Oct 29 2014

Trail of Cthulhu – Kenneth Hite

This role playing game system is a mix of the Call of Cthulhu horror game with the Gumshoe hard boiled detective game by Robin D Laws. There is a lot to like about this as it both boils down the elements of the Lovecraftian horror to its mysterious and terrible core and simplifies the gaming system in order to get through some of the problems of clue finding that the original CoC RPG has been struggling with for decades (eg, A player looks for the secret passage and fails the roll…now what?). On the negative side it does invite some weakness on the playing side as I can see investigators being spoon fed information. There is also a system of sanity verses stability, which is largely how crazy you are verses how crazy you seem, yet one of the points pushed by this system is the emphasis on roleplaying (so why can’t you just roleplay if your character is visibly crazy or not?!). I definitely want to try this system out, but a have to say that the organization of the game book is sanity destroying horrible. In the future tell us first how the system works and then talk about the different roles players can take. Thanks to Joe for giving me this game book.

Oct 28 2014

H. P. Lovecraft’s The Dunwich Horror – Joe R. Lansdale

Foolish me, I though, due to the title, that this would be an adaptation of the Lovecraft story of the same name. No, it is a two generations later re-imagining that captures none of the mystery, thrill, horror, skill, etc of the original. It doesn’t even have any characters unless you count the I’m the leader and I’m the black guy as characters. So disappointing that I skipped the second part of this collection that has what seems to be pictures accompanying the script to Lovecraft’s “The Hound.” I’ll never know as I’ve been burnt and don’t want to continue to be so.

Oct 27 2014

Locke & Key (vol 1-6): Welcome to Lovecraft, Head Games, Crown of Shadows, Keys to the Kingdom, Clockworks, & Alpha & Omega – Joe Hill

[I'm not sure why I didn't just label the title the entire series, because this is the complete 6 volumes that make up this great work. Note: I read these series twice so I've made some changes to my original thoughts and noted them in this review with "[ ]” ]

Admittedly, I picked this up because the name Lovecraft was in the title. Despite the beautiful art of Gabriel Rodriguez [which is only a problem when characters are called "ugly" or considered plain when they are clearly beautiful] and lovely coloring job of glossy pages, I started out disappointed as it appeared there would be a good deal of gratuitous violence and perhaps sexual violence. I am so pleased to be absolutely wrong. The story is a fascinating tale of the Locke family, struck by horrific tragedy, who go to their ancestral home in Lovecraft, MA (ok, I know) in order to escape the past. There, the mother and kids (Bode, Kinsey, and Tyler) try to deal with the senseless violence done to them and slowly unlock the mysteries (and actual locks) of the family estate. In true Lovecraftian fashion, there is never any escape from the past. I’m eager to continue reading. 

With Head Games, I was less thrilled as I felt the magical keys that are, well, key to the series are getting a bit too much so that their outrageousness and/or silliness detracts for the horror story. Still,the excitement is more than enough to keep me hungry for more, although I felt Hill, via his characters, is being too harsh on the Locke matriarch in Crown of Shadows. [On second read I didn't have any problem with the magic but got that same feeling of harshness towards the father character as well.]

Keys to the Kingdom had an interesting formate, providing a montage for the passage of time, the discovery of new keys, and fighting off the constant dangers as an evil force continues to attempt to usurp specific keys for not fully understood reasons. It also spends a great deal of time focusing on the interpersonal relationships of the Locke family with those outside of it, to often creepy effect. Again, I feel the horror aspect of the story is downplayed for the action/adventure portions, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Hill does seem to abandon Mrs. Locke in this volume which I don’t understand after she has been so important. [One complaint I have is that there are many, quite interesting, side characters introduced throughout this story, but Hill doesn't always give them the stage time they both need and deserve. There really should have been a vol. 3B that would have given more face time with some of the minor characters, many introduced in vol. 3, and fleshed out some of the stories presented in vol. 4. A win-win!]

