Recap #243: All Hallow’s Eve by Mitchell Perkins, John B. Lang, and Vickie Williams
Title: All Hallow’s Eve a.k.a. “Mighty Morphin’ Pumpkin Rangers”
Writer: Mitchell Perkins
Artist: John B. Lang
Letterer: Vickie Williams (R.I.P.)
Nesbitt’s Abbey towered over the tiny village of Wicklow, Ireland. Isolated, the abbey was occupied by a group of farming monks.
For years the villagers of Wicklow felt safe as they slumbered off to sleep — watching the monks’ late-night candles as they kept their nocturnal vigil over their precious books and scrolls.
Then, on a fog-shrouded night, something foul and nasty entered the abbey. One by one the old monks were driven from Nesbitt’s Abbey.
Now Nesbitt’s Abbey is haunted by Sam O’Hain and his evil hobgoblins. Will the evil goblins ever be driven from the old abbey?
John the McCormley children: Lauren, Trey, Ashley, and Rachel as they are told the story of the very first Jack O’lantern.
It’s a tale for…
All hallow’s eve.
Mainstream comics have been pretty awful lately. I still haven’t been able to reach my therapist to discuss how badly I reacted to DC’s “Heroes in Crisis” and Marvel’s currently a bunch of assholes for firing Chuck Wendig because he wasn’t “Civil” to those Comicsgate morons. So I felt like focusing on some obscure and independent stuff to try and take my mind off things.
The above was written last year when I started this draft and, honestly, things haven’t changed that much so I stand by my previous statements.
“All Hallow’s Eve” is another obscure gem I discovered back in the 2000s, created by Forest Light Productions through Innovation Comics. Innovation was a company that did a lot of interesting stuff like adaptations of Anne Rice’s books, the Child’s Play movies, comic tie-ins for Quantum Leap and Lost in Space, and they even did the phenomenal “Nightmares on Elm Street” miniseries. It was a six issue comic that bridged the gap between “The Dream Child” and “Freddy’s Dead.” That’s not even mentioning the gorgeous graphic novel they did of “Phantom of the Opera.”
When I purchased this, I had no idea what it was going to be about. I couldn’t find any information about the plot or any scans of the interior pages. Nothing! All I had to go on was the name and cover. This has a very 1980s animated movie vibe to it and offers a rather unique take on the jack o’lantern myth. It feels like the sort of thing Don Bluth would’ve worked on, of course I’m not an expert on his work.
I’ve tried to find out more about this graphic novel, but there’s virtually no information anywhere. I got in contact with former Innovation president, David Campiti, to see if he could direct me to the creative team. Unfortunately he said he lost touch with Mitchell Perkins and John Lang, and poor Vickie Williams died a few years ago. So once again it’s down to me to tell the world about stories like this, because God knows no one else will.
Wicklow Island, Ireland
All Hallow’s Eve, 1902
Trey doesn’t understand why his parents are making him and his siblings spend the night at his grandmother’s cottage. While watching from the front window as his parents leave, Trey’s asked by his grandmother, Maureen, to make sure the door’s bolted. One of Trey’s sisters mentions tonight is All Hallow’s Eve, the night when ghosts try to steal a place by the fire, and asks if Maureen has ever seen a ghost.
Maureen recalls many years ago, when she was a little girl, she was visited by the ghost of her Great Uncle Hector. Uncle Hector knew all about this night, the night when hobgoblins and banshees make a horrible racket. On that night Maureen heard the horrible banshee wails outside her home when her uncle’s spirit appeared. He mentioned how the countryside was practically littered with those awful creatures but there were no fires to keep them away, even at Nesbitt’s Abbey. Hector explained they needed to carve a Jack O’Lantern to ward off the monsters.
At the time, Maureen didn’t know what Hector was talking about. He carefully taught her how to take a large pumpkin, hollow it out, and carve it a dreadful face to light with a candle. Hector added his time on the other side of this world taught him the only thing that scares goblins and ghouls is a face more awful than their own. He learned of the Jack O’Lantern from the mousefolk who live hidden in the woods.
Just as the goblins were about to get into the house, Hector advised Maureen to quickly light the candle to complete their lantern. He threw the orange gourd out into the open night to banish the creeping things.
Maureen’s immediately asked question by her grandchildren, like what a Jack O’Lantern is and who are the mousefolk? She starts off by helping the kids carve a lantern to place on the windowsill. Once they have their nighttime sentry to guard the house, Maureen tells the kids about the first Jack O’Lantern and how the mousefolk of Hidden Hedge banished an evil man named Sam O’Hain.
Many, many years ago, the monks of Nesbitt’s Abbey were driven away by Sam O’Hain. O’Hain was a farmer who didn’t have the good sense to stay dead when it was his time. He and his hobgoblin cronies invaded the Abbey through an old pit in the catacombs. They chased the monks off and saturated the once holy building with their greed and neglect.
O’Hain’s top lackey, a goblin called Rickety Thomm, heard stories about the mousefolk and their bountiful pumpkin crops. Thomm and some others got lucky and managed to steal a few pumpkins one night. After devouring the innards, the goblins were shocked when they saw how the pumpkin seeds turned to gold when roasted in a fire! They quickly reported this discovery to O’Hain, who decided he had to find out where the mice were keeping the rest of the pumpkins.
The goblins spent many nights trying to find the pumpkins, but the mice of Hidden Hedge were clever enough to keep them properly concealed in their burrow homes. Unfortunately, their luck changed the night of the Harvest Ball. The young Applethorn siblings, Serena, Tad, and Milo, were telling ghost stories by campfire. The three mice had gone deeper in the woods than they ever traveled before. Tad didn’t believe what the elders said about Sam O’Hain, but Serena and Milo felt they should return home. After all, the adults have said awful things about O’Hain. Like he was so old he forgot to die!
Tad boasted he was sick of living in fear. He wanted to be more like Philo Rattigan, who lived in his own burrow away from the mice community. Milo reminded Tad that Philo’s a rat, not a mouse, when some of O’Hain’s goblins ambushed them! Serena was unable to escape as Tad and Milo scrambled into the briar patch. Using their tails to trip the goblins, the brothers were just barely able to scamper into one of Philo’s burrows.
Rickety Thomm got a hold of Serena and demanded she reveal another entrance to the burrow. O’Hain appeared and threatened Thomm to get answers if he knew what was good for him. Of course, there are other ways to get answers…
O’Hain ordered little Fleef to terrify Milo and Tad out of the hole. Fleef swore to do his best, which makes sense since his life literally depends on it.
The little goblin starts to twist and turn, transforming into a ball of light before taking on a more horrifying visage. Fleef even snaps off one of his burning ribs to light the way.
The demonic looking Fleef made his way through the burrow after Tad and Milo, only to come across a small wooden door. Too bad for Fleef the door was blocked and wouldn’t budge, which meant he had to face O’Hain’s wrath. As Fleef’s confidence dwindled, his body reverted to its previous state.
O’Hain’s not exactly thrilled Fleef allowed the mice to escape, but hey, they should still be in the tunnel so it’s not all bad. Fleef, however, has outlived his usefulness. O’Hain spits on the little bugger, and the rest of the hobgoblins watch in horror as Fleef melts in a puddle of acidic ooze. Leaving the puddle that used to be Fleef behind, O’Hain beckons his horde to take Serena with them.
While all this was going on, deep in the forest, the mice of Hidden Hedge were holding their Harvest Ball and celebrating such a bountiful crop. They played games, they told ghost stories, they sang and danced and played music, and they thanked the forest for its protection against the hobgoblins. Too bad old Philo Rattigan had to spoil the party.
