Even a Mummy Can Use a Hand, Sometimes

Mummy-HandAs I mentioned yesterday, today’s the U.S. release of The Mummy, Universal Studios’ new take on their old horror-movie franchise. So with that in mind, I figured it’d be the perfect time to reach into the horror-comic archives and pull out a classic one-page tale of the bandaged dead: “The Mummy’s Hand”! Click on the image to embiggen, as they say.

First published in Star Publications’ Ghostly Weird Stories #120 (cover-dated September 1953), “The Mummy’s Hand” was written, drawn, and colored by New Jersey native Jay Disbrow, a cult-favorite comics artist who passed away on May 2nd of this year, at the age of 91. The height of his popularity came during the 1950s, when horror comics were all the rage and Disbrow got to draw all sorts of weird and creepy monsters until the censor-heavy Comics Code Authority came along and put an end to the fun (but not for long!). But the CCA didn’t put an end to Dusbrow’s talents—he kept writing and drawing his own indie comics right up to 2005, creating such sci-fi characters as Captain Electron, Aroc of Zenith, and Lance Carrigan of the Galactic Legion.

Forgotten Frights: Monsters of History

Happy Friday the 13th! Even though it’s got nothing to do with this special day on which we celebrate the multiple resurrections of Jason Voorhees, the blood-spattered mascot of Camp Crystal Lake, here’s a one-page forgotten fright from comics’ Golden Age I thought you might enjoy.

“Monsters of History,” by artist Howard Nostrand, first appeared in Harvey Comics’ Chamber of Chills Magazine #18, cover-dated July 1953. Click on the image to embiggen, as they say.

Monsters-of-History

What’s that? This is a different kind of Friday the 13th? Jason’s got nothing to do with it?

Oh.

Well, never mind, then.

Queens’oween 2015: The Phantom of Flushing

adventures-darkness09Happy Halloween to all you monsters, young and old! This week I’d been celebrating Queens’oween, a Halloween-themed holiday I made up that put the spotlight on homes around Queens, NY (home to both Pandora Zwieback and Pan’s publisher, StarWarp Concepts) that are celebrating All Hallows’ Eve in awesomely horrific style. But now this event has reached its end (for this year), so to mark the occasion I decided to present a classic one-page horror comic story for your reading enjoyment—one set (of course) in Queens!

Set in the 1890s, “Phantom of Flushing” first appeared in Adventures into Darkness #9, published by Standard Comics in April 1953; since most comics at the time didn’t include creator credits, and Standard Comics went out of business a long time ago, this story’s writer and artist are unknown. Jokes about the name aside, Flushing is one of Queens’s oldest neighborhoods, first settled in 1645 by the Dutch (back when New York was known as New Amsterdam) before falling under British control in the 1660s. Today it’s home to an ever-growing population that includes a Chinatown now even larger than the original, in Lower Manhattan. Mini history lessons aside, sit back and get ready to meet…the Phantom of Flushing (click to enlarge)!

Flushing-Adv-intoDarkness09

Speaking of comics that would make for great Halloween reading, does StarWarp Concepts have one that’s perfect for Panatics!

pan_annual_lgThe Saga of Pandora Zwieback Annual #1 is a 56-page, full-color comic special—with cover art by award-winning artist Henar Torinos (Mala Estrella)—in which the teenaged Goth adventuress battles vampires and a jealous, man-stealing siren. It features three original stories of what I’ve termed the “Paniverse”—tales that take place within the fictional universe of The Saga of Pandora Zwieback.

