Frankenstein Alive, Alive! #1 (May – 2012 – IDW)

Frankenstein Alive, Alive! #1

NOTE: This is going to be one of the comics that we go over in the forthcoming HHC Podcast, so you will probably get to hear all about this again at some point, but more in depth.

When I was a kid there were these trading cards called “Master of the Macabre,” that featured the art of Bernie Wrightson.  In the collection there were all sorts of creepy ghouls and deadly monsters, but my favorites were the subset of cards that illustrated Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein.  These were beautiful black and white paintings that when printed on a card were to small to inspect in the kind of detail that I wanted to inspect them with.  I feel like I would actually fight a pack of wolves to get my hands on a full size version of one of those paintings.

When I was told that this comic existed, I felt the same kind of excitement that I would feel every time I opened up a pack of the “Master of the Macabre” cards, that child like giddy excitement that made me almost hop up and down (almost, I’m a man now).  The only issue that was out at the time at my local comic book shop was issue #2, so I started to hunt other stores and the eBay for a reasonably priced copy of issue #1.  I didn’t even crack open issue #2, I was saving myself, I didn’t want to ruin any little bit of the excitement that I was feeling.

It was worth the weight, when I finally picked up a copy and it came to my house I was like a little kid opening a Christmas present.  This comic was everything that I was hoping it would be, and unexpectedly not what I thought it would be at all.  I had read nothing about it, I hadn’t even really talked with anyone about it to much, I had just been sold on Bernie Wrightson and Frankenstein.  Those two names together had been more than enough to pique my interest.  I had no idea that in effect it was a true sequel to the novel by Mary Shelly.  Picking up in the frozen wasteland where that novel leaves off.  It is a stroke of brilliance on the part of writer Steve Niles, a Frankenstein tale that picks up right where the novel left off.

The star of this is Bernie Wrightson’s art though.  It is the kind of immaculate detailed black and white that I have come to love from this man.  He is truly a master of his craft, bringing to life everything from carnivals to frozen wastes in this issue in the kind of detail that you tend to only expect from real life.  I want to live in the world that Wrightson creates.  This is brilliant and I could honestly care less about how slowly the issues are coming out, as long as it 1) gets finished and 2) looks as good as this all the way through till the end of the series.

Added bonus, the first few pages of the novel Frankenstein are in the back of this issue, along with Niles interviewing Wrightson on the impact that Frankenstein has had in both their lives.  Just a bunch of gravy on top of an awesome sandwich.

Next Time: East of West #1


Cthulhu Tales #2 (April – 2008 – Boom!)

Cthulhu Tales #2

I often wonder what H.P, Lovecraft would think of his cult status in the world of horror.  I wonder if it would please or irritate him knowing that so many people not only love his works, but love to created within the worlds that he invented.  I wonder if it would surprise him to know that books, movies, games, and even music have been created reflecting the ideas that he came up with.  I like to think that it would please him, but in some ways HPL seems like the kind of misanthrope that would be more put off by his semi-famous nature.  There is no way that he wouldn’t think it was pretty neat that his name became an adjective.

Speaking of Lovecraftian, the second issue of Cthulhu Tales delivers on the Lovecraftian chillers with another issue of three stunning stories of the dread God in full “colour.”  Like so many other anthology style horror books the tales are short and to the point.  Unlike many other anthology books there aren’t as many redeeming lessons to be learned at the end of each tale.  Instead there are people that go mad, make deals with dark gods, and are consumed by corpses.

The first tale written by Steve Niles, and art by Shane Oakly is called “The Hiding Place.” Done all in black and white with some yellow and gray-scale highlights this is the tale of a man who evade the police by committing suicide, and the cop that had been hunting him for years.  When at the coroner’s table a not to the officer is found inside the body things get really strange, and the officer learns a little more about the Elder Gods than he probably would have wanted to.  This is a good little creeper that takes it self a little more seriously than the other stories have in this title so far.

