UnNews:Edgar Allan Poe dies at age 200

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16 October 2009

Poe funeral

An observer pays his respects to Edgar Allan Poe, who lost his battle with old age October 6.

BALTIMORE, Maryland Legendary writer and poet Edgar Allan Poe, best known for such classics as "Fall of the House of Usher," "The Pit and the Pendulum," "Vincent Price's Filmography," "The Tell-Tale Heart," "Stannabelle Lee," "The Italian Man Who Went to Malta," and "The Raven," has died after a long and brave battle with a rare genetic disorder known as "old age." He was 200. Poe died in his sleep at his Baltimore home Tuesday night, October 6. He had been diagnosed with old age back in 1849, but initially kept it a secret to preserve his public image.

"I am at a loss for words," says Poe disciple Tim Burton. "Very few people can write like Poe -- Alfred Hitchcock and my Batman screenwriter Sam Hamm. Oh and how could I forget Jim Steinman! Poe was very one of a kind, and it's sad to hear that he is no longer with us."

Poe's prolific writing career all but died in 1849, with the release of the poorly-received gem, "The Furious Case of Wellington Bottoms," about a man born old who ages backwards when he discovers Viagra at a local barbershop. When he starts aging back too young, he kills the barber who gave him the pills to begin with. But then he starts to hear the dead barber's heart beat in his head. Things only get worse when the police arrive at his house later that night, blissfully unaware of the murder.

The book received scathing reviews from professional critics and only sold 2 copies, bought by the same person. That person happened to be the father of F. Scott Fitzgerald, who would later be born in 1896 and revise the story as "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" in 1921. Fitzgerald's version was more popular, and was adapted into a movie in 2008. A made-for-TV movie based on the Poe version aired twice on the Sci-Fi Channel that same year, to little fanfare.

"I always liked Fitzgerald's story better," says director David Fincher. "Poe was a scab, as far as backwards aging goes."

From 1850 on, Poe's newer works were largely ignored and he was written off as a has-been. His stories ranged from "The Aristocrats" (1850), "The Human Bat" (1851) "The Living Toys" (1851), "Return of the Human Bat" (1853), "Forever the Human Bat" (1855), and the career-ending "The Human Bat and His Homosexual Sidekick" (1856). He briefly retired as his health worsened, and publicly announced his old age disorder; nobody cared, as they all thought he was already dead.

"At this time, Poe was pretty much forgotten," says the undead Vincent Price. "I had been reading his post-1849 tales, and many of them sucked. The Aristocrats was pure shock value. The Human Bat saga had its ups and downs. The Living Toys would have been a good companion to The Tell-Tale Heart if the characters Woodrow and Buswald Lightwood hadn't been so damn cute and funny. Also, it needed more heartbeats and suspense, like that Twilight Zone episode or the Chucky movies. The book was as scary as an episode of Quincy. It was like Poe took a shit and named it My Later Career."

Poe Rolling Stone

Poe will grace the cover of the next issue of Rolling Stone, which hits stores Tuesday.

Poe underwent special treatments and surgery in 1861, and resumed his writing career with the award-winning comeback, Pushing Daisies. The classic story — a dark, gloomy and tragic tale about a Piemaker with the ability to resurrect the dead with consequences — was, at the time, the biggest seller of Poe's career since "The Raven." It was the first in a proposed book series, but after the second book was released with struggling sales, ABC Publishing pulled the plug. Literary scholars such as Jack Sullivan believe the cancellation was due to ABC's negligence and lack of promotion. However, ABC says that — despite the numerous awards Pushing Daisies won — the books were expensive to print and that there were not enough fans to keep the series alive. More recently, a quirky, lighthearted, comedic, present-day adaptation by Bryan Fuller suffered the same fate on network TV at the hands of the ABC Network.

"There was always a conspiracy against Pushing Daisies," says Sullivan. "It was a brilliant story with brilliant characters, but the powers-that-be pretended that it wasn't marketable."

After the cancellation, Poe attempted suicide by faking a dangerous sex act known as auto-erotic asphyxiation. After spending two years in rehab, he returned with yet another success — "The Tale-Tell Fart." The story was about a girl who blames her fart on an elderly dog before her fart comes back to haunt her. To date, it is Poe's bestselling story in any form. His next venture, however, was not as successful. 1864's "The Beginning of the Humat Bat" was a reboot of the mistakes Poe had made with the last two entires of his superhero saga, while exploiting the Bat's childhood and backstory. Despite selling only 50 copies, he was eager to follow it up, but character-rights issues prevented this until the stories and character entered the public domain in 1900.

"Edgar Allan Poe didn't write these Human Bat stories for the money," Sullivan says. "He clearly had a passion for the character, no matter how asinine the story."

Poe continued writing sporadically until writing his final two stories — 1931's "A Priest and a Rabbi Walk Into a Bar" and 1935's "A Dark Night for a Dark Knight". The former was a comedic story about a priest and a rabbi who walk into a bar, and one of them winds up dead. The latter was a three-hour crime epic in which the Human Bat meets his match with the terrifying menace known as The Clown. It would be the final installment of the Human Bat saga, at least until Bob Kane ripped off the idea, called it Batman and sold it to DC Comics in 1939.

"I was desperate," Kane said in 1997, shortly before his own death. "DC wanted a new character to capitalize on Superman, and so I read these Poe stories and since they were public domain, I knew he couldn't sue me."

Instead of suing, Poe and Bill Finger worked as uncredited collaborators on Kane's Batman stories. Poe dissolved the partnership when the comics were toned down into pure camp, especially during the three-season run of the Batman TV series starring Adam West. He came back full-heartedly when the property returned to its dark, grim, gloomy roots, helping to flesh out Frank Miller's stories and the 1989 Tim Burton film before his old age forced him to retire permanently.

Over the years, Poe's work has been adapted and parodied in various forms, including Vincent Price films, a Tiny Toon Adventures episode, The Munsters, The Simpsons, the 1998 Hallmark version of House of Usher, and even the now-classic Abbot & Costello Meet The Raven. Various adaptations, parodies, and reworkings continue to keep Poe's legacy alive.

Because of his age, Poe has no living relatives. His funeral last Tuesday drew thousands of patrons and was the largest funeral since that of Michael Jackson earlier this year. During the service, master of ceremonies John Astin — who played Poe in a one-man show, and is perhaps best known for his role as Gomez Addams on TV's The Addams Family — noted the irony that Poe was never a big fan of the Baltimore Ravens nor was he too fond of the heavy metal rock group Nevermore.

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