Sunday, May 22, 2016

PREPARE YOUR MIND AND STOMACH FOR FULCI COMICS!

Eibon Press is the all-new publishing brainchild of Masters of Horror/Shock Festival writer Stephen Romano, and horror’s own memorabilia legend and creator of Black Devil Doll Shawn Lewis. Their mission is to “Make owning and collecting horror comics cool again,” by releasing single issue comic books in super limited “Prestige Editions,” which will feature premium printing and innovative packaging never before seen in the history of comics. “Our books are like limited edition record albums,” says Romano. “You know all that awesome stuff they’re doing with posters and vinyl soundtracks at places like Mondo? Well that what we’re bringing to comics. Each and every issue of each and every title will come encased in a specially-designed album jacket-style sleeve which we’ve invented ourselves. We call it the “Eibon Sleeve.” Plus you’ll get some fun extra stuff inside the sleeve with your comic. For example, the first 250 of each 1,000 copy run will contain a signed and numbered bookplate. And we’ll be inserting random awesome stuff in a few of the sleeves like autographed bookmarks and such. What we’re doing has never been done before, and we really hope people will dig all the blood and sweat we’re putting into each issue.” (All text in italics above and below from the press release)

Are you excited??? I am! All the images Eibon have released so far shows that they are serious about living up to the expectations they’re giving us. The artwork for ZOMBIE, GATES OF HELL, and BOTTOMFEEDER is really top notch and alluring. Scrolling through the preview pages, I’m thinking that the launch of Fulci Comics will be one of the most significant events in horror this year. That’s not hyperbole, fiends, I’m legitimately excited.


In past posts I’ve talked about my love for indie horror comics and obsessively collecting Deadworld, Zombie War, Faust, etc. Somehow I missed 1998’s THE BEYOND and 2000’s original release of ZOMBIE, so this is quite the treat!

As for being a fan of Lucio Fulcio, I remember being a teenage horror fan working my way through the horror sections at my local video shops. Only two shops had any Fulci films, THE PSYCHIC and GATES OF HELL (aka CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD). I didn’t know Fulci from Leone at the time. THE PSYCHIC had a great cover, but the description didn’t grab me so I never rented it. GATES OF HELL though had this really lurid cover
from Paragon video and came with a warning about extreme violence. Even after I had seen and fallen in love with DAWN and DAY OF THE DEAD I was still too chicken to rent GATES. Besides, I grew up a Southern Baptist and if I tried to bring anything called GATES OF HELL into my house I’d have my rental privileges revoked!

It was 1998 after I had moved to Boston that I got a proper introduction to Fulci from hanging out and working part time at Garage Video and from my horror obsessed roommate who had a really stellar collection of Fulci on VHS. That was a good time for getting schooled in Italian horror in general, an invaluable time that still influences my work today.

Fulci Comics are giving us more than just straight adaptations of the films though, ZOMBIE will shamble ever forward as an ongoing series after the original 4-issue film adaptation is complete. “You’ll see all your favorite characters of course,” says Lewis. “But you’ll also see some new faces. And some faces you thought were dead and buried, too. Stephen’s bringing back Doctor Menard, for example, as a crazy mutated zombie mad scientist monster, working under the insane magic of BIACANDO—the voodoo priest sort of responsible for the zombie apocalypse. But there’s a post modern twist to everything, involving a toxic waste dump and a crazy Army general. It’s just insane stuff. The fans are gonna eat it the fuck up. I mean . . . I’m a fan and I’m already eating it the fuck up!” Likewise, GATES will be an ongoing as well! Might we get the last four of the Seven Doors Of Death?

On top of these two books, we’ll also be getting Lewis and Romano’s original book BOTTOMFEEDER! BOTTOMFEEDER is an all-new original horror series, slated for release in
2017, which plays like HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP meets BAD LIEUTENANT. It was created by Lewis and Romano in a psychotic collaboration that not only features the most audacious, bloodthirsty, politically incorrect horror scenario envisioned since the gory glory days of the grindhouse 1980s . . . but it also contains a stellar “dream cast” of horror movie legends.
“We originally wanted to make BOTTOMFEEDER as a movie,” Romano says. “So when we decided to make it as a comic series, we “cast it” just like we might have cast a dream version of the film. This means we can have some heavyweight horror stars in there, like Bill Mosley and Clu Gulager, who have both given us permission to use their likenesses . . . plus we get to resurrect Joe (MANIAC) Spinell and Zoe (MS.45) Tamerlis from the dead. Just wait’ll you see them in our comic. Our artist did an amazing job of bringing them back to life!”

Check out my interview with Stephen Romano below and start saving your lunch money, fiends, because you don’t want to be the only monster kid on the block without these books!


STRANGER WITH FRICTION; So lets start with this, what is it that makes the work of Lucio Fulci so special to you?

SR: Well a lot of it starts with an appreciation of just plain weird art.  Because even in Lucio's earlier non-horror days, he was pretty out there, you know? Then you get into a lot of specific obsessions that tie into your childhood or whatever.  But the thing is a LOT of people share the same obsessions.  So there has to be SOMETHING to it, right?  From a strictly modern point of view, the films of Fulci are truly rarified artifacts, because no one makes movies like that anymore, and they probably never will.  And they are very specific to a certain era in film production, you know with the low budgets and the bad American dubbing and the lines that sound like they were written by someone who's second language is english.  There's a kind of campy surreality to that that I really dig.  But I also honestly believe that at the heart of films like THE BEYOND you have really great, progressive art.  Some of it is pretty much sleaze, but there's a sort of genius there too.  I mean, who puts a shark fighting a zombie in their movie?  That's just insane. Total rock and roll, man.  That's the final level for me.  The super-intense audacious nature of these films.  It's beyond.  You know?

SWF; For starters we’re getting a reprint of your 2000 adaptation of Fulci’s Zombie. What made this
a project worthy of your time? Where would you rank Zombie in the pantheon of zombie cinema?

SR: I think of it as more of a restoration leading into a new journey than a reprint, actually.  Like a "director's cut" queuing up a cool new series.  The graphic novel that came out in 2000 was very badly printed and I didn't know anything about editing comics back then either.  It really sucked ass.  We always wanted another shot at making it look better . . . but it took a really long time to get around to doing it because we've all been off making our real careers happen.  Shawn started Rotten Cotten.  I went off and did stuff like MASTERS OF HORROR and SHOCK FESTIVAL.  It took 16 years and I had to get run over by a truck first...but finally the time was right to come back and really get it right, and also extend the series and keep it going.  That was another thing that excited me.  The idea of going beyond the film adaptation, using that as a springboard for a really epic ZOMBIE sequel.  As far as the reasons why we did it originally... well, we're big fans, obviously!  We'd already done THE BEYOND and decided ZOMBIE was be the next logical step.  And that movie would easily make my Zombie Movie Top 5, just on the Zombie Shark scene alone!  DAWN OF THE DEAD would be first, obviously.  Then NIGHT.  Probably RETURN after that.  Then ZOMBIE and  THE BEYOND.  I'm sure my partner Shawn would take issue.  THE BEYOND is literally his favorite horror film of all time. It was his idea to name the company Eibon Press.

SWF; Fulci Comics is also taking on Gates Of Hell aka City Of The Living Dead, which was part of the 7 Doors Of Death trilogy. How deep into the trilogy do you plan to go? Will we see the last four doors?

SR:  Maaaaaaaaybe.  You'll just have to wait and see.  We've got MANY things in the works for our Fulci Comics line.  Patience.

SWF; All the images I’ve seen so far are amazing, can we go through the creative teams?

SR: They're some really demented motherfuckers, aren't they?  The A-team of ZOMBIE is anchored by Michael Broom, who has since gone on to be a top creature designer in Hollywood films. Mike designed the storyboards and practical effects rigs and even the werewolves on THE CABIN IN THE WOODS, so he's a total badass.  He pencilled ZOMBIE top to bottom.  Half the inks were done by a fellow name Gerry Coffey, and the second half was done by Derek Rook. Derek also did some art restoration on some of the panels and he even completely re-drew a few things.  I, myself, did and complete and TOTAL re-editing and restoration job on each and every page and lettered everything myself to make sure it all looked very modern . . . and then we brought in two incredibly talented artists to do our coloring.  That was Australian ace Austen Mengler and the incredible "Fatboy," who are hands down the best digital colorists I know about.  Austen is an actual painter and he brings really creative style to the work.  "Fatboy" is a bit more traditional, but his instincts are beyond impeachment.  These guys were easy to work with and professional as hell.  Derek goes solo with pencils and inks of GATES OF HELL, with Ander Zarate providing the colors.  That book has a really bizarre flavor, very different from the more traditional comic book approach on ZOMBIE.  We wanted a crazier, freer hand with GATES because it's a supernatural story.  The work is just stunning.  And of course, I took several liberties with the adaptation, both with ZOMBIE and GATES, both to make it work as a comic and seed the ground for sequel stories.  Also, it's really fun to do a new version of something you love.  That's the  beauty of movie tie-ins and why I dig them so much.  One entire wall of my house is devoted to paperback novelizations of films!  I have like two or three thousand up there.

SWF; What’s the story here? How did Fulci Comics come together?

SR: I was working with Shawn Lewis on a totally different original book called BOTTOMFEEDER and he saw I was doing good with writing and editing the thing, working with the artists and all that...and he basically said, "What about all the Fulci Comics we have in the vault?"  He asked me what it would take to get them going.  We'd already started Eibon Press at that point, but we hadn't done anything with actual publishing yet . . . and we kind of saw the Fulci stuff as a means of reaching a wider readership right out the gate.  I hate to make it sound like some crass commercial decision, but we DID know there was a built-in audience there.  So then it was a matter of clearing all the huddles we needed to clear, legally and
otherwise, to make it happen.  Fulci Comics is just a sort of fun brand name for our officially licensed Lucio stuff.  ZOMBIE will continue as an ongoing regular series as long as we can hang on to that license.  Then there's SEVEN GATES. Plus, we have other insane "VHS era" movies adaptations in the works, some non-Fuli stuff that will bear its own unique sub-imprint.  We're going to be doing some amazing things very soon!

SWF; The comics will be limited run in prestige format and will only be available through the website (coming June 6th) and not in stores. What lead to these decisions?

SR:  Well first off, the comics aren't actually "Prestige Format," not technical sense of the industry term.  What we've developed is an innovative "prestige packaging" that makes our books absolutely unique unto themselves.  You see all this really limited edition stuff over at Mondo and other places, with all the posters they do.  The reason nobody has done that with comic books yet is that comic books are traditionally very expensive to produce and manufacture.  I put in a lot of "sweat equity," doing all the editing and lettering and graphic design, which saves tons of money.  I taught myself to be a one man art department when I was
doing SHOCK FESTIVAL.  That's also what makes our books special.  They aren't corporate product, it's a very intimate machine we have here.  Just a few people, making very personal books.  And yet they look just as good, if not better, than most any comic out there.  That's also why our print runs are so tiny and the books are only available through our website.  It's totally exclusive to us, absolutely outside traditional publishing channels.  These things don't even have ISBN numbers for retail store sale. They are carefully-crafted collector's items and you can only get them from US.

SWF; Any other announcements or teasers you want to let fly?

SR: I think we've covered it pretty well, man.  Except to say thank you for helping us promote this, man!  The success or failure of Eibon Press and Fulci Comics relies entirely on the fans.  We really hope you guys dig it.

SWF; Finally, what’s your favorite of all of Fulci’s films and why?

