Archive for October, 2014

Friday Night Fights: Superna-Chair-Al!

Ladies and gentlemen, boils and ghouls, monsters and mischief makers, it’s the best night of the year, and we’re only going to make it more glorious with… FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHTS!

Tonight’s battle comes to us from July 1942’s Feature Comics #58 by Noel Fowler and other unknown creators. Our hero is Zero, Ghost Detective, and he’s trying to stop a ghost from killing a girl at the local college.




But the ghost has figured out that, despite Betty’s sorority sisters running her off from her prey, Zero is actually the guy standing in the way of her spectral reign of terror.


So she decides to use her impossibly eerie powers — abilities possessed only by the unquiet spirits of the grave — to put an end to Zero’s meddling.


Everyone have a safe, fun, and spooky Halloween!

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Halloween Horrors and Hijinks

It’s my favorite day of the year.

Most years, I take today off work so I’ll be able to maximize my time watching horror movies, reading horror stories, or even just walking around town and enjoying the simple, glorious fact that, no matter how commercialized and neutralized it may seem to be, it’s still Halloween, and Halloween is still the best day of the year.

Unfortunately, taking my usual day off is not an option this year. But I still intend to listen to a lot of horror-themed music while I work. That’ll help a lot, I guarantee.

Anyway. You guys in the mood for some Halloween comic book covers? Heck yeah, Halloween comic book covers.














There we go, my children. Go forth into this wonderful Halloween — and make sure you’re back here this evening for a Halloween edition of Friday Night Fights!

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Retail Hell


Horrorstör by Grady Hendrix

I love a classic haunted house as much as anyone. There’s something wonderful about an old abandoned house (or mansion or castle or hotel or insane asylum), dilapidated, decaying, overgrown, crumbling, filled with creaking doors, dark shadows, creepy dolls, and something sinister that whispers from the attic.

But there’s also a place in my heart for a modern, clean, brightly-lit building that’s nevertheless crawling with the unquiet spirits of the dead. The suburban home built over an Indian graveyard, the supermarket with bloody handprints appearing mysteriously on the freezer cases, the trendy nightclub plagued by unusual deaths and fashionable vampires. Horror writers love this stuff, too — you can find horror wrapped around modern suburban and retail settings in films like “Poltergeist” and “Dawn of the Dead” (and many other early-outbreak zombie movies) and in books and stories like Stephen King’s “The Mist,” Anne Rivers Siddons’ “The House Next Door,” and Mark Z. Danielewski’s “House of Leaves.”

And now there’s also this book, “Horrorstör,” a short horror novel (with strong humor elements) written by Grady Hendrix and published a few months ago. Its focus is on a haunting at an IKEA-style big box retail store.

The lead character in the story is Amy, a slacker in a thoroughly dead-end job working retail at ORSK, a furniture and housewares store designed from the ground up to look and feel like an IKEA store. It has the same winding pathway through the store, the same “Magic Tool” required to put every piece of furniture together, the same style of faux-Scandinavian names for all the products. Amy wants to transfer back to the ORSK store she used to work at, mainly because she thinks she’s about to get fired by Basil, an assistant manager and gung-ho ORSK fanboy. But as it turns out, Basil actually wants to ask Amy and another co-worker, Ruth Anne, an older long-term employee who lives for her job, loves stuffed animals, and is adored by everyone on the staff, to take on a special duty — patrolling the store at night.

You see, the store has been suffering unusual vandalism. Some of the glassware has been broken, furniture has been soiled, and there are odd smells in the building. Basil wants Amy and Ruth Anne to join him on a secret late-night patrol, after everyone has gone home, to see if anyone is breaking into the building. They soon find some interesting problems. There are rats in the kitchen showcases, even though there’s no food there and no water hookups. Everyone keeps getting lost, which might make sense if they were just customers and not employees trained to find their way around the store quickly. And the mysterious grafitti messages in the restrooms referring ominously to “the Beehive” are multiplying rapidly.

And they do find some unexpected interlopers. Matt and Trinity are a couple of fellow co-workers at ORSK who have sneaked into the store because Trinity thinks there are ghosts in the building and wants to start a career as a reality-TV ghost hunter — and Matt is there because he’s got a lot of camera equipment and wants to get into Trinity’s pants. And there’s also a homeless man, Carl, who has been secretly living in the store for a few weeks.