  • “Song of the Siren,” written by me and illustrated by Eliseu Gouveia (The Saga of Pandora Zwieback #0) involves Pan and her boyfriend, Javi, attending one of his family’s picnics in Central Park, and running into an ex-girlfriend of Javi’s. An awkward situation, to be sure, made even worse by the realization that with her monstervision, Pan can see the girl is really a siren: a creature from Greek mythology that can hypnotize men with its voice!
  • “After Hours” is by writer Sholly Fisch (Scooby-Doo Team-Up) and comic-art legend Ernie Colon (Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld), and involves a working-class demon dropping by his favorite bar.
  • “Shopping Maul” is a short story written by me, with title-page art by Elizabeth Watasin (writer/artist of Charm School). Pan, Javi, and their friends stop by a Queens mall to do a bit of window-shopping—only to find themselves caught in the middle of a fight between Gothic Lolita vampires and Pan’s monster-hunting mentor, Annie!

The Saga of Pandora Zwieback Annual #1 is available in print and digital formats, so visit its product page for ordering information, as well as sample pages and chapters.

Have a Spooktacular Halloween!

Pirouette #1: A Review

Pirouette01As I mentioned a couple of weeks back, in my post on the zombie apocalypse series Afterlife with Archie, I’ve become a comic book reviewer for the news site Comics for Sinners. And occasionally I come across a horror series that I think might interest you Panatics, so I decided to now and then reproduce my C4S reviews here at Zwieback Central. (And yes, it helps to update this blog.) So this time around I look at the first issue of Black Mask Studios’ Pirouette. Read on to find out more…

Confession time: I’ll admit I experienced some trepidation when I was asked to review this title from Black Mask Studios, but that was entirely due to confusing writer Mark L. Miller with Kick-Ass shock-and-awe hypemeister Mark Millar. Not being a fan of Millar’s work, I couldn’t imagine what Hollywood pitch this latest work would turn out to be. But then I took a second look, and realized a completely different writer was involved (an unfortunate circumstance that I’m sure Miller is sick of by now), so I started reading.

Pirouette-Sample1I’m glad I took that second look.

Pirouette is the eponymous star of the comic, an extremely sad, 16-year-old clown who dreams of running away from the circus because of the abuse—both physical and psychological—that she suffers at the hands of her fellow carnies, as well as her parents; to say she’s the resident punching bag would be an understatement. And yet there’s a spark of hope in Pirouette that a better life exists for her, somewhere beyond her nightmarish existence. And if what one of the other clowns has told her is true, there may be a chance for that spark to blossom into a flame…

The first impression one gets from Miller’s tale is that he’s wearing his Ray Bradbury influence on his sleeve—Samwell’s Circus of Curios and Wonders seems straight out of Cooger & Dark’s Pandemonium Shadow Show in Bradbury’s classic novel, Something Wicked This Way Comes. And that’s not a bad thing—given the extremes of hyperkinetic art layouts and ultraslow, “write for the trade” padded scripting that dominate comics these days, Miller has found an easy balance between the two, with a story that moves at its own pace without being derivative of Bradbury’s work.

Although billed as a horror miniseries, there’s nothing supernatural in evidence in this first issue; the horror solely comes from watching Pirouette’s mistreatment from a cast of characters you’d like to see run over by the train that transports the circus through its 1930s’ Midwest America setting. From all I know there may be no supernatural elements to the story, and that would be fine—Pirouette works just as well as a character-driven tale.

Pirouette-Sample2

The art by Miller’s creative partner, Carlos Granda, is breathtaking. There’s a hint of Angel Medina (Spawn), a hint of Bernie Wrightson (Swamp Thing), and a touch of old-school EC comics to his style, and it all combines for top-notch storytelling pages that range from wide-screen double-splashes to intimate close-ups.

Bottom line? With its winning combination of Bradbury-esque influences and incredible art, Pirouette is a miniseries definitely worth a look for horror fans and comic fans.

