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Comic Book / Stanley and His Monster

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Stanley and His Monster was a humorous fantasy series published by DC Comics back in the days when they didn't just do superheroes (the late 1960s, to be precise). The series started its life as a back-up feature of the The Fox and the Crow comic series in 1966, before it would briefly take over as the main feature until the book's cancellation in late 1968. Written by Arnold Drake with art by Winslow Mortimer, it concerned six-year-old Stanley Dover, who meets a large red shaggy monster that's more afraid of people than people are of it. Stanley adopts the monster as a pet, and names him Spot.

It was briefly revived in the 1990s by Phil Foglio, who wrote an issue of Secret Files and Origins (which revealed that Spot was actually a demon who had been booted out of Hell for being too nice) and a four-issue mini-series. The revival managed to make the fluffy whimsical series into part of The DCU without making it Darker and Edgier — this despite the fact that the mini-series culminated in Stanley storming the gates of Hell to rescue Spot. An ongoing series did not result, and that's the last the world heard from Stanley and His Monster apart from occasional guest appearances.

In 2001 Stanley and his monster appeared in, of all things, a Green Arrow story arc written by Kevin Smith — which was not fluffy or whimsical at all, and which led to a character named Stanley Dover who had very little connection to this Stanley appearing in Season 7 of Arrow. They also made a cameo in Infinite Crisis and in a story arc in Superman/Batman.

Stanley and His Monster provides examples of:

  • Art Evolution: The Ghost of Napoleon initially looked like a Bedsheet Ghost in a bicorne hat, but by the final story featuring him he was redesigned to look more like a pale version of the actual Napoleon Bonaparte.
  • Artist and the Band: The story "Music, Monster, Please!" features a band called Peter Piper and the Pickle Pickers.
  • Batman in My Basement: Spot and, in the original version, Shaugnessy Poltroon the leprechaun and Schnitzel the dwarf
  • A Boy and His X: A boy and his big, red monster. Despite the monster being, well, a monster, the two are great friends and enjoy doing things like frolicking in the field or dressing up in costumes.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: After the series became its own comic, The Ghost of Napoleon didn't appear again following "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Infinity".
  • Fluffy the Terrible: Spot, a giant red monster with razor teeth and tusks. Later, the Foglio version would establish that he's a demon from hell.
  • Missing Mom: One of the later stories introduces Spot's son Shag, with nothing said at all of his mother's identity or what became of her.
  • Napoleon Delusion: The stereotype of mental patients believing themselves to be Napoleon Bonaparte is alluded to by Spot when he and Stanley meet the Ghost of Napoleon and Spot doubts that it's the real Napoleon.
  • No Name Given: Spot's original name was never revealed prior to the name being suggested by letters from readers. (The later Foglio version asserted that he didn't have one, unless "the Nameless One" counts as a name.)
  • Non-Human Sidekick: Spot is a monster and Stanley's confidant.
  • Not-So-Imaginary Friend: Stanley's parents believe Spot to be an imaginary friend and are completely in the dark about how real Stanley's friend truly is. The same goes for the Ghost of Napoleon, Shaugnessy and Schnitzel.
  • Speech Impediment: Stanley started out with a "th" lisp but eventually lost it by the time the comic was rebranded to focus solely on Stanley and his Monster while discarding The Fox and the Crow and the other featured stories.
  • The Cameo: In an arc of Superman/Batman, aged up, in a Bad Future where a cabal of villainous sorcerers succeed in a pact with eldritch horrors to magically blot out the sun. There the world only survives because the most prominent heroic sorcerers sacrificed their lives to create a ring of magical stars around the dark sun. He becomes part of La Résistance.

