Happy Halloween! We round out our series of posts on what comics from the past or present left various creators shivering under the blanket until the sun came up. To see the previous posts, go here and here.
Fred Van Lente
I had the oversized MARVEL TREASURY EDITION of MARVEL TEAM-UP when I was a kid. The panel in the Spider-Man & Ghost Rider story in which the Orb removes his helmet and shows how hideously scarred he is scared me so bad I actually cut out a square of black construction paper big enough to tape over the panel to cover it so I could read the rest of the comic without looking at it. I couldn’t have been much older than seven.
Fred Van Lente is the co-writer of Marvel’s current event series Chaos War. He’s also written Action Philosophers!, Iron Man: Legacy and Shadowland: Power Man, among other titles. If you’re looking for something in the spirit of the season, check out his Marvel Zombies work.
My Distinguished (and Ghoulish) Colleague said Thursday that “there is a fundamental tension between the horror and superhero genres.” Or, as I see it, when Superheroes and Horror room together, one of them winds up taking up the living room. Mania.com went further and compared the horror comics of Marvel to those of their Distinguished Competitors. They came to the conclusion that DC has a stronger horror line, mostly because of the Vertigo imprint. “We don’t normally associate Marvel with horror comics”, said Chad Derdowski . “When you hear the words ‘Marvel horror,’ you probably have to scratch your head and think about it for a bit and nearly everything you come up with is ultimately going to fall into the superhero category.”
Which is probably the best argument for Marvel having just as strong of a horror element in their titles as DC. Because let’s face it: what scares you? The idea of ghosts and goblins, or that drunk driver swerving uncomfortably on the road in front of you? What terrifies you more, the dark thoughts of a killer or the threat of unemployment? There’s horror, and there’s personal horror, and both are frightful.
Last year for Robot 666 Week we had a lot of fun putting together our list of six comics that scared the $#!@% out of us. So this year, we thought we’d broaden our scope and ask a few comic creators what comics scared them. Here’s the first batch; check back tomorrow and on Halloween for more!
That’s an easy one.
In 1973, I read a short story in the black and white Monsters Unleashed magazine by Thomas Disch, adapted and illustrated by Ralph Reese called “The Roaches,” about a bug-infested apartment and the woman in it…all I remember was it was illustrated in such a creepy style and all those bugs…
At the time I was living in a basement of a house that had some of the little critters from time to time, and the story freaked me out to the point I couldn’t sleep, knowing the bugs were out there ready for me to fall asleep and crawl into my ears, mouth and nose. Now that I’m talking about it, it’s creeping me out all over again.
Jimmy Palmiotti is the co-writer, with Justin Gray, of a ton of comics — Jonah Hex, Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters, Time Bomb and many more. If you’re looking for a comic to read this Halloween, The Last Resort is a fun, over-the-top zombie comic.
There is a fundamental tension between the horror and superhero genres. Clearly the two aren’t incompatible, but in the stories which blend them, often one genre will dominate. At the risk of gross oversimplification, there’s no guarantee of a horror story having a happy ending; whereas superhero stories are generally about saving the day. Put another way, superheroes generally stop monsters.
Such was the case with 1991′s graphic novel Batman & Dracula: Red Rain, in which the Lord of Vampires comes to Gotham City. Red Rain was written by longtime Bat-scribe Doug Moench, boasted the distinctively eerie pencils of Kelley Jones, and polished off its sinister, downbeat mood through Malcolm Jones III’s inks, Les Dorscheid’s colors, and Todd Klein’s letters. SPOILERS FOLLOW … but is not much of a spoiler to note that Batman defeats Dracula, because a) that is what Batman does, and b) Tomb of Dracula notwithstanding, that is how Drac usually winds up. Furthermore, Red Rain was far from the Darknight Detective’s only run-in with more malevolent creatures of the night, because he’d been fighting vampires and werewolves as far back as 1939′s Detective Comics #30.
No, what makes Red Rain and its two sequels different is their overwhelming sense of doom. Red Rain is a superhero horror story which eventually turns Batman’s world inside-out more than any traditional deconstruction ever could.
Something spooky this way comes: Over on the Fantagraphics website, you can find previews and pre-order info for a pair of creepy kids comics from European comics superstars. First up is Toys in the Basement from Blab! mainstay Stéphane Blanquet, about a kid who shows up for a friend’s Halloween party in an embarrassing bunny costume, only to get stranded in the basement with a secret society of very pissed-off toys. Fanta puts it this way: “Imagine Toy Story as reimagined by David Lynch and Charles Burns and you’ll have a good idea of what this story is like. And yes, it is for kids!” Sold!
