Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Horror Comics - November 7, 2012

Looking for a way to unwind after last night's election?

Cover art for "Criminal Macabre: They Fight by Night" by Fiona Staples
Steve Niles and Christopher Mitten have a new comic out today, and it's a good way to get re-introduced to laconic, pill-popping, ghoulish detective Cal McDonald before he goes to to toe with an army of vampires next monthFiona Staples' cover art for They Fight by Night has to be one of the smartest covers of the year, and it expresses a truth that horror fans know by heart: Monster stories can be a great form of socio-political commentary.  In a recent interview with Comic Book Resources, Niles promised more of the same in the upcoming 30 Days of Night / Criminal Macabre crossover, which revolves around a new war between vampires and humans: "I think that monsters, vampires and zombies in particular, really reflect some very primal fears that we're all experiencing now, and have been since 9/11.  Our enemy is ourself. I mean, look at right now: I'm hearing people say our country is more polarized now than it has been since The Civil War. A lot of people believe we're actually killing the planet. If you're a monster and you're immortal, you want the planet to live more than the species occupying it."  

I'm always up for a good monster mash, and I'm particularly excited about this one because the original 30 Days of Night is the title that resurrected my interest in comics.  I've always been more of a horror guy than a comics guy, so my introduction to comics was the Stephen King / Bernie Wrightson collaboration Creepshow, a throwback to the EC Comics of the 1950s.  Every panel of that thing is permanently burned into my brain -- especially "The Crate."   Later, Todd McFarlane's Spawn made me a collector... at least, for a few years.  Then came Steve Niles and his snowbound vampires.  The story and the art were so visceral that I couldn't stop reading.  I tracked down some of his other work, and fell in love with Aleister Arcane and Edge of Doom (especially issue #2). 

Flash forward a few more years and Niles is again writing 30 Days for IDW, turning his one-time hero Eben into a worthy nemesis for Cal.  He's also working with the legendary Bernie Wrightson on a sequel to Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.  (If you haven't seen the first issue, you are seriously missing out on one of the most beautiful comics ever made.)  He released three new comic last week (including the first issue of a SHINING-esque series called Lot 13 from DC, featuring memorably eerie artwork by Glenn Fabry) and now two more this week (the sixth issue of Creator-Owned Comics concludes his gothic western "Black Sparrow").  Honestly, I think Steve Niles IS a vampire... because clearly he doesn't sleep.

I don't mean to suggest, however, that he has completely cornered the market on horror comics.  I meant to do a Halloween blog post last week about some of my other favorites, but since the holiday has come and gone, I'm just going to point toward three titles that have renewed my faith in the medium.  1) Joe Hill's Lock & Key is traditional, cerebral, mythic horror.  Comparisons to Stephen King's work -- especially the second Dark Tower book and The Talisman -- are inevitable, but the subtle characterizations of Hill and artist Gabriel Rodriguez keep this title fresh and original.  2) Tim Seeley's Hack/Slash is edgy as hell -- perversely hilarious and sexy in a way that a lot of people would never expect from a comic.  It's like Clive Barker's version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  3) Speaking of Barker, his revival of the Hellraiser mythos for Boom! exhibits the kind of balls-to-the-wall brillaince that once made Stephen King proclaim him "the future of horror."  Seriously, Barker's work with co-writer Christopher Monfette and artist Stephen Thompson is as good as -- if not better than -- the first two HELLRAISER movies.  If that sounds like hyperbole, I beg you to check out Hellraiser: Pursuit of the Flesh and Hellraiser: Requiem.

interior art from "Locke & Key: Welcome to Lovecraft" #1, by Gabriel Rodriguez
cover art from "Hack/Slash: My First Maniac" #3, by Tim Seeley and Carlos Badilla
cover art for "Hellraiser: Pursuit of the Flesh" #1 by the incomparable Tim Bradstreet
Barker's 2-year, 20-issue run concludes this month, but Boom! is already extending the franchise.  I just picked up the first issue of the new miniseries, Hellraiser: The Road Below, written by Brandon Seifert with art by Haemi Jang.  The storyline reminds me a bit of Dimension's early HELLRAISER sequels -- because, so far, it seems likely to relegate the Cenobites to a smaller role.  That's not as much of a problem for me as it might be for some, because I honestly enjoyed parts of HELLRAISER: INFERNO (2000) and HELLRAISER: HELLSEEKER (2002), and even HELLRAISER: DEADER (2005).  (Beyond that, I admit it's a lost cause.)  Most horror fans aren't as forgiving, and I understand why.  Barker created a poetic mythology that -- even thirty years later -- feels like the cutting edge of horror.  The Dimension sequels (and, so far, The Road Below) seem tame and a bit too prosaic by comparison.  I will reserve judgment for a few more issues but, as Kirsty Cotton says, "This better be good..."  The bar has already been set extremely high.

The title I was most excited about today was Paul Tobin and Juan Ferreyra's Colder.  The cover of their first issue has been haunting me for months, and I've been dying to know the story behind it.  Without giving any spoilers, I'll try to set it up: Colder is about different types of insanity.  See, there's this un-human character called Nimble Jack who obviously has a lot of fun being batshit crazy.  He moves through the room and expresses himself like a rubber mime on nitrous oxide.  (See below, for evidence of superb comic timing.) Then there's this other guy named Declan, who's sort of frozen like Walt Disney.  Right now he's "the wrong kind of crazy"... but he's just getting warmed up.  So to speak.  Writing about Colder makes me smile, so I'm definitely curious to see where this one goes.


Last but not least.... If you're interested in my upcoming Dark Horse comic To Hell You Ride (and why wouldn't you be?), critic John Kenneth Muir has just written a review of the first issue, accompanied by an interview with the creators.


  1. Talk about burying the lead! :-P

    JKM's review and interview are brilliantly written. An insightful and enjoyable read.

  2. Hey Terri -

    I actually wrote this post yesterday, before John's review went up... I added the link this morning. Don't worry -- there will be plenty of "To Hell You Ride" posts in the future!

  3. You've almost caused a rip in the space/time continuum!

    As always, I look forward to your posts.

  4. Regarding the rip in the space/time continuum... Just wait until you read the comic. You ain't seen nuthin' yet....