The mice were shocked to see Philo with Tad and Milo, asking what an old scoundrel like him could want with their community. Tad and Milo quickly tell everyone that Serena was kidnapped and Philo got them to safety, Philo explaining she’s been captured by O’Hain’s goblins. The Vicar apologizes for assuming Philo was causing trouble as Philo assures the mice the goblins didn’t follow them and thus Hidden Hedge remains safe. However, the mice are horrified to learn Serena’s already in Nesbitt’s Abbey. But don’t worry, Philo knows what to do…
Philo has the Vicar of Hidden Hedge as well as Thaddeus Applethorne (the mice kids’ uncle) meet at Philo’s burrow outside Hidden Hedge. He doesn’t appreciate their mighty airs about how they’ve come in “Good faith,” how often they’ve looked down on his ways since he’s a rat. Philo reveals his burrow has a tunnel leading directly to the catacombs of Nesbitt’s Abbey. Thanks to it, he’s been able to spy on the hobgoblins and has learned quite a few things about the awful Sam O’Hain.
O’Hain is terrified of something, some creature he calls the Jack O’Lantern. It’s a creature with flaming eyes and a hideous grin. Philo knows how they can create such a monster, using the very pumpkins O’Hain covets so much and it’s going to require the mice of Hidden Hedge to show some backbone for once.
Under Philo’s instructions, the mice band together and start building large, wooden contraptions topped with candles. The devices don’t seem frightening, until Philo takes a knife to one of their pumpkins and explains they aren’t done.
A short while later, Philo prepares to venture into Nesbitt’s Abbey. He has to map the catacombs in order to discover where the goblins are keeping Serena in the Abbey. Without the directions, the plan won’t work. Philo won’t let the Vicar and Thaddeus join him since they need to make sure the mice finish constructing the rest of the Jack O’Lanterns.
Philo manages to get inside the lower catacombs of the Abbey, inside a hall that looks like it was once used as a resting place for the monks. He wonders if these might be the last ones who tried to fight O’Hain and the goblins off, when a strange light appears and starts to take shape! Before Philo’s eyes, the ghost of one Father Patrick has materialized. Philo’s initially wary of this specter even as Patrick assures the rat he won’t harm him. According to Father Patrick, there are two kinds of ghosts: the sad and the evil. Patrick is one of the former, while O’Hain is of the latter.
Patrick discusses how O’Hain first appeared within Nesbitt’s Abbey, him and his goblin lackeys. The monks should’ve fought them off when they first appeared, but they were too weak and scared. Now they’re all dead, and Patrick’s a miserable wretch of a ghost. Philo thinks he’s being a bit melodramatic.
Anyway, Philo reveals why he’s searching the catacombs and asks what Patrick knows of Sam O’Hain. Patrick recalls what an awful man O’Hain was before he died, a sadistic creep who liked to hunt and torture the small animals in the forests. His horribly rotted teeth made O’Hain especially foul. Some villagers even think O’Hain wasn’t fully dead when they buried him, having crawled his way out of the underworld with the stupidest of hobgoblins. Patrick even shows Philo the opening to the pit where O’Hain’s group invaded.
Philo’s intrigued by Patrick calling O’Hain’s lackeys “The stupid ones.” Patrick adds the goblins who work for O’Hain do so because they’re too stupid and frightened to question his orders. Those who dwell below are far more crueler and far less likely to ever answer to the likes of Sam O’Hain. Philo proposes a Jack O’Lantern might work, surprising Patrick as Philo reveals how O’Hain’s goblins talk of such a creature. However, the glowing mists at the bottom of the pit are starting to take corporeal form, so Philo suggests they maybe continue this discussion elsewhere…
High up in O’Hain’s tower room, the grotesque wraith has poor Serena trapped in a cage. O’Hain won’t let up about those stupid pumpkins, trying to convince the mouse girl it’s in her best interests to reveal where the mice keep their gourds. He promises Serena they don’t really want to hurt her, but O’Hain’s patience is wearing thin and he says if Serena won’t talk by the time his hourglass runs out he’ll get more… persuasive.
Patrick guides Philo through the twists and turns, the nooks and crannies in the catacombs until they reach the door into the Abbey proper. Philo has to go alone, because Patrick’s spirit is bound to the catacombs themselves and thus he can’t cross the threshold.