Next up is The Littlest Pirate King by Epileptic genius David B., adapted from a story by Pierre Mac Orlan. In this tale, a baby is adopted as the mascot for a crew of undead pirates, but things change as he grows up. Fanta notes that this will be David B.’s first full-color graphic novel to be released in English, and that alone makes it worth the price of admission even if you don’t enjoy pirate skeletons, in which case I don’t wanna know you anyway. All-ages meets All Hallow’s Eve!
For the past three years at Halloween, The Sixth Gun writer Cullen Bunn has written a horror story starring a charming old woman named Mrs. Friedly. This year, to help us celebrate Robot 666 Week, Bunn sent us all three of the previous Mrs. Friedly tales to share with our readers, along with a brand new one that we’ll debut right here on Halloween.
So a big thanks to Bunn and Mrs. Friedly for sharing their Halloween with us. Check out the first tale below, then check back Wednesday, Friday and of course on Halloween to read more.
By Cullen Bunn
“Another year,” Mrs. Friedly piped, “another Halloween Festival!”
The Elk Ridge Community Center was decorated with paper jack o’lanterns, dancing skeletons, and dozens of orange and black streamers. Children in costume—goblins and witches, vampires and ghouls, princesses and ninjas—scurried around the large chamber, and their laughter and squeals formed a constant din.
Mrs. Friedly clucked her tongue as she watched the children. Maybe she was old-fashioned, but some of the costumes just didn’t seem very… Halloweeny… to her. Ghouls and ghosts and monsters—those were fine. But the princesses and cowboys and monkeys just didn’t seem to fit the spirit of the occasion. Halloween, as the elderly woman saw it, was supposed to be a spooky night.
What on earth, she thought, is a ninja anyway?
Next Sunday is Halloween, and in celebration, we’re kicking off our second annual Robot 666 week, seven days of horror-filled fun. All this week, in addition to our regular blogging, we’ll look at the scarier side of comics, with horror-themed columns, scary stories and appearances by special “spooky” guests.
So stay tuned today as we get into the spirit of the season later today!
I mentioned this in Food or Comics? yesterday, but thought it was worth mentioning again (esp. since Vertigo posted a preview on their blog today) … although it was originally solicited with Jill Thompson on art, the Madame Xanadu tale in this year’s House of Mystery Halloween Annual is actually Matt Wagner and King City creator Brandon Graham. It’s kind of like finding out the house next door isn’t handing out candy this year (boo!), but they did make popcorn balls (yay!).
Wagner and Graham join Matthew Sturges, Peter Milligan, Luca Rossi, Mike Carey, Peter Gross and more in contributing to the anthology. It arrives in shops today.
This month Johnny Zito and Tony Trov, creators of the Black Cherry Bombshells, added a second Zuda strip to their writing duties — LaMorte Sisters, drawn by Christine Larsen. The story follows Maddie, a new student at the LaMorte Home for Lost Girls. The orphanage is run by a strict order of Catholic nuns who offer sanctuary and salvation to young women afflicted with vampirism.
Zito and Trov stopped by earlier this week and shared a list of vampires they’d like to have drinks with, and with today being the second anniversary of when Zuda officially launched, plus it being the day before Halloween, it kind of made sense to see what they had to say about their new vampire tale.
JK: One of the things that really struck me about the first pages of your new strip is how different it looks than Black Cherry Bombshells. How did you guys meet Christine Larsen?
Johnny: Christine is a fellow Philadelphian. She lives on the other end of the city in Fishtown.
Tony: We have many, many mutual friends in the art and film community. Johnny and I were both fans of her work on Teddy Scares.
The talented J. Bone uses the holiday classic It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown as the springboard for a couple of hilarious and, of course, well-drawn gags. (Warning: In the second cartoon, Charlie Brown employs off-color language!)
Poor, poor Linus …
With the Halloween-themed fun we’re having this week at Robot 666 (aka Robot 6)–it seemed like the perfect time to talk to Todd Dezago about the recently released Perhapanauts Halloween Spooktacular One-Shot (featuring stories drawn by the likes of Craig Rousseau, Rich Woodall and Fred Hembeck). Normally in an interview with Dezago, I would characterize him as one of the nicest folks in comics. But in the spirit of the Halloween season, I instead choose to characterize him as the most paranormal-fascinated person in comics. In addition to the one shot (with three stories in it)–we discuss other spooky topics like volleyball and iTunes. You are warned!
Tim O’Shea: Is it apt to say that Halloween is about your favorite time of the year, given your affinity for the paranormal?
Todd Dezago: Oh, Halloween definitely holds a special place in my heart, both for memories of Halloweens past and for the spooky, scary, creepy haunted element!
And I love that we were able to put together this fun and, hopefully, frightening anthology featuring very different artists on very different stories!