Clockworks takes the story towards where I thought it should be moving, in that it becomes rather sinister again and deals mainly with historical accounts, allow the reader and characters to learn the past of so many mysteries. There are some problems with editing here in that one character states a person is going to school X and then that character states she is can’t afford to go to school Y (which, by the way, is cheaper than X) and is going to Z. In another instance a character wonders why her name is printed next to another since she isn’t dating that person, but none of the names are in that order so why would she bring up such a comment? I’d rather Hill slow down as I believe he has great deal of stories he could tell of multiple generations relating to his larger plot; however, the text claims that the story concludes in the next volume, which strikes me as both unfair and unfortunate. A minor criticism I had was the idea that someone can impersonate someone very close to you without attracting suspicion. I see this trope used a lot and I never buy it. Luckily, that had little to do with most of the events recounted here.

Alpha & Omega bring the series to a close. I won’t go into any real detail here as not to spoil anything. I’ll simply comment that am I glad the title has a complete storyline, and even more sad to see it go. I did have a couple of problems with the end, in that how something occurred in the final pages didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me–hopefully I just missed something obvious. Did it end exactly the way I felt it should? No. Was it a great story that I would recommend to just about anyone? Yes! These are the types of stories that make the comic industry a place of magic. Don’t stop!

Oct 26 2014

Godzilla

So I hoped that we would get a good monster movie here, instead I was told that the army is filled with good guys, a single nuke has more radioactive material than all of Nevada, nobody can hear the side of a mountain being drilled through by a giant creature, and that while CNN has amazing monster footage I am only allowed to see glimpses of far too dark scenes. PS Godzilla’s head is too small and after killing a bunch of school kids, I’m pretty sure he isn’t going to be declared a hero. 

Oct 25 2014

Monster Haiku: The First 100 Strips – Jason Deeble

This is a cute 4 panel series of strips revolving around traditional horror film monsters. The gimmick (for want of a better term) is that the strips are all done in haiku (the Japanese poetic style of 3 lines and 17 syllables). Honestly, I would not have realized this unless told–which I was, but not before thinking: “this wording is a little clunky,” which shows you both how literary I am, and how unable I am to read a title). On the positive side of things: I think this is a great idea, Jason does a great job with keeping to his rule without it hurting the jokes, he’s a great artists, and I think kids and adults will get a thrill out of his work. Plus he is a super nice guy and very glad I met him at NYCC. To be a little critical I have to say that the book, physically, had some problems. The binding is weak, the printing is too light (the comics all look like they have been left out in the sun or poorly copied), and for your own sake, Jason, put your name on the cover. As to the material, may I suggest that the 4 panels do not seem to give anything that he couldn’t do with 3 (which is also the direction I see most strips going in, so if he wants to focus on marketing….). Additionally, I think Jason needs to spend some time fleshing out his characters. They are totally adorable and have their own personalities, but this collection doesn’t so much as tell you anyone’s names. It may seem like nothing, but mentally thinking, “yeah, that vampire kid character with the awesome hair,” can get annoying. So take a look here to see for yourself.  Note that you too can get an awesome hat like this. He has another one of his Rob the Zombie character–yes, he does add names later, just not in this collection–which I actually liked better and looks great on me (I was made to be an undead parasite), but for the love of fish and all things fish monster-y I had to go with this one. Hopefully, I will see him at another convention sometime and get that hat too (and show that picture off to you, my adoring readers).

Oct 24 2014

Gotham

The show has a good start taking us back to year zero; however, there is no excitement or build up to the death of Batman’s–or rather the future Batman’s–parents and for a frightened little boy who just lost his parents, his eyes are completely dry. And can we get something to indicate that he will be the world’s greatest detective or, as DC puts it, the world’s smartest man? As an aside, when Selena Kyle steals a full carton of milk and then opens it, it needs to be filled with milk and not just have some remnants at the bottom. Also, don’t do stupid things with cameras and think it’s cool, instead focus on making the scenery work: everything is clean-dirty in that there is old paint and graffiti but no actual trash around. Want a fun drinking game? Drink every time someone says detective Gordon’s name or mentions how he’s like a boy scout. Still, for my complaints the idea of having the background of the world of the Batman sans Batman is a great one despite some problems of knowing who is not going to die, a stupid drill sergeant version of Alfred the butler, and having Detective Gordon (is the rich fiancee needed?) destroy any hope of closure for a little boy for no reason, etc.

