And so began the radio show Lights Out, which ran from 1934 until 1947 when it made its transition to television. Radio shows are truly a forgotten art, and I am not sure why. I have satellite radio in my car and old time radio programs can make bumper to bumper traffic bearable. Hardboiled P.I.’s and femme fatales exchange barbed remarks, moon people ready for invasion, and horrific, fantastical scenes are played out on Lights Out.
If radio shows are a forgotten art, then Arch Oboler’s run as head writer and creative force on Lights Out is radio’s lost masterpiece. Lights Out’s tales of horror and the supernatural set the stage for other radio dramas such as Inner Sanctum, Suspense, and Escape; it also inspired comic books such as EC’s Tales from the Crypt, Eerie, and The Witching Hour; and directly inspired television series such as The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, and The X-Files. Without the colossal talent of Arch Oboler these programs and comics would never have existed.
Some of Oboler’s most famous plays include “Catwife” where a man is driven insane by his wife’s feline metamorphosis and “Chicken Heart where the eponymous organ grows so big it threatens to engulf the whole world! Were these plays ridiculous fantasy? Perhaps, but they were also wildly inventive entertainment. Take for example, my favourite play, “The Author and the Thing.” In this episode, Oboler (being post-modern before everything was post-modern) plays himself struggling to write a play for Lights Out. He imagines a demon, which only he can see and soon it is devouring his family and friends. He is eventually deemed insane and, needless to say, that particular episode is left unfinished. Delightfully ghastly, I must say.
So, why has there never been a book about this wildly talented and eccentric writer? And why have his plays never been collected?
What I propose is an anthology of some of his best and most famous plays from Lights Out and Arch Oboler’s Plays (a later series, which is just as much fun as Lights Out) collected in comic book form. Radio plays, and screen plays, can very easily be converted into the comic book format. The book would capitalise on the resurgence in popularity of horror based titles. This trend is exemplified by DC/Vertigo’s re-launch of House of Mystery, Dark Horse’s reprints and re-launch of Eerie and Creepy magazines, and Fantagraphics soon to be released, Four Color Fear: Forgotten Horror Comics of the 1950’s.
Now, if you are a regular reader of this blog (bless you!), you may remember I ranted about repurposing old material. Well phooey. Oboler deserves another look and I think the comics format would be perfect. The book would be a melange of old and new comics artists, veterans such as Bernie Wrightson, new comers like Doug Mahnke, and even indie superstar and horror maestro, Charles Burns.
The series could be released serially and then collected in a graphic novel format. It could include biographical tidbits about Oboler, reprints of his scripts, archival photos, et cetera. The man had an incredibly interesting and at times tragic life (his son drowned in his Frank Lloyd Wright designed home, which was also the set of a horror movie he directed!).
Oboler’s plays need to be revived and what better way than what bpNichol called “one of the first original art forms of the 20th century: the comic strip.” Oboler’s wild fantasies will appeal to anyone who likes a little crazy with their madness.
Wishing you a spooky goodnight,
BIG FUN BLOGGER