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Comic Book / Wormwood: Gentleman Corpse

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Wormwood: Gentleman Corpse is an irregular comedy-horror comic series by Ben Templesmith, published by IDW Publishing as a series of one-shots and miniseries during the 2000s. Although no new comic issues were produced for some years, it was announced in 2016 that an Animated Adaptation was entering development, and a new miniseries Wormwood Goes to Washington was published in 2017 followed by a Christmas one-shot.

Wormwood is not in fact a zombie, but an extra-dimensional magical larva who can use human corpses as puppets. Most of the time he can be found drinking in the Dark Alley Club, a sinister strip joint ("Sad, seedy loners welcome") with his buddy Mr. Pendulum, appearing to anybody who can't pierce his Perception Filter to be a seedy upper-class Soho alcoholic. He's actually, however, one of the main entities protecting Earth from a wide variety of extra-dimensional horrors, although he doesn't feel the need to be nice about it.

Not to be confused with The Chronicles of Wormwood, although there are some tonal similarities.

This comic provides examples of:

  • Achilles in His Tent: Wormwood spends years sulking in an extra-dimensional jungle prior to "Mr. Wormwood Goes to Washington" following an unfortunate romantic relationship.
  • Amazon Brigade: The Gamelei Collective, a bunch of gratuitously violent magical girl strippers. (Yes.)
  • Animated Tattoo: Every member of the Gamelei Collective of strippers cum hired thugs is marked with a unique animal tattoo she can animate to destroy her enemies.
  • The Assimilator: The Calimari Brotherhood are like the Borg, but with tentacles instead of metal.
  • Bad Guy Bar: The Dark Alley Club is where the heroes hang out, but has this kind of atmosphere.
  • Barbie Doll Anatomy: It's a running gag that Mr. Pendulum has no "bits". In one story, Wormwood installs some on him, but after discovering the Leprechaun Queen is better-hung than he is, Mr. Pendulum despondently requests they be removed.
  • The Coats Are Off: When Mr. Pendulum does this, he not only increases in asskicking, he also increases in size.
  • Color-Coded Speech: All the major characters have different colour text in their speech bubbles. Undead or magical people have different colours of text on black speech bubbles (mostly red, but Medusa has white, the Calimari Brotherhood have mauve, and Buel has green), normal humans have black on white, and Mr. Pendulum uniquely has blue on black.
  • Creepy Child: In one story, Wormwood's usual body gets rendered uninhabitable by a leprechaun bite, so he ends up in the corpse of a little girl.
  • Disposable Sex Worker: The hookers who Wormwood supplies the Four Horsemen with don't survive the experience for long.
  • Everybody Smokes: Wormwood and Phoebe chain-smoke cigarettes, Mr. Pendulum probably only doesn't because he's a robot.
  • Eye Scream: Wormwood likes to sit in the eye socket of his vessel.
  • Face Full of Alien Wing-Wong: Happens in the stories with incredible frequency. In one case, this was caused by an Eldritch Abomination pretending to be human masturbating into people's beer.
  • Gentleman Wizard: Wormwood acts like a peculiar hybrid of this and a Trenchcoat Brigade figure, with the dress, speech and manners of the former but the lifestyle and behaviour patterns of the latter.
  • Ghostly Goals: Trotsky (no relation) was a lazy, incompetent cop who is forced to stay as a ghost until all the cases he failed to solve are cleared up.
  • God-Eating: Wormwood's species feeds on dead gods, giving them immense power.
  • Gun Fu: What Phoebe uses to fight until things get really serious.
  • Hellgate: The Dark Alley Club is one. Medusa is officially meant to be its guardian, but she's worryingly lackadaisical about it.
  • Horsemen of the Apocalypse: The Four Horsemen arrived a long time ago, but they liked drugs, sex, and junk food too much to bring themselves to do the whole "reap a quarter of the population" bit. Wormwood keeps them supplied with cocaine, hookers, cheese snacks, and a penthouse suite so that they stay too distracted to trigger the Apocalypse.
  • It's Personal: The Calimari Brotherhood have a personal grudge against Wormwood after he destroyed a whole solar system rather than let them assimilate it.
  • Kill Tally: Phoebe puts a new small scar on one of her upper arms as a tally every time she kills someone.
  • Last of Its Kind: The Calimari Brotherhood destroys the Leprechaun world, leaving the Queen the only one not infected.
  • Leprechaun: They are depraved, ultraviolent little stereotypically Irish monsters.
  • Loan Shark: How the capitalist demons got to take over Christmas from Santa.
  • Lovecraft Lite: The Earth is constantly under threat from various tentacular abominations but it's usually played for laughs.
  • Malicious Misnaming: Wormwood drives an abomination pretending to be human to reveal itself in rage by repeatedly mispronouncing his name, "Leroy".
  • Medusa: The owner of the Dark Alley Club, leader of the Gamelei, and Wormwood's ex-girlfriend, Medusa, is strongly implied to be the Medusa.
  • The Men in Black: Averted. Apparently the religious right got them shut down for being heretical.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: A very recognisable Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes are plotting with the Ghorass in "Wormwood Goes to Washington".
  • One-Gender Race: Leprechauns are all male. Even the queen. We aren't given details on how they reproduce.
  • Our Zombies Are Different: Wormwood is a Parasite Zombie type, although he also has elements of the Revenant Zombie, being a self-sufficient and individualist being with no particular interest in reproducing or spreading an infection.
  • Perception Filter: Only magical people or people who he wants to will see Wormwood as anything but a living human.
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner: Lincoln to the Ghorass:
    Lincoln: This one's on the House. The House. Get it?
  • Revenge Is a Dish Best Served: The very first issue establishes just how far the comic will go into black comedy by combining this with Face Full Of Alien Wing Wong. Seriously.
  • Ridiculously Human Robots: Mr. Pendulum can drink beer, is not particularly servile, and apart from being metal looks like an elderly outlaw biker.
  • Saving Christmas: The Christmas special has Wormwood forced to save Christmas after capitalist demons kill Santa and try to take it over.
  • Self-Deprecation: Ben Templesmith appears in the issue "Segue to Destruction" at the Dark Alley, where Wormwood describes him as "my biographer". None of the cast have any respect for him at all, and mock his defensively citing his three Eisner nominations: "No idea what those are, but he seems obsessed with them."
  • Servile Snarker: Both Mr. Pendulum and Phoebe have this kind of relationship to Wormwood.
  • Strawman Political: Jerry from Minnesota was a particularly nasty Republican even before he got possessed.
  • Subbing for Santa: Wormwood recruits the Roman god Saturn to permanently take over for Santa after he is murdered.
  • Take That!: The Ghorass announces that Sarah Palin has "no spark of life" for it to feed on.
  • Tank-Top Tomboy: Phoebe wears a white tank top and is a tough professional thug into her booze and fags.
  • Telescoping Robot: Mr. Pendulum can extend his limbs in combat.
  • Textual Celebrity Resemblance: There are several references to Wormwood's Perception Filter appearance looking like Brad Pitt, although the resemblance on the few occasions the reader sees it are not particularly strong. There's one panel where it looks scarily like David Tennant.
  • Usurping Santa: In the Christmas special, Santa is killed and usurped by capitalist demons, and then replaced with the god Saturn.
  • We Didn't Start the Führer: "Wormwood Goes to Washington" suggests that the Third Reich was due to mass possession by a type of extra-dimensional creature known as Ghorass Fungus.
  • Weaponised Landmark: At the climax of "Wormwood Goes to Washington", Abraham Lincoln's spirit possesses the Lincoln Memorial.