Oh, this is luscious.
Produced by Phil and Sarah Stokes, the forces behind Clive Barker’s official website, this huge book (350+ pages) is copiously illustrated with cover artwork, behind-the-scenes photos from the likes of Hellraiser and Nightbreed, rare promo materials and Barker’s own sketches and paintings.
For those Barker fans who already own Stephen Jones’s 1991 anthology Shadows in Eden, or Douglas E. Winter’s The Dark Fantastic, Dark Worlds adds not only high-end production values but colour, and coverage of decades’ worth of additional output from Barker. Even if much of his more recent output never quite reaches the quality of his late 80s/early 90s ‘imperial phase’, it’s nonetheless lovely to have such a comprehensive overview of his myriad creative projects.
The book covers pretty much everything he’s ever done, and breaks from a broadly chronological order to push Hellraiser to the fore. I suspect that to the wider world he’ll forever be known as the man who created Pinhead, and that’s fair enough.
Most projects have at least four pages and some illustrations devoted to them, from his Dog Company theatre of the 70s and early 80s through to more recent comics or games. In addition there are extended features on Pinhead and Harry d’Amour, and also on aspects of Barker’s personal life, including the serious health problems he has suffered in the last fifteen years or so and which I presume are partly responsible for his role these days as an ideas generator: Barker will come up with a story that someone else turns into a comic script or screenplay or whatever. It also seems highly likely that he essentially outsources some of this work simply because he has so many ideas bursting out of his own head, but not enough hours (or perhaps energy) to devote to bringing each one to fulfilment.
I’m a sucker for minutiae and there are some little gems of info that I’d never come across before, and left me wanting to know even more: Cabal, for instance, was dictated by Barker directly to tape, and so no typescript exists; Weaveworld was originally to feature a child called Nat as the hero, and I finally discovered the location of the Cottons’ house in Hellraiser (Dollis Hill Lane, London).
Any quibbles? A few: some of the typesetting and paragraph alignments are a bit off but I suspect the only real problem readers will have is that their own personal favourite Barker books (or films, or comics…) simply don’t get enough space. I wanted more on Weaveworld and Imajica, for instance (and perhaps less on Abarat); and many of the quotes from Barker can already be found on his website. In addition, the synopses of many of the books are taken from first edition dust covers, which Barker completists will likely already have; perhaps a bit more analysis of the books themselves (as can be found in Clive Barker: Dark Imaginer) would have been good. But I’m not really complaining: after all, we also get exciting teasers about the 3rd Book of the Art…
Dark Worlds is a fine celebration of a creative life like no other as the man himself reaches his 70th birthday. If you’re a fan of Barker’s work you really do need this on your shelf. Just make sure it’s a sturdy shelf.