"The Mummy"
(48 pages)

Script (adaptation) - Dan Jolley
Original story - Nina W. Putnam, Richard Schayer
Original movie screenplay - John L. Balderston
Pencils & Inks - Tony Harris
Colours - Matt Hollingsworth
Lettering - Lois Buhalis
Editor - Dan Thorsland

Cover - Tony Harris (pencils & inks)

On sale 30 November 1993

A Dark Horse Comics one-shot adaptation
of the 1932 Universal movie The Mummy


The year is 1921, and deep in the Egyptian desert, the Reed archeological expedition, led by Sir Joseph Whemple, is digging for artefacts for the British Museum. The results have so far been disappointing, until the team finally discovers and unearths the mummy of an ancient Egyptian high priest named Imhotep.

A closer inspection of the mummy by Whemple's friend, Dr Muller, rather surprisingly reveals that the mummy's viscera were not removed, as would have been common practice. Furthermore, there are signs of struggling, leading Muller to conclude that although Imhotep had been wrapped like a traditional mummy, he had in fact been buried alive - along with a casket carrying a curse.

It all points to a punishment and execution for reasons of sacrilege, but despite Muller's warnings, Sir Joseph's assistant Norton opens the casket and finds an ancient life-giving scroll, the "Scroll of Thoth".

He transcribes the hieroglyphs and then translates the Old Egyptian text, reading out the words aloud.

"This is the Scroll of Thoth.
Herein are set down the magic words by which Isis raised Osiris from the dead:
Oh! Amon-Ra
Oh! God of Gods
Death is but the doorway to new life
We live today
We shall live again
In many forms shall we return
Oh Mighty One."

The words re-animate Imhotep, who grabs the scroll and slowly lumbers out into the desert, leaving behind Norton in a fit of hysterics that will ultimately put him in an insane asylum.

Fast forward to 1932, and Sir Joseph's son Frank Whemple is about to abandon his expedition, not unlike his father ten years prior, when a somewhat mysterious Egyptian by the name of Ardeth Bey shows up. He promises Whemple nothing short of the most sensational find since the tomb of Tutankhamen and gives him precise instructions on where to dig for the final resting place of the Princess Ankhsenamun.

Bey's instructions - which he claims stem from "partly inference, partly chance" - lead to sensational archaeological findings, but Whemple can't help but sense an odd aura around the rather mysterious Egyptian, who amongst other uncommon behaviour strictly avoids any physical contact - "I dislike to be touched, an eastern prejudice".
  In Cairo, Dr Muller is hosting a social event. One of the invited guests is Helen Grosvenor, the half-Egyptian daughter of the English governor of the Sudan. All of a sudden she starts acting strangely and leaves the party - unbeknownst to the baffled guests, she is under a spell from Ardeth Bey who is reading from a scroll inside the Cairo Museum of Antiquities.

Helen ends up at the very same museum, where she faints into the arms of Frank Whemple. Much to the latter's surprise, she then utters words in Old Egyptian, "not heard on this earth for 2000 years". When Bey is discovered with the scroll by a museum guard he kills the witness but is forced to leave in a hurry without the scroll, which then ends up with Whimple, who is advised by Muller to burn it. Precisely at this moment Ardeth Bey shows up, and upon introductions is clearly taken with Helen. The topic of the scroll arises, and Bey starts to cast a spell on Sir Joseph but leaves when Muller threatens to destroy the scroll.

Back at his place, Ardeth Bey performs a mystic ritual allowing him to choke Sir Joseph to death long-distance, while his Nubian servant retrieve the scroll.

Drawing Helen to his home, he shows her visions in the pool of the house, depicting the death of Princess Ankhsenamun, priestess of the temple of Karnak, in 18th Dynasty Egypt. In violation of all religious laws, high priest Imhotep steals the Scroll of Thoth from a statue of Osiris in order to revive his beloved princess. In the midst of the ritual, he is found out, and condemned by the Pharaoh to "nameless death" and live mummification. The scroll was buried with him prevent future such sacrilege. As Ardeth Bey tells Helen, "my love has lasted longer than the temples of our gods, no man ever suffered as I did for you".

Bey is clearly Imhotep, and he is convinced that Ankhsenamun is reincarnated in Helen, and that she must undergo the ritual of the "great night of terror and triumph" in order to have an eternity of love at his side.
However, Whemple and Muller have started to put together the pieces and understand the threat that Bey/Imhotep poses to all of them, including Helen, who returns to her home in quite a state.

An attempt by Bey to put a curse on Whemple is fouled by an Isis charm he carries, but Helen returns to the Egyptian under a renewed spell, where he has her dress in Old Egyptian royal attire.

At this point, Bey explains why he doesn't simply raise the remains of Ankhsenamun with the power of the scroll - "it would be a mere thing that moved at my will without a soul". Instead, he plans to kill and embalm Helen and then revive her as the princess in immortality.