 

Oct 23 2014

Life Sucks – Jessica Abel

Life sucks and so does this comic. I’m extremely disappointed in this as both Abel and publisher, First Second, usually are associated with good work. How did this idea come about?: “If only there was a comic with wimpy vegetarian vampires like Twilight, the minimum wage action of Clerks, and the whinny boy wants girl who is dating a real loser like every 80s movie ever.” The story is about Dave who is a vampire forced to work in his master’s convenience store, who is totally in love with Rosa, who dates good looking nothings. Other than the vampire angle there is nothing new or interesting here. Why does Dave so love Rosa? Could it be for the same superficial reasons she’s guilty of: going for looks? The only parts that could have depth due to conflicts (mainly at the end) are glossed over at best. I much rather read about the repercussions of the actions taken than more of the same boring dialogue of teenagers saying nothing. 

Oct 22 2014

At The Mountains of Madness – adapted and illustrated by I. N. J. Culbard

Cej got me this colorful and nicely done comic version of H. P. Lovecraft’s novella about an Arctic expedition that comes across the remains of an ancient race and some terrible truths. I was excited about this comic as Mountains is a deep and thrilling tale (if you can recognize that it is the first of it’s kind and that many horror stories are based on it); however, I must say that it lacks when compared to the original as there are so many details that are lost in this version. Still, the large colorful pictures are quite enjoyable and it is a noble attempt. 

Oct 21 2014

Zombies Calling – Faith Erin Hicks

This short graphic novel is packed with potential. Joss is stressing over exams and student loans to the point driving her roommates, the sex obsessed Robyn and goth Sonnet, insane, until a zombie attack changes her focus. Clever in a meta discussion of “the Rules” to surviving a zombie apocalypse a la the movies, this humorous comic could have been fleshed out to be a meaty treat (sorry I had to write that). Sadly, we are given just enough character information to make them start to seem interesting before it is torn away–like so much flesh from bone. I’ve complained about Hicks’ art always making everyone gorgeous, and yes I complain about that in movies/TV too. I really don’t see why Hicks doesn’t revisit this, double the length, and cash in on the movie rights that are sure to come. 

Oct 21 2014

“Interstitial” is a Fancy Word

Three new interstitial pages. Each of these is a “bookend” for one of the scenes in Calimbo.

This footprint follows the scene with C at the construction yard—where he stepped in some wet cement. Footprints are critical to the case and they are a recurring theme in The Case of Amontillado.

The bust of Athena follows the scene with C in M’s office. The bust is in the background, but her gaze of justice cannot be denied.

The bucket follows another confrontation scene, where C lets M know that he (M) left evidence behind, specifically the bucket…and maybe other items.

One other quality of these pages is that each of the items points to the left — the sinister side — like the left-handedness of M. Once C “wins”, the images will point right. It’s a subliminal thing—I don’t expect readers to pick up on it on a conscious level; but putting in these touches is what keeps the work interesting to me.

Oct 20 2014

Studio Time 10-19-14

Worked on several interstitial pages for Calimbo. Here’s the progression from sketches to full inks.

Oct 20 2014

Adventure Time: Marceline and the Scream Queens

This is a collection of one big story and several mini ones about the vampire: Marceline, her band, the Princess of the Candy kingdom: Bubblegum, and their adventures in the land of Ooo. I really enjoy the TV show and am impressed with how much depth of backstory they put into a seemingly innocent kids’ show, and my favorite character is the color eating, hard rocking, vampire queen Marceline. Naturally, I got a kick out of this sweet and funny, and often delightfully drawn, comic about Marceline’s insecurity as she goes on tour. 

Oct 19 2014

Cthulhu

“Welcome home to the end of the world.” When I first heard of this film being made I was, naturally for me, very excited, but then I heard nothing good about it and wrote it off. Still, I did look forward to seeing what was done and so when I finally got around to it…. Well, the trouble with the movie about a professor that returns to his home town to attend his mother’s funeral only to discover terrible secrets involving ancient cults, murders, and the end of the world (all good things, right? movie-wise that is) is that the story itself is lost. Slow paced and VERY artsy, this film wants to appeal to the fans of Lovecraft’s “The Call of Cthulhu,” artsy fartsy film buffs, homosexual themed relationship watchers, small town mystery lovers, and Tori Spelling groupies; unfortunately there are not enough of any of those elements to hold the movie together and keep it going. I appreciate the effort. 