SR:  GATES OF HELL is my personal favorite, and I have to tell you it's for a really strange reason.  It's those monkeys Fulci has screaming in the cemetery towards the end of the picture.  It just makes no sense at all, but suddenly you hear all these fucking MONKEYS howling in the trees!  But it creates this super unique creepy atmosphere that is absolutely  unlike any other movie.  I remember when I first realized what that sound actually was on my 15th viewing or so, and just said to myself, "Well this has to be some kind of high fucking art right here."  No bullshit.  I was already in love with the movie for it's obvious scumbag horror assets, but then I just realized Fulci was a fucking mad genius on all these other, almost hidden levels.  Also, I love the score in that film.  It's one Fabio Frizzi's finest.  He re-utilizes the theme fromZOMBIE in the third act in a different way that is at once really arc and overdramatic but also sincere and musically inventive.  I like composers who reference their own work like that. I was a big fan of James Horner too, who was the king of recycles.  He scored HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP, which is still my absolute favorite horror film soundtrack.  Our BOTTOMFEEDER series is partially inspired by HUMANOIDS.  Like the films of Fulci, it represents an age long gone.




Again, ARE YOU EXCITED???

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Sunday, May 15, 2016

"I AM THE FUTURE" ALICE COOPER AND CLASS OF 1984

I think over the course of the last four years I've made it pretty clear that I was a late night TV junky. Ever since I caught a really bad Christopher Lee sci-fi flick at 3 am, I became obsessed with staying up all hours of the night to see what dark delights the weird old TV gods would bestow upon me. Especially when we got cable in the mid 80s. Especially when I got a little TV for my bedroom and I was able to run a cable splitter from the living room TV to my bedroom. Back then USA, TBS, Fox, WGN, and sometimes even the big three would play horror, action, and exploitation films post 11PM. That's how I spent my weekends, flipping through all these channels to find that sweet spot.
Two of my favorite movies that seemed to play all the time were The Warriors and Class Of 1984. I'll be covering The Warriors later this week, in honor of Waxwork Records' original soundtrack double vinyl release, which I have received in the mail, and holy crap, it's awesome!

Class Of 1984 was my first punk film and featured Alice Cooper's "I Am The Future" in the opening credits. At the point I first watched Class Of 1984, Cooper's Trash had just come out. It was his first really big hit record in some time, but it wasn't a very 'Alice' record. It was lousy with guest spots from Aerosmith and Bon Jovi and veered away from the theatrical rock he was known for and more
towards the poodle head cock rock of the day. Fortunately, Trash was still way better than anything by the flavor of the week pop metal bands and actually still holds up pretty well today. I was new to Alice at the time though and very excited about Trash and played it constantly. So I was already hungry for more, especially since my mom had banned Alice from house for being sick and Satanic.

Catching Class Of 1984 was random happenstance while flipping through the channels. It was just starting and didn't take much to hook me, especially when I saw Alice's name in the credits. If you're unfamiliar with this 1982 cult classic, let me give you a little info; it was written by Tom Holland (Psycho II, Fright Night, The Beast Within, Cloak and Dagger, Child's Play) and directed by Mark Lester (Showdown In Little Tokyo, Firestarter, Commando)-cult film royalty, and starred Perry King (Riptide), Roddy McDowall (Fright Night, Black Hole, Planet Of The Apes, Batman '66) and Timothy Van Patton (who went on to direct episode of Sopranos and Game of Thrones among many other shows) and was even Michael J Fox's film debut. Lester also wrote and directed the, um sequel (?) Class Of 1999, which came out in 1990. If you're unfamiliar with that one too, well go find it!

King plays the new music teacher in a really bad school where the kids run wild and terrorize everyone. He has a pregnant wife at home and has basically hit the shit storm jackpot coming to work here. He befriends McDowall's character, who tries to show King the ropes (like carrying a pistol in his briefcase!). Van Patton is the leader of gang of violent, drug dealing punks who push McDowall to his breaking point and forces King to take some drastic action.

I don't want to give away to much more! Class Of 1984 is a really dark action/exploitation film with the heart of a horror movie. You could certainly draw comparisons to old westerns where the good guy shows up in a town run by a bunch of outlaws and has to bring law and order, but there's no clean hands or white hats and no one rides off into the sunset. This movie puts you through the wringer.

