Horror and sci-fi fans in search of some fresh Halloween reading would do well to consider picking up a newly minted copy Stoker & Wells: Order of the Golden Dawn, a graphic novel that delivers some spunky humor, shuddery frissons, and moves as swiftly as a well-tooled blockbuster. It’s the first foray of Steven Peros — filmmaker, playwright, and screenwriter — into comic book yarn-spinning. Quite a debut from the writer of The Cat’s Meow, 2002’s sparkling champagne bubble of a movie directed by Peter Bogdanovich.
Peros conceived Stoker & Wells as the first volume in a trilogy, cooking up a scenario in which a 20-something H.G. Wells meets a 40-something Bram Stoker in 1894. Wells is a diminutive rascal living hand-to-mouth on the mean streets of London when he is summoned by Bram Stoker, business manager of the Lyceum Theatre, to write an original play. As the evening progresses, they attend a meeting of the Order of the Golden Dawn, a secret society dedicated to the attainment of occult knowledge.
The discovery of a time travel prototype leads them on an adventure 4,000 years into the future and inspires each to create their defining masterpieces. (Dracula for Stoker and The Time Machine for Wells.) Peros skillfully blends elements from those two classic literary works into a cohesive whole while constructing a theme about stepping into your identity. “Stoker and Wells had fears and insecurities like most of us,” Peros says. “Mental, emotional, and literal scars from their youth. The book imagines a transformative adventure for both men — which conveniently includes a time machine and vampires.” Another, less elegant title might have been: Becoming Stoker & Wells.
Beautifully hand-penciled and inked by Barry Orkin (Demon Gun), this lushly illustrated and piquantly written graphic novel is simultaneously a handsome throwback to classic comic book storytelling and a reminder of what is being done with the medium today. It features several memorable side characters: a futuristic female named Nina, a hairy beast with a conscience called Wren, and an evil recluse whose supernatural powers may remind readers of a certain famous bloodsucker.
The project was funded through two consecutive Kickstarter campaigns and features an exclusive variant cover designed by Billy Tucci (Shi, Sgt. Rock). Edited by J.C. Vaughn (Stargate Universe, Zombie Proof) and running an action-packed 94 pages, you may have to read it twice to appreciate all the clever touches and classic movie references. Apart from being a disciplined storyteller, Peros is also a proud monster kid, explaining, “In directing my artist and colorists stylistically, my references were the author’s own descriptions, but also ran the gamut from the Technicolor gothic horrors of Hammer Films to 1980’s pop-art Flash Gordon.”
The American Cinematheque will celebrate the launch of Stoker & Wells at the Egyptian Theatre on Friday, October 25. Peros and Orkin will sign copies in the lobby starting at 6:30 p.m. At 7:30 p.m., a 35mm double feature will commence, beginning with Hammer’s full-blooded 1958 classic, Horror of Dracula, starring Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. Peros and Orkin will take the stage for a brief discussion, and George Pal’s 1960 adaptation of The Time Machine will bring the evening to a decisive finish.
Egyptian Theatre, 6712 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood; Fri., Oct. 25, 6:30 p.m. (book signing) & 7:30 p.m. (double feature); Copies of Stoker & Wells will be available for $19.99. Movie tickets cost $12. (323) 466-3456, americancinemathequecalendar.com.