I’ll admit it, this week’s Webcomics Wednesday pick, Drew Weing’s delightfully eerie The Creepy Casefiles of Margo Maloo, is about a week late. Lurking monsters in haunted, abandoned buildings is perfect Halloween fare, after all, but in my book, as long as there’s trick-or-treat candy in my desk drawer (there is, and there’s a lot of it), spooky stories are fair game.
Charles Thompson just moved to a rundown old apartment building in Echo City with his mom and dad, and the young aspiring journalist is deeply suspicious. The elevator doesn’t work, the lobby is covered in graffiti, and his room is barely a closet, let alone the fact that urban neighborhoods are dangerous (at least that’s what Charles anticipates). All that would be bad enough on its own, but Charles is even more convinced that his new home is a deathtrap when he wakes one night to see a horrible monster in his closet.
The next morning, he investigates the apartment, but his parents are no help and his search is fruitless. Sulking on the stoop, Charles is doubtful when his neighbor Kevin—who is always charmingly trying to break world records—hands him a business card for someone who will solve all of his weird problems in the new apartment. In spite of himself, Charles calls Margo Maloo, Monster Mediator, and uncovers a secret monster underbelly to Echo City, only it’s nothing like he imagined. For starters, Margo is more of a negotiator than a buster, and while she uses her skills to cultivate mutual understanding and happy cohabitation among humans and nonhuman creatures, the monster in Charles’ basement (a troll who’s sore about a chandelier missing from his cache) doesn’t dare cross her.
Being an amateur gumshoe, of course, Charles thinks he’s stumbled on the scoop of the century, and he takes it upon himself to share the story of Margo Maloo with the world—or, barring that, reveal the truth about monsters to kids everywhere. It’s his civic duty as a journalist, after all, and he begins following Margo around on her calls with an eye to publishing an earth-shattering blog post.
Weing’s softly colored, Charles Schultz–like figures are deeply expressive, especially pudgy Charles’ often skeptical mien. His fantastic depiction of spaces—from the cavernous basement to the dank closet; from the yellow glow of a monster’s eyeball in a dark room to the imposing art-deco cornices on the facade of Charles’ building—showcases the haunting atmosphere, and frequent comic interludes with monsters (and Kevin’s record-breaking schemes) and Margo’s dry, no-nonsense attitude keep the story from getting scary.
Margo Maloo is just getting started, so while there are fewer than 70 pages available now, there are plenty more adventures to come (Weing updates twice a week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays). And if you want more Weing in the meantime, check out Set to Sea (2010).