The 1993 mini-series specifically provides examples of:

  • Adapted Out: The revamp eschews Napoleon's Ghost, Shaugnessy, Schnitzel and Spot's son Shag.
  • Adults Are Useless: Stanley's parents are at first bewildered, concerned, and freaked out by all the crazy things that happen... but by the final issue they've come to terms with it. It's somewhat justified, since they're just two suburban parents with no experience in the supernatural, and, well... The Monster is a literal demon from Actual Hell. They are useless, but it's at least understandable as to why they are useless.
    • Ambrose and the Phantom Stranger are this once Stanley gets to Hell, but it's played for Drama. As seen under Clap Your Hands If You Believe, Stanley has an idea of what Hell is like that would make it survivable for him. However, the Stranger and Ambrose know exactly what Hell is like. If they were to go into Hell with Stanley, no one would survive.
  • Backwards-Firing Gun: Ambrose Bierce gives Stanley a backwards-firing water pistol that squirts him in the face. It's filled with holy water to test if he's a demon. Later, Nyx gets her hands on the gun and also ends up squirting herself, and since she IS a demon, the water burns her.
  • Captain Ersatz: DC wouldn't let Foglio use John Constantine, so he created an almost-identical character named Ambrose Bierce and hung a lampshade on it. And they wouldn't let him use Neil Gaiman's Sandman in a dream sequence, so Gardner Fox's original Sandman appears instead (but talks and acts as if he were Gaiman's King of Dreams). Interestingly, it was confirmed in the pages of Sandman that Gardner Fox's original Sandman contained a piece of the King of Dreams' soul, so it's not that impossible.
  • Chekhov's Armoury: Justified — When Stanley is preparing to go rescue Spot, Ambrose Bierce has him pick "Everything he thinks they will need", simultaneously casting a spell that creates a causality loop in which whatever Stanley picks will be exactly what's required. But it forms a kind of Plot Tailored to the Party as Stanley and the Monster will be unable to leave Hell until all the items are used.
  • Clap Your Hands If You Believe: Hell works like this to a degree. Since Stanley is a child who believes he's invincible and that demons are dumb and silly, the denizens of Hell are reformed to reflect that while he's there. One demon even lampshades that Stanley pretending to be a demon with a halloween mask should not have worked, since the demon knew he wasn't a demon, but felt compelled to go along with the ruse anyway since Stanley believed that the demon would.
  • Creator In-Joke: The references to the Heterodyne Boys in the first issue were this at the time, though they've become more famous since.
  • Cute Monster Girl: The demon Nyx, Spot's old flame.
  • Darker and Edgier:
    • Played with. Foglio seems to be seeing how many references to Vertigo Comics he can work in without the story ceasing to be light and fluffy. (Also, the cover of the first issue depicts Darker and Edgier versions of the characters, knee-deep in skulls — being day-dreamed by an editor while Foglio pitches the light and fluffy mini-series to him.)
    • In a more serious sense, we get an explanation for what the monster actually is- whereas in the original series, his existence was just "Oh, he's a monster," with little further explanation, he's given a backstory here: He's a literal Demon from Hell, exiled by Lucifer for being good.
  • Deus ex Machina: Invoked by the narration when Nyx has the Monster cornered at one point. "Luckily, every good story is allowed one amazing coincidence. The writer has decided to cash his in now. (Convenient lightning strike hits Nyx)."
  • Exact Words:
    • "Hell Is Exactly What You Think It Is." Hell is influenced by belief to a degree, so because Stanley knows everything he does about Hell from cartoons and edited tales told by Spot, he believes that Hell is cartoonish and the demons are silly and stupid. And since he has absolute confidence in this, since he's a child and doesn't know better, that's how Hell is presented- with it being cartoonish with silly, stupid demons. One demon even lampshades that he was forced to let the kid through since Stanley believed that the demon was dumb enough to.
    • Stanley pulls this on his parents, who are horrified when they find that Spot is a demon... but Stanley claims that they already said Spot could stay. At the time when they said it, though, they thought Spot was an imaginary dog.
    • Stanley pulls it again when a person asks how Stanley moved all the treehouse materials so fast, and replies that the instructions to build a forklift are in "The Heterodyne Boys Big Book of Fun." When Spot points out that he was the one to move everything, Stanley replies that he said that the instructions were in the book, but not that he used one.
    • The heroes run into a problem when the Phantom Stranger tries to help Stanley get to Hell. Why? Stanley's a little kid. He's not supposed to talk to strangers.
  • Great Big Book of Everything: The Heterodyne Boys Big Book of Fun.
  • Historical Domain Character: Ambrose Bierce, John-Constantine-like occult detective, is supposedly the Ambrose Bierce, whose horror stories were based on fact. (His famous disappearance is explained here as being him going into hiding because an Eldritch Abomination was coming to complain about the write-up he'd given it.)