So Carl is obviously the vandal, right? He’s in the store all night, frustrated by his low position in society, maybe he goes and craps on the occasional sofa and busts up a cabinet, you know? But no, Carl insists he’s not the culprit, and he doesn’t seem to be a particularly malicious guy. So what’s going on?

Trinity has an idea. She still thinks there are ghosts in the building, and what’s the best way to contact ghosts? Let’s everyone hold a seance!

And how do they keep the circle intact, to keep everyone connected and to create an interesting visual for the tape Trinity and Matt want to shop to cable TV?

They use handcuffs.

And then everything goes straight to hell.

Because the ORSK store wasn’t built over an Indian burial ground. It was built on the site of an ancient, notorious prison, run by Josiah Worth, a warden obsessed with his personal punishment fetish, believing that the way to turn the wicked to goodness was to torture them, no matter how minor their offense, to keep torturing them past the span of their sentence, and ultimately to torture them forever.

And Worth now has a foothold back into the corporeal world so he can use his own eerie abilities, his other-dimensional dungeon, and his army of tortured, mind-crushed minions to bring the miracles of his prison, his beloved Beehive, to the hapless wage slaves of ORSK.

Can Amy and her coworkers survive the night shift at ORSK? Can they escape the store? Or are they doomed to toil forever in the stone walls and iron restraints of the Beehive?


Verdict: Thumbs up. I really enjoyed this book. I burned my way through it as quickly as I could, and a couple nights, where I made the mistake of reading it too close to bedtime, it actually kept me up late. I did think that the very best parts of the novel were fairly early on, when the scares were subtle and more creepy than heart-stopping. The seasoned employees getting lost in their own store? That was weirdly realistic — you could imagine it happening, but you could also see why it would be really unnerving. The odd sounds after the store closes, combined with the sudden unfamiliarity of the environment of the store was also spooky — and definitely familiar for anyone who’s ever had to work late in their office, where darkness and emptiness make the comfortable surroundings feel strange and dangerous.

Even better than that was the graffiti in the restroom. The dozens of scrawled names and scratched-out years, all referencing the mysterious Beehive, feel intensely eerie, a perfect element to place in a modern retail ghost story. There are also some very effective moments when the employees discover that the purely decorative doors in the showcases now open into dank, cavernous hallways leading deep into the earth.

And everyone getting handcuffed together for the seance? That may have been a monumentally stupid move on the part of the characters, but it’s an original and wonderful thing to have in a horror novel. It’s simultaneously terrifying — because you know what’s going to happen — and hilarious — because you know what’s going to happen.

Once Worth makes his appearance, and especially when he captures Amy for the first time, the story starts moving away from being a ghost story and edging more into torture porn. The story shows some serious cracks in this section, in part because it’s too long — I just don’t enjoy reading multiple pages about someone being strapped into a torture chair that tightens to the point where she loses sensation in her limbs and can barely draw a breath. (This may also indicate that I have never enjoyed torture porn.) But it’s also a bit too short — we’re told that Amy’s mind breaks almost entirely not long after she’s strapped in, to the point where Stockholm Syndrome sets in and she starts worshipping Josiah Worth. And then, when she’s released from confinement, it’s not too many more pages before her mind has completely recovered to its previously healthy state — and even improved, as she’s much braver and more resourceful for the rest of the novel.

The characters are mostly well-done, interesting, and charismatic — but we never even find out what happened to two of them at the end of the novel. It may be more realistic — when the Hellmouth opens up underneath you, you may end up losing track of some of your coworkers in the chaos and never see them again — but it still feels like the story is unfinished because of the lack of closure.

It must be said, though, that one of the real selling points of this novel is the fantastic graphic design by Andie Reid and illustrations by Michael Rogalski. The book cover looks like one of the big, glossy IKEA design catalogs — with a few subtle and not-so-subtle differences to give some visual cues to the horrors within — and each chapter opens with a page from the fictional ORSK catalog spotlighting one of their products, complete with IKEA-style art, a faux-Scandinavian name, and upbeat flavor text. But after the supernatural terrors start climbing out of the woodwork after the seance, all the featured furniture gets replaced with medieval torture devices. It makes the story a lot more fun and a lot funnier, while still giving a nice dose of the chills to readers.

All in all, it was pretty fun. Go pick it up.