Helen, speaking as Ankhsenamun, pleads with Bey, but he can't be moved, refering to his own ordeal in the past. At this point Whemple and Muller arrive on the scene, witnessing Bey attempting to stab Helen with a dagger but then struck down by a statue of Isis that mysteriously raises its hand. Bey disintegrates, and Whemple has to call Helen back from across the centuries while the Scroll of Thoth is destroyed by fire.




Karl Freund's 1932 pre-code horror movie The Mummy starring Boris Karloff (billed as "Karloff the Uncanny") is an early example of Universal's "classic monsters" films made in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s.

Whilst most of these films were significant box office successes at the time of their original release, it was the syndication to television as of the 1960s which boosted their popularity, turned them into icons of popular culture, and generated wave upon wave of merchandising that continues to this day.

The classic Universal horror characters are also a very visible feature of the parks operated as Universal Studios. This is mostly due to merchandising on sale, but since 1991 they are also a regular fixture of the special events branded "Halloween Horror Nights".

At the same time Universal introduced their special Halloween night events, the company was looking for a novel type of merchandising at the Studios parks - resulting in comic book adaptations of the most classic Universal horror movies.
Dark Horse Comics was, in many ways, a logical partner for this venture. Founded in 1986 in Oregon by Portland comic book store chain owner Mike Richardson, the publisher quickly established itself as a strong proponent of licensed material, including movies such as Alien and Predators in 1989 and Star Wars in 1991 (acquiring the rights previously owned by Marvel).

Dark Horse Comics were expanding and highly successful, and they clearly had the necessary experience in handling licensed movie characters that Universal was looking for.

And so a deal was struck and the "official Universal Studios Monsters" would be added to the Dark Horse Comics fold. The idea was to present faithful adaptations of the classic movie material in one-shot issues covering 48 pages each, and using the umbrella title Universal Monsters, the first of these was published in June 1993, featuring the 1931 movie Frankenstein. This was followed in turn by Dracula in October 1993, The Mummy in November 1993, and finally Creature from the Black Lagoon in late 1993. An adaptation of the 1941 movie Wolf Man was also planned but ultimately never materialized.

Produced on the heels of the immensely successful 1931 movies Dracula and Frankenstein, The Mummy is, in comparison, something of a minor classic. It never quite reached the level of awareness of its two predecessors, yet still enjoyed a moderate box office success and, in spite of never having an official sequel, spawned several follow-up movies from Universal and later remakes.

  One major difference between The Mummy and both Dracula and Frankenstein is the absence of a literary source. Although Arthur Conan Doyle's short story "The Ring of Thoth" may have served as a source of inspiration, Richard Schayer and Nina Wilcox Putnam started out with what was pretty much a blank canvas. The resulting screenplay made for a movie that ran for 73 minutes, didn't feature too many moments of horror (as even contemporary reviews pointed out) yet provided plenty of what would become classic imagery and atmosphere.

All the Dark Horse adaptations, albeit crafted by different artists, faithfully recreated these visuals and scenes to the degree of instant recognition.

This is also true for Dan Jolley's script for The Mummy adaptation, which at times even follows the dialogue of the movie, and that very same sense of genuine rendition of the movie is also true for the artwork.

Tony Harris (*1969), a two times Eisner Award winner (in 1997 and 2005), had only entered the comic book business a few years prior to Universal Monsters: The Mummy, but his technique was uniquely suitable for the material. He is known to make extensive use of models and photo reference in his work, progressing from photo to pencil art to inks. Adapting an existing movie was therefore clearly something that played right into his hands.

The resulting artwork, reinforced by subdued colouring by Matt Hollingsworth, often provides vignettes of scenes from the movie which are instantly recognisable but at the same time also retaining its own artistic stance. Karloff is rendered perfectly, as are all the other major members of the movie's cast, and Harris' artwork captures the scenes and the atmosphere faithfully, filling the static comic book images with all the storytelling energy of the film's moving pictures.


Tony Harris


Original artwork by Tony Harris (signed) for page 26 of The Mummy (scanned from the original)
and the same page as it appeared in print. Below is the scene from the movie that inspired part of this page.

To someone who loves the 1932 movie and has seen it more than once, the Dark Horse comic adaptation feels extremely genuine, and very much like singing along to one of your favourite songs playing on the radio. It really is a must read.

Readers who are not or only marginally aware of the movie should get an enjoyable read out of The Mummy too, although not having the fun of recognizing both dialogue and visuals from the film might just make it a tad less of a treat.

Available through regular comic book outlets (and not just through the Universal Studios parks), The Mummy was collected in 2006, along with the adaptations of the Frankenstein and Dracula movies, in trade paperback form as Universal Monsters: Cavalcade of Horror (King, 2021).



KING Zach (2021) "Review: Universal Monsters: Cavalcade of Horror trade paperback (Dark Horse Comics)", Collected Editions Blogspot, published online 21 March 2021

The illustrations presented here are copyright material and are reproduced for strictly non-commercial and appreciative review purposes only.
Text is (c) 2022 Adrian Wymann

Page uploaded to the web 17 December 2022