday, June 9, 2012

If it ain't broke...

...then don't fuck it up!!

Be it far beyond me to rant on this blog without context. The point of this project, in its purest form, is for me to clear away toys. Occasionally, I'll refer to some oddity from the past that I don't intend to get rid of, or reminisce on something with fondness.

But today's entry is entirely about me being pissed off that someone decided to fuck with my childhood.

I have briefly before alluded to the art of Stephen Gammell, whose work was most famously on display in Alvin Schwartz' 'Scary Stories' series of books. Effectively, these images; surreal, morbid and hideous, are the most impactful part of these books. They really speak to the 'nightmare' aspect in all of the stories; stories that, in words alone, can sometimes pass for mild, even innocuous.

For thirty years, these books terrorised children, though in my experience, it was in a good way, a way that made me shudder. But apparently, these things have been victim to widespread bans, not simply for the violence found in the tales themselves, but predominantly, because Gammell produced some really creepy shit.

And as of last year, they finally did it. They changed the artwork. Those motherfuckers.

The books were re-released with illustrations by Brett Helquist, These new pictures are, in my opinion, simple, blasé, and in no way memorable. I don't intend for this to be a vindictive snarl at Helquist, because for crying out loud, he had to tone things down to bring the books back to 'acceptable standards', didn't he?

My sister only owned the third book, so in order to capture the disappearing collection in their original glory, I ordered the box set on eBay, which, according to the picture in the listing, contained the art of Stephen Gammell.

Today it arrived, and lo and behold, I was misled. Apparently, eBay has a catalogue that most book images are drawn from, and the listing (and all other eBay listings that showed the original cover) has since been updated.

And I'm fucking upset. (Though for the record, the seller offered a full refund, and the listing contained a disclaimer stating that contact should be made to ensure the accuracy of the third-party imagery. So really, it's more my fault for careless online shopping than anything else.)

I know, I shouldn't be too pedantic about it; the point of a book of scary stories is to read the scary stories, but to me, Alvin Schwartz and Stephen Gammell go hand-in-hand. Without one, the other is incomplete.

For example, in the third book, there is a story titled 'The Dream'. In it, a woman is intending to move to a new town, but has a bizarre nightmare where she is in an unusual room that she does not recognise. A pale woman approaches her, warning her that she has arrived at an evil place, and must flee at once. In response to this dream, she moves to a different town instead, and in a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy, ends up in that very room from her dream. The pale woman confronts her, and she leaves at once.

Sure, it's a little eerie, but nothing bad happened to her. We need to see something that helps feed us her fear: to share with us that dread, that something wicked is transpiring here.

Here are the accompanying images to The Dream. On the left, Gammell's original illustration. On the right, Helquist's updated piece.

As you can see, there's no comparison, because Helquist isn't even attempting to emulate what Gammell did. And like I said, it's not like he should have, because that would have defeated the purpose of updating the illustrations in the first place. Helquist's interpretation isn't necessarily inferior. It's just different. And that's not what I want.

It's Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles all over again, only this time, it has affected the world. Have you ever had a piece of your childhood changed beyond your will? And has it gotten you as riled up as this has, or am I just being a whiny little bitch?


  1. The art was almost the best part of the scary story books ...really sad that they changed it.Iv had lots of my childhood memory's defaced by "retooling" for a newer generation.

  2. I hate when people go a change things like this and ruin the way these should be viewed. It's terrible to me in my opinion.

  3. I couldn't believe it when I heard about this. I saw the pictures, they are laughable...You're following up "the red spot", "somebody fell from aloft" and "Harold" with THIS stuff??? They should change the title to "Somewhat unsettling stories to tell in a well lit room"

    God forbid our fragile children get scared...I bet they couldn't even handle the Real Ghostbusters Boogie Man or Victor episodes...can you imagine if they aired "the Inhumanoids" today?

  4. haha Somewhat unsettling stories to tell in a well lit room.You sir may have just stumbled on to the next chart topping book idea.