(Here’s a classic from the LIM archives that I always enjoyed. Hope new readers find it interesting and older readers….well, hope you like it too.)
Ok, it will take an imagination far greater than mine to tie this week’s post to H.P. Lovecraft. But I don’t get to share a lot of my collectibles (my wife still thinks this is an aberration that I will eventually grow out of, poor dear) so think of this as a break from the three-lobed burning eye.
You can read more about Spring-Heel’d Jack at Wikipedia, though I’d take the article with a grain of salt. This story of a ‘real’ creature that stalked London has grown over the years, but all too often it’s been hijacked by the folks who think JFK was killed because he was about to reveal a secret treaty the government had signed with aliens. (Hey, it could happen….) For me, the article leans a little too far in that direction, but I don’t have time to delve into it enough to do an edit. A much better accounting of SHJ can be found here.
I’ve only seen pictures of two of the original penny dreadfuls featuring SHJ, neither one dated but circa 1850. I actually think these are advertising posters rather than issues of the magazine, but no doubt the illustrations were used on the covers as well. Both are reproduced below, the first taken from Penny Dreadfuls and Other Victorian Horrors, the second from the Penguin Book of Comics. They don’t do much to clear up the mystery, as one shows the devil-like boogeyman, the other the man with spring-heeled boots. But note the different spellings of the name. It’s possible that these were two competing periodicals.
The covers below are from a 1904 series, probably a reprint of the 1878 serial from The Boy’s Standard storypaper. At least in this incarnation, SHJ was a costumed hero, a wronged nobleman named Wraydon, who used the costume and jumping gimmicks to strike fear in the hearts of the wrongdoers (like anybody would ever do THAT) in order to clear his name. The story is available at Amazon, in paperback and Kindle editions for those of you who are curious.
These are the only copies I’ve ever seen, though the cover of issue 2 seems to have been circulated pretty freely on the web (and is the cover for the Amazon edition). I can’t put my hands on it at the moment, but there was an independent comic book back in the ’90′s that used this costume, but made the character a tulku, a Tibetan supernatural entity of some sort. I don’t remember much else about it, so you’ll have to dig it up on your own. And Phillip Pullman wrote a couple of graphic novels with his take on the character, which are also still in print.
At the last minute, I did a Google search and found some more images of the penny dreadfuls, and oneof the comic book covers, which I now append: