halloween required reading


Once upon a time I was Reviews Editor for the well-respected comics/pop culture site PopImage (managed by the incredibly talented Chris Butcher, Ed Mathews and lots of other fine writers.)  Though PopImage is long gone, some of the content lingers including this piece I wrote about eleven of the most haunting comics available back in 2004.
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Halloween Required Reading
PopImage
October 21, 2004

It’s the time of year for ghosts and goblins to come out of their graves and start haunting up a storm. Herein, you’ll find my list of quality reading for your own All Hallow’s Eve. I had dozens of creators and books to choose from, for my personal best. Works by Rick Veitch, Gahan Wilson, Steve Gerber and Michael Fleisher were all considered as well as single issues of STRAY BULLETS (#2), WASTELAND and even NEGATION (#16). And you could pick up almost any issue of CREEPY, EERIE, or any EC comic and make an evening out of it. But I had criteria for my reading list. Above all, the stories I chose had to truly make your skin crawl. I wasn’t looking for twist-in-the-tales, I wanted stories that were creepy and disturbing in their essence.

Upon compiling my list, I realized that the most creepy and disturbing comics I’ve seen can be counted on two hands (or so) – but the few creators associated with such works do keep turning up: Addams, Moore, Gaiman – and especially, the artists – Wrightson, Ditko, Burns. Maybe you won’t agree with all of my choices, but I promise you – crack at least one of these open – and you’ll likely have a week’s worth of nightmares.

SWAMP THING: DARK GENESIS
by Len Wein and Berni Wrightson
DC/Vertigo

Scientist Alec Holland is enveloped in an explosion while working on his bio-restorative formula. Consumed by flames, he leaps into the murky bayou behind his lab, and emerges later as the tragic, muck-encrusted SWAMP THING.

In comics, Swamp Thing remains the most venerated horror icon. He wasn’t the first muck-monster in comics (The Heap toured the swamps throughout the 40’s), but he was the first one we related to. Wein and Wrightson’s short run in the early 70’s established Swamp Thing as a gothic, modern-day Frankenstein – a man turned swamp creature searching for his lost humanity. Swamp Thing was about identity and alienation. Swamp Thing gave a major outlet to comic’s premier horror artist of the moment, Berni Wrightson. (Wrightson was the only artist to ever draw Cain of HOUSE OF MYSTERY effectively.) Wrightson lush, texturized, moody art kept Swampy in full horror-mode when he could easily have turned into a b-grade superhero (which he would essentially become later). All the early issues are included in the tpb, including Arcane and his un-men.

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on writing a memoir

dweye

I’ve been serializing my story of doing stand-up in high school, 35 years ago, over at www.plrknib.com.  We’re up to about 25 chapters so far.

Plrknib is a memoir.  And initially I was uncomfortable about writing it that way.  I could have easily written it as fiction, but decided to keep it as a memoir for one simple reason:  the place I performed regularly at – d.w. eye – and all the comics who played there were real.  Are real.  The club, itself, no longer exists and some of the comics have left us as well.  But many are going strong today.

Drew Hastings performs regularly and is mayor of Hillsboro, OH.  Chili Challis performs regularly and teaches comedy at well-revered “dojos” across the Midwest.  Will Durst has been going strong beating the crap out of both political parties, lately.  Bob Lambert, Rico Diaz, Chip Chinery, Riggi, Roger.  Most still write or perform, at least occasionally.  The list goes on and on.

So, while I was certainly capable of fictionalizing the story – it seemed criminal not to celebrate the people who were so incredibly inspiring to me when I was a stupid teenager.

So, it’s a memoir.  Real.  True.

And once upon a time we were giants.

i’d make a lousy superhero

flash1

I realize I’d make a lousy superhero.  I’m way too much of a jerk.

If I had super speed, for example, I’d probably offer some kid a super speed ride to Paris or Egypt – and then when we got there I’d do something obnoxious like – fake sprain my ankle –

Oh!  Oh!  Ow!  Ow!  It hurts! 

And the kid would be all freaked out – panicky, and crying.  And I’d say something stupid like,

“Man – we better call your parents to pick you up.  Hope they’ve got frequent flyer miles!”

halloween required reading

PopImage – Halloween Required Reading – 2004

From my days as Reviews Editor at the lovely (but pretty much defunct) comics-related website www.popimage.com.  A list of what I considered required horror reading back in 2004.  I can think of at least 10 other books that are equally as good that are out right now – especially the newer collections of Ditko’s Charlton work (particularly The Thing), half a dozen vertigo books, Alan Moore’s Neonomicon (excellent stuff), and maybe a couple David Lapham pieces (very much liked his Caligula). Oh, and manga-wise, Junji Ito’s Uzumaki.

So, yeah, this list is pretty old school, but I think it holds up nicely.