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John Carpenter’s PRO-LIFE turns abortion into a pro-choice horror story that is still relevant

Pro-Life

It’s been around 50 years since the landmark case of Roe v. Wade was decided in the Supreme Court, where it was ruled that the Constitution of the United States protects a woman’s right to have an abortion. An aggressively controversial point of contention since, it has once again stoked the fires of discord after Justice Samuel Alito’s draft opinion on a potential repeal of the decision was leaked to the public. The abortion rights forecast is looking grim, based on Alito’s draft, and America is getting ready for a big blow to women’s rights that will undoubtedly change the social, economic, and cultural landscape for years to come.

Horror thrives in these historical moments. There’s still nothing quite like substituting social fears with monsters that represent the chaos people can wreak upon themselves while defending or attacking something they hold so dear to their being. In the case of abortion, one need look no further than John Carpenter’s Pro-Life (2006), the legendary director’s second entry into the Masters of Horror anthology series that aired on Showtime.

Pro-Life centers on an abortion clinic that receives an emergency patient (played by Caitlin Wachs) whose pregnancy is revealed to have been the result of a demonic rape. The young woman is desperate for an abortion. The baby starts to grow at an alarmingly rapid pace, an affront to nature and all that’s expected of a standard pregnancy.

The patient’s name is Angelique Burcell, later to be revealed as the daughter of resident religious fanatic Dwayne Burcell (a menacing presence interpreted by Ron Perlman). Dwayne has a history of protesting outside the clinic and is shown to be a staunch supporter of American gun rights as well.

Pro-Life

Dwayne hears a Biblical voice, a voice of authority and force, that compels him to protect his daughter’s baby. He takes it as God calling to him to enact His will. The voice’s origin, though, might be coming from the side that stands opposite to holiness. In comes the horror metaphor for abortion.

Based on a script by Drew McWeeny and Scott Swan, Carpenter takes good care of the pieces he sets up to help get the point across. The movie’s abortion clinic setting carries a certain visual charge that immediately turns the location into a political battlefield. The place is locked up behind a gate and it’s overlooked by a security guard, all imagery that communicates the constant threat of extreme religious violence.

That threat is felt the moment Dwayne Burcell arrives at the clinic, with his daughter’s armed brothers riding in the back of his vehicle. Ron Perlman puts every available ounce of religious malice into his character in