Philo finds himself up against a single goblin guard, demanding to know why he’s in “O’Hain’s” Abbey. The guard jumps to arms when Philo pulls out a single golden pumpkin seed, declaring he’s a messenger for the mice of Hidden Hedge. Entranced by the shiny, the goblin listens as Philo bullshits about the mice offering an exchange of seeds for Serena’s safety. That is, the guard DOES know where Serena is, right?
The guard reveals where O’Hain’s tower room is and keeps demanding the gold seed, but Philo has more questions. Like how’s he supposed to know Serena’s REALLY in that room? Philo’s not gonna hand over his only bargaining chip so easily! The guard clearly doesn’t want to disturb O’Hain while he’s asleep; O’Hain’s been having nightmares for days about a horrible creature with orange skin.
No not THAT horrible creature.
O’Hain’s been in an especially foul mood from the lack of sleep, so the guard has no desire to wake him up. Having heard what he wanted, Philo punches the guard in the nose and sends him barreling down the long, long, LONG flights of stairs.
Philo sneaks into the dark, cluttered room and finds Serena suspended in the cage and scared out of her mind. She pleads not to hear any other scary stories when Philo assures her he’s come to help. Serena reveals O’Hain has the key around his neck and begs Philo not to disturb the ghoul. While he’s awake, he keeps telling Serena horrible stories about a creature that wants to drag him down into the Earth itself. Philo promises Serena the Jack O’Lantern will be able to help and advises her to cover her ears for this next part.
Approaching the sleeping O’Hain, Philo starts whispering to him to give the fiend an unpleasant night’s sleep.
In his slumber, O’Hain is trying to find sanctuary but there are too many bonfires. Too many lights. Philo works with this telling O’Hain none of those fires will provide HIM with any shelter, especially because you-know-who is close by. O’Hain’s nightmare has taken the form of a cemetery under a scarlet colored sky. The longer O’Hain’s on the ground, the more likely he’s doomed. But wait! A stranger up ahead. Maybe he knows the way to safety!
O’Hain asks the hooded stranger for the path home, but the stranger asks why O’Hain’s in such a hurry to leave sacred ground? All around him, O’Hain is being tied up by vines as large pumpkin plants sprout from the dirt and surround him. The plants take on human faces, mocking him for not realizing the stranger’s an old friend. O’Hain struggles as the Jack O’Lantern removes its hood to properly greet the miserable wretch. Jack, as he prefers to be called, proposes a test of wills between them.
Naturally, O’Hain proves to be a joke and Jack quickly overpowers him. Jack berates the former farmer as O’Hain is dragged beneath the ground by the vines and pumpkins, saying he belongs in the dark, dank places. The creatures cheer and hiss as they pull O’Hain below. O’Hain only just manages to poke his head out of the ground when he finally wakes up and grabs Philo!
Philo isn’t scared, asking if O’Hain’s so terrified of the Jack O’Lantern because it knows O’Hain’s secrets. The wretched man claims he has no secrets, but is duly interested in the secrets of Hidden Hedge and the gold. With Philo and Serena at his disposal, O’Hain orders Rickety Thomm and the goblins to summon his coach for a late night ride.
At the entrance to the Abbey, a ghostly carriage pulled by two skeletal horses appears out of nothing. O’Hain drags the resistant Philo and Serena into the coach with a reluctant Thomm. The spectral vehicle is ordered to fly above the forest treeline, much to the shock of Philo and Serena. O’Hain threatens to dangle Serena out of the carriage and have her dragged through the brambles and branches, tearing her apart, unless Philo talks. The driver is told to lower the coach near a suitably thick cluster of brambles when Philo’s finally had enough of O’Hain’s threats.
Unfortunately for most, the back wheel of the coach hits a branch and instead Philo is thrown out! O’Hain settles to drag the rat instead to make Serena talk, but Philo mocks O’Hain all the way. Even as Philo is steadily torn up by the sharp, jagged branches, he swears that O’Hain will forever be haunted by the Jack O’Lantern.
