Imagine a far darker take on Toy Story, one not at all meant for children. Imagine a story about toys that come to life at night who suddenly find themselves confronted by an ancient evil spirit out to drink the soul of the child who's very imagination gives them their life. Imagine one toy, an outcast jack-in-the-box, given the task of tracking down and destroying that evil spirit.This is the story of The Plucker: An Illustrated Novel by Brom.This book and its accompanying artwork is creepy, evocative of lost innocence, and at times quite disturbing.
This book provides examples of:
Above Good and Evil: The Plucker considers himself to be this. A cheetah is not evil for killing an antelope, therefore he is not evil for torturing toys and wanting to possess a young boy.
At least he considers feeding on "gusto" as his means of survival, but when called out on the torturing, he is not able to explain himself, suggesting that yes, he is truly and irredeemably evil.
Aliens Speaking English: The Plucker comes from Africa but communicates with English-speaking toys. Probably justified in that the Spirit Realm may have means of communication different from ours.
Big Creepy-Crawlies: the Plucker is an amalgam between spider, worm and pure evil. It's only "big" compared to the dolls, though (but that does make him definitely larger than your average bug). Also, the Giant Spider mook somewhere in the Plucker's caves.
"I'm going to know the pleasures of walking in sunlight again, the smell of morning dew, the sight of a rainbow, the softness of a baby's hair and the simple joy of eating human flesh while it's still warm."
Came Back Strong: Jack is soundly beaten and presumed killed by a pack of Foulthings. Mabelle fixes him up with a few... upgrades.
Came Back Wrong: What the other toys think of Jack after Mabelle fixes him up. Played disturbingly straight with the Red Knight, when he is reanimated as a toy-zombie by the Plucker.
Curb-Stomp Battle: the blue Foulthing all but obliterates Jack when he first faces it. Jack later returns the favor, beating it raw with a toy flagstaff.
Damsel in Distress: The Snow Angel, helpless in the clutches of the evil Plucker. Her capture is what spurs Jack into action.
Damsel out of Distress: Little Bird, a Chippewa doll from the collection of a neighborhood girl. She's almost as much of a badass as Jack, despite not having a snake's heart to give her courage. She has her own reasons for wanting to destroy the Plucker.
Dangerous Forbidden Technique: Mabelle views the powerful, magical contents of Aunt Odee's chest like this, since she fears that using them could lead her away from faith in God. She eventually reasons that the end (to save a boy's life) justifies the means, and a little evil can be used to stop a far bigger evil.
The Dragon: the Plucker reanimates the Red Knight so he can kill Jack for him. It almost works, too...
Dungeon Crawling: A large part of the book follows Jack as he explores the twisting tunnels of the Plucker's lair.
Elite Mooks: the Stickmen appear to be those for the Plucker, as opposed to regular Foulthings. And then there is the party of 6 giant Stickmen wielding deadly poisonous pins able to act in the real human world, which are pretty much the elite of the elite.
Evil Counterpart: just like Jack is the envoy of Mabelle in the spirit world and charged to slay the Plucker with a poison needle, the six Giant Stickmen are the envoys of the Plucker in the real world, charged to kill Mabelle, with poison needles as well. They succeed.
Eye Scream: The Plucker consumes the gusto from toys by plucking out their eyes and sucking on the empty sockets. Mabelle is killed by the Plucker's Stickmen when they jab six poisoned needles into her eyes.
Fate Worse than Death: For toys, being consigned to the attic, where no one remembers you and rats nibble your fingers. It's even worse than the Underbed. The Plucker's plan for Thomas Braxton is also a Fate Worse than Death; he wants to possess Thomas' body and send Thomas' soul into a filthy rag-doll.
Flies Equals Evil: biting white flies breed on the Plucker, infesting the area around. The entity is also closely assiciated with worms and maggots, not to mention other disgusting insects like ticks.
Healing Factor: the Red Knight after his reanimation by the Plucker gains the ability to regenerate from any wound. But he is still vulnerable to the same poison as the Plucker.
Heroic BSOD: Jack has a few of these during the course of the story.
Hollywood Voodoo: or hoodoo, if Mabelle is to be believed. The Plucker, or Abiku, is inspired by a spirit of the same name in Yoruba folklore, his Stickmen definitely resemble ritual effigies, and Mabelle is able to practice hoodoo rituals.
Magical Negro: Mabelle, the Braxtons' housekeeper. She eventually chooses to get out the big hoodoo magic to kill the Plucker herself, averting the trope. She almost succeeded, too.
Meaningful Name: All of the toys have Meaningful Names, especially Jack. He is not only a jack-in-the-box, but he is also a fool — in the traditional sense of a fairy tale hero on a dangerous quest to rescue a princess. The Foulthings are also quite aptly named, being belching, farting, drooling, foul things. Stickmen are made of sticks, and the Plucker plucks souls out of bodies.
Musical Trigger: As a jack-in-the-box, Pop Goes The Weasel has special meaning for Jack. The Snow Angel uses it to distract the Plucker and his Foulthings so Jack can save Thomas' soul, which the Plucker had trapped in Jack's box. Later, Jack uses it to make a connection with Thomas' soul and free him — in spectacular fashion — from the box.
Scaled Up: Of sorts. Mabelle eventually resorts to high level magic to transfer her soul into the body of a king snake and face the Plucker personally. She fails due to the intervention of his Stickmen, but her attack gives Jack time to release Thomas' soul from the box where it was imprisoned.