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[KRISTY] VALENTI: I think there is a wolf cycle going on right now in indy comics; there was that werewolf anthology they put out at CCS.
[TOM] NEELY: I haven’t seen it.
VALENTI: I don’t know if it was the whole vampire-werewolf-zombie cycle or —
NEELY: I have no idea. I have specifically avoided reading most comics while working on The Wolf. Except for a few exceptions from friends, but I didn’t want to be influenced by anything contemporary or any external ideas. But I was very conscious of Twilight and all that stuff happening around me. And my mom was always like, “Oh, I think your book is gonna do really well, because everybody’s into werewolves and scary stuff.” And I’m like, “Mom …” And she’s like, “You should market this to the Twilight…” And I was like, “I’m not marketing my semi-pornographic book to teenage girls.”
[Valenti laughs.] That will get me arrested [chuckles].
It’s just a coincidence. It wasn’t any specific attempt to tap into that market, I was just off doing my own werewolf thing in my cave. And apparently there’s other stuff going on too — I didn’t even realize Jason did a werewolf story until somebody told me that the other day. So I haven’t really kept up with anybody [chuckles]. That’s what’s nice about finishing it, is now I’m getting to read all these books that I’ve avoided for the last five years. And someone else brought up that there’s a lot more sex in indy comics right now too. And I was unaware of that as well. Maybe there’s just something in the collective unconscious that’s leading us down that path. But it wasn’t any conscious attempt at being a part of that. I’m largely unaware; I guess there is a lot of it.
—Cartoonist and painter Tom Neely on pop culture and alternative comics’ mutual season of the wolf, in conversation with The Comics Journal‘s Kristy Valenti. He’s right — altcomix really are having a bit of a sexy time right now, and horror has gone hand in hand with that, for whatever reason. It’s interesting to think that even some of the artists responsible for this don’t realize it until they emerge from the trees enough to get a good look at the forest.
Valenti’s life- and career-spanning interview with Neely is a must-read, and not just because of insights like these into Neely’s wordless psycho-sexual-surreal-semiautobiographical graphic novel The Wolf, one of the year’s best comics. It paints a compelling portrait of how a restless and idiosyncratic artist can maintain a balance between pursuing his vision and the need to work with others — peers, publishers, day-job providers — to do so. His revelations about his failure to come to terms with Top Shelf for publishing his breakout book The Blot, the pros and cons of working as an animator for Disney, and his interaction with the alternative-comics scenes in Los Angeles and Portland all make for reading that’s both depressing and instructive. Check it out.
There’s not much I can say by way of an introduction to Tom Neely that the above image can’t do better. Combining the gangly, jaunty character designs of classic comic icons like E.C. Segar’s Popeye and Floyd Gottfredson’s Mickey Mouse with a take on horror that’s equal parts metal album cover, ’70s horror mag, and sexualized Surrealism, Neely’s comics, paintings, and illustrations wed a high level of craft to intense imagery that often literally tears its characters apart. It’s a style Neely has deployed with surprising versatility since the high-profile release of his self-published graphic novel debut The Blot in 2007; in that time he’s riffed directly on his influences with the Popeye reinterpretation Doppelgänger and the horror-mag cover collection Neely Covers Comics to Give You the Creeps!, adapted the songs of punk mainstays the Melvins in Your Disease Spread Quick, created a series of strip-format comic poems in Brilliantly Ham-fisted, put an alternative spin on the gag comic in the anthology Bound & Gagged, and most famously helped craft an ode to the timeless love affair of hardcore legends Henry Rollins and Glenn Danzig in Henry & Glenn Forever. I’ve enjoyed all these comics. But The Wolf, Neely’s new self-published full-length graphic novel, is the leader of the pack.
It’s easy to enjoy (if that’s the right word) The Wolf as a thrilling, chilling onslaught of monsters, bloody combat, and graphic sex — and indeed I do. But beneath the werewolves and zombies and tree-headed monks is a moving exploration of couplehood, as our male and female protagonists deal with the pain of the past and the threats of the present in order to build a (literally) brighter future together. As with The Blot, The Wolf‘s wordlessness emphasizes Neely’s powerful images, with a clever use of single splashes and double-page spreads propelling us through a story that at any moment can toggle between nightmare, wet dream, and peaceful reverie. It’s like life with the volume cranked up.
