WRITER’S NOTE: Columns #62-66) will be going with increased frequency as we cover some diverse comics worthy of your attention by genre… so if you missed them, here’s the links:
Before we get into some diverse horror comics worthy of your attention, here’s a reminder for those of you attending c2e2 later this month:
• The bulk of my time will be spent at my own Artists’ Alley Table (Table E3, to be exact) with my frequent artistic collaborator and Shadowline superstar in-the-making Seth Damoose, but we’ll also be making a few appearances at the ComicsPipeline booth throughout the weekend as well along with Ben Templesmith and some other friends.
• Friday, March 18th from 3:30-4:30 in Room 475a I’ll be hosting a “WRITE OR WRONG: LIVE!” Panel, wherein I will largely answer questions from the audience… so please plan on attending, as I don’t want to spend an hour talking to myself. I do that at home enough the way it is.
• Saturday, March 19th from 5:30-6:30 in Room 475b I’m one of the guest presenters for the Bleeding Cool Fan Awards. In fact, I think I’ll be presenting two awards… so be sure to swing by and join the fun. Thankfully as it stands now I’m not nominated for any of them…
• Sunday, March 20th from 1:00-2:00 in Room 475b I’ll and sitting-in as a guest for the “Horror in Comics” panel talking about, as the title suggests, horror in comics.
In other words, if you’re attending c2e2 there’s NO reason you for you to not swing by and introduce yourself at some point, ya’ hear?
(I’ll also post additional details and plans on my Facebook page as we get closer to the show… so feel free to keep an eye on that space, too. If you send a “Friend Request,” though, at least include a note to let me know you’re a reader of the column or something. Thanks!)
That aside… let’s shed a light on some of the great horror comics currently being published, shall we?
[NOTE TO CREATORS WHOSE BOOKS ARE DISCUSSED BELOW: I certainly have no problem with any of you using pull-quotes from this column to promote your books if you so choose… but please credit them to Dirk Manning at Newsarama.com or, at least, “Write or Wrong” at Newsarama.com, mmm’k? That’s not too much to ask, is it? Thanks!]
A few HORROR COMICS that consistently excite and entertain me are…
B.P.R.D. by Mike Mignola, John Arcudi and Guy Davis with friends (Dark Horse)
I’ll admit it: Like a lot of HELLBOY fans I too, for far too long, wrote-off B.P.R.D. as an unnecessary and extraneous HELLBOY-spin-off that, quite frankly, I didn’t really need to read.
I mean, yeah. Abe Sapien and Liz are cool characters and all… but for quite some time I didn’t see then as quite cool enough to really sink my dollars into when they started in their own spin-off series B.P.R.D. (which stands for “Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense”)… and truth be told, when I snagged the first two TPB on the cheap at a convention the collections did little to sway me away from this opinion.
I mean they were good stories and all… but they just seemed… non-essential.
Then I read B.P.R.D. Volume Three: “Plague of Frogs”… and everything changed.
It’s at this point in the series (which is now up to fourteen TPBs and counting) where the connection to the apocalyptic events so-often-predicted in HELLBOY started to come to the forefront and the true potential – and the true point – of this book became evident.
While I certainly love the creepy, off-beat adventures of Hellboy, the big red demon who’s trying not to realize his fate as the harbinger of the Apocalypse, B.P.R.D. tells the stories of the characters who are on the front-lines of the war fighting the forces trying to usher that very Apocalypse in, and in doing so begin the “New Age of Man.”
(Which, not surprisingly, does not really involve human beings as we now know ourselves at all. Go figure.)
The result is a compelling, continuously evolving narrative about a strong cast of characters fighting desperately to avert a monstrous and demonic war that may or may not ultimately be ushered in by none other than their very best friend.
One of the things that makes this series especially worth reading (aside from the breathtaking art of underrated yeoman Guy Davis) is that, because this is a creator-owned book, Mignola and co-author John Arcudi have free reign to do whatever they wish with both the characters and the world they’ve created, resulting in a story where there are no rules (unwritten or otherwise) that state everything must eventually return to a previously established status quo… and they revel in driving this point home more and more as the series progresses.
Considering this, any fans of heroic fiction tinted with some genuine supernatural flair will find nothing not to be excited about in B.P.R.D.... especially if you’re already a fan of HELLBOY.