If you listen to "I Am The Future" out of context of the film it just sounds like one of those great Alice rock rebellion anthems like "Department Of Youth" or "School's Out". Applied to Class Of 1984 and it's a dire warning of a future going down in flames, of youth rising up and eating their parents, of a day where you can't run to a teacher or a cop for protection...


When does a dream become a nightmare?
When do we do what must be done?
When do we stand and face the future?
When there is nowhere left to run?

And you've got to learn
Just how to survive
You've got to learn
How to keep your dream alive

Take a look at my face
I am the future
How do you like what you see?
Take a look at my face
I belong to the future
And you belong to me


Class Of 1984 was released on Blu Ray from the awesome Scream Factory. It really is a chilling film even now and recommended for fans of Suburbia (Penelope Spheeris) and The Warriors.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

DEAR PARAMOUNT, LET'S TALK ABOUT FRIDAY THE 13TH

I'm a long time, unapologetic fan of Friday The 13th. It was the first slasher series I was aware of as a kid, with the TV commercials scaring the shit out of me. It was the first slasher film that I sat up and watched on late night TV. As much as I loved A Nightmare On Elm Street and Halloween, Jason Vorhees captured my imagination in ways Freddy and Michael didn't. Maybe it was because there was so much mystery around Jason. Yes, we know through his mother that he drowned as a little boy and then mysteriously he appears as a full grown man five years after she loses her head. That story alone is a movie.
Look, it's been seven years since we got a new F13, that is if we're counting the remake as a new F13. I think, and I know I'm not alone, that now Jason has come home to Paramount the only way to bring him back is in an epic fashion that not only honors the past, but paves a new road to the future. Epic isn't found footage or a period piece set in the 1980s. Epic pulls together all those story threads, all those hints and mysteries. Epic is a F13 we've never seen before, a true evolution of the Vorhees legend. Epic is modern and maintains the timeline. Epic considers the whole franchise without being a slave to it. Epic answers old questions and sets the stage for new ones.
I was always disappointed that Jason Goes To Hell was the only film in the series that explored any supernatural aspects of F13. Yes, Tommy Jarvis referred to books on the occult in Jason Lives, but the supernatural has permeated F13 since the end of part 1 and has begged to be unleashed. People complain about the lack of Jason in JGTH, but introducing the Lovecraftian cosmic horror and madness via the Necronomicon in the old Vorhees house was delicious. Maybe we don't need to refer back to the Necronomicon, but some sort of malevolent supernatural force, probably involving the mystery of Jason's father would make for a solid sub plot and could start filling in holes in the already established story. Then on top of that bring back an older, grizzled, damaged Tommy Jarvis. Where has Tommy been for the almost three decades since we last saw him? Underground with Megan? Locked up in another institution or prison, accused by Deputy Rick of committing all those murders? (Let's face it, its the word of Megan and a bunch of scared kids to clear Tommy's name, since all the cops and counselors who came across Jason died, versus the word of Rick, who never saw Jason, locked up in a cell after Tommy escaped.)
I'm rambling a bit, I know, but I'm a fan. A big fan. I grew up on F13 and still get a kick out it. Hell, I've wanted to write an F13 film since New Blood, which my stepdad rented for me the week it came out on VHS. So I write this with love and respect, for Paramount, New Line, and Platinum Dunes. I really want another Friday The 13th and I want it to be so good it shuts up the critics. All the ingredients are there and it doesn't need any gimmicks or reboots.
Thank you sincerly,
Tim Murr
St Rooster Books and Stranger With Friction
5.14.16  

Saturday, April 23, 2016

TV CASUALTY

I've been away from here too long! Between 60 hours on the job, writing for Popshifter, trying to get my next book going, trying to sell my four current books, and prepping to move halfway across the country Stranger With Friction has been sorely neglected. I'm not going to announce a return to regular features, because honestly, it will probably be sometime in June before I'm back to running on any sort of consistent schedule. I will, however try to get at least one post up a week. And you can always catch me once or twice a week over at Popshifter.com!