  • High-Heel–Face Turn: Double Subversion. Nyx, the Monster's ex, had been trapped in a punishment chamber after failing to capture the Monster until Stanley storms Hell's gates to free him. When Spot frees Nyx, they reconcile thanks to a combination of Nyx's abandonment and trust issues, the Monster's love for Nyx... and Stanley's heartfelt belief in this trope. As soon as the group leaves Hell, Nyx returns to herself, and tries to attack the Monster — but it's clearly because Hope Is Scary (even before Stanley's influence, it's clear that Nyx and the Monster still had unresolved feelings for each other). Duma and Remiel decide to leave her alone at the end of the miniseries because she "has not completely rejected [good]," hoping that sooner or later she and the other demons might eventually see the light and allow the angels to return to Heaven.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Spot grabs Ambrose and screams at him that he will do whatever he wants, since Spot thinks Ambrose is Nyx and Spot wants Stanley and his family to be safe. In his mind, if he goes back to Hell, Nyx will stop bothering them. Since the manner Spot does this involves holding Ambrose in the air while screaming at him, Ambrose is highly confused... as anyone would be when a giant monster with fangs the length of your hand grabs you and starts screaming "I SURRENDER!"
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: Stanley's parents are content to be normal. However, after the shock of learning about Stanley's benign demon companion passes, they realize when since they live in The DCU with all its fantastic weirdness, Stanley's companion is nothing that strange in itself and allow him to stay.
  • Identical Stranger: Ambrose Bierce looks identical to John Constantine, even demons get it wrong. It's a bit of a Berserk Button for him.
  • Imagine Spot: All over the place in the first issue, establishing the connections to the DC Universe. It gets to the point that The Sandman (1989) has to step in and tell Stanley he's exceeded the dream budget for the month.
  • Mundane Fantastic: When Stanley's parents finally learn about Spot, any temptation to have him gone is neutralized by one realization. Namely, since they live in The DCU with Superheroes, aliens and supernatural menaces, their son having a benign demon is actually rather normal considering and they allow him to stay.
  • Occult Detective: Ambrose Bierce. John Constantine is also mentioned as being one of these, but Ambrose dislikes the man and keeps getting mistaken for him.
  • Overused Copycat Character: The comic pokes fun of the Trenchcoat Brigade by having Ambrose Bierce, a fellow brigadier, describe it like so:
    "You learn the basics, have a hideous experience in a graveyard, they give you a trenchcoat and steal your razor. Like an assembly line, really."
  • Self-Inflicted Hell: Played with. The DCU's Hell is whatever you expect it to be, and Stanley is an innocent little kid whose knowledge of Hell comes entirely from Saturday morning cartoons and Spot's stringently self-censored stories — so as soon as Stanley enters, Hell becomes cute, brightly-colored and harmless, with the demons forced to behave as if they were stupid and easily-outwitted. (Ambrose Bierce explains this trope; but not to Stanley, since it only works because Stanley doesn't know any better.)
    • One of the demons mentioned an incident that reinforces this where a group of cream cheese cultists went to hell, and things got... unusual, for a while, showing it's not just Stanley who can do this.
  • Stripperific: Nyx is rather....minimally dressed for a demon with a human body structure in an otherwise humorous comic. In fact, when shown from the back, it is clear that she doesn't have anything covering up her buttocks.
  • Take That!: The cover of the 1st issue is Phil Foglio pitching his comedy series to a rather bored editor who instead imagines the concept as being about a '90s Anti-Hero.
  • Talking with Signs: Used by the angel Duma (The Voiceless) to communicate.
  • To Hell and Back: Stanley has to enlist the aid of Ambrose Bierce and the Phantom Stranger to rescue Spot from Hell.
  • Treehouse of Fun: The first issue, before the main plot kicks in, revolves around Stanley's attempts to build the world's best ever treehouse, following the instructions in a book of Fun Things For Boys he finds in the attic, without his parents finding out.
  • Trenchcoat Brigade: Ambrose Bierce is used as an analogue for John Constantine. He throws a lampshade on this.
  • The Voiceless: The angel Duma, which had been established as such in the pages of The Sandman (1989).
  • Under New Management: The impetus of the series is that in the pages of Sandman, Lucifer decided to abandon the throne of Hell and just... left. After multiple people tried to ask Dream of the Endless for control of Hell, God declared that two of his angels would be the ones to become the new rulers. In the wake of Ramiel and Duma (said angels) being put in charge of hell, they give new rules to Hell, one of which is that Demons can't be outside of Hell anymore. While they can't do anything about Etrigan, they do know that the Nameless One can be taken back to Hell and assign his ex, Nyx, to drag him back. What they don't know is that Lucifer exiled the Nameless One from Hell, and none of the demons are lining up to tell the Angels since they want to see the angels screw up.
  • Weird Trade Union: Ambrose Bierce is a card-carrying member of the Disreputable Urban Magicians and Sorcerers Union.
  • Whatevermancy: Ambrose Bierce gets involved after receiving a tip-off from a jellomancer, a person who can read the fluctuations of reality in jello.
  • With This Herring: See Chekhov's Armoury above. Stanley storms Hell armed with a Halloween mask, a bottle of soda, an umbrella, a packet of hot dogs, a bottle of barbeque sauce and a little red wagon.
  • White Sheep: Spot (or "The Nameless One") is the only demon in history to have turned his back on Evil, which is proof for Ramiel and Duma that their program of rehabilitating demons can work. He was actually exiled from Hell by Lucifer for this reason.

