X-POSITION: Phoenix, Upstarts & More Tear Up Bowers & Sims' "X-Men '92"
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.
If you didn’t get enough from the preview Sean linked to the other day, we’ve got you covered. Courtesy of our fiendishly fantastic friends at Fantagraphics, we’re pleased to bring you seven more pages from The Littlest Pirate King, David B.’s adaptation of a short story by Pierre Mac Orlan.
It features both pirates and the undead, two of my favorite things. You can find more information on the book, plus the preview, after the jump.
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.
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)
Another day, another link to Jordan Crane’s must-read What Things Do webcomics portal. This time it’s Dan Zettwoch’s “Crossfader,” which originally ran in the equally indispensable print anthology Kramers Ergot 6. Using Zettowch’s trademark diagram-style layouts, it’s a good-natured look at a fictional midwestern church’s Fall Festival “haunted house,” the centerpiece attraction of which is a lighting trick that transforms a girl into a gorilla. (I think this represents “the horrors of evolution.”) Chances are good you’ve never read comics quite like Zettwoch’s before — it’s no sin to check ‘em out.
Becky Cloonan’s “Sluts of Dracula” post hinted that this might be on the way, and behold, it’s a thing of beauty: Historical and literary gag cartoonist extraordinaire Kate Beaton takes on Bram Stoker’s Dracula, the Victorian classic of horror and sex (and horror of sex). She nails it. Or drives a stake through it, whichever. Read the whole thing.
Boneyard, Volumes 1-7
Written and Illustrated by Richard Moore
Published by NBM
I’m trying to figure out how to use the words “Monster Decadence” to describe Boneyard without sounding mean about it. It’s a wonderful, fun, involving series, but there’s an element to it that reminds me of the problem with having Speedy beat crooks up with a dead cat or Guy Gardner vomit blood all over the cover of a comic. I’m not suggesting that Richard Moore’s done anything wrong – it’s his series, he created it; he can do whatever he wants with it – but on its surface Boneyard appears to be simply a cute story about an unlucky everyman who inherits a graveyard full of funny monsters. There’s something very Bone-ish about the concept and kids would love the creature designs and giggle at some of the jokes. But it’s not a kids’ book. At all.
Again, I’m not faulting Moore. He’s got an appealing, humorously animated drawing style, but it would be foolish to suggest that he should tone down his writing because of that. On the contrary, it’s very cool that he’s been able to create such a grown-up story with such attractive, endearing characters. And as much as I kept thinking, “My son would love this if only…,” Boneyard is a whole different creature from “adult” superhero comics.
This is ironic since Boneyard is a monster comic, but it’s nowhere near as bloody or violent as the Superhero Decadence crowd of books. What puts it out of kids’ reach is mostly its playfulness about sexuality. There’s plenty of cheesecake, but nothing graphic; just good, naughty fun.
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.”
Next March, the Marvel Zombies will rise once again, and this time they’re infecting the Squadron Supreme.
Courtesy of our friends at Marvel Comics, we’re pleased to bring you the first look at Marvel Zombies Supreme, a five-issue series by writer Frank Marraffino (who wrote the Haunted Tank miniseries for Vertigo a couple years back) and the art team of Fernando Blanco, Jason Paz and Chris Chuckry. Michael Komarck provides the covers.
The story revolves around Jill Harper and her “super-crisis special-ops unit,” who investigate an underground research facility where a new virulent zombie strain has infected the Squadron Supreme. It’s up to Harper and her crew to keep the zombies from escaping the facility to devour the rest of the planet.
First launched in 2005, the Marvel Zombies series of miniseries have shown us what happens when you mix superheroes and zombies — it usually ends badly for the heroes and the people they protect. The original series featured a decimated Earth-2149, which was overrun by zombie versions of Spider-Man, Wolverine and other Marvel heroes. The zombies have gone on to appear in the regular Marvel (616) universe, in a crossover with Dynamite’s Army of Darkness movie adaptation and even in a Spider-Ham one-shot.
Check out the full solicitation info and the cover to the second issue, also by Komarck, after the jump.
Editor’s note: As a part of Robot 666 Week, we welcome guest contributor Van Jensen, writer of Pinocchio, Vampire Slayer and its upcoming sequel.
by Van Jensen
I was on a panel with Steve Niles and Bernie Wrightson to discuss horror comics earlier this year, and I admitted that I didn’t really like horror as a genre. I can’t even see a trailer for Saw MCXVII (or whatever number they’re up to) without feeling repulsed. But Steve and Bernie talked me down from the ledge. The problem isn’t so much with the horror genre, it’s with the trend of comics and movies that use gore as a substitute for real fright. So here’s my list of favorite horror comics and films, and they’re all projects that rely heavily on atmosphere and thrills (the real hallmarks of horror) rather than buckets of blood.
1. House, by Josh Simmons.
Simmons’ debut graphic novel is a relatively simple story, with three teenagers exploring a giant old house in the woods. Things go wrong, which is predictable, but in an unpredictable way. Simmons uses no words through the entire story, but his real accomplishment is utilizing the design of the pages to deliver an increasingly claustrophobic, disorienting and terrifying story.
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!
Here’s one I’ve personally been waiting for … writer Kurt Busiek previews his The Witchlands project over on his blog, offering a look at the cover by Zachary Baldus and some of the interior art by Conner Willumsen.
The project was first announced in San Diego in 2009 at the WildStorm panel and was originally titled Kurt Busiek’s American Gothic. With WildStorm going away, he told Heidi at The Beat that it will likely be coming from somewhere else within DC.
Be sure to click on over to his blog to see Willumsen’s interior art.
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: