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Review: Hellboy: House of the Living Dead (GN)

18136Yeah, yeah, so Mike Mignola and Richard Corben‘s graphic novel (though it’s only 56 pages, so novella?) Hellboy: House of the Living Dead is two years old, having been published back in 2011. But I swear there’s a good reason you’re seeing, and hopefully reading and commenting on, this review. First of all, I just got it in the mail from Amazon and read it as fast as I could, in probably about 30 minutes or less, because I just had to keep going. And secondly, with Hellboy: The Midnight Circus, Mignola’s next Hellboy graphic novel, just around the corner (November), it seems an apt time to reflect on the most recent novel-length graphic narrative of the ‘man’ with the Right Hand of Doom.

House of the Living Dead is a tribute to the classic Hollywood monster movies of the 1930s and 1940s. Mignola dedicates the book to Boris Karloff (the mad scientist in Frankenstein and sequels, 1931-1939), Glenn Strange (the monster in Karloff’s movies and others), John Carradine (the Count in sequels to Dracula starring Bela Lugosi), and Lon Chaney Jr. (“the always sad Wolf Man”). With this in mind, and Mignola’s apparent affection for “Mexican-wrestler-vs.-monster movies” (which he says he’s never seen, but likes the idea of), House of the Living Dead is both a wonderful nod to the roots of America’s popular non-literary addiction to the classic monsters that had their origin in European Gothic fiction of the 18th and 19th centuries, as well as a glimpse into a dark period of Hellboy’s early years.

The narrative is as unique as any Hellboy tale, but probably a bit weirder than your average experience with comics and graphic novels. Mexico, 1956 (so Hellboy is 12 in our world, 312 in reality). Hellboy has become a champion luchador  (say, what?!), but even that wasn’t able to save his pal Esteban from being sired by vampires and turned into Camazotz, a hulking vampire-luchador whose visage reminds me of the Batman: Knightfall version of Bane, but which is actually a bat god of the K’iche’ Mayans (the word means “death bat”). After another successful fight, Hellboy is asked by a man to come fight a mad scientist’s champion or else a girl will be murdered. Well, Hellboy obliges…and the monster turns out to be a Mexican Frankenstein’s monster knock off. We learn that the scientist was desperate for his monster to fight Hellboy because a groups of hellion imps ordered him to–yeah, this definitely fits into recent continuity.

One thing after another confronts Hellboy: the monster turns out to be a good guy, and goes to kill the scientist; the house (you know, “of the Living Dead“) burns down; zombies attack; Raul saves the girl he threatened, then turns into a wolf-man and shoots the girl; Hellboy knocks out the wolf-man, but the girl’s blood awoke a Mexican Dracula, which Hellboy kills in one fell swoop; vampire-witch-ghosts torment Hellboy and remind him of Esteban’s death (so they sired him…); and with his last breath wolf-man Raul uncovers a glowing crucifix and prays, killing al the vampires and lighting Hellboy on fire. Whew! If you think that was a roller coaster ride to read, then you’ve got a little taste of how fast paced and jam-packed with zany and sometimes purposely campy Hellboy: House of the Living Dead is. In short: it’s a must have graphic novel for anyone, even someone who’s never read Hellboy, though a few nuances might be lost.

Both Mignola and Corben strive to make the point that the most human characters in this work are the monsters, and that the humans are the ones who act like monsters. This is what draws me to Corben’s art, his ability to make humanity ugly because sometimes it deserves to be, and perhaps is one of the reasons he is acclaimed as the greatest graphic adapter of Edgar Allan Poe’s works–he truly understands how to interpret the Gothic message for a modern, comic-reading audience. This is why Corben and Mignola are such a perfect pairing. The reversal of the reader’s opinion of (hu)man and monster is mot an unusual take on what it means to be human in postmodern art and media, but certainly a unique one that achieves its end by drawing on the extremes of humanness and imbuing them in the monsters: alcoholism and depression (‘the bad’) vs. redemption and heroism (‘the good’). It’s these attributes that make Hellboy more of a man than the mad scientist or Raul, and the scientist’s Monster’s refusal to be, well, a monster, that makes him a paragon of virtue. They can be humans even when they struggle with their existence, while humans can’t even figure out health care reform or marriage equality.

Hellboy fans, horror fans, classic movie fans, wrestling fans…hell, anyone who has ever wondered what it means to be human: Hellboy: House of the Living Dead is for you.

image0001Story: Mike Mignola  Art: Richard Corben, Dave Stewart (Colorist)
Story: 9  Art: 9  Overall: 10  Recommendation: Buy

A Decade Ago, Eric Drooker Drew about a New York City in Physical and Moral Crisis with FLOOD!