If you’re already a fan of HELLBOY, make no mistake: B.P.R.D. is essential – and incredibly entertaining – reading.
In fact, allow me to go on record right now something I usually only admit to my closest friends:
I’m to a point where I like B.P.R.D. even more than HELLBOY… and HELLBOY is one of my personal “Top Five” favorite books of all-time.
Do the math, my friends.
In other words, B.P.R.D. is, in my opinion, essential reading for anyone seeking a character-driven action-adventure comic that features more demons and monsters than you can shake a right-fist of doom at.
THE GOON by Eric Powell (Dark Horse)
Equally irreverent and heartbreaking, Eric Powell’s THE GOON never fails to be anything less than one of the most uniquely entertaining comics on the shelf.
Following the misadventures of a knee-breaking thug and his loudmouthed sidekick in a town that is equal parts Norman Rockwell and H.P. Lovecraft, THE GOON is a book without peer in the current marketplace.
Sure, sure, there’s oftentimes more than a few self-depreciating gags to be had within its pages (such as random appearances by the fecal-tossing halfwit Peaches Valentine), but for all the moments of slapstick comedy there’s also subplots and incidents that evoke true and heartfelt love and despair.
Put simply, THE GOON is a book that thrives on emotion of all kinds, be it humor, pathos, terror or a combination of all three.
Much as is the case with B.P.R.D. and INVINCIBLE, anyone who decides to dive into THE GOON via the TPB collections should give it a few collections to truly find its stride. However, fear not, as the events in even the earliest issues ultimately resurface as the series goes on, resulting in a very tightly-knit continuity about one of the most unlikely – and tragic – and funny – heroes of the modern comic landscape.
In fact, I’m finding myself hard-pressed not to suggest starting with THE GOON: “Chinatown” (which has been released in TPB form as “Volume Six” of the continuing series), as it’s one particular volume that I find myself re-reading at least once every six months.
Were it not for the complete lack of humor in this volume that permeates the rest of the series (intentionally, mind you, as the very first page of the book ominously warns readers “This Ain’t Funny”), I’d say THE GOON Volume Six: “Chinatown and the Mystery of Mr. Wicker” is the perfect place to start, as it delves into the tragic origin of the title character with some of the most breathtaking comic art you’re likely to lay eyes on, well, ever.
So, if you choose to go this route, just remember that unlike this volume, the series as a whole is usually interspersed with A LOT of humor.
However you do it, though, if you’ve heard the continual hype buzz about this multiple-time Eisner Award winning series, well, by now you should probably realize that this book gets so much good buzz for a reason, you know?
THE WALKING DEAD by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard (Image Comics)
I doubt there’s any fans of horror comics or survivalist fiction left who aren’t reading this comic by now… but if there are, damn, what the Hell are you waiting for?!?
BONEYARD by Richard Moore (NBM Publishing)
Man, I really miss my regular fix of BONEYARD.
Released quarterly for 28 issues (and now collected in seven black-and-white TPB collections – all of which are also being reprinted in color) this heartwarming and funny comic about an unsuspecting young man who inherits a cemetery inhabited by monsters never failed – or fails – to put a smile on my face with its rapid-fire gag-a-page humor, quaint love-triangle subplot and cast of genuinely loveable characters.
(The monstrous ensemble of this book that main character befriends includes, but is not limited to, a shy 2000 year-old female vampire, an voluptuous oversexed swamp monster, a pair of smart-alec living gargoyles, a wise-crackin’ skeleton, a werewolf mechanic and more.)
Drawing of the same humor seen in Frank Cho’s LIBERTY MEADOWS, the TV series MST3K and even a bit of Calvin and Hobbes, this series was a true delight that, again, never failed to deliver anything less than 22-pages of genuine love for the story and the characters throughout its run.
While it ended with a satisfying enough resolution, I’d be lying if I said I still don’t pine for its return from hiatus all too often.
In fact, I think I should best move on before I start to tear-up a bit…
NIGHTMARE WORLD by Dirk Manning and Friends (Image Comics/Shadowline)
Yes, I’m going to plug my own book here since I know there’s still plenty of you out there who haven’t checked it out yet despite me imploring you to do so for the past few years.
You know who you are… so here’s the skinny:
NIGHTMARE WORLD is a series of 52 stand-alone horror stories in the vein of The Twilight Zone or Tales from the Crypt that also all tie-together to tell the story of Lucifer awakening Cthulhu to kick-start the Armageddon.