Tonight I wanted to just do a quick run down of some the shows of been following. I don't have cable, instead I have internet running through my Playstation so I can run Amazon, Hulu, and Netflix. So, the most current I get is the night after a show airs. In some cases though, a show either doesn't show up or it only shows up on Amazon for $1.99 an episode. I'll pay that for say Walking Dead, but not for Supergirl. After the way Season 6 of WD ended though, I'm feeling like a chump for not having that the other way around. So for some shows it might be a year or more after they aired before I see them. I just watched True Detective Season 1 and started True Blood Season 1. 

For the sake of this review I'll only list shows that are currently running.

Gotham I have dug my heels in and stood up for this show on social media and I'll do it here as well. Of all the super hero properties that have come to the small screen, Gotham was the one I was least excited about. I saw the show having great potential, but my expectations were low going into Season 1. Fortunately, after a the first few episodes, Gotham found its footing and then continued to improve straight through the season finale and then hit the ground running in Season 2. Watching villains like Penguin, The Riddler, and Mr Freeze develop has been really fun. The portrayals of young Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle have been spot on. The show's anchor, Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie) has been a solid hero, even through his personal flaws and missteps as he fights to keep his moral center from shattering as he's constantly being forced to bend or even break the rules to bring justice to Gotham-which explains why he's so sympathetic and willing to take help from a certain pointy eared vigilante in his near future. Yes, Gotham is Batman without Batman, but it is still a great Batman show. It's unrelentingly dark and violent, it's been freely embracing the sci-fi and horror aspects of the Batman stories, and it has laid a rock solid foundation for the day David Mazouz's Bruce Wayne finally dons the cowl. Gotham is Noir-Punk with elements of Clockwork Orange and The Island Of Doctor Moreau. Well written, well directed, awesome cast, and some great taste in music. I love this show and hope it stays around for years (as long as it doesn't pull a Smallville and pull the plug as Batman emerges!).

Bates Motel If this show was just Vera Farmiga and Freddie Highmore playing off each other it would still be worth watching. The show takes us back to the roots of Psycho while mixing in a really fascinating small town crime drama and modernizing the story. Some people balked at the very notion of anyone else playing Norman besides the legendary Anthony Perkins, but Freddie Highmore is actually a blast to watch, especially when he becomes 'mother'. Like Gotham, there is a built in prejudice against this show and that's really too bad, because like Gotham you have top notch writing, directing and an all around great cast. It's hard to take your eyes off Farmiga and Highmore. Also like Gotham, we know where the story winds up, but we're on new ground story wise. Like they say about vacations; half the fun is getting there.

Arrow/The Flash/Legends Of Tomorrow I'm a DC guy, always have been. My earliest memories involve sitting on various living room floors (we moved around a lot) with my Mego Caped crusaders watching Adam West and Burt Ward kick the crap out of a cavalcade of colorful criminals. When Arrow debuted I was pretty excited, but I mainly stuck around through Season 1 out of duty; I wanted the show to succeed and continue and possibly spawn more DC shows, but I wasn't totally in love with it. At least not until Season 2, where the show really found it's legs and got interesting. Season 4 though has felt a bit meandering to me, which sucks, because I like the characters and the actors, but Arrow is being lapped by it's sister shows The Flash and Legends Of Tomorrow. I appreciate each show having it's own flavor, but Arrow needs to step up it's game to stay relevant. The Flash has been consistent since episode 1 as have Legends Of Tomorrow. The villains and cameos have been a lot of fun, hell last week Legends guest starred Jonah Hex and it was so good I've started hoping for a Hex series. I want to see Arrow become a little more colorful and take on more super villains. I think it's time he met up with Green Lantern and have the show start to mine those classic Denny O'Neill/Neal Adams stories of the 1970s.

Supernatural As a long time horror fan and gore hound and considering that my favorite directors are David Cronenberg, Dario Argento, John Carpenter, and David Lynch, the last show I ever expected to like was one about two pretty boys hunting monsters on the CW, but I'll be damned if I didn't binge watch six seasons and then keep up with every episode from the Season 7 premiere. I really like the show's take on vampires and werewolves and how it digs into monster lore from around the world. It does a good job of building dread and horror and mixing in some (by TV standards) gruesome violence and still bringing legitimate laughs. Ten seasons and it still finds ways to keep going and keep the formula fresh. 

