Horror comics fans have plenty of material to choose from when looking for a good, scary read this Halloween. Even if we just confine ourselves to manga (since, as we all know, the Japanese cartoonists excel at scaring the pants off their readers), there are plenty of options, from grand guginol pieces like MDP-Psycho or Ultra Gash Inferno, to more traditional, semi-bloody, spooky fare like Presents or Mail. Still, there are plenty of great, terrifying, mind-blowing manga that would delight the hardcore American horrorist if only some enterprising publisher would make an attempt at publishing them. Here are just six titles that I’d like to see translated and released in book form some time in the near future:
(Note: A potentially NSFW image lurks beneath the jump)
Lovecraft is a hard act to follow, and an even harder one to adapt. “Oh you mean HP Lovecraft, the guy who came up with Cthulhu and all those cute little plush toys.” Yeah, the guy who launched a thousand little cottage industries pumping out VOTE FOR CTHULHU: THE STARS ARE RIGHT bumper stickers and Mythos Hunting Guides and all that stuff. Yeah, him. I do wonder if he’d be tickled or appalled at his legacy and all the eldritch dust-catchers and t-shirts and radio plays.
Well, he’d probably like the radio plays. He’d probably have even approved of the silent film adaptation of THE CALL OF CTHULHU, arguably his single most famous piece of fiction, certainly the one that’s lodged most deeply in the collective consciousness, for good or for ill. The film adaptation ( http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0478988/ for the IMDB page, and it’s streaming on Netflix) gets a solid recommendation from me, and anyone who knows me will tell you that I’m pretty hard to please as this stuff goes. Not because I think Lovecraft’s every word is sacred and perfect. I don’t. My relationship with HPL’s work is problematic, mostly in terms of the execution. I like characters. I like it when characters drive the plot. HPL couldn’t be bothered with that by and large, except when it was an incessant curiosity on the part of the players that made the eldritch secrets of the plot unfurl to their almost unerringly messy conclusions.
So I find HPL’s conceptual work rightly celebrated even if I find his prose nigh-unimpenetrable at times. Which is why I’m often attracted to adaptations of his work, where creators have a desire to stick to the template that HPL laid out, and often there’s some sense of respect for the source material, but it’s filtered through a different sense of aesthetics. HPL-inspired stuff that stars HPL himself? Not so much. Though there was that beautifully-illustrated LOVECRAFT OGN with art by Enrique Breccia that was so wonderful that I simply didn’t care about the story. Though I suppose there’s an interesting vein to mine when talking about Lovecraft as fictional construct rather than historical figure, but that’s for someone else to do.
This has to be the book title of the year: The Horror! The Horror! Comic Books the Government Didn’t Want You to Read! The good folks at Abrams ComicArts have put together a pretty swell little trailer for this collection of pre-Comics Code horror and crime comics from the ’50s, edited and contextualized by Jim Trombetta with an introduction by Mr. Goosebumps himself, R.L. Stine. You can gather a couple of salient points from the video: 1) These things really were almost unbelievably lurid and gross, especially when you consider the relentlessly wholesome state of pop culture in general at the time; 2) Based on the video’s snippets from an anti-comic book TV report called Confidential File, which is included in its entirety on a DVD that comes with the book, men in suits took this stuff way too seriously back in the day.
Fresh from perverting Small Wonder, Prison Pit‘s Johnny Ryan tweets that this is the last week you can buy art from his show at the Mishka NYC gallery. That means it’s your last chance to snag extremely affordable takes on an array of horror icons, from the Exorcist print above to pieces based on The Fly, Scanners, It’s Alive, Basket Case, H.P. Lovecraft, the Coffin Joe movies, Ryan’s own Prison Pit rogues and beasts, and much more. What are you waiting for, fright fans?
Courtesy of artist Greg Hinkle, we’re pleased to present the finale to his horror comic Parasomnia. Be sure to read the first three chapters (here, here and here) before reading the final one, which is written by Matt Silady.
Here’s what Matt and Greg had to say about this chapter:
“When Greg asked me to contribute to his horror anthology, I knew immediately I wanted to write a ghost story. So, here’s a little tale about an urban spirit who wants more than anything to rest in peace.
“To be honest, when I asked Matt to fill out the roster on this book, I never thought he’d agree. I mean, he’s a very busy guy. So I figured my little anthology would be way down at the bottom of his list of priorities. Instead, he got right back to me, and we met up at the famous saloon, the Vesuvio, in San Francisco to discuss his piece.
Matt and I ended up working in the old Marvel style. He had an outline, with some rough layouts, and told me to work on the art, and he’d fit the story to the finished pages. It was great to have the liberty to help guide the story, but a little intimidating. I kept sending Matt thumbnails as I’d finish them, just to make sure I was headed in the ‘right’ direction. I wanted to blur the line between waking and sleeping a bit with the last dream, and Matt’s Ghost Story was exactly what the book called for.