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Cold Fingers


Colder: The Bad Seed #1

Y’all may recall Paul Tobin and Juan Ferreyra’s wonderful horror series from last year, starring Declan, who can draw away people’s insanity, at the cost of his own constantly-dropping body temperature. They’re all back with a new series — Declan is back, dating his former caregiver Reece, and working as a mental health specialist, which gives him the cover to cure the insane in his special way. Everything seems peachy-keen — except for a new player on the scene, a tall, grim man named Swivel who has a thing for farming metaphors and fingers — mainly, he likes to cut people’s fingers off, and when we see his true form, he looks — well, take a gander of the cover. What does Swivel intend to harvest? And where do Declan and Reece fit into his plans?

Verdict: Thumbs up. A nice, creepy beginning to the new series. Very much looking forward to learning more about Swivel and his various disturbing gimmicks.


Clive Barker’s Nightbreed #6

Lude and Annastasjia continue their stories. Lude tells about his misspent and incredibly horny youth, his stern but concerned guardian, and his quest to find his mother. Anna recounts how she killed off the men who wronged and deformed her, then fell in with the same traveling freak show that sheltered other members of the Nightbreed, until they were hunted down and chased away by frightened humans. But there’s one other important story to tell — the star of the movie, Boone.

Verdict: Thumbs up. This has come to be one of my favorite comics, because so many other licensed books like this take the easy way out and rely on an expectation that they can coast on their cult popularity — and this one is still working hard to tell fun, exciting stories about the characters, even if they were only minor characters in the movie…


Revival #24

Spring is coming, the snow is finally thawing, and things are going entirely nuts. More people are sneaking into town, hoping to somehow gain magical or divine healing from the waters in Wausau. Zombie wildlife have started to rise and attack people. Arlene Dittman, from clear back in the first issue, has finally completely revived, still spitting out excess teeth. We finally learn a little bit about the heavily-scarred Reviver who keeps roaming around murdering people. And Em Cypress has discovered that she may be pregnant.

Verdict: Thumbs up. So much weird, wild stuff going on in this issue. It had seemed like some of the mysteries had begun to get cleared up in recent issues, but this one makes it clear that there’s still a lot of scary stuff running around and a lot of secrets waiting to be discovered.

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Celebrity Justice


Multiversity: The Just #1

Grant Morrison’s multi-dimensional series continues with a visit to Earth-16, where most of the older superheroes are dead or retired. The old Superman robots have wiped out all crime on Earth, leaving the teenaged and young adult superheroes lots of time to party. Damian “Batman” Wayne is dating Alexis Luthor behind Chris “Superman” Kent’s back. Kon-El is trying to make it in the art world, despite the fact that he’s turning into a Bizarro. Connor “Green Arrow” Hawke is worried that his daughter, Cissie “Arrowette” King-Hawke, wants to be a superhero without any training. Megamorpho has just committed suicide, and no one knows why — but it might have something to do with the cursed comic book that she was reading before she died.

Verdict: Thumbs up. I don’t know if Morrison considers this to be his indictment of ’90s comics or just DC’s characters from the ’90s — several of which I’ve always considered really pretty good. But it is a great look at the superhero as pure celebrity and at the shallow cynicism and nihilism of modern celebrity culture.


She-Hulk #9

Someone has sued Steve Rogers — Captain America himself! — for wrongful death! Jennifer Walters has taken the case to defend the now-elderly Cap — and she’s surprised to learn that Matt “Daredevil” Murdock is the opposing counsel! In court, Matt reveals that the case is based on a statement from a dying man, which is considered a dying declaration, and admissable in court. The accuser, Harold Fogler, told that before Steve Rogers got the super-soldier serum and became Captain America, Steve foolishly got Harold’s brother killed when the two of them were cornered by some criminal lowlifes and Steve just refused to shut up, despite a threat from the gang leader that he’d kill the other kid if Steve wouldn’t zip it. It looks really bad for Cap, and he’s refusing to let Shulkie defend him as well as she could. And a late night visit from Daredevil leads to the revelation that Cap told him to take the case. What is Steve’s game? What’s this case really about?

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s a good story, a bit confusing in parts — but that’s also because we don’t know the full story behind the case yet. The art is, as always, just plain wonderful. It’s hugely disappointing that we only have another three issues of this wonderful series before it gets cancelled.

Today’s Cool Links:

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Friday Night Fights: Batwounding!

It’s another too short weekend after a too long week, so let’s not waste time — it’s time for… FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHTS!

Tonight’s battle comes to us from December 2011’s Batwoman #2 by Haden Blackman, James H. Williams III, and Dave Stewart, as Batwoman unleashes on some random thugs.


