The Empty Man is almost here! The first trailer is out for the film coming to theaters October 23.
The Empty Man is a supernatural horror film based on the comic series first published in 2014 from writer Cullen Bunn, artists Vanesa R. Del Rey and Jesús Hervás, colorists Michael Garland and Niko Guardia, letterer Ed Dukeshire, and published by BOOM! Studios.
After a group of teens from a small Midwestern town begin to mysteriously disappear, the locals believe it is the work of an urban legend known as The Empty Man. As a retired cop investigates and struggles to make sense of the stories, he discovers a secretive group and their attempts to summon a horrific, mystical entity, and soon his life—and the lives of those close to him—are in grave danger.
Directed by David Prior from a screen story and screenplay by David Prior the film stars James Badge Dale, Marin Ireland, Stephen Root, Ron Canada, Robert Aramayo, Joel Courtney, and Sasha Frolova. The film is produced by Ross Richie, p.g.a. and Stephen Christy, p.g.a.
Celebrate Halloween all October long with a selection of free horror titles from Dark Horse Comics!
Visit digital.darkhorse.com and sign up for a free account to read the issue #1’s for acclaimed series Harrow County created by Cullen Bunn and Tyler Crook, Count Crowley: Reluctant Midnight Monster Hunter created by David Dastmalchian and Lukas Ketner, Blackwood created by Evan Dorkin and Veronica Fish and Andy Fish, Hellboy created by Mike Mignola, as well as Hungry Ghosts created by Anthony Bourdain, Everything created by Christopher Cantwell and I.N.J Culbard, and She Could Fly created by Christopher Cantwell and Martin Morazzo from the prestigious Berger Books line and more! Now is the perfect time to discover your new favorite spooky series from Dark Horse Comics!
This site contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links and make a purchase, we’ll receive a percentage of the sale. Graphic Policy does purchase items from these sites. Making purchases through these links helps support the site.
(Beware! SPOILERS abound for Lovecraft Country “I Am.”)
If you’ve stuck with Lovecraft Country up to episode 7 you might’ve already realized that this show is on a mission.
Each episode, almost self-contained in scope, puts the series’ heroes in situations more commonly found in storytelling genres dominated by white male narratives. War, horror, adventure, and science fiction each get the chance to be used as statements on the perils of narrowing the possibilities of story by not acknowledging the rich differences found in diversity.
The lead up to episode 7, thus far, has seen the show put its own racially-conscious spin on the haunted house story (ep. 3 “Holy Ghost”), the Indiana Jones-like adventure story (ep. 4 “A History of Violence”), the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde-like doppelganger story (ep. 5 “Strange Case”), and the classic war/romance story (ep. 6 “Meet me in Daegu”), each sharing in cosmic horror as the common thread. While Tic (played by Jonathan Mayors) is still the driving force behind the main story, this layered exploration of genre lets every character have their turn behind the wheel.
It’s with episode 7, though, where the show lays its heart and soul bare, with us looking in as if through an open wound that shows signs of healing. It’s aptly titled “I Am.” and it’s where science fiction comes in to drive the following point home: not only does black representation matter, it can create stories the likes of which we haven’t been allowed to see.
In this episode, Hippolyta (played by Aunjanue Ellis) takes to the road to find answers about her husband’s death and the secrets pertaining to an orrery she had previously found. Her search leads her to a mysterious observatory that can open a rift in reality to other dimensions and universes.
Hippolyta’s love for astronomy is played to great effect here. What was once an endearing character trait that made her more relatable and interesting turns her into a key character with access to information few others in Tic’s group can access. Hippolyta felt like a strong background character all the way up until this episode and not having her play a more central role in the unraveling of the main mystery after everything that just happened to her would be doing a disservice to the character.
What makes “I Am.” the proverbial heart of the show lies in its approach to science fiction as a genre that feels tailor-made to portray the black experience. The specter of systemic-racism creeps into the episode as Hippolyta’s journey into the multiverse puts her into several potential realities her character could’ve perfectly fit into if given the chance to define herself within it, hence the episode’s title. The show takes the opportunity to celebrate possibilities rather than merely protesting the lack of representation, something it’s already established and done well in previous chapters.
Throughout her multiversal jumps we see Hippolyta become one of Josephine Baker’s dancers in 1920’s Paris, an Amazonian warrior from the all-female Mino or Dahomey military regiment of the Kingdom of Dahomey, and a space explorer cataloguing alien life in a fashion similar to how her husband researched new safe routes for his travel guides, an activity he didn’t allow her to participate in for fear she would get hurt on the road (an excuse Hippolyta challenges in the episode to great effect).
Each version closes with Hippolyta declaring “I Am…,” which claims the character’s right to create her own self-identity within each genre, unencumbered by the expectations and prejudices of white male-dominated perspectives.
The episode goes lengths to portray each version of the character as deserving of their own series. It continues the show’s mission of showing how black representation in these genres has been absent or downplayed for far too long, denied by a culture that systemically devalued non-white perspectives (and still does). We get a sense of the type of stories we’ve lost in the process.
While that sense of loss is present and palpable–as it is in every episode thus far–the storytelling realities the show has brought to the fore also come with an unrelenting sense of hope. Hippolyta’s science fiction voyage and its several stops provide new avenues of story that demand to be explored. It amounts to a resounding “it’s about damn time” for the masses.
Fans of HBO’s Watchmencan find certain converging ideas between Hippolyta and Dr. Manhattan, especially in that show’s eighth episode, “A God Walks into Abar.” Manhattan’s decision to give Angela Abar, a.k.a. Sister Night, the choice of remaking him into a black man in that episode spoke to the importance of giving black creators the leading voice in the storytelling process so what we can see how new perspectives come to life. Something similar happens with Hippolyta, only she’s recreating herself under her own conditions with no need for anyone’s permission.
Lovecraft Country’s “I Am.” is yet another statement on the importance of self-identity and creative agency in fiction. The show has been successful in showing how fiction can respond to the needs of many, regardless of skin color, but it’s in this chapter that we see the argument come full circle. It’s a call for justice in representation with the guarantee that it has no intention of settling for anything less than creative control. Hippolyta is now the new face of that claim in Lovecraft Country, and it looks like “I Am” is the new rallying cry.
Horror in the 1980’s had a particularly sinister bite to it, especially if it came from across the pond, from England. While the Cold War was still haunting geopolitics during that decade, the collective imagination was no longer hung up on the 1950’s and 1960’s brand of communist fears and paranoia. In comes a British comics magazine called Scream!, a weekly horror anthology that ran for 15 issues in 1984. With it came one of the most unique vampire tales ever to have graced the comic book page: The Dracula File.
Mainly written by Gerry Finley-Day, one of the minds behind Rogue Trooper, and illustrated by Eric Bradbury, The Dracula File took Bram Stoker’s iconic vamp, dropped him right in the middle of 1984, and then had him come out of the Iron Curtain and into Western Europe for his nightly feedings. Perhaps Soviet blood just wasn’t as fulfilling anymore.
Finley-Day and Bradbury take every opportunity to indulge in the Cold War setting to portray Dracula’s horror as a natural fit within the world of spies, secrets, and the constant threat of nuclear war. In fact, the story’s first entry opens with a scene involving a vampire crossing the ‘death strip’ (the distance that had to be run to reach the West over the Berlin Wall) to escape East Germany.
As was the case for those who actually attempted to escape East Germany, the vampire is met with machine gun fire and all manner of death traps that were supposed to deter people from trying their hand at it. After the vampire makes it to the other side, The Dracula File makes an unexpected shift into a genre not commonly associated with the famed bloodsucker: spy fiction.
Given the history of British horror, one could be tempted to assume the story would take much of its inspiration from the classic Hammer films. While there is a fair bit of Hammer in it, especially in terms of ambiance and monster designs (there are parts where the vampire shows a passing resemblance to Christopher Lee’s Dracula), The Dracula File owes more to the spy novels of John le Carré, Graham Greene, and John Deighton.
The first parts of the overall story carry the pacing and tone of a spy thriller. Reports of someone who survived the jump to the West are shrouded in secrecy due to the circumstances of the escape while supernatural incidents are studied methodically to account for the unexplained things that accompany the new development. Later, mysterious deaths lead to investigations that keep to dark alleys and backchannels, whispered among a select few. Finley-Day and Bradbury go lengths to present Dracula as a legitimate Cold War threat and a national security problem. And then they have spies and government agents become the natural evolution of the Van Helsing character.