Matt and Jason helped me tie up the ending as well, with an intense series of late night back-and-forth emailing. I had a certain ending in mind, and they helped talk me down from that clichéd ledge. Without their combined effort, and Josh’s lightning fast lettering, I don’t think I wouldn’t have had anything worth looking at.”
This wraps up the comic, but tomorrow come back for Greg Hinkle’s illustrated Annabel Lee by Edgar Allan Poe. Print copies of Parasomnia are available from Greg’s Etsy shop.
Robot 666 | Take aim at The Walking Dead with Jordan Crane, Lisa Hanawalt, Johnny Ryan, and Jon Vermilyea
Whoa. These are pretty much the last official promotional items I ever expected to see, but man am I ever glad I’m seeing them: Alternative-comics creators Jordan Crane, Lisa Hanawalt, Johnny Ryan, and Jon Vermilyea have each created a Walking Dead print. Made to look like shooting-range practice targets, the prints tie in with Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard (and Tony Moore)’s series, the television adaptation of which will make its debut on AMC this Halloween. Each print is signed by the artist and by Kirkman himself, emblazoned with the “Grant County, Georgia Law Enforcement and Public Safety” logo, limited to a run of 100, and priced to sell at $40. Best of all, each artist worked in his or her own inimitable style: Crane’s features linework so impeccable it actually becomes somewhat menacing itself, Ryan’s is spectacularly gross and upsetting, Vermilyea’s is a riot of squiggly detail, and Hanawalt’s has a cat’s head instead of a human’s.
The prints were curated by L.A.’s Secret Headquarters. Click here to see them all and buy them, but remember: If you end up using them for target practice, headshots only!
(Hat tip: David Paggi)
As I mentioned earlier this week, The Sixth Gun writer Cullen Bunn has written a horror story starring an old woman named Mrs. Friedly at Halloween for the past few years. 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. “Gone Fishin‘” went up on Monday, and you can read “The Silent Auction” below. Check back Friday and on Halloween to read more.
The Silent Auction
By Cullen Bunn
“My word, Mrs. Friedly!” Claire tapped the tiny, elderly woman on the shoulder. “I’ve never heard such questions in all my life!”
Mrs. Friedly turned and regarded her new neighbor over the rim of her round-framed eyeglasses. “What’s that, dear?”
“These questions–” Claire waved towards the gorilla-suited MC, who was busy reading trivia questions from a crumpled sheet of paper. Behind him, a banner was tacked to the wall. HALLOWEEN TRIVIA NIGHT, it read. “–They’re dreadful!”
Mrs. Friedly smiled sweetly and nodded.
“OUR NEXT QUESTION …” The MC’s voice, muffled beneath his ape mask, boomed over the microphone. “…NAME, IN CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER, THE VICTIMS OF JACK THE RIPPER.”
Courtesy of artist Greg Hinkle, we’re pleased to present his horror comic Parasomnia for Robot 666 Week. Be sure to read chapter one and chapter two before reading chapter three, which is written by Jason McNamara and can be found after the jump below.
Here’s what Jason and Greg had to say about this part of the story:
“My contribution to Parasomnia is a little cautionary tale called ‘Baby Talk.’ This was an experiment in writing from someone else’s point of view. I had been finding a lot of Chick Tract comics around this time and wanted to try my own take on the format.
Because the short was appearing in a horror anthology I didn’t have to worry about establishing the genre in my script. Greg did such an incredible job of injecting dread into everyday locations, that when the super natural elements of the story emerge you were already expecting it. I enjoyed working with Greg so much that it inspired me to write more for him. Expect to see our full length graphic novel The Rattler sometime in 2011.”
“This story was simultaneously really exciting and extraordinarily disgusting to draw. It was easy enough to find some sewer references, but the rest… trying to research ‘fetus’ on the internet was a horrible, horrible idea. Jason was the only one of the writers to hand me a traditional script, with the page and panel breakdown. It was nice working with a script, since it let me focus more on each panel’s contents, rather than their layout. And I feel like Jason and I have similar tendencies when it comes to comics. We both get kinda bored easily, so he writes to keep himself interested and I’m having a blast trying to keep up.”
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!
Over on the CBR mothership, Batman & Robin artist Frazer Irving stops by The Bat Signal column to talk to Kiel Phegley about, among other things, his work with Bat-maestro Grant Morrison. Naturally, Irving dishes on some of the darker moments he’s drawn for the Dark Knight and his associates:
As we mentioned yesterday, we’re pleased to present Parasomnia by Greg Hinkle and a host of writers as a part of Robot 666 Week. Start off by reading part one, then come back here and read the second chapter.