Nicole is our newest contributor. She regularly writes at her own blog Ad Astra Per Aspera. The below is reposted from that site with permission.

Title: FLOOD! A Novel in Pictures
Author: Eric Drooker
Published: 2001, by Dark Horse Comics, Inc.
Bought this Copy: @ Hairy Tarantula Comics, Toronto
For More Info: Check out Eric Drooker’s Website

It’s been argued into a cliché that one is the product of their surroundings—and to say as much about Eric Drooker would be an acknowledgement that his artwork is as much about New York City as himself. Maybe more. The images he depicts in such stark contrast—whether it’s the linocut, scratchboard, or stencil art, all of which he’s known for—all present the same city, seemingly, at war with itself, constantly and eternally.

Eric Drooker was probably one of the first political artists that I discovered. I was 13-ish when Rage Against the Machine put out their single, The Ghost of Tom Joad, and the artwork of that album is Eric Drooker – from the graphic novel, FLOOD!, to be precise.

After that single came out, I looked for more of his stuff. Something in the pictures had a real distinct emotion and humanity behind it–I would say everything in his work had soul. I bought a book of posters and other “street art” by him (this was the late 90’s, back in the days before “guerrilla art/marketing” was a household term, and work by Bank$y wasn’t being bought for $1 million by the world’s rich and famous). Eric Drooker’s art centered around the issues that the people of the city—the city itself—struggled with: police brutality, poverty, affordable housing and tenants’ rights, the freedom to assemble, etc.

In this story, Drooker depicts the epic story of a man struggling for a modest existence with only a handful of text. On most of his journey, he finds little more than bad options after he is laid off. From there, life in the city becomes a downward spiral; he seemingly bounces off of its edges as he falls, the rain pouring harder and harder in the streets. He wants work but can’t find anything that pays enough or is within his skill-set. He wants to feel comfort and love from another human being, but in the night only finds human beings more emotionally starved than himself.

The panel sequence that I find most powerful is when he finds his troubles compounding—bad news over and over and over again. The panels get smaller and smaller, the graphics more and more crude. It’s the perfect depiction of when a bad day just keeps piling up with unfortunate events, until you sit down and try to vent to a friend or in writing… and by then, so much garbage has piled up that it all feels petty.

FLOOD! sharpens the over-arching message that Drooker presents to us in all of his work depicting New York City:  It’s not just about one or another character and his or her stories–morality–or soul, as I mentioned earlier. Fundamentally, the “soul” in question appears to be the city itself. By the end of this story, you feel convinced of this idea that New York (and maybe all of our hometowns) have souls, and somewhere in the Heavens of the ether is a grand scale, precariously balancing all of the good (community, humanity, love, compassion, potlucks, free concerts in the park, dogs and cats, children playing in their neighborhood) with the bad (muggings, eviction notices, police violence, drug rings, gangs & crime syndicates, alienation, selfishness, and all that noise, noise, NOISE!). We wait in hoping that, should it ever be finally and resolutely judged, the number of good deeds will outweigh the bad.

… One can’t help but think about these things, especially when the streets of New York City really are a-flood. Even atheists and agnostics can’t avoid the mental exercise of imagining a natural disaster as an ethical and artistic expression of causality–from divine intervention, to karma, to some other simple form of poetic justice.

Preview – Xoc: The Journey of a Great White

Xoc: The Journey of a Great White

Writer/Artist: Matt Dembicki
Colorist: Evan Kheeling
Format: Hard Cover 6″x9″, Full Color
Page Count: 120
Price: $19.99
Genre: Adventure / Nature
Age Rating: All Ages
ISBN: 1-934964-85-9
Diamond Code: MAR121143
Release Date: July 25th, 2012

Xoc explores the ocean’s wonders through the eyes of a great white as it treks from the Farallon Islands off the coast of California to the warm waters of Hawaii some 2,300 miles away. Along its journey, the 17-foot shark encounters natural prey and predators—from skittish seals to brazen orcas—as well as man-made impediments that threaten not only the giant fish, but the balance of ocean’s ecology.

The Art Of War: A Graphic Novel – Official Trailer

Around the Tubes

I’m recovering from a midnight showing of the Avengers (expect a review later today).  Who else went and what did you think?

Around the Blogs:

The Huffington Post – Which Is Scarier: Terrorists or Superheroes?Another article on something we’ve been hitting over and over.

