The covers and several pages from Wasteland #1 and #2 (DC Comics, 1987) by Close, Ostrander, Freeman, Lloyd, Messner-Loebs, Simpson, Kinderzierski, Craddock, Muns, and Gold.

Here’s another proto-Vertigo book from late 80s DC. The most notable thing about this title the involvement of Del Close, a legendary and troubled genius who worked with Chicago’s Second City theater and mentored a seemingly endless list of performers, from early SNL cast members on up through the founders of the Upright Citizens Brigade. Evidently in Chicago, there was some overlap between the worlds of comic books and improv in the 80s, because Close befriended John Ostrander and editor Mike Gold. Gold pitched a new horror anthology to DC, and in order to set it apart from the stodgier titles of the past, he brought on Close and Ostrander, who provide three blackly comic short stories per issue. The book also has an interesting quartet of artists in George Freeman, David Lloyd, William-Messner Loebs, and Don Simpson. The variety of styles lend the book a sense of unpredictability and help to reinforce the juxtaposition of comedy and horror.

The pervasively dark, weird humor sets this book apart from other similar titles I’ve read. The first page of the third story in issue #2 is a great example of this. We get this banal visual joke that one character waaay overreacts to, and this gag is an almost throwaway intro to a really serious story about a kid who may be in danger from his werewolf step-dad.  These tonal shifts keep you off balance as you read. The other unique element here is the recurring ‘autobiographical’ Del Close segment. The first book features a story with Del hallucinating in the sewer, and the second sees him working in a traveling magic freak show. These are perhaps a bit self-indulgent and were my least favorites from each issue. I really liked the second story in each. In issue #1, it’s a biting commentary on yuppie courtship, and in issue #2, we get a fun tale about the time Shirley MacLean accidentally switched places with Genghis Khan.

Overall, this is an engaging, edgy anthology title, worth a look for horror fans and comedy geeks alike. The series lasted a respectable 18 issues. I have four more to read, but I’ll be keeping my eye out for the rest of  the run.