I'm looking forward to October when I'll get to see American Horror Story; Hotel and I'm only looking forward to the next season of Walking Dead for Jeffery Dean Morgan. In the last few minutes of the season finale he literally stole the show. "Give me your shit or I'll kill you." Indeed.
   

Saturday, March 12, 2016

KING VULTURE'S SOUND ATTACK; YOUR CAR IS AN ABATTOIR OF LOVE MIX

Throbbing Gristle...DOA
Big Black...Kerosene
Human League...Nightclubbing
Cabaret Voltaire...Just Fascination
Einsturzende Neubauten...Sehnsucht
Gary Numan...Metal
Wire...Ex-Lion Tamer
David Bowie...Ashes to Ashes
Killdozer...Going To The Beach

DEADWORLD...THE BEST ZOMBIE SAGA EVER.

Back in high school, my friend Jase and I would spend many a weekend driving around scouring the used book stores and thrift shops. One Saturday we found a treasure trove of black and white indie comics, mostly horror; The main find though, was Deadworld. There were about four five issues of the original twenty-six issue run, some from Arrow Comics and some from Caliber Comics.

We were hooked by Deadworld's twist on the zombie genre. You have a gateway to another world, some four armed eyeless monsters, some intelligent zombies, tight writing, and killer artwork. Finding more Deadworld became as high of a priority for us as another black and white horror indie we'd been chasing for a couple of years, Faust; Love Of The Damned.

Before you roll your eyes at the notion of another zombie anything, be aware that Deadworld launched in 1987 and didn't just follow the George Romero model of zombie storytelling, like nearly every other zombie novel, movie, TV show, or comic. The apocalypse of Deadworld has a supernatural origin; a gateway has opened and the walking dead, led by some intelligent zombies, invade our planet. The gateway was only opened temporarily and the main villain, King Zombie, wants to reopen it permanently and take over our world. On the human side, you've got a group of friends trying to stay a step ahead of King Zombie and his army.

There are some very uncomfortable similarities to Robert Kirkman's Walking Dead, here's series co-creator, Gary Reed talking about them to Comic Book Resources (click the link for the full interview);
"Well, I've never read the comics but have caught some of the TV show. My general impression of the show is that it's a little slow but it seems pretty interesting. I actually get asked a lot about it not just because of the zombie worlds but because the events that I've seen in "Walking Dead" are very similar to a lot of stuff that happened in the original "Deadworld" series. I mean, I don't want to be that guy that screams "rip-off" like so many others, but there are a number of similarities... the guy with the hand cut off and blade attached, the sword wielding female with chained up followers, a wife named Laura and a son named Carl, a religious family that seems unaffected by zombies, these are just some. I really don't think about it too much unless someone asks and I do get lots of advice from many people about going after them. I don't really think about it as I'm so busy and I have to determine if I should think about it more. The current "Deadworld" storylines are so far removed that it's hard to look way back in the past. I guess I need to give it some more thought and actually explore it in more detail about any kind of connection."

More important than the similarities, though, are the differences. Walking Dead relies on the Romero model of a vague cause for the zombie outbreak. Reed and Vincent Locke took Romero's influence and gave it more depth and gave their outbreak an origin. We've seen talking zombies in Return Of the Living Dead, but we've never seen anything like King Zombie; imagine a zombie Lemmy Kilmeister, from Motorhead, riding a Harley and all the bad-assness that implies! Ruthless, sarcastic, and pure evil straight to his black, shriveled heart. Deadworld has also done a lot more evolving and at a much faster pace. And though the publishing became sporadic in the 1990s, Deadworld is still going, making it by far the longest running zombie comic, always delivering both quality writing and artwork.

