Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Escape the Cape Part 7 - The horror

Written by Scott Snyder & Scott Tuft and illustrated by Attila Futaki
We start off lightly with a classic tale of terror.

Severed is a pretty much straight forward story about a kid being tortured by an evil monster. Think Dracula in a southern gothic setting.

There is nothing really groundbreaking about the book, and it follows genre tropes like domino pieces. But it's told in a captivating way that had me think of good old Stephen King, and at the end of it all I was left with a pleasant feeling of having read an all-around great piece of horror fiction.

Locke & Key
Written by Joe Hill and illustrated by Gabriel Rodríguez
Speaking of Stephen King: Here's a graphic novel from his son. Joe Hill changed his name so as to escape his father's shadow, and he's certainly been successful in that. So much so, that Locke & Key is probably the most well known of all these books, and Google is always sure to recommend it when asking for "Horror comics".

It's a high-concept story about magical keys that can supply supernatural abilities to whoever walks through the doors they open. And if that all sounds a bit childish to you, then you're right. It is a fantastic story for children to read, and I only wish I was 10 when I first discovered it.

Sullivan's Sluggers
Written by Mark Andrew Smith and illustrated by James Stokoe
This one is pure fun.

When a baseball team is invited to play a game in a remote village, they soon discover that all the locals has been turned into giant tentacle monsters. It's even sillier than it sounds, with ridiculous stereotypes saying cheesy one-liners as they fight outrageous beasts.

But hey, who doesn't love that?

Black Hole
Written and illustrated by Charles Burns
Now we're onto stranger things.

Black Hole is a weird kind of coming-of-age story, about a sexually transmitted disease of sorts, that has people growing extra limbs. It's not really about monsters though, but more of a tale about feeling like a visitor in your own skin and being out of touch with everyone else.

There's a surreal creepiness to it, that can best be described as if Donnie Darko was directed by David Lynch. A film adaptation also been long in the works, with several big names attached. Rupert Sanders (the director of Ghost in the Shell 2017) even made a short pitch video, which is actually kinda cool. It doesn't really make much sense without having read the comics, but you can check it out here to get an idea of what awaits you.

Written and illustrated by Junji Ito
Junji Ito is a master mangaka, with a whole range of fantastic horror epics. His most successful one is arguably Uzumaki, which is about a town where everyone gets obsessed by spirals.

The comic was also adapted to a very cool movie that I've already written about, however that production happened before the comic had come to its conclusion, and the whole story goes much further than what was shown in the film.

The images Ito conjures up are out of this world, and you owe it to yourself to see just how bizarre it gets.

Written and illustrated by Junji Ito
If that's not fucked-up enough for you, don't worry: Junji Ito takes things even further in Gyo. This time around, he'll introduced you to a range of dead fish which grow spiky spider legs and walk up on land. Soon they start infecting humans, who also grow extra legs along with freaky tubes from their ass and mouth. Seriously, The Human Centipede movies got nothing on this shit!

Good old Ito doesn't stop there either, and has a whole bunch of other fantastic comic. I highly recommend checking out Hellstar Remina, about a living star with a gigantous mouth that eats planets, as well as the short but brilliant Enigma of Amigara Fault which you can read in it's entirety here.

Written by Garth Ennis and illustrated by Jacen Burrows
And while we're onto the sick stuff, why not see just how demented things can get?

Crossed is probably the most bonkers comic ever made, where insane panels like the one to the right is just run of the mill.

The story revolves around some sort of zombie-like outbreak, where the afflicted turns into over-the-top psychopaths. There's so much violence and mutilation and sex in these books, that it makes The Walking Dead seem like a Winnie the Pooh.

Seriously. This is some hardcore stuff.

The Goon
Written and illustrated by Eric Powell
Let's brighten things up again with more lighthearted entertainment.

The Goon is probably the closest thing you will find to an actual superhero comic in all these articles. While the titular Goon does not have superpowers, he is certainly an unrealistically strong hero that saves the day every other title. Still, these books are more of a silly romp that pays tribute to all kinds of classic horror fiction.

This is another one where a film adaptation has been in the works for ages, even with a successful Kickstarter campaign. but for now, the only thing that's come of it is this short promo.

The stories in the comics usually features a sweet ironic ending, and the drawings.. oh, man, you just gotta see them! Eric Powell is in a league of his own!

Billy the Kid's Old Timey Oddities
Written by Eric Powell and illustrated by Kyle Hotz
Everything Eric Powell touches turns to gold, and this is another of his must-read comics.

It's an ensemble piece with classical characters such as Dr. Jekyll, The Elephant Man, Victor Frankenstein, and the Loch Ness monster. And if that all sounds somewhat similar to Alan Moore's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, there is a major difference: Billy the Kid's Old Timey Oddities is fun!