Next up is “Katrina” written by Eric Calderon, with art by Jon Schnepp.  There was something so visceral about the footage of New Orleans right after Katrina hit.  All those neighborhoods up to their roofs in water, people sitting stranded on top of their houses.  Just that image alone was dark and foreboding, add to that mix that something may be lurking in all that water and you have a whole different level of menace.  A con is on work detail helping to clean up after the hurricane finds a book with the words, “READ! For the sake of us all!” scrawled on the front.  Needless to say he starts reading the tale of the creatures that came out of the waters of Katrina and something takes over.

The graphic art style of this story makes for a very interesting look to the creatures that are invading our world.  Everything in the tale had a precise and distinct look about it, except for the Cuthuloids, who seem almost sketchy in their blobby wet glory.  Really effective visuals in this particular tale.

Finally, “How To Get Ahead in the Occult,” written by Christine Boylan and art by Chee, is my favorite story in the issue.  Two college roommates are headed out for the evening at the behest of the the shrewish Dara who wants only for her magic powers to be great.  They head out to the local Campus Crusade for Cthulhu and Dara is disappointed to find that it is just another excuse to have a party.  They do some chanting and thank Cthulhu for another day, and then get back to drinking all to the great pleasure of Ellie.

Later that night Ellie awakes in a fugue state chanting the invocation of Cthulhu.  All Dara can think to do is take her to the sea.  At the coast the great old one rises from his sleep and offers Dara a choice, save her friend or all the magic power she has ever wanted.  For Dara the choice is obvious.

I’m so glad that I found these guys in the dollar bin at my local comic shop, because so far all of the issues of Cthulhu Tales have been great.  If you are looking for some good thrills and chills on the cheap, these can all be attained for very little and are well worth the time.  I’m sure it would make HPL proud

Next Time:  Billy the Kid’s Old Timey Oddities TPB

Cthulhu Tales #1 (March – 2008 – Boom!)

Cthulhu Tales #1

Cthulhu Tales #1

Oh the joy of the Lovecraftian genre of books and comics.  The legacy of H.P. Lovecraft and his weird tale brand of horror/science fiction has been a real pleasure to put in my brain over the course of my life.  The Cthulhu Mythos seems to also have been a boon to literature and comics.  The grip of comics that reference the Mythos is staggering in size, execution, and level of entertainment.  A a whole the Cthulhu Mythos genre can be rather hit or miss, so this was a nice discovery in the dollar comics pile at my local comic books shop.  Using the anthology style of comics the Cthulhu Mythos comes to life in three stories in this first issue of Cthulhu tales.

First up is “The Eyes of Madness,” penned by Steve Niles with art by Chee the tale is of a priest who comes into contact with a man who claims to see the hidden reality behind the world.  The strange man denies the faith the priest espouses and in turn angers the congregation that the priest serves.  Angers them to the point of riling them up into a lynch mob.  The man confronts the priest, literally pulling his own eyes out, and reveals to the priest that if he casts those eyes into the air after the man dies, that the priest will see as he sees.  Naturally the priest casts the eyes into the air, and the sights that he sees drive him to a lethal crisis of faith.  It is a gruesome and creepy story that is fleshed out by a dark yet vivid art style that bursts off of the page like any great color horror comic should.

“The Farm,” has a more neutral color palate to it.  Kids sneaking onto a body farm are all illustrated by Sunder Raj in grays and browns, giving a look that implies sneaking about at dusk.  In a very Stand by Me kind of scenario the kids are on the body farm so they can check out a dead body.  Instead they are being stalked by something that doesn’t want them on the Property.  It isn’t a man, or the cops though, it is a creature, and soon it has the kids trapped.  Luck for them a cop with a shotgun is there to gun down the creature and the kids bolt.  Leaving them with a tale to tell their grand kids about the time they escaped a monster.

Finally, “Exactly the Right Word,” tells a tale of sports fanaticism gone evil.  A little ditty from Tom Peyer, with the same darkly lurid art of Chee that is featured in the first story.  A group of guys are fanatics that perform the same good luck rituals to keep their team winning.  Soon the ritual turns to something more, when forces beyond their control find a way to usurp them.  It is a short short piece but done well.  A great little chiller.

These kind of anthology comics are great, like mix tapes they give you a taste of several artists and writers, while keeping them all inside the same mythology.  This went from dollar comic bin, straight to my heart, and I picked up the full run.  Can’t wait to read them all.

Next Time: Eerie #2