Speaking of the art, series co-creator Vincent Locke's iconic artwork has been seen in the graphic novel A History Of Violence as well as on death metal album covers, including Cannibal Corpse. His unique style made Deadworld extra creepy and the violence more shocking. And though he moved on to other projects long ago, he has had some very good and worthy successors with Dalibor Talijic, Sami Makkonen, and Mark Bloodworth.

Cliber Comics also published some Deadworld related one shots that were unrelated to the main story, one of which, Roadkill, is basically a prose short story in a comic book format with beautiful full page black and white paintings by Dave Dorman. Del Stone Jr wrote the story involving a group of neo-Nazis trying to reclaim America from the zombies, but runs into a hero smart zombie, named Hitch. (Hitch returned in Heavy Metal's Monster Massacre).

In terms of story, depth, quality, and gore Deadworld sets a high water mark, not just in comics, but in the horror genre. If you're sick of the Walking Dead's meandering, go find the comic that did it first and better.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

HELLRAISER; JUDGEMENT

By now you've probably noticed a lot of people making scathing, misspelled diatribes against FX artist/writer/director Gary Tunnicliffe in regards to the announcement that he is helming a new Hellraiser film. Also Doug Bradley will once again not be Pinhead. Take a deep breath. Filming has just started and there has been no footage to pass judgement over. (By the way, the new subtitle for this tenth entry is Judgement.)
Every time I see a post about the new Hellraiser film on social media it's followed by comments seething with anger, people convinced without a shred of evidence that this will be the worst sequel of all. I ask myself, why, children, why are you so angry? Yes, Revelations sucked. It was a hack job to keep the Hellraiser rights within Dimension's control. And Hellworld was almost as bad, but to say the franchise hasn't been good since the first or second film is at best a matter of a opinion and at worst a lie.
Considering that about half of the sequels were based on non-Hellraiser scripts with Pinhead plugged in and they still wound up watchable, dare I say enjoyable, is somewhat miraculous. Story wise, everything post Bloodlines and up to Hellworld mostly suffered from low budgets. There were some story flaws, true, and the films did little to advance the actual story that began with the first film. Hellraiser is not the first franchise to be guilty of such sin though. Look at every Friday the 13th film after Jason Lives. As much as I love F13, most Hellraisers after Bloodlines are better than most Fridays after Jason Lives. Strangely though, a steaming pile of dung like Jason Takes Manhattan gets more love than Deader. Has Hellraiser simply become fandom's punching bag?
Let's compare Hellraiser with some other big franchises; Halloween lost it's way after part six and Texas Chainsaw after part three. A Nightmare On Elm Street reached it's peak with The Dream Warriors and while it kept the story intact for three more sequels it suffered from the law of diminishing returns. All five of the franchises have suffered from bad sequels and/or remakes of wildly varying quality. They all also suffer from a case of arrested development. None of them have ever really taken a chance with a major reinvention of the franchise or ever evolved the story. (Wes Craven's A New Nightmare took a stab at this, but didn't recharge the franchise so much as it gave fans a chance to see Nancy [Heather Langenkamp] take on Freddy one more time.)
Some of the comments that have been echoed the most have been "No Doug Bradley, no Hellraiser" or "No Clive Barker, no Hellraisr". That's as silly as "No Ian Fleming, no Bond", or "No Bob Kane, no Batman", or worse, "No Michael Keaton, no Batman". Sometimes a franchise outgrows it's creator and sometimes the creator has better things to do than churn out sequel after sequel. These childish temper tantrums at writers and directors are as unhealthy as cigarettes for horror as a genre. What is a director? An artist. A director creates. No director sets out to make a bad film (ok, most don't). Even if it's for a pay day more than a creative impetus, no director wants to be associated with a bad film.
I don't expect Judgement to outshine the first two Hellraisers, but I also don't expect it to suck. After everything I've read from or about Gary Tunnicliffe I believe he has embarked on a journey to create a really good Hellraiser film. He's not just a hired gun keeping the rights in Dimension's hands, he's a fan and has worked on the FX for more than half the films in the franchise. So instead of throwing Gary under the bus for attempting what none of us could get done, lets be supportive and send a message to Dimension that we care about Hellraiser and demand quality films from them.