(click to embiggen)

Y’all don’t have nearly enough time, so everyone get out there and make the most of the weekend.

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Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door


The Wicked + the Divine #5

Lucifer has strolled out of jail and is casually blowing away any cops who come after her. Laura is desperate to help her before she gets into even worse trouble, but the rest of the gods aren’t very patient — Baal comes in swinging his fists and lightning bolts, and Sakhmet isn’t far behind. Laura runs for the Underground and summons the Morrigan, and they’re able to get Luci to safety. She agrees to go into hiding with the Morrigan — but the gods are wrathful and cruel, and they refuse to be denied.

Verdict: Thumbs up. As always, it’s beautifully illustrated and pretty damn beautifully written, too. And while it’s really nice to see the godheads cut loose with their powers, the whole issue is also a serious gut-punch. It’ll be very interesting to see what we’ll see happen next.


Lazarus #12

A Conclave has been called, and all the Families are gathering at a platform in the North Sea owned by the Armitage family. The Carlyles don’t have much to look forward to on this trip but serious politicking — Jakob Hock has their traitorous brother Jonah and has been torturing him. He hates the Carlyles to an insane degree, and the family is concerned that if he’s discovered something called the Longevity Code in their DNA, he could use his knowledge to get all the other Families on his side. Forever gets to meet up and spar with the other Families’ Lazari, and then it’s time for the Grand Ball, and Forever and Joacquim Morray put on a wonderful demonstration on the dance floor. And then Jakob Hock shows up with a surprise for everyone.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Nice to meet some of the other Families, and especially their Lazari, who always seem to be the most interesting members of the entourages. All the talk of politics might normally seem a little dry, but Rucka makes it all entirely fascinating.

Today’s Cool Links:

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Take the Plunge


Manifest Destiny #11

Lewis has a plan to harpoon the giant frog monster in the river to get the boat towed free from the arch it’s beached on. The problem is that when they throw it bait, its leaps into the air to catch it aren’t predictable enough for harpooners to hit. So a different solution is hit upon — dangle bait from a tree, then harpoon the monster when it leaps up to take the bait. And they’re going to use the rapist Hardy as the bait. The operation is mostly successful — the beast is harpooned, and Hardy only loses a leg — but now that it’s been struck, the monster is diving and pulling the boat underwater. Is there any way to save the boat and crew?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Outstanding, tense story, with great character work, beautiful artwork (yes, even of the monsters), and unexpectedly great action.


Evil Empire #6

We learn how President Sam Duggins got so messed up, and how he goes about consolidating his power — mainly by killing his Congressional opponents, rewriting the Constitution to make sociopathy the law of the land, and lots and lots of marketing. The new resistance, led by Reese and Theo, start making plans to overthrow Duggins, and their first act is to use some sort of hypertech CD to hack the DJ’s setup at a presidential drugs-and-sex party by the Washington Monument to make fun of Duggins. The Duggins administration reacts by shooting a few lowlifes, turning Disneyland into a pornographic park, revealing his incestuous relationship with his sister, and making her his vice president. Right now, the only benefit the resistance has is a mole on the inside of the administration.

Verdict: Thumbs down. I’m done with this book. It was sold as a semi-realistic vision of how the U.S. could end up going fascist, but it’s turned into a cartoon. The ease that Duggins flips most of the country into quasi-nazis is just beyond my ability to even kinda believe. In reality, pretty much everyone in Congress would be in Duggins’ opposition — the Republicans wouldn’t trust him because he’d run as a Democrat, and the Democrats would hate him for lying about everything in his campaign. Yes, Duggins would probably be able to get a lot of America’s cops to do his dirty work — but not near all of them. Maybe half, if he was lucky. And the military wouldn’t go for him, either — a guy banging his sister and running cocaine orgies on the National Mall just doesn’t have any kind of respectable discipline.

And again, there’s the fascism thing. There’s the incest-with-his-sister thing. There’s the let’s-make-America-legally-psychopathic thing. I don’t care how good your PR is — you’re not going to get enough people to go along with that. You might be able to get the fringe-of-the-fringe of either political party to go along with mass assassinations and turning Disneyland into an orgy camp, but 90% of the country would want your head on a stick.

And how stupid is the resistance? They’re somehow able to sneak into a presidential hedonism party, with one of the most famous pop stars in the country — and a known opponent of the crazy evil president — looming in the shadows just inside the treeline — nice work, Secret Service — and they go with sneaking a magic-tech CD that lets them use the DJ’s equipment to make fun of Duggins? Instead of taking advantage of the lax security and coked-up partygoers to put a bullet in Duggins’ head?