Bleeding Cool – Green Arrow TV Pilot Picked Up For Series This Autumn?Congrats.

Comics Alliance – Stan Lee on Michael Jackson’s Desire to Buy Marvel and Play Spider-ManNot sure about this.

Robot 6 – Stan Lee embroiled in legal battle for POW! EntertainmentStan Lee is to lawsuits as a child is to Pokemon, “gotta catch em all”

The Vancouver Sun – Camosun College starts comics, graphic novel programMore proof comics are legit!

Digital Spy – ‘Anomaly’: World’s longest graphic novel announcedPretty cool and interesting but there has to be longer.

 

Around the Tubes Reviews:

CBR – Earth 2 #1

Stargazer Volume Two in August Previews

Official Press Release

Ottawa, Ontario, Canada (August 10, 2011) – “All ages” comics and graphic novels are stories that parents can hand to their children without worrying about what they’re reading. Unfortunately, the term “all-ages” also implies safe, dull stories that are not exciting or believable and feature characters that are not realistic. Von Allan, an Ottawa-based artist and graphic novelist, is challenging these ideas with his two part graphic novel series “Stargazer.” The concluding volume arrives in stores world-wide in October.

“In Volume 2, I really wanted to play with people’s expectations of an all-ages comic, especially one with younger girls as the protagonists,” said Allan. “I think a lot of people take all-ages to mean safe or gentle. But graphic novels and comics are flexible and I don’t think a children’s comic has to be completely tame for it to qualify as ‘kid-friendly.’ The first volume of “Stargazer” was designed to read mostly like a traditional all-ages fantasy, but the story takes a scarier turn in the second volume. It’s psychologically darker and the main characters are pushed to deal with new and more difficult events. That’s comparable to real life, though, and I think adults sometimes forget what children can handle. And how they learn to cope with day-to-day reality and tough times. The best and most enduring stories have an edge to them…it mirrors life. And, let’s face it, kids also like to be a little scared.”

“I also wanted to write a kids’ story that an adult could enjoy,” Allan added. “Kids and adults have a lot in common when it comes to enjoying fairytale-like stories. There’s an escapism and a certain enjoyment of goosebumps and wonder. Some of the most successful books are the ones that adults and kids are both reading; the Harry Potter phenomenon, for example. It’s partially because kids and adults are reading these together but it’s also that books aimed at kids can be smart, exciting and suspenseful and they don’t need to be “dumbed down.” With all that in mind, I didn’t want to pull punches with “Stargazer.” I wanted to create a riveting story with strong characters that readers of all ages could believe in. Nothing is worse than a book that talks down to or patronizes a reader regardless of their age, and I think I avoided all of that with “Stargazer.”

In the first volume of “Stargazer,” three girls, Marni, Elora, and Sophie, found themselves transported to a strange world by an ancient artifact. Faced with being on their own and far from home, the friends must rely on each other and their wits to find a way home. Under unfamiliar stars, the three girls have the kind of adventures they could only have imagined before; they flee an unseen but terrifying monster, they make a new friend, they find a new ship, and they travel through the alien landscape to a distant tower, looking for help. In the concluding volume of “Stargazer,” the girls make more discoveries, overcome some frightening circumstances, and learn how strong friendship can be. When the monster from Volume 1 returns, the girls must unite to face their fears and fight for their lives.

“Stargazer Volume Two” has an ISBN of 978-09-781237-4-1, a suggested retail price of $14.95 US and is 110 pages in length. It will arrive in stores world-wide on October 12th, 2011. Multiple companies are distributing “Stargazer Volume Two,” including Diamond Comic Distributors (item code AUG111259), the Ingram Book Company, Follett Library Resources, and the Brodart Company.

About Von Allan: Von Allan was born red-headed and freckled in Arnprior, Ontario, just in time for “Star Wars: A New Hope.” The single child of two loving but troubled parents, Von split most of his childhood between their two homes. Additional information about the graphic novel can be found at http://stargazer.vonallan.com

Around the Tubes – SDCC Lag

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I’ll admit, I’m still dragging me feet after the whirlwind that was San Diego Comic-Con, but I can’t let that slow me down.  We’ve got a huge announcement coming later today.  But, leaving that tease hanging out there, here’s the news you might have missed.

Around the Blogs:

Jason Thibeault.com – Comic Books as a Reflection of Social IssuesInteresting and worth the read.

Comicvine – Frank Darabont Steps Down From The Walking Dead TV Show As ShowrunnerPretty impressive this didn’t break during SDCC.