While that’s the “big picture,” those of you read the series in-print (two TPB collections from Image Comics/Shadowline have been released to date) or online (where the whole series remains, for a little while longer, at least serialized in its entirety for free!) will find that each of the individual short stories offers a powerful, visceral, or funny (and sometimes all three) story by yours truly.
In fact, if you still haven’t taken the time to give the series a chance, click the link above and take 15-20 minutes to read the first four stories of the series as they appear online: “You Oughta Know” (which was re-inked and colored for the first TPB collection), “The Same Deep Water As You,” “Disasterpiece” and “Momma’s Boy,” respectively) to see what I mean for yourself.
Then, if you like what you see, go ahead and order the first two TPB collections from your local comic shop or Amazon.com (who’s currently offering both volumes together for under $24).
With luck we’ll be seeing a third TPB collection being released this Halloween while a pair of new online series from yours truly (and some of my old NIGHTMARE WORLD cohorts) debut at the Shadowline Comics online hub later this Spring.
I mean, c’mon… some of you have been reading this column for years now and getting lots of good advice and insight from it. Is a $24 investment in exchange for two great TPB novels too much to ask in return?
(Oh… and if you’re going to c2e2 and swing by my table I’ll hook you up with a pair of both TPBs for only $20… with an exclusive print to boot. What can I say… I’m a great guy like that. And yes, if you want to partake in this deal and won’t be at the show drop me a line via Facebook or via e-mail at dirkmanning [at] gmail [dot] com and I’ll do a similar deal for ya’. There. You now have no excuses to not give it a try, right?)
CHEW by John Layman and Rob Guillory (Image Comics)
I was torn as to whether or not I should include CHEW among the horror comics, but given that it takes place in a world where chicken has been outlawed after the bird flu kills 23 million people and the main character is a special agent of the FDA (now one of the most powerful forces on Earth) who is often forced to eat pieces of dead bodies in order to solve crimes (his special “cibopath” powers tell him EVERYTHING about whatever he eats, you see)… well… where else could I possibly categorize it?
However, despite the potentially grim and arcane premise of the book, CHEW could just as easily be categorized as a “dark comedy” or ever a straight-up action/adventure book… and it’s this inability to pigeonhole it any one specific genre (as is the case with THE GOON) that endears this book to so many various kinds of readers.
For those of you who still haven’t given this book a taste, CHEW is another come-from-outta-nowhere book that has taken readers by storm with its wacky, over-the-top -premise and gorgeously quirky art.
My only frustration about it is that it’s such a tough-book to describe to people who haven’t read it yet (“Yeah… he’s sort of like a cannibal detective… but it’s really funny! Honest!”)
Again, though, it’s because it’s so… different… that CHEW shows just how much this medium is capable of.
To delve too-far into the specifics of CHEW would – pardon the pun – spoil the fun… but rest assured that the colorful cast of characters (many of whom, not surprisingly, have other bizarre food-based abilities) as well as a slowly-but-steadily building subplot about a food-based conspiracy of global proportions make this one of the most genuinely diverse comics available.
Make no bones about it: CHEW is a deliciously addictive comic series that proves time after time to be a cut above the rest.
Jump on the bandwagon now so that you can tell your friends how you supported this book “from the beginning” once the inevitable TV series of this delightfully quirky, action-packed and occasionally horrifying book dominated the airwaves.
And, heck, if you or a friend loves the TV series Dexter and isn’t reading CHEW yet, well, your life is just a little bit incomplete.
OK… that’s it for today, folks!
Monday (really!) we’ll dive into some genre comics worthy of your attention… followed by some worthwhile all-ages reads, specific genre pieces and finally some specific creators whose body of work shouldn’t be ignored.
Stay tuned and, again, if you like what you’re reading here, hit the “Like” button down below and then share this link with all your friends!
Dirk Manning is the writer/creator of NIGHTMARE WORLD a web-to-print comic now being loudly and proudly published by Image Comics/Shadowline and FARSEEKER, a fantasy series with artist Len O’Grady being hosted by those fine folks at ACT-I-VATE. He is also a longtime contributing columnist for Newsarama and a staunch advocate for comic creators everywhere. He lives on the Internet and can usually be found lurking around Facebook and Twitter on a fairly regular basis… when he’s not busy writing, of course.
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