Pirouette #1
Written by Mark L. Miller
Art and cover by Carlos Granda
Publisher: Black Mask Studios
32 pages • full color
$3.99 U.S.
On sale now

Afterlife With Archie #6: A Review

afterlife06Just in time for Halloween, here’s something different for this site: Me recommending a project I had nothing to do with. Okay, maybe not all that different—after all, I’ve posted summer reading lists in which I recommend other authors’ works. If anything, it’s different in that it involves a comic book series, the latest issue of which I reviewed for the news site Comics for Sinners. It’s the most unexpected—and most popular—Archie Andrews comic ever: the zombie apocalypse series Afterlife with Archie. And I think it’s something you Panatics might be interested in…

It started as a joke: a Halloween drawing by artist Francesco Francavilla (The Black Beetle), of a comic-book cover for a nonexistent horror series called Afterlife with Archie (a parody of the long-running Life with Archie); in it, America’s favorite teenager was being stalked in a cemetery by his best friend, Jughead—who’d become a zombie. The image went viral and comic fans laughed about it…but at Archie Comics, someone took a look at it and thought, Archie and his pals in a zombie apocalypse—what a great idea!

And thus was born Afterlife with Archie, the series, with Francavilla as artist, joined by writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (Stephen King’s The Stand). Together, they’ve made AwA one of the most talked-about series currently being published, and one of the company’s top titles, by treating it as a straight-up horror series not intended for younger readers used to Archie’s more comedic antics. The setup is: Jughead’s dog, Hot Dog, is hit and killed by a car; Jughead brings him to Sabrina the Teenaged Witch and begs her to revive him; Sabrina uses The Necronomicon to do so (well, there’s a bad idea). In a Stephen King’s Pet Sematary–style twist, Hot Dog comes back as a very bad dog—a zombie dog, in fact, that puts the bite on Jughead…who then quickly spreads the infection to the rest of Riverdale. And suddenly Archie Andrews knows what it’s like to be Rick Grimes in The Walking Dead…

With the first story arc completed in AwA #5, Afterlife with Archie #6 shows us what’s become of Sabrina after her two witchy aunts punished her for accidentally unleashing hell on Earth—the last we’d seen of her was in the first issue, when they’d banished her to the “Nether-Realm.” Now we find out things haven’t improved much for her…

“Witch in the Dream House” uses the trope of the lead character who insists that their “hallucinations” and imagined life are reality while everyone tries to convince the character they’re insane. For Sabrina, it’s her certainty that she’s a witch, surrounded by monster in group therapy at a mental institution—run by two doctors named Lovecraft and Machen. If you recognize the names H. P. Lovecraft and Arthur Machen, two of the horror genre’s greatest writers, you can see where this is going, can’t you?

For horror fans, there are Easter eggs galore, with shout-outs to the authors’ works, most notably Lovecraft’s C’thulu Mythos—two of Sabrina’s fellow patients are Erich Zann (“The Music of Erich Zann”) and Richard Pickman (“Pickman’s Model”)—as well as Robert W. Chambers’s fabled city of Carcosa (most notably referenced in the first season of HBO’s acclaimed series True Detective) and the cult classic film The Wicker Man (the original with Edward Woodward and Christopher Lee, not the crappy remake with Nicholas Cage). And as for the ending…well, you’ll just have to see it for yourself.

As a bonus, instead of AwA’s usual backup stories—reprinted from Archie’s Red Circle–imprint series Chilling Tales of Sorcery, with stories and art by some of comics’ legendary creators—this issue features a sneak peek of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina #1, Aguirre-Sacasa’s not-quite-an-AwA-spinoff-series that’s currently on sale. Set in the 1960s, with art by Robert Hack, it seems to take its cues from Rosemary’s Baby and other occult thrillers of the sixties and early seventies. Definitely another series to check out.

Bottom line? If you’re already reading Afterlife with Archie, or are a fan of the works of Lovecraft, Machen, and Chambers, then definitely pick up this issue. If you’re a horror fan in general, you need to be reading this series. AwA is one of the smartest, creepiest comics out there right now, with a minimal amount of gore shown during its most violent scenes, but a lot of oppressive mood. Archie + zombies + the C’thulu Mythos = a can’t-miss series.

Afterlife with Archie #6

“Witch in the Dream House”

Written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa

Art by Francesco Francavilla

Publisher: Archie Comics

32 pages • full-color

$2.99 U.S.

On sale now