Vaguely reminiscent of a modern-day Harvey Comics, Little Gloomy is the story of a group of friends… all of whom happen to resemble little monsters from classic movies. Except for Gloomy. She’s a normal girl, by our standards; the oddest of all, by theirs.
In this story, Simon, a Mad Scientist, hatches a dastardly plan: if he can’t have Gloomy, no one else will. Meanwhile, Gloomy and Larry, a Werewolf, head out to the bar, where Frank, a Monster, is drowning his sorrows with the mummy bartender. (The capital letters just seem appropriate, somehow.) Carl Cthulu, a spongy squidlike projection of a multi-dimensional god, drops by Gloomy’s to keep her company, and they get attacked by zombies. Simon’s plan progresses with a devious turn of events as Carl, Larry, and Frank attempt to rescue Gloomy.
The cartooning suits the subject matter. The characters are well-designed, capturing all the core characteristics of the monsters they’re modelled on while avoiding extraneous detail. The only characters that break from the pattern are the killer zombies. They’re drawn in a more detailed fashion, which makes them scarier; they seem like a real threat to the kids, even though some of the kids are already non-living beings.
Although fun, the humor of the initial premise — heartbroken guy just refuses to let go, resulting in trouble — takes a backseat for me to the appeal of the scenes with Gloomy just hanging out with her friends. Not only is the camaraderie delightful, but I enjoy the wit of the little monsters comparing notes, for example, on how villagers are nuts. It’s adorable, but not in a sappy or too-cutesy way. These kids are expressing universal emotions, like loneliness, unrequited love, and jealousy. Little touches show that the creators know their stuff, as when the Mummy speaks only in hieroglyphics or Gloomy’s garden of plants resembles Audrey 2 (from Little Shop of Horrors).
The characters have also appeared in a variety of special issue comics. The Trick or Treat Halloween Special is made up of three shorter stories. The first, “Revenge of the Housefly”, features Simon, the evil little scientist, once again trying to get Gloomy back by turning himself into a housefly. (I know, I know, but if he had all his marbles, he would realize the silliness of revenge in the first place.) “The Lonely Horror” uses a different format to present the origin of Carl Cthulhu; it’s told in verse, with each page a single drawing textured with crayon. The last story reprints the original minicomic prototype of the series, introducing a variety of characters. Some we’re already familiar with in a slightly different form; others we haven’t met yet.
Carl is rapidly becoming one of my favorite comic characters. While outwardly resembling a spongy being with tiny bat wings and squid tentacles instead of a mouth, inwardly, he dreams of frolicking with happy bunnies. His fantasies are doubly surprising, given his attitudes; he’s cynical, jaded, and selfish, having to be talked into attempting to rescue Gloomy based on what he would get out of it. When things get bad, he reminds everyone that he will see them all “devoured by the nameless things”. The origin tale nicely captures the contradictory appeal of the character: he’s an adorable squid creature whose destiny as an eldritch horror is to kill everyone, but in the meantime, he needs taking care of.
The Adventures special reprints the 6 four-page color tales that previously appeared in Disney Adventures magazine. They make up two stories, “The Witch’s Cauldron” and “Curse of the Mummies!” In the first, Gloomy and her pals Frank (the Monster) and Larry (the Werewolf) are attacked by tiny cats with drugged claws, sent by Evey, the Rotten Little Witch. The cats are simply designed, which makes them very cute, but they’re also menacing, due to their glowing pupil-less eyes. (Adorable but deadly, they remind me of the similarly silly story of Justice League Antarctica being attacked by killer penguins.) In the conclusion, Evey ends up getting her revenge in an unexpected fashion.
The second story has Gloomy taking care of a sick little mummy, while Frank accuses him of malingering. Frank, Gloomy, and Carl wind up disguising themselves to venture into Mummyville in search of a cure. Carl, especially, has some fabulous lines. There’s just something about a sarcastic baby universe-destroying squidlike monster wrapped in bandages that makes the whole thing hilarious.
There’s also a color Crypt of Creeps special, two uncollected comic issues that tell an unfinished story involving the Invisible Men, and a new comic series called The Super-Scary Monster Show Featuring Little Gloomy. That format allows for shorter stories where different characters from the established group take the lead, and the characters have been redesigned, with larger heads and smaller bodies. The overall effect is a combination between manga-style chibi figures and what the Powerpuff Girls’ afterlife might resemble. They’re even cuter this way, if possible. The book’s style has also changed; it’s less polished and has more of a hand-made feel. It’s closer to what one would expect from a self-published or minicomic effort, more typically “indy”, as though the reader was closer to the artist’s original pen drawings.