Monday, October 21, 2013

31 Days of Halloween - Day 21

Monster: Cenobites

Appearances: "Homecoming" Clive Barker's Hellraiser #8.  1991. "With My Lips" Clive Barker's Hellraiser #12.  1992. "Taste the Darkness" Clive Barker's Hellraiser #17. 1992. Clive Barker's Book of the Damned III. November 1992. 

Mark Texiera (with Jimmy Palmiotti): Art, Phil Felix: Letters, Marc McLaurin: Editor/ Rod Whigham: Art, Matt Hollingsworth: Colors, Michael Heisler: Letters, Marc McLaurin: Editor/ Bo Hampton: Art, Richard Starkings: Letters, Marc McLaurin: Editor/ Various artists, Marc McLaurin: Editor

The Cenobites, the priests of Hell, from Clive Barker's Hellraiser (and the novella it was based on, The Hellbound Heart) became iconic horror figures almost immediately. They looked like nothing that came before, and their sinister intelligence and sense of purpose made them intriguing as well as terrifying. 

When Marvel comics began publishing a comic based on the movies (of which there were two at that point, and to this date the only ones I've seen), they did so through their adult Epic line of comics, though even there, stories could only go so far, which made staying true to Barker's vision difficult, even while trying to build upon it. 

The first of the stories I wrote for this series, "Homecoming," was also the first narrative comic book story I wrote for publication. I worked really hard to make it tight, seamless, and brutal, only to see something published which represented the story I turned in only in the most superficial level, completely removing the brutal ending and replacing it with one of redemption and responsibility. 

The Cenobite in my story, was really a cenobite pet, who escapes hell, and his masters, and heads home to the family he left on earth decades ago. This pet was taken to hell as a child, because his older brother sacrificed him to the Cenobites rather than go himself, as was supposed to happen. When the cenobites come to retrieve their pet, they demand to take the older brother back as well for their trouble. In my version the older brother surrenders his young son instead, remaining a coward and never taking responsibility for his actions. In the altered version, he owns up for what he has done and goes along himself. 

I was pissed, and disowned the story after this, despite some lovely art by Mark Texiera. I later wondered if maybe my script, being my first was bad and required the changes, but having found it in my files years later, so that it still held up, and remains stronger than what saw print.

My next story fared a lot better, though I had to fight for it. 

The Cenobite in this story was referred to as the Sculptress. She was an artist of sorts tasked with stripping raw material from the damned and constructing fellow Cenobites and pets from this repurposed flesh while insuring that the damned endure exquisite pain (or pleasure) with its removal from their bodies. The reason we never get a good look at her is that in the story one of the damned she's carving up falls in love with her, and is tormented by his own feelings which he can't express, and in the end, aren't reciprocated. My editor's feeling was that she'd have to be so damned beautiful that no one could draw her in order for this to happen, unconvinced by my arguments that Hellraiser was structured around something of an S & M themed Hell. Even so, I was quite pleased with how this turned out.

After so much grimness in the Hellraiser stories, I went for a lighter tone with the third, about a woman who was not obsessive in her desire to open one of the puzzle boxes that served as a gateway to Hell. In fact she was something of a puzzle whiz and solved the LaMarchand box that she found in a thrift store for $2.50 in under five minutes. Whirl Jack, whose name came from a Cocteau Twins song, was the Cenobite sent to deal with her. Since all of the Hellraiser stories leaned heavily to the demon side of the "demon to some, angels to other" quote from the movie, I decided to have Whirl Jack be kinder and more sympathetic and even more human. He does have one trait particular to the Hell of Hellraiser -- his aesthetic obsession with order. Throughout the story we see him rearranging the objects and furniture in Daphne's apartment, which also lent some visual interest to a story that was really a comedic exchange between the two characters. 

Book of the Damned III was mostly an origin story for Philip LeMarchand, the creator of the puzzle boxes, and his faustian deal with a Cenobite named Baron. Baron was named after, and meant to be the same being as the demon that Gilles de Rais, a commander in Joan of Arc's army and a serial killer of children,  is said to have evoked in an attempt to gain power. 

Besides the story of Philip LeMarchand, there were interspersed entries allegedly taken from books that either came into LeMarchand's possession, or gave another view of his triumphs and crimes. There were also a few pages of biographical information about a  variety of Cenobites. I wrote all of these entries as well, but some of the Cenobites appeared elsewhere and weren't ones that I created, just enhanced. There were two that I did create based on a couple of previously unused pinup pages of art which accompanied their entries.

Sazerbil the flayer --  "cannot exist without the symbiotic relationship he maintains with those captured souls he keeps as pets. The Cenobite is constantly torn away and eaten by his pets. In turn, his stripped flesh is later re-attached to his being through the use of nails and needles by his pets. Often he will replace his missing skin with theirs."

Burning Tom -- was a peeping tom in life. "Peering through the windows and keyholes of his town, he learned all of its darkest secrets. Hateful of touch, Tom took these secrets as his lovers. He especially cherished those whose hidden deeds consumed them in the pursuit of intense pleasure, or extreme suffering. Often he would find both writhing together in some desperate carnal frenzy. 

"When he was called into service he was not remade as a Cenobite. Leviathan saw another purpose for Tom.

"Naked and perpetually aroused, Burning Tom endlessly races the corridors of hell. His halo burns the color of twilight in the presence of extreme torment and of dried blood in the presence of extreme pleasure. It is by these colors that the Cenobites determine the degrees of intensity required to discipline the damned, and adjust accordingly" 

I really tried to make these created Cenobites feel like they were part of the same world Clive Barker created and used his Hellraiser Chronicles and Night Breed Chronicles as a template for doing so combined with my own sensibilities of course.


Caffeinated Joe said...

Well, that was an amazing read! Love hearing how you came up with these and the thought that went into it all. I love your original story for the comic, as well. Hate that editors or "powers that be" always feel like American audiences cannot handle dark endings to things. One of the reasons I love the ending to Jeepers Creepers is because they stuck to a harsh, "realistic" ending.

Want to ask, did you ever get any response or commentary from Barker over your additions to the mythos he began?

John Rozum said...

I've talked to Clive Barker a couple of times in person, but never specifically about the Hellraiser comics, though I've heard he really liked what I did.

Caffeinated Joe said...

Cool. Thanks for replying!