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Halloween Scene: Vertigo Visions – Phantom Stranger

October 8, 2015

phantom stranger one shotOne of my favorite things about comics is when companies allow their characters to be experimented with in wild and different ways. It worked really well with Afterlife With Archie and was also a huge staple of DC’s Vertigo books for a while. Concepts like Sandman, Black Orchid and even Prez received more serious looks thanks to the imprint.

And so did the Phantom Stranger in this one shot, called Vertigo Visions – Phantom Strange written by one-time Vertigo editor Alisa Kwitney and drawn by Sandman Mystery Theatre and B.P.R.D. artist Guy Davis. I knew nothing about it, but Davis’ involvement was enough for me to spend a quarter on it.

As it turns out, this one-shot is worth far more than that. The story follows a woman named Naomi Walker who’s on her first day working in an asylum called Paradise Gardens. The more she gets used to the surroundings on her first night, however, the sooner she realizes that something is very wrong with the situation. As you and Naomi ease into the story, you know something is wrong, you just don’t know how wrong it really is until things pick up.

While Naomi is definitely the main character of this tale, it all revolves around the Phantom Stranger, or at least the two parts of him featured in the story. She’s the one who brings us into the mystifying action and is also the one who is truly in danger from the supernatural demonic threats hidden in Paradise Gardens.

I won’t go too much further into details, but really appreciated how this story takes your basic creepy asylum tale and then just goes nuts with it. At first it feels like something Vincent Price could have starred in but it turns into something more akin to Clive Barker’s dark and twisted worlds. Kwitney does more than impress as the story transforms into something horrendous and Naomi strives to survive it all and Davis’ artwork actually made my skin crawl a few times during my read through.

I will definitely keep this issue in my collection, most likely throwing it in a bag and board for easy storage on my trade shelves. It also reminded me that I have the VV issue starring Doctor Occult somewhere around here and will try to dig it out by the end of the month. If you see this issue around and like monstrous horror, grab it and give it a read.

Toy Commercial Tuesday: Boglins!

October 6, 2015

I find myself continually fascinated by the 1980s trend of selling scary things to children. I missed a lot of that, but even as a kid I loved Gremlins which begat movies like Ghoulies, Critters and the Troll films. The Mattel-distributed Boglins toys are also part of that mini-monster lineage. The toys themselves were creepy puppets that allowed you to manipulated their mouths and eyes. From the looks of this amazing commercial, they were ready for the big screen and probably looked better than some of the Gremlins clones out in the world around this time.

I don’t specifically remember Boglins from my childhood, but do remember walking into the research office when I worked at Wizard and seeing one of them lying on a makeshift end table created from piles of longboxes next to my boss’s desk. The ToyFare guys were doing a retro toy feature on the line and this was the one being shot for art purposes. I bet I have that issue sitting around somewhere in my garage. If I ever find it, I’ll scan it and post it here on the blog!

Halloween Scenes: Let’s Scare Jessica To Death (1971)

October 5, 2015

lets-scare-jessica-to-death-dvdAfter I successfully stuck to my very first themed week with posts all revolving around the year 1988 I promptly failed in my attempt to write about another theme: vampires. A few posts in the wheels fell off the bus because of the whole work-and-parenting thing, but I actually started working on another year for reasons I can’t quite remember.

With 1971 selected, I started looking around for potential horror movies I hadn’t written about and Let’s Scare Jessica To Death jumped right out. How could it not with a title like that? Plus, I know I’ve heard people talk about it, but had absolutely no idea what it was about. And neither should you, frankly. If you haven’t seen it, don’t watch the trailer, don’t look at the poster and definitely don’t hit the jump for more info. Go watch it. Seriously, right now. It’s a great, off-beat indie psychological thriller that has stuck with me for weeks. Read more…

Ambitious Reading List: The Loo Sanction by Trevanian

September 29, 2015

the loo sanctionHey look, I finished another book from my latest Ambitious Read List! Even though I just wrote about Stephen King’s ‘Salem’s Lot last month, I can’t revel in this literary moral victory because I actually started this book…way too long ago. My father-in-law passed me this book along with its predecessor in the Jonathan Hemlock series The Eiger Sanction a few years ago and now I’m finally done with them (and wishing Trevanian had gotten around to writing a few more).

