I’m a pretty huge Clive Barker fan. I read a lot of horror in my teens and twenties, including all the hallmark Stephen King books, but it was always Barker’s stuff that stuck with me the most. It was weirder, sexier and more inventive than anything else out there at the time. Hell, when people ask me what my favorite book of all time is, I still answer Imajica. And, of course, I followed him from the written page to the big screen. Hellraiser I and II are classics. Nightbreed and Lord of Illusions are severely underrated. All of those films hold up well today.
Since Illusions was released in 1995, however, the old-school Barker fan has been largely neglected. As a novelist, Barker moved away from horror toward a more mainstream brand of fantasy, culminating in the teen-friendly Abarat series that he’s been working on almost nonstop for the past decade. (I didn’t much care for the first one but enjoyed the second. Abarat III was just released.) Meanwhile, Dimension ran the Hellraiser film series into the ground with a never-ending string of brainless sequels, and while Barker produces the occasional adaptation of his old horror texts, none have resulted in a new horror classic. Then, earlier this year, the poor guy almost died from a case of toxic-shock syndrome thanks to a bit of dental work gone awry.
Thankfully, Barker recovered from the malady and is now back to work on Abarat IV. Not only that, but news broke this week of a couple of different projects that will stir the loins of old-school Barker fans. First, we got word that Clive himself is involved in reviving the Nightbreed franchise as a possible cable TV series. A few days later, it was discovered that a Hellraiser series is also in development by Sonar Entertainment. Neither is a sure thing to reach production, but both franchises feature complex and detailed mythologies that could provide a sturdy backbone for an ongoing television show. And the success of The Walking Dead is sure to have network execs clamoring for the next big horror series. Even if Barker’s not involved, there’s almost no way a Hellraiser TV series could be worse than the last five or so big-screen sequels. And a gritty, sexy Nightbreed series that Barker does have a hand in could finally give that universe the exploration it deserves.
All of this comes on the heels of a new, somewhat-under-the-radar Hellraiser comic series from Boom! that Barker’s been co-scripting. The series is only two trades in, of which I’ve only read the first, but so far, the comic’s done a good job of giving us the sprawling, mythology-heavy Hellraiser sequel we’ve all deserved since Hellbound. And then there’s the matter of The Scarlet Gospels, Barker’s epic Pinhead-vs.-Harry D’Armour novel that has existed in draft form for years now but still remains aggravatingly unreleased. Barker keeps saying the book needs another pass, but it’s obvious that Abarat is what’s consuming all of his time these days.
I don’t begrudge any artist the right to focus on what personally fulfills them, but the release of Gospels is something I’ve hoped for for a long time. Clive has talked up a lot of projects over the years that have never come to fruition — two more Cabal/Nightbreed books, the third Book of the Art, a second Galilee novel. Let’s hope The Scarlet Gospels doesn’t suffer the same fate as those. And if it happens to be released while both a Nightbreed and Hellraiser TV series are in production, fans of Barker’s early horror work are going to have an awful lot to celebrate.