This is a crappy comic book, with badly thought-out ideas. I ain’t reading this no more.

Today’s Cool Links:

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Over the Cliff


Daredevil #9

The Purple Man’s empowered children have gotten together and are using their mind-control powers to wreak havoc in San Francisco. Meanwhile, Matt Murdock is excitedly planning on writing his autobiography and looking forward to his $8 million advance. Kirsten and Foggy aren’t sure it’d ever work — Matt doesn’t have the patience to write a whole book, and his life has been, up to the last few years, spectacularly depressing, with most of his girlfriends dying, struggles with poverty, and repeated personal, emotional, and superheroic setbacks. Matt is assuring them he can handle it when he learns about the Purple Kids’ rampage through the city. Their combined emotion control powers, however, are a lot more than he can handle.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Good story and fantastic art. The Purple Kids have a great combination of menace and pathos, and the idea of Matt revisiting the old rotten and depressing days is something that’s perversely appealing — he’s had it pretty good for quite a while, so it’ll be interesting to see how Mark Waid writes him over the next issue or two.


Loki: Agent of Asgard #7

Dr. Doom has captured Loki in a field of null-time, trapping him between seconds so he’s unable to come up with any spells or tricks to escape. Verity Willis, a human who can see through any lie, traveled to Latveria with Loki, but she managed to turn invisible with Loki’s amulet of invisibility, but Valeria Richards easily detects that she’s there — but she decides not to reveal her to Doom, who has his own troubles when he finds Latverians fighting amongst themselves — something which Doom has decreed must never happen. But the people refuse to listen to him, and Doom deduces that the Red Skull, now possessing Charles Xavier’s telepathic powers, is causing a worldwide outbreak of hatred and strife. Is there any way to stop the Skull’s hate plague before Latveria destroys itself?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Not as much stuff about Loki this time, but a really excellent focus on Verity, Valeria, and Doom himself. It makes for a really entertaining story.


Trees #6

In the Chinese city of Shu, naive young artist Chenglei is questioning his sexuality and identity after a wild party when he realizes he’s falling in love with Zhen, a trans woman — all of this while the Chinese authorities are taking a new, ominous interest in the city. In Sicily, secret moves are underfoot against the local fascist gangs. And in the Arctic, the Tree-created flowers are a lot more difficult to eradicate than was expected.

Verdict: Thumbs up. The storyline in Shu is just plain outstanding. The scenes between Chenglei and Uncle and especially between Chenglei and Zhen are fantastic, poetic, absolutely beautiful. This is definitely turning out to be another great year for Warren Ellis comics.

Today’s Cool Links: 

  • Here’s a very nice one-minute-long horror movie for you.
  • You scared of Ebola? You scared of ISIS? You watch too much TV. Here are the things worth being afraid of.
  • And Texans, don’t forget, early voting begins today. Get out there and vote. Don’t you vote for that hyper-corrupt hypocritical weasel Greg Abbott. Dude’s so crooked he could hide behind a corkscrew.

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Friday Night Fights: Girls Kick Ass!

Alright, kids, it’s time to put on your rubber pants and batten down the hatches, ’cause it’s time once again to get the weekend started the right way — with… FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHTS!

Okay, listen, this one right here. Everyone tells us, OMG, no one will ever believe a girl beating people up in a movie, no one will buy that, it’s just insane, moviegoers want male action stars, comics readers want macho man superheroes. We can’t put Wonder Woman in a movie — no matter how excellently woman-led movies do at the box office. But lookit here, comics writers didn’t always think that way. Even all the way back in 1947, they knew you could have some fun with women who kick much ass. So here’s August 1947’s Wonder Comics #13 by Charles Stoddard and either Al Camy or Bob Oksner. Our star is Jill Trent, Science Sleuth, along with her friend Daisy — two women who are tougher than and smarter than anyone else in the comic. Here’s how they treat a dangerous murderer named Arthur Benson.





Man, look at her go! Daisy is a woman who very obviously loves getting into fights with gunmen wearing weird green suits. Unfortunately, Benson narrowly avoids his richly deserved beating… for now…


And then Jill and Daily unleash a curb-stomping so severe they have show it in silhouette to shield our innocent eyes from the brutality of the beatdown.


Lookit that — they should be giving Batman pointers in butt-whuppery.

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