Dead again: resuscitating Dennis Cooper's Horror Hospital Unplugged.
Dennis Cooper's Horror Hospital Unplugged wasn't initially conceived as a comic. The plot first showed up in one of his short story collections from the '80s, but Cooper's buddy, the artist Keith Mayerson, proposed that they turn the original narrative about a young gay punk named Trevor Machine into a graphic novel. Mayerson expanded the scope of the original story, updating it for the times by basing Trevor's look on Alex James from Blur and having the ghost of the then recently deceased River Phoenix haunt Trevor. "We both loved River," says Cooper. "We just added to the story the people that we both wanted to fuck and the music we loved at that moment."
Cooper's willingness to work with Mayerson's vision is unsurprising. When it comes to the creative process, he's like a permanent teenager, his voice and style in a constant state of growth and self-reinvention. In addition to his many books of fiction, poetry, and criticism. Cooper's also written plays, edited magazines and curated art volumes, but Horror Hospital Unplugged remains his only comic. Originally printed in 1996 in a limited-run edition, the book quickly became a cult collectors' item. But with a new reissue from Harper Collins out in June, fans and newcomers to Cooper's work will finally get a chance to enjoy the anomaly.
Aside from bringing a rarity to a larger audience, Horror Hospital Unplugged also sheds light on the lesser-known Mayerson, a talented artist whose flexible pencil mirrored Cooper's messy relationship with genre. Whole sections of the book are done beautifully in different forms: a Manga-style sex scene or watercolor-like smudges to indicate a brush with death. "Mayerson's shifting around with styles made it something to decode, something complex," says Cooper. "There are so many ways to tell a story," Mayerson says. "I love Manga. I love psychedelic comics. I love punk. Getting to pay homage to so many different things is what makes it cool."