Oct 18 2014

Frankenstein’s Army

Granted, this movie is pretty horrible. A group of Soviet soldiers press into eastern Germany and find monstrosities of men and machines brought to life due to the legacy of Dr. Victor von (hey, it doesn’t count as a spoiler if it’s in the title!). The film is, well, filmed, in that it presents itself as the footage that the Soviets took during the event, and gives the impression of a first person shooter video game (as do the creatures involved), which I’m pretty positive was the point, either being based on one or wanting to be turned into one–I couldn’t be bothered to check. Speaking of the creatures, there were absolutely ridiculous: I get having a person’s hands replaced with hammers, but a head replaced with a plane engine?! Seriously, I could go on about how lame this film was, and yet I found it really appealing. There is just something very interesting about the idea and documentary style that I have to give props to. I guess what I’m saying is that for a movie that was bad, it actually had a good spark and a lot of potential.

Oct 17 2014

Wolverine: Sabretooth Reborn – Jeph Loeb

An extended action scene of the good-guy killer mutant, Wolverine, for the purpose of getting Sabretooth back into the Marvel universe (see title) and having someone named Romulus, who I didn’t know but seems to be another Wolverine/Sabretooth, do some stuff. Not worth it. 

Oct 16 2014

The Case of Charles Dexter Ward – adapted and illustrated by I. N. J. Culbard

Cej got me another Culbard adaption of a Lovecraft novella. This was one of the first Lovecraft stories I ever read and, while not particularly famous, is, in my view, one of the purest of his tales. It deals with a man attempting to unravel what has happened to his friend that has made him act so strange, and, in turn, tells that person’s story about what happened. The layers of the mystery and supernatural horror is so well done and shows his care in writing. All this is why I was wary when approaching this comic. Happily, this graphic work really captures the mysterious elements and the sad truths that unravel throughout the story. Dark colors and focus on individuals makes the tale vivid. A great comic and a strong introduction to the world of Lovecraft.

Oct 15 2014

War Brothers: The Graphic Novel – Sharon E. McKay & Daniel Lafrance

Adapted from the novel about a group of kids that get captured and forced to join the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA)–you know, the rebel group in central Africa that kidnaps and tortures children, forces them to rape, murder, maim, and pillage under the guise of a christian liberation movement, that Rush Limbaugh supports. It is certainly powerful stuff and apparently based on solid research, and yet I felt that with such incredible material, the novel (i.e., the fiction) part seemed both unnecessary and (for all its horror) sanitized (in that there is rarely screams of pain, no rape, little mutilation, etc.). Good introduction to the topic and the idea of healing after undergoing the horrible. 

Oct 14 2014

Wolverine: Goes to Hell – Jason Aaron

Oh, good, Wolverine the former murder and current superhero is in hell paying for his crimes (and for no reason Puck from Alpha Flight is there). Lots of slashing takes place and the only good things is that the rarely used Son of Satan superhero is in this comic (but TWO Ghost Riders?! Come on.). Stuff happens but who cares? To make this even worse there is a summary of the “history” of Wolverine in the back of this trade and this 11 page illustrated nonsense is there to remind us of what a piece of garbage the Wolverine story has become. It’s just embarrassing. I think I’ve given Aaron’s Wolverine runs more than enough of a chance, there just isn’t anything there for me. 

Oct 13 2014

Wolverine: Back in Japan – Jason Aaron

A very silly comic wherein the indestructible killing machine and superhero goes to Japan to fight numerous former and new foes and build up a body count in a very Garth Ennis unappealing way. Do you think you could have had one artist finish a single issue? 

Oct 13 2014

Street Confrontation

I thought I would get this page done more quickly since I walked into the studio having everything figured out. But it turns out that it still takes me a long time. You can see how the image changed a bit from concept to completion, particularly in panel 2, where I realized that a more dramatic turn by M was better.

Original mock-up:

This page is the beginning page of a 3rd confrontation between C and M. Longtime fans will no doubt recall the other “confrontation scenes”:

The first:

and the second:

In each scene (and maybe this in only in my own head), C is getting a bit closer (he is getting larger in panel 1) to catching M (he starts as silhouette, and later we are right up on him). (The 4th confrontation scene will have C very large).

In addition, panel 3 focuses on M’s feet, which are important to C’s case against him. And C’s dialogue “I’m so glad I caught you!” has a double meaning.

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