No brooding, hyper-intellectual existentialism here. Just balls to the wall entertainment.

Wormwood: Gentleman Corpse
Written and illustrated by Ben Templesmith
If you're in the mood for even more comedic horror, this series is about a worm that lives in a corpse. Now, I know what you're thinking:

"A worm in a rotting corpse? That sounds hilarious!"

And you are right, because it is.

The titular worm is a private detective of sorts, who goes around saving the world from different dooms, while jumping from corpse to corpse. There's robotic henchmen, magical tattoos, and so many tentacles.

Ben Templesmith has a unique drawing style which has later been copied by countless others, without anyone quite managing to reach the original awesomeness of Templesmith.

Rat God
Written and illustrated by Richard Corben
Another comics creator with a distinct style, is Richard Corben. Just like Templesmith, he too has a fascination for H.P. Lovecraft, and he's made a whole bunch of homages to the horror legend. Rat God is the best one I've found so far.

Similarly to Sullivan's Sluggers, the story is about a remote village where everyone has turned into monsters, however Corben's tale is actually quite creepy. Part of that comes from his excellent visual style, that is often as much about the spaces he leaves out.

Just look at how he illustrates this dark and mysterious road. Don't you just want to go there?

Written and illustrated by Paul Tobin and illustrated by Juan Ferreyra
And if going on wild adventures is your thing, Colder is sure to satisfy. It's an insane tale about insanity, with several dimensions of horror and monsters that draw their scariness by defying logic.

The artist has a flair for drawing fingers, and there's a whole bunch of people getting theirs cut off, as well as weird creatures consisting of nothing but interlocked digits.

There is also a story in there, about some guy who's been in a coma or something, but mostly, the series is just an excuse for drawing the most wonderful craziness. Especially vol.2, The Bad Seed, is really entertaining.

Negative Space
Written by Ryan K. Lindsay and illustrated by Owen Gieni
Kind of in the same vein as Colder, Negative Space is a monstrous headtrip which tries its best to make you insane. It's a rabbit hole of depression, where all your innermost fears are warranted and even a suicide note turns out to have evil implications.

But at the same time, it's also an engaging sci-fi adventure where men in black chase around secret alien creatures posing as human beings.

So what do you get when you combine these two elements? A really cool and fucked up journey into paranoia.

And Then Emily Was Gone
Written by John Lees and illustrated by Iain Laurie
This weirdly titled gem is yet another trip into hell, framed as a detective story.

The protagonist is a schizophrenic policeman who sees monsters everywhere. He tries his best to convince himself that it's all in his head, but the problem is that some of them might not be.

Add a missing child into the mix, an island of messed up locals, and heaps of trippy visuals, and you've got an illustrated version of The Wicker Man on acid.

Good stuff.

The Extremist
Written by Peter Milligan and illustrated by Ted McKeever
This is the comic book which would make your mother furious if she found out about.

But if you prefer your horror to be on the existential side, look no further. The Extremist is all about sexual violence, except for when it is also a deep exploration the human psyche.

We follow a masked murdered who goes about killing people left and right, and we all understand that this is a horrible person, yet somehow the author also manages to make us sympathize with this monster.

The way we dive into the darkest of humanity with a kind of understanding, made me think of Cronenberg at his very best.


Seven Cannibals
Written by Sylvain Runberg and illustrated by Tirso

And if sympathizing with one single murderer might sound bad, then how about seven of them?

We've all seen innumerable Italian flicks about primitive bush people eating silly adventurers, but this little gem managed to put a new spin on the cannibal genre, in making it about suave jet-setters doing the eating. Think American Psycho with an appetite, and you've got an idea of where this is going.

But with such an wild concept, you'd think the story would easily slip into involuntary comedy, but the storytelling actually manages to make it both believable and engaging all the way till the end.

Highly recommended!

I am a Hero
Written and illustrated by Kengo Hanazawa
I thought it only appropriate to end these articles about comic books without superheroes, with the aptly titled I am a Hero.

Of course, the title is meant to be ironic, as this protagonist is not your typical hero. He's more of a bumbling fool who never knows what to do or say. The problem is though, that he's also in the middle of a zombie apocalypse, so he's simply forced to man the fuck up.

The artwork is quite amazing, and I'm pretty sure that most of the drawings are actually photographies which have been traced with a pencil, as almost every panel look completely real.

It's also a friggin' huge story which will take you quite a long time to get through. Luckily, it keeps the tension all the way, and gets really crazy towards the end there, so this is sure to keep you engaged for quite a while.

And that's it! Finally, I can go back to writing about movies =)

I might do another one of these comic book articles at some point, but for now I've brought you up to date with all the best comic books I've found so far. I'm sure there's loads of great ones still out there, waiting to be discovered, so don't hesitate to tell me what your favorites are

This is the seventh article about comic books without superheroes. The other parts can be found here:

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