With The Wolf‘s release party scheduled for this Friday, July 8, at L.A.’s Secret Headquarters (although you can already purchase a copy through Neely’s website), Neely has provided Robot 6 with a selection of preview pages from throughout the book, and took the time to answer a few questions about its origins, influences, style, substance, subtext, sex scene, and more.
Hans Rickheit, who made Sean’s list of deeply creepy “alt-horror” cartoonists last Halloween, has just launched a new webcomic, Cochlea & Eustachea, which is even more surrealistic and deeply creepy than his slightly older (and much praised) Ectopiary.
On the About page, Rickheit notes that the lead characters have appeared in many of his other comics, starting with Chrome Fetus #5, but this is the first time they are getting their own comic. He only has two pages up right now, so it’s a good time to get on board.
(Via Scott McCloud.)
Back in April of 2010, writer Aaron Alexovich and artist Drew Rausch’s Eldritch! battled nine other webcomics to win the monthly competition held by DC Comics’ Zuda imprint. It was a hard-fought battle, and Eldritch! would ultimately earn the distinction of becoming the last Zuda winner, as DC shut down the competitions and ultimately the entire imprint soon after.
Eldritch! never had the opportunity to begin its run on the Zuda site, but that didn’t stop Rausch and Alexovich from pushing forward. A little more than a year after their victory, their comic is finally being released by the duo in various digital formats, including through Graphicly, comiXology and via the comic’s website.
The duo was kind enough to answer a few questions about and share some artwork from the new book. You can see even a longer preview on their site.
JK: Let’s start with a question about how this project initially came together. What made you guys decide to enter the monthly Zuda contest? And how did you guys know each other before all of this?
Drew: I was aware of Aaron’s existence from reading Serenity Rose way back when it was in single issues. I remember thinking “Man, this guy can write!” Seriously, each issue was a sequential novel. And I liked that. It had substance, wit and charm what with the “spooky” cute art. Eventually, I ended up asking Aaron to do a pin up for the second volume of my creator book Sullengrey. He and I just started chatting after that and found we both had a lot of similar tastes.
John Rozum is known to comics fans primarily for his horror work, from the current Xombi and recent Hangman for DC Comics to creator-owned work like Midnight, Mass. and licensed comics like The X-Files and even Scooby-Doo. He’s also the World’s Biggest Halloween Fan. The holiday, not the movie. Though I supposed he likes the movie, too. I should ask him.
Anyway, Rozum’s started a new blog, The Grim Gallery in which he shares images from his extensive collection of horror photos and art. Like the Dave McKean piece above. It’s just getting started, so horror fans can catch up quickly, but Rozum’s updating daily, so there’ll be plenty to keep you coming back.
Ok, maybe that’s a bit stereotypical, but it gives me a chance to fill you in on this innovative new series that’s being previewed free online. Created by writer Geoffrey Wessel and artist Jeff Simpson, the soccer crime serial Keeper is a very strong piece of work with an very unique concept ripe for success.
The creators are serializing pages of the comic online every Wednesday while also building towards a full first issue for print release.The comic has gotten some good accolades from veteran comic creators like Phil Hester, Rob Williams and Jacen Burrows — with the latter describing it as a “sports horror hybrid”.
Both creators were on hand earlier this month at C2E2 showing off their book in the Web Pavilion. For more, you can visit their site keeper-comic.com
Back around Halloween ’09, I whipped up a little list of “six deeply creepy alt-horror cartoonists,” a list of modern masters of the macabre that included The Blot‘s Tom Neely and Ectopiary‘s Hans Rickheit. Now both artists are dealing with something even scarier than their comics: the economy. And both are looking for financial help to keep their projects going.
First up is Hans Rickheit, whose latest graphic novel The Squirrel Machine was published by Fantagraphics, and whose webcomic Ectopiary has had its praises sung by my colleague Brigid Alverson (among many others). Rickheit announced the other day that the business where he worked has closed down, leaving him without a job or income and forcing him to suspend production of Ectopiary indefinitely. “If you’ve ever considered buying any artwork or books,” he writes, “this would really be a very helpful time to do so.” You can buy pages from his Xeric-winning erotic-horror graphic novel Chloe here, pages from his steampunk-by-way-of-David-Cronenberg book The Squirrel Machine here, many of his comics direct from Rickheit himself here, or simply donate what you will here.