Down below, the mice of Hidden Hedge can only watch in terror as Philo’s cut up until the rope snaps and he plummets to the forest floor! Broken and bleeding, Philo uses the last of his strength to give the Vicar the map of the catacombs and urges them to complete the Jack O’Lanterns to stop O’Hain.
Days after Philo’s death, O’Hain’s growing more and more angry with Serena’s lack of cooperation. However, O’Hain reveals he’s worried less about gold and more about his nightmares. He’s barely slept and now fears there are things in the forest and asks Thomm if the goblins have seen anything. Thomm at this point wishes to himself that O’Hain would fucking sleep because he won’t shut up!
Thomm tells O’Hain the others have seen nothing, only he picked the worst possible time to mention it since at that moment something IS in the forest. A whole bunch of somethings heading straight for the Abbey!
Three great Jack O’Lanterns with horrific, glowing faces and massive wooden bodies are marching towards Nesbitt’s Abbey demanding O’Hain show himself! The Jack O’Lanterns burst through the doors, O’Hain and the goblins not realizing these creatures are being controlled by the mice.
O’Hain cowers in fear and is herded into the catacombs, not knowing the mouse Vicar is piloting a Jack O’Lantern entering through the tunnels mapped by Philo. The Jack O’Lanterns corner O’Hain as he pathetically begs for mercy. They ask if he showed any mercy to Philo Rattigan?
O’Hain shouts he won’t be thrown back into the pit, but he has no room to argue as the Jack O’Lanterns throw him in!
The rest of the goblins and Rickety Thomm clear out of the Abbey. Once they’re gone, the mice exit the lantern suits and retrieve Serena. Before they leave, the mice take care to board up the pit so O’Hain can’t escape. They place a single pumpkin as a Jack O’Lantern sentry to ward off any other evil force. All this they do in acknowledgment of Philo Rattigan and his ultimate sacrifice for Hidden Hedge.
Now then, back in Gull Cottage on the morning of November 1st, 1902, young Trey wonders if his grandmother’s story is truly over. Lauren thinks that’s all it was, a story, but Trey reminds her the villagers of Wicklow did once believe Nesbitt’s Abbey was overrun by goblins. Taking the pumpkin they carved, Trey thinks there’s at least one way to prove it wasn’t just a story.
Lauren follows after Trey as he heads for Nesbitt’s Abbey, still abandoned after all this time. Trey’s not worried of anything coming after them since they have a Jack O’Lantern for protection. Deep inside the catacombs, the kids find a boarded up door in the floor and the remains of an old pumpkin. Thinking this is proof their grandmother’s story was true, Trey and Lauren light the Jack O’Lantern to act as a new sentry.
While they leave, they wonder how Great Uncle Hector learned this tale from the mice of Hidden Hedge. But that’s probably a story for next All Hallow’s Eve…
I really hate how stories like this slip through the cracks since they really don’t deserve to be forgotten.
The use of “Sam O’Hain” is a cute pun although now I’m a little peeved after learning “Samhain” is pronounced as “Saa-wn.” John Lang’s artwork is both gorgeous and terrifying and the panel layouts for some of the pages is stunning. He peppers the backgrounds with little fairy creatures and goblins, and the way he uses the spirits to double as panels in the page with Philo and the guard is of the same level of genius as J.H. Williams III.
Perkins creates a sly nod to one of the actual jack-o-lantern myths in how O’Hain’s primary motivation was greed. At least one of the versions I remember vividly had the titular Jack cast as such a greedy man he was barred from both Heaven AND Hell.
I appreciate how the story is crafted so, it’s not explicitly gory but it’s terrifying enough for kids with O’Hain’s nightmares and his threats of physical violence against Philo and Serena. Getting dragged through thorns and branches is an especially awful way to go and I commend the storytellers for including it to help stop the story from possibly getting too saccharine. There’s also the notion of O’Hain’s greatest fear that the Jack O’Lantern essentially wants to drag him back into Hell where he belongs.
This really could’ve been a great animated movie.