DC Comics

Stanley and his Monster #1 (1993)

Stanley and His Monster #1 (February, 1993)

“How to Build a Tree Fort”
Writer & Penciller – Phil Foglio
Inker – Chuck Fiala
Inking Assist – Jim Aparo & Dennis Janke
Letterer – John Costanza
Colorist – Robbie Busch
Editor – Paul Kupperberg
Cover Price: $1.50

Here’s one that’s been in the collection for awhile.  My first exposure to Stanley and his Monster was during the Kevin Smith/Phil Hester “Quiver” story line in Green Arrow.  I haven’t read that in quite awhile (since original publication, if I’m being honest), but I remember them (at least the monster) being portrayed as quite dark.  I came across this mini series some time later, and nabbed it thinking I would get more of the same… If the cover didn’t make it obvious enough, this story kinda goes another way.

From Green Arrow (vol.3) #9 (Dec. 2001)
Words: Kevin Smith – Art: Phil Hester

And so, this issue has laid unread in the library ever since… far too long, if you ask me.  Let’s take a look at this early-nineties spine-tickling oddity and see if it’s worth having…

We open in Hell.  A pair of angels are taking inventory of the demons, and find that there’s one missing, one that is currently on Earth… Now, who could that be?

On Earth, Stanley and his Monster are rummaging through his attic.  In between admiring the styles of the seventies, they come across a book.  It is the Heterodyne Boys Big Book of Fun, and in it you can find the plans to build just about anything.  Of particular interest to the boys is the tree fort.  The Heterodyne Boys are apparently a Phil Foglio creation that was originally a spoof of turn of the twentieth century adventure books.  More on the Boys can be found here.

Stanley is called away for dinner, and he leaves his Monster in the attic to dine on a stack of most delicious National Geographic magazines.  During dinner Stanley asks his parents about the Heterodyne Boys.  He is given a brief explanation, and is advised that the most sought after Heterodyne Boys book wasn’t a novel… but a how-to book!  Stanley accidentally-on purpose spills his milk, and while his mother scrambles to clean it up, sneaks off to his room to plan.

Stanley and his Monster think of how helpful a tree fort may be, even concocting a story wherein they assist Batman in capturing the Joker!

Later on, the boys find the perfect location for their tree fort.  It is on an overprotective older fella’s property, so it may be a hard sell.  Stanley thinks quick, and asks the “old guy” if he could become the tree’s official caretaker.  The man kinda digs the idea.  Stanley goes a step further, suggesting that he build his own office in the tree.  Now the man is on to Stan’s plan… and he ain’t too happy.  When the man realizes that Stanley will be utilizing the Heterodyne Boys book to build from, he changes his mind.  Stanley can build his fort, as long as the old man can check out the plans on how to build a zeppelin.

That night, Stanley dreams about how fantastic his tree fort will be, even going so far as having Superman and the Justice League show up to use his clubhouse!

Just look at that Blue Beetle!

The next day, Stanley and his Monster realize they will need wood to build their fort.  Stan sees a Mr. Fixit nearby (with a… curious, “Pound It Out!” ball cap).  Initially the Fixit man turns down Stan’s request for lumber, however, changes his mind when he sees the coveted how-to book.  He gives Stanley all of his excess lumber in exchange for a peek at the books plans on how to build a suspension bridge.  The Monster makes quick work of hauling the lumber away… when the Fixit man expresses surprise, Stanley tells him there are plans for a forklift in the book as well.

Next up, our duo need tools.  Stanley swipes his dad’s tools, which all still look new.  I suppose Mr. Stanley isn’t too handy around the house.

That night, Stanley dreams about how helpful the tree fort will be.  He imagines the “Invasion of the Space Dinosaurs vs. The Armageddon War of the Gods Crises Crossover” occurring, and his family being safe and sound in the tree fort.  The Sandman shows up in the dream to berate Stanley for exceeding his dream special effects budget!

Finally, the tree fort is done.  Stanley decides that before they can really call it done, they’re going to have to spend the night.  Stanley concocts creative ways in which to procure the supplies he needs.

C’mon Stanley… No love for Hourman?
I expected better of you…

Night falls, and our guys are hanging out in the fort.  In a touching scene the two express their friendship toward one another.  Suddenly, a thunderstorm rolls in.  Lucky for the boys, the fort was built so well that the roof doesn’t leak.

As the rain continues, the Monster begins to exhibit some feral behaviors which concerns him.  They hear a noise outside… scared, Stanley asks who’s there.  Why, it’s Stanley’s mother… who came to bring him home.  It is dangerous to be in a tree during a thunderstorm, after all.

She informs Stanley that the Heterodyne Boys book was in fact her’s (Stanley assumed the books belonged to his father).  She continues, telling Stanley she is proud of his industrious nature.  As the two leave, Stanley’s mother asks where he got those “shaggy red pillows”.

The Monster is now all alone in the tree fort.  He is greeted by a rhyming demon named Nyx (from across the river Styx, natch) presumably sent to Earth to drag our Monster back to Hell… and we are [to be continued…]

Following our main story there is a two-page text piece that touches on the origins of Stanley and His Monster.

One of the unspoken goals of this humble blog was to find offbeat oddities in DC lore that are/were actually fun.  So often I feel that “comics” gets almost embarrassed to be comics, and as such endeavor toward more serious and less fantastic fare.  Books like Stanley and His Monster certainly fall into the “fun” category… but, is it any good?

Yes.  It’s good.

This was a very nice opening chapter to this miniseries.  We are introduced to the cast and are given a vague threat.  The cliffhanger was solid and makes one curious about how this will all play out.  The dialogue is great.  Stanley speaks like a young boy would.  Being able to observe Stanley’s dreams was also a treat.

The art… Well, full disclosure… I never really dug Phil Foglio’s art.  During the era in which this was published, I was almost trained to expect hyper and excessive line work as a part of my comics diet.  That having been said, the art does fit the story well, and I must say that I enjoyed it more than I thought I would.

I’m glad a series like this existed during the extreme age of comics (when I picked this up, I was surprised at the cover date… thought for sure this was late-80’s at latest)… hell, I wish more like it existed now.  In closing I suppose after reading this, I now prefer my Stanley and his Monster to be more this:

… and less, this:

From Green Arrow (vol.3) #8 (Nov, 2001)
Words: Kevin Smith – Art: Phil Hester

Hard to give a proper recommendation for this one, as it’s (and I fear I’m sounding like a broken record at this point) buck-‘n-below bin fare… maybe as far up as cover price, though I wouldn’t go much higher than that.  It doesn’t appear to have ever been collected or released digitally… however, if you come across it and have a quarter or two burning a hole in your pocket, you can do far worse.

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