Green Arrow: Quiver specifically provides examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Stanley, Sr, is an abusive grandparent.
  • Back from the Dead: The arc was meant to reintroduce Ollie after his death and a major part of the arc is getting Ollie's soul to rejoin the revived body and stop Stanley Sr. from taking it.
  • The Cameo: Morpheus makes another one, this time in his usual form.
  • Continuity Nod: After The Monster erases Stanley Jr.'s memories of his torture, Stanley asks the monster if they can build a treehouse together, a callback to the 1993 miniseries.
  • Darker and Edgier: Really, this time. Stanley is abducted and tortured by a satanist who wants Spot to be his servant. Spot eats him (the satanist, not Stanley).
    • Thank god it all ends on a (relatively) happy note; Spot only eats Stanley's grandfather because he really, really deserved it, and the Monster later erases Stanley's memories of all this horror to restore his mental health.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Stanley Sr. tortures his grandson to summon the monster. As it turns out, Stanley Sr. didn't have any plan of how to deal with the really, really ticked off monster.
  • Grand Theft Me: Part of Stanley Sr.'s plot is taking to take over the soulless body of Ollie. This is foiled when the real Ollie's soul decided to rejoin the body.
  • Harmful to Minors: What Stanley underwent.
  • One-Steve Limit, subclass "If There's Two Steves, It's For A Reason": The Stanley-and-His-Monster part of the plot begins when Green Arrow meets an elderly man named Stanley Dover, who turns out to be young Stanley's eponymous grandfather. And also the satanist who is trying to summon the Monster; it's suggested that an earlier attempt by the elder Stanley to summon the Monster to himself resulted in the Monster being summoned to the wrong Stanley, leading to their first meeting and all that followed.