The script and the art never let the spy elements overwhelm the horror in the story. Dracula File never stops being a horror story, but the underlying intrigue that comes with treating vampires as another threat under the umbrella of the Cold War gives it an identity all its own. Heavy mist still hangs over scenes where a vampire attack is imminent and the supernatural permeates throughout the entire story, but the spy thriller elements frame Dracula as a kind of provocateur without any real allegiance to any side other than his own. His cause is one of blood and it poses a threat to the order of things in the world of secrets the Cold War created.
The Dracula File is a different kind of vampire story, a rare one, in fact. To insert vampires into the spy game and still honor the more classic elements of spy fiction is truly a feat and begs further reading. It’s a great addition to anyone’s Halloween reading list and it’s a refreshing break from tradition.
(W) Joe Hill (A) Stuart Immonen (CA) Jeremy Wilson In Shops: Aug 25, 2020 SRP: $3.99
Sixty fathoms below the ocean’s surface, a massive hatch waits to be opened…Something within wants to emerge; wants to be born; wants to rise; wants to feed. The child is coming, desperate to fill its belly-by devouring reality itself!
Get ready to raise hell with Madam Satan in an epic Archie Horror one-shot arriving this October from the creative team of Eliot Rahal, Julius Ohta, Matt Herms, and Jack Morelli.
From the world of the hit series Chilling Adventures of Sabrina comes Madam Satan. The Queen of Hell has had enough playing second fiddle to the Devil himself and is ready to take matters into her own hands! Will Madam Satan prove herself to be the most powerful being of the Underworld? Find out in this terrifying one-shot tale!
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Presents: Madam Satan #1 arrives in comic shops and digital platforms this October. Written by Eliot Rahal, the comic features art by Julius Ohta, Matt Herms, and Jack Morelli. It has a main cover by Ohta and a variant by Robert Hack.
Horror and Star Warsisn’t something one often hears uttered in the same sentence, although the pairing of the two isn’t entirely novel for the franchise. Disney Lucasfilm Press has announced its intentions to look beyond the dark side for a new YA horror anthology titled Star Wars: Dark Legends. The book is set for a July 28 release and will feature six terrifying tales written by George Mann with illustrations by Grant Griffin.
In an interview given to SYFY WIRE, Mann states that the six tales will read like campfire/bedtime cautionary tales complete with hauntings, transformations, and eerie Sith lords. The book’s scope covers the myths and legends of the Star Wars universe with details and ideas taken from the new Galaxy’s Edge attractions at Disneyland and Disney World.
It’s refreshing to see some much needed experimentation and playfulness afforded to the Star Wars brand. It’s only logical to the consider the possibility of horror lurking within such a rich expanded universe, especially when we’ve already had horror books set in it way before Disney acquired the franchise.
In the late 1990’s, publisher Bantam Spectra released twelve Star Wars horror books for young readers as part of a series called “Galaxy of Fear.” The books were written by John Whitman and they followed in the tradition of R.L. Stein’s iconic Goosebumps stories. These were short and fast reads set after the events of Star Wars Episode IV:A New Hope.
Cameos from Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Thrawn, and Boba Fett were not uncommon, but the stories had their own characters embarking on these dark adventures. Book 3, for instance, called “Planet Plague,” follows Tash, Zak, and Uncle Hoole as they visit the planet Gobindi to explore its ancient ruins. Tash is suddenly afflicted by a big and strange bump that’s threatening to come out of her arm. And then the bump grows bigger and bigger.
Book 6, titled “Ghost of the Jedi,” finds the trio on the planet Nespis 8. A haunted library is said to be found on the planet, one haunted by the ghost of a Jedi. Whether it’s as simple as that is a question the book answers in the only way a Star Wars horror book can.
The most impressive thing these books achieve lies in how organically they weave horror and Star Wars together. No book feels like it’s being force-fed elements of the supernatural or of gothic-style hauntings for the sake of a gimmick. They treat the license’s vast universe as fertile ground for scary things that feel like they belong there.
