Thursday, June 08, 2017

Chicanonautica: Welcome to the University of Doom

by Ernest Hogan
My heroes have always been mad scientists. Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Peter Lorre, and Vincent Price were my role models. I read Famous Monsters of Filmland back when it was edited and mostly written by Forrest J Ackerman. And though I’m decades past the twelve-to-eighteen young adult age bracket, but I loved University of Doom by Mario Acevedo.

Mario is known for his best-selling Felix Gomez vampire detective series, the latest of which, Rescue from Planet Pleasure, I also enjoyed, though Rescue is definitely for an older audience (though I must admit that I was reading raunchier stuff during my YA years). Anybody remember Vampirella, Creepy, and Eerie from Warren Publications, who also published Famous Monsters?

But I digress . . .

University of Doom is about Alfonso Frankenstein, son of Dr. Eugenio Frankenstein, whose life is thrown into turmoil when Dr. Moriarty and his son manage to get Alfonso expelled and his father fired from their beloved university. It seems that the infamous monster-maker Victor Frankenstein fled to Mexico after the villagers raided his castle and laboratory with all those pitchforks and torches . . . I would like to see stories about the Frankenstein family in Mexico. The whole scenario actually makes sense, and allows Acevedo to give this monster fest a Chicano hero--and it’s about time, too.

From my childhood I remembered that a lot of hermanos y hermanas considered monster stuff to be their natural habitat.

But, again, I digress . . .

There’s also teenage Vampira, who though not identified as any kind of Latinoid, has the style that her namesake made famous, and gets me wondering which came first, the chola, or the goth? Better make a note to do some research on that . . .

They end up exiled to a dreary suburb where Alfonso is enrolled in Ty Cobb Middle School. Just when the plot looks like it's going the usual defeat-the-bully middle school melodrama route, it swerves into serious mad-science-mayhem country.  Many chapters are jam-packed with enough weirdness and action for an entire festival of monster movies.

Oh yeah, and there’s some criticism of modern public education and exposure to the mad scientist attitude that today’s young consumer nerds need. In my day the adults were afraid we were going to destroy civilization as we know it--now we watch the smart kids kneel down to worship corporate franchises.

There are also literary references. Besides Mary Shelley--known in some circles as the woman who invented science fiction--the works of Arthur Conan Doyle, Edgar Rice Burroughs, H.G. Wells, and Jules Verne are also mentioned. The works aren't named, but I guess that’s left for us old freaks--I mean readers--to do, to help corrupt--er, enlighten the younger generation.

And did I mention that it’s a lot of fun?

No diabolical hidden agenda here, honest. Mu-hu-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!

Ernest Hogan's work can be found in the current anthologies Altermundos, Latin@ Rising, and Five to the Future.

1 comment:

Frank S Lechuga said...

Great review. I have to catch up with Acevedo's work, read it I mean. I hope for his sake, he's getting a better deal from his Big House publisher. Ehh...he's a youngster, he's on his way to becoming a multi-millionaire.