Comic book series, probably best described as a fantasy-noir-horror crime pulp, created by artist Dan Brereton. The original series debuted in 1994 and was published as part of Malibu Comics' Bravura imprint. It has jumped from one publisher to another over the years -- Dark Horse Comics, Oni Press, Image Comics, even one story in a supplement for Green Ronin Publishing's "Mutants & Masterminds" roleplaying game.
The series is set in Pacific City, California, a sleepy little town which is nevertheless home to organized crime, alien invaders, and far too many monsters.
There are quite a few characters to get to know. Let's meet our cast.
- Doc Horror - Dr. Nicodemus Horror is a scientist and mafia enforcer. And he's also from a parallel world called the Black Planet. When it was over-run by the monstrous cthulhoid aliens called the Crim, he barely escaped to our world with his daughter Eve. Since arriving here, he's begun to suffer from a mysterious condition for which he needs regular injections of a medicine he developed. If he goes without it for too long, he starts to change into... something else.
- Halloween Girl - Evening Horror is Doc's daughter. She starts the series as a fairly young pre-teen and grows into her mid-teenage years as the stories progress. She carries a plastic pumpkin-shaped trick-or-treat bucket filled with toys -- toys that have been possessed by ghosts! They can grow to giant size when Eve is threatened. She seems relatively normal, except for hanging out with monsters, being unusually calm about everything, and getting into way too much trouble.
- Polychrome - A wraith, her full name unknown and a past as a criminal prior to her death hinted at, Polychrome has a number of ghostly abilities, including illusion-casting and clairvoyance. She acts as a maternal figure for most of Doc's gang, but her strict pacifism means she avoids tagging along with the crew when serious gunplay is expected.
- Firelion - Phestus Gold used to be a mildly pyrokinetic cop who accidentally made himself spontaneously combust. What was left of his body was acquired by by the shadowy Narn K Corporation -- which has connections with the otherworldly Crim -- and his brain was transplanted into a fireproof synthetic body. He and his fellow "Burners" were about to be killed by Narn K when he was rescued by Doc Horror. He prefers to go into battle completely on fire and wielding a pair of katana swords.
- Starfish - Doc once discovered some sort of partially-human tadpole while traveling in Europe. He brought it home and plunked it into a salt-water tank, where it eventually grew into an amphibian humanoid female. Starfish is an aggressive and enthusiastic gunfighter with a hot-and-cold relationship with the Raccoon. She gets on much better with Firelion, but being around him too much tends to dry out her skin much too quickly.
- Raccoon - His real name is Procyon Cleanhands, which is pretty much the best name in the world. He's a human-raccoon hybrid, an escapee from the secret Narn K lab called the Monster Shop. Nowadays, he's a gangster. He's worked freelance and as a hired gun for the Zampa crime family, but he mostly runs with Doc's crew, because they've rescued him more than once from Narn K. He still likes to act like he's an independent, but there are benefits to running with a gang full of freaks who want to keep you alive instead of killing you.
- Komodo - He's a reptile-human hybrid manufactured by Narn K. His first attempt to escape from the corporation failed, and as punishment, his wings were cut off. His second attempt almost failed, too, but he was rescued by the Gunwitch and brought to meet Doc's gang. He may be one of the strongest members of Doc's crew, but he's basically a teenager, so he's sometimes called the Dragon Boy. He's idealistic, doesn't much enjoy fighting, and sometimes gets frightened by stuff that a great big lizard monster shouldn't be afraid of.
- The Gunwitch - I don't even know what's up with this guy. He's basically a mute zombie gunslinger. Doc made him, and he only listens to Doc and Eve, but he'll generally do what the rest of the gang want him to. He's a zombie with a stitched-shut mouth wearing Western duds with a bandolier and sheriff's star. He wears a great big witch's hat with a bat stuck on the crown and a bunch of toy pumpkins dangling from the brim. And the primary duty of this badass taciturn undead gunslinger with perfect aim who's almost impossible to destroy? He's Eve's babysitter. No foolin', man.
The stories are a fun mix of pulp crime and superhero horror, with Doc's crew taking on everyone from rival gangsters to vampires, synthetic hybrids, robot assassins, mad scientists, undead serial killers, the inhuman Crim, the soul-stealing undersea Skerrll, and more.
But what really makes "Nocturnals" worth tracking down and reading is Dan Brereton's wonderful artwork. The comics are all hand-painted, and his characters ride the line between pulp stereotypes and horror archetypes. His men are strong-jawed, unshaven (Even Komodo appears to have five-o'clock shadow), and brooding. His women are curvaceous with lush lips -- Starfish even more so, what with those bizarrely-sensual catfish lips -- and like the men, intensely brooding. Eve is the exception, of course, being generally somewhere between 11 and 15 over the course of the series, but if she ages to her 20s, I expect her to be illustrated the same way. Everyone in the cast smolders -- especially Firelion, because he's on fire.
Is it scary? Sometimes it's intense and suspenseful, but much of the emphasis is on pulp action and attitude. But it definitely comes across as Brereton's tribute to the fun of Halloween. One of the characters, after all, is named Halloween Girl, one is a zombie wearing a witch hat, and the rest of the cast are monsters of one sort or another. And they all fight other monsters all the time. Some of Brereton's painted illustrations of Doc's crew look like something you could hang on the door to let trick-or-treaters know you still have candy left -- and to let weary parents know they can come inside for a quick shot of bourbon and a box full of clips for their guns.
Looking to read 'em? You may have to shell out some cash. The series has been collected in a couple nice hardcovers, but they can be a shade pricey. But if you want to read some good Halloween crime pulps, "Nocturnals" is the best game in town.
Research: Nocturnals: A Midnight Companion; Dan Brereton with T.S. Luikart, Chris Pramas, and Steve Kenson; Green Ronin Publishing; 2004.