Here’s what Greg and Storm, the writer of the second chapter, had to say about it:
“When I was writing Playing House, I was thinking about that old adage of “be careful what you wish for, because you might just get it.” As the ideas for how I would work with that theme coalesced, I found myself with one determined girl, a couple of dolls and a whole lot of–Oops! I almost spoiled it. It suffices to say that manipulating forces (or others) for your own gain is never a good idea.
Another goal of mine while working on this story was to have as few words as possible. I love writing dialogue (I grew up worshiping Chris Claremont after all), but I challenged myself to make the art carry the action. Greg’s rendition of the little girl and her dolls is even better than I envisioned (I had drawn very loose thumbnails) and his sense of drama permeates every panel. He did a remarkable job in bringing this story to life. I hope you enjoy it!”
“This story was a lot of fun. STORM didn’t put much dialogue in his story, and (blindly) trusted in my art to get the point across. I love telling silent stories and I’m pretty happy with the results. Unlike the last chapter’s dream, this story plays with our sleeping girl’s memories a bit. We see a younger aspect of herself, and visit a more specific event that hits a little closer to home.”
Check out the story after the jump.
Alt-horror visionary Tom Neely — he of the much acclaimed, mostly wordless graphic novel The Blot — is at it again with another psychologically troubling take on the cartoon icons of the early 20th century. This time he’s putting Popeye through the paces in Doppelgänger, an action-packed reinterpretation of E.C. Segar’s sailor man. The book pits Popeye against his greatest enemy of all: himself. Multiple copies, in fact. It’s not Neely’s most overtly horrific work, to be sure, but doubles have been a staple of the uncanny for centuries (as Freud himself noted), and the scenes of Popeye and his duplicates assaulting one another evoke everything from Dead Ringers to 28 Days Later, all with impeccable linework that recalls the great master cartoonists of yore. You can order it through Neely’s I Will Destroy You imprint. Tastier than spinach and twice as good for you, folks!
With the television adaptation debuting in just five days, Image Comics announced this morning that it will reprint every issue of The Walking Dead, releasing one a week for a year beginning in January.
Called, appropriately enough, The Walking Dead Weekly, the $2.99 reprints are obviously designed to appeal to fans who discover the comic through the new TV drama, which begins its six-episode first season Sunday night on AMC.
“I think it’ll drive people into comic book retail stores, and I think that’s cool,” creator Robert Kirkman tells Techland. “The other thing about The Walking Dead is that it’s been going for almost eight years at this point, and I’m continually trying to think of ways to get new readers on board, and I was thinking, with [people coming in from watching] this television show, buying thirteen trade paperbacks for x amount of dollars is kind of a pain, but buying one three dollar comic book every week for a year may seem like an easier pill to swallow, and a good way to get in on the ground floor, read it in its original format.”
Kirkman says he isn’t concerned the weekly reprints might eat into demand the series’ collected editions, which are perennial bestsellers. (The six-year-old first volume, for instance, was No. 6 on ICv2.com’s Top 300 graphic novels for September).
“I think there are a lot of different people buying comics books right now, and I think there’re a lot of people out there who really don’t prefer trade paperbacks,” Kirkman tells the Time magazine blog. “I’ve talked to a lot of people who tell me that they prefer reading comics in single-issue form. There are people out there who prefer to read comics in trade paperback form. I think it’s important to service all of those audiences. You know, it’s good to finally come back around and service those fans who really like single issues. If you were to go back and buy all of our single issues now, it would be extremely expensive and difficult, but this is a way that you can get the comic book in single issue form and not have to sell your house.”
On a related note, the Louisville, Kentucky, Courier-Journal has a longish profile of Lexington-based Kirkman, focusing on the Image series, the TV adaptation and comics in general.
Read the press release after the break.
“Sluts of Dracula” is totally today’s phrase that pays. Seriously, if I were a publisher I’d greenlight a book called Sluts of Dracula sight unseen. Of course, since the phrase was coined by cartoonist Becky Cloonan — who then provided ample, gorgeous, gloriously NSFW illustrations of the concept — it really wouldn’t be that much of a risk.
Okay, so cartoonist Johnny Ryan’s latest NSFW strip for Vice magazine isn’t quite one of the mind-meltingly bleak nightmares he’s churned out for the mag or for his Fantagraphics series Prison Pit lately. But if you’ve got fond childhood memories of spending Saturday evenings watching the notoriously cheesy syndicated sitcom Small Wonder, featuring robotic-voiced Vicki and her unctuous inventor father Ted, the comic’ll do a number on you anyway. “Dream yeast”…shudder.