As this 1973 novel picks up Jonathan Hemlock is out of the sanction game until he’s framed by the British version of the shadowy organization he used to work for and blackmailed into infiltrating a sex club for the powerful in order to return some videos of politicians in compromising situations. Along the way he meets a wannabe Irish spy who he kinda sorta falls for, but she’s also wrapped up in some of these shenanigans so it gets a bit dicey.

So, why did it take me so long to read this book? Honestly, it’s a little boring in the offing. It also lacked that magic thing that keeps driving you on to read the next chapter. I don’t know what that is, but ‘Salem’s Lot had it and Loo Sanction just didn’t. At the same time, I like this character so I wanted to see where he wound up, so I kept returning to it every now and then and eventually got to the point where I was fully absorbed. There are also some particularly nasty moments in this book that were hard to get through and too much on many fronts. Supposedly this was written as a satire of the James Bond movies, but kitchen utensils never seemed so awful in a Bond film.

To go along with the satire threat, there was an element to this book that I picked up on that I didn’t see in the previous entry: it’s intentionally poking fun at the ridiculousness of rich and powerful people. Everyone with any kind of power in this novel also has some over-the-top trait which our hero bristles at because, even though he’s cultured and well-to-d0, he’s a kid from the streets at heart. For example, the Vicar who runs England’s sanction department winks like a maniac. Maxwell Strange, the man who runs the sex club, would be considered a health freak even by today’s standards and Amazing Grace is a surprisingly short woman who spends most of her time walking around naked. These might feel like odd traits at first — especially if you look at them through the frame of the Bond films — but after reading about more quirks than an episode of New Girl, I started to catch on.

At the end of the day, while this one didn’t exactly kick off with my interest, it certainly garnered it halfway through as I wound up reading the last 150 pages or so during flights to and from Indiana. Also, I assume if you’re a faster and more dedicated reader than I am, you’d get through the early parts faster and not dwell on them as I tend to.

Looking at the line-up for the Reading List, I’ve already 86ed the book of essays about comics and think I’m going to move on to either The Dante Club or the Freddy Krueger book because it’s almost fall and Halloween’s around the corner!

Angel: After The Fall Trade Post Volumes 1-4

September 2, 2015

angel after the fall volume 1As I said earlier this week, I was a big fan of Buffy. For whatever reason — most likely scheduling conflicts or a bit of a weak first season — that did not carry over to Angel. I loved the character’s twists and turns on Buffy and the intensely insane relationship with her, but I just never got into his solo show. Looking in from the outside, it seemed like the show moved so fast and added so much mythology and so many characters that it was difficult to jump into an episode later on down the line. I did catch the finale, which is good because that’s right where Angel: After The Fall picks up.

When I was at Wizard, I was the IDW contact (and actually am again these days for CBR), so I interviewed writer Brian Lynch a few times about his Spike and Angel comics for the company. He worked with Joss Whedon to figure out the beats and then got to work writing the comic along with artists like Franco Urru, Stephen Mooney and others to bring this story together about what happened after the evil Wolfram & Hart corporation sent LA to hell. Read more…

Ambitious Reading List: ‘Salem’s Lot By Stephen King (1975)

September 1, 2015

salem's lot my copyI’m not doing very well with this summer’s Ambitious Reading List. I thought I’d finish The Loo Sanction, but it never quite grabbed me. I tried to start a few other books from the pile, but decided to put Stephen King’s The Dark Tower aside for another of his works: ‘Salem’s Lot.

I knew nothing about this book going in. I didn’t realize it was just his second novel after Carrie and I certainly didn’t know it was about vampires. I kind of wish I hadn’t read that bit of information, but it’s hardly a spoiler, though I was enjoying going into a book that’s been around for so long basically blind. Read more…

Toy Commercial Tuesday: Ghostbusters Dracula & Frankenstein

September 1, 2015

I don’t usually post these commercial compilations, but this is the only place I could find the Ghostbusters commercial with the live action appearance by Frankenstein and Dracula, so feel free to stop after the first entry or go on through the whole thing. I knew that TCT would be tricky when I decided to go vampire themed this week. Vampires were never the star of the show when it came to kids cartoons and toys in the 80s and 90s, so I wasn’t exactly sure which way to go and then I remembered the awesome array of monsters that appeared early on in the Ghostbusters line from Kenner.

I never had either of these fantastic facsimiles of the Universal Monsters, but I still have that Venkman figure with the green ghost that attaches to his chest causing his arms to spin around. Frankly, if these guys are so scared of ghosts as we can plainly see by their action features, maybe they need to rethink their line of work.


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