The next horror book to come out of the expanded universe came in 2009 and was called Star Wars: Death Troopers. Written by Joe Schreiber, the book deals in zombies and is set in a broken-down prison barge containing two very important prisoners that are synonymous with the franchise. It takes place before the events of A New Hope and it manages to propose a kind of framework for how horror can be integrated into the grander narrative. The book was well-received and paved the way for a prequel novel, by the same author, called Red Harvest (2010). The two books later came to be known as the “Virus Duology.”
The prequel explains the origin of the virus that turns the dead into the undead and looks at a Jedi that is particularly skilled with plant life. The book also features a Sith Master called Darth Scabrous that wants to harness the power of a special flower that can act as an ingredient for the deadly virus.
While Star Wars is no stranger to horror, its time with it has been relatively limited. The new “Dark Legends” anthology could be the catalyst that brings about a more robust offering of horror stories set in that galaxy far, far away. If the same pattern emerges, maybe we can hope for a new fully-fledged horror novel ready to bring fear into the hearts of readers and Jedi alike.
Basketful of Heads deserves to be mentioned along the same lines as Meir Zarchi’s I Spit On Your Graveand Park Chan-wook’s Lady Vengeance, movies that flip the idea of revenge on its head. These films create characters that match male violence with a unique female resolve to return it in kind, and then some. Joe Hill and Leomacs’ story about a girl with a magical axe and the means to use it on corrupt and evil men does precisely that while also adding a thing or two to make the violence on display say more than it’s usually allowed to.
This seven-issue series, largely inspired by the aforementioned films plus a healthy dose of EC Horror comics, sets its aims on a cast of evil men that try to keep lead character June Branch from rescuing her boyfriend—a police officer named Liam that threatened to expose the corruption behind Brody Island’s own police force.
Issue #7 brings things to an already expected final showdown with the biggest and baddest cop of the bunch, but it does so with an unexpected twist. I won’t spoil it here, but Hill and Leomacs wade through lesser known waters to look at different kinds of evil and just how well they work in tandem even when they’re not directly related. Just how severely the men who succumb to these evils should be punished is a question that is answered as clear as an axe to the neck. It makes you think on what’s tolerable and what shouldn’t be.
That the final confrontation has echoes of Cape Fear in it and how it plays out also adds to the overarching sense of discovering new roads towards retribution that deal with the bad things we’ve yet tired of facing.
As has been the case throughout the entire run, Leomac’s art and Dave Stewart’s colors continue to bring out every ounce of 70s horror the story taps into to the forefront without letting those same elements overpower the narrative. There’s a sense of impending blood-letting that is carried by the colors that crescendos to the point of complete synchronicity with the unraveling of the story.
Letterer Deron Bennett continues to take advantage of every opportunity to give the SFX and the text a life of its own. Bennett does an amazing job of giving everything a very rhythmic and animated quality, with sounds bleeding into the background and speech bubbles threatening to burst with the violence behind some of its lines. Basketful of Heads had a team that understood the story and what it needed to shine.
If the first six issues didn’t make it clear enough, Hill’s script set out to make the story’s message crystal clear in its conclusion: bad men make the world a horrible place, and they’re good at it. The talking heads of evil men hound June almost constantly and each new male character that emerges into the story is always just shy of having a sign over his head reading “bad man about to get chopped.”
Much like the EC Horror comics of old, the message is spelled out without an ounce of subtlety in the process. While it’s an interesting message to keep exploring (being that it’s timeless, unfortunately), I did feel it tried way too hard to make sure everyone got it. It’s classically moralist—a true ‘good vs. evil’ story that’s comforting to have around when grey areas get too muddy—but by the final pages I was getting a bit impatient with it as I had got it from the first issue onward.
Fortunately, this doesn’t interfere with the enjoyment of Basketful of Heads. The final moments do a great job of bringing everything full circle and the twists and turns in this final issue do bring new things to the table in terms of who also deserves the axe but doesn’t always get it. It’s worthy of discussion and it invites a controversial opinion or two. I guess that’s the thing about stories with axes. No matter the cut, they always leave a bloody mess behind.
Story: Joe Hill Art: Leomacs Color: Dave Stewart Letterer: Deron Bennett Story: 9.0 Art: 10 Overall: Buy and read it to your axe
DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review