Big news over at CBR, where Terry Moore (Strangers in Paradise, Echo) has announced his newest project, Rachel Rising, about a woman who has recently died but isn’t finished with life yet. Kiel Phegley zoomed in and got some details:
“This one will be ongoing because I’m developing a character and a whole world that I want a lot of open possibilities with,” Moore told CBR News. “I’m going for another genre that I love a lot. What I’m doing is that I’m still doing what I do with my character work, but like I’ve added a touch of sci-fi or what have you [to past projects], this one leans towards horror. And it’s not like gory horror or splatter. It’s more like, ‘This is not a town where you want to be on the streets at night.'”
I like it: The sort of horror that makes you uneasy, not grossed out. There’s more at the link, including a brief rundown of the premise of the story.
The webcomics collective ACT-I-VATE celebrates its fifth birthday today — congrats, guys! — by launching a new “tongue-in-cheek” horror comics anthology called Everywhere. The strip, created and written by Chris Miskiewicz, will feature artwork by Dennis Calero, Rodney Ramos, Bobby Timony, Nathan Schreiber, Seth Kushner and many more. The first strip, “Horses Everywhere,” is up now and features artwork by Andrew Wendel.
“Five years ago, eight independent cartoonists allied and presented personal signature works, online for free, and ACT-I-VATE was born,” said Dean Haspiel, creator of Billy Dogma and co-founder of ACT-I-VATE, in a press release. “Five years later, ACT-I-VATE expanded its roster, created a PRIMER graphic novel, and helped confirm publishing options between print and web. A bold example of how a curated destination point for new stories and ideas can sustain, ACT-I-VATE continues to break ground as the industry transitions to the Digital Age.”
Let’s get started with the first of many exclusive previews we’ll have for you today. Courtesy of our friends at Oni Press, we’re pleased to bring you a 15-page preview of the second volume of Possessions by Ray Fawkes. You might know Fawkes from such works as Spookshow, The Apocalipstix, Mnemovore and, of course, the first volume of Possessions.
The second Possessions features the return of Gurgazon the Unclean, a pit demon who looks like a five-year-old girl and is trapped in the Llewellyn-Vane House for Captured Spirits and Ghostly Curiosities. In this second volume, subtitled “The Ghost Table,” Ms. Llewellyn-Vane hosts a rival spirit collector and her collection of ghosts for dinner, and Gurgazon’s the main attraction.
You can find the preview and more information on the book after the jump; please note that the preview is an uncorrected proof. It’s scheduled to come out in March.
BOOM! Studios announced this morning that they’ve picked up the license to make comics based on horror writer Clive Barker’s Hellraiser. The new ongoing series will be co-written by Barker and Christopher Monfette and drawn by Leonardo Manco of Hellblazer fame.
In addition, they also plan to release Hellraiser: Masterworks Vol. 1, which will reprint stories from the Hellraiser anthology published under Marvel’s Epic banner. The first volume will include stories by Clive Barker, Neil Gaiman, Mike Mignola and Alex Ross, among others.
The complete press release can be fund after the jump.
Now here’s a novel idea for a horror comic. In Closed Caption Comics collective member Conor Stechschulte’s webcomic Two Broken Branches, a guy and a girl strolling through the dark woods one night have a choice to make: Stay on the road and plow on to their destination even though it might take them all night, or see if they can find some warmth and companionship at a nearby campfire even though it’ll take them off course. Stechschulte’s solution? Show the stories that emerge from both possible decisions, right next to each other — sticking to the road on the left-hand side, investigating the fire on the right-hand side. Suffice it to say that the tales diverge wildly and neither ends pleasantly, although you’ll have to read them to find out for whom. And both are drawn in Stechschulte’s sinister, shadowy, scratchy style. Check it out.
(via Noel Freibert)
This quietly sinister webcomic has been tearing up the comics Internet over the past few Halloween-dominated days, and for good reason. Presenting “His Face All Red” by Emily Carroll — a beautifully colored little nightmare with an ending as black as the background. When I finished it, I actually muttered “whooo” out loud, I was so impressed. Enjoy, if that’s the word for it.
(Via Tom Spurgeon)
To wrap up our Halloween treats today, our own Sean T. Collins and artist Isaac Moylan share a comic called “I Remember When the Monsters Started Coming for the Cars.” Check out the complete story after the jump.
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.