The Globe Mail – Vancouver artist, guitarist takes major step with graphic novel - The graphic novel sounds pretty interesting.

Con Coverage:

ICv2 – It’s Not Easy Picking Winners at Comic-Con

iO9 – The Biggest Winners and Losers of Comic-Con 2011

The Beat – SDCC12: No pre-reg for 2013

Around the Tubes Reviews:

Ely Standard – Ultimate Captain America

Bleeding Cool – Wednesday Comics Review: Captain America #1 And Project Superman #2

Complex – Review: The Joker Is Back! What Else Do You Need To Know?

Paste Magazine – Comic Book & Graphic Novel Round-Up (7/27/11)

Brooke Gladstone Talks About Her Graphic Novel on The Colbert Report

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The day after I asked why we don’t see more comic book creators on the Daily Show or Colbert Report, NPR On the Media host Brooke Gladstone was Stephen Colbert’s guest to talk about her graphic novel The Influencing Machine: Brooke Gladstone on the Media.

SDCC 2011 – The Finds of the Show

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Some of the best things about conventions is walking Artist Alley and the small press area to discover comics I might not otherwise see in stores and artists whose work would look great on one of my shelves or wall.  This year there were a few that stood out, but three that really need to be highlighted.

Jason Brubaker’s reMIND

I don’t even know where to begin to describe this comic book, but it’s the “find” of the show.  I picked up Jason’s hardcover edition of the book reMIND, limited to 2500, and the three issues of Phobos.  The story is about love and loss, family and what we do for it all, all in a beautiful book with amazing art.  I just can’t describe it, but it’s absolutely a must buy.

reMIND is a mystical, sci-fi about faith, love and brain transplantation.

Sonja, the lighthouse keeper at a seaside oil drilling town, loses her cat, Victuals. Everyone blames the Lizard Man, the local boogeyman, which Sonja knows is a myth created by her late father to generate interest in the town. But when Victuals unexpectedly returns and has the brain of a strange intelligent creature; it seems someone is doing experimental transplants.

With the brain of a lizard and the body of a cat, Victuals must now fight to recover his original lizard body and confront what he thought was the all-powerful god.

On top of that Jason also provides new pages for volume 2 on his blog, for free, before it’ll be collected into a second volume.

Dan Cooney’s Valentine: Reloaded

I picked up both books to the series and got a chance to read Valentine: Reloaded.  While there’s some issues I had, overall, the series is really solid for a small press book.  The heroine is badass, and there’s some great action sequences.

This edgy and stylish action series explores the dichotomy of a killer on the job and the psychological after-effects of a woman whose morally questionable profession has made her a liability to everyone she has ever met – in addition to herself! Collecting issues #1-9, revised and re-edited, including an all-new, full-color one shot, Valentine: Plan B For Blonde.

The series is good and caught my eye on their table, but it was the friendliness of Dan that really won me over.  It pays to engage the con-goers people!

Geoff Sebesta’s I Am the President of Ice Cream

You want the perfect example of how someone’s enthusiasm can win you over and how engaging online works? Look no further than Geoff Sebesta.  Geoff had a lot on display and got me over to his table through Facebook.  When meeting him, you couldn’t help but just get excited as well, the man loves his books and his enthusiasm is infectious.

I honestly couldn’t tell you what the book is about, but I flipped through it and it definitely seemed interesting.  There’s some other items that were handed to me to check out and I’m looking forward to reading it all.

Geoff is a perfect example of engaging people online.  Normally I might have walked by his table, but he asked me to come over.  He wanted to meet me and say “hi.”  And once at the table he won me over and got me excited.  The man is full of energy and you can’t help but support him.  I’m looking forward to sitting down and seeing what his enthusiasm translates to on paper.

Teaser Trailer for Graphic Novel Discord

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Written by Paul J. Salamoff with art by Giuseppe D’Elia below is the teaser trailer for the upcoming graphic novel Discord.

After crash-landing on a distant planet, which leaves everyone onboard dead and dismembered, a member of a superhero team is reassembled and resurrected by the indigenous aliens with the usable body parts of the rest of his team (as well as the enemy).

As he deals with the grief of losing his friends as well as his own identity, he must also come to terms with not just who, but what he is.

Discord explores the themes of self and the loss of identity. It deals seriously with the issues of love, friendship and family and how these can be torn apart by despair and self loathing. It also examines what it means to be a hero both as a member of a team as well as an individual. In so dealing with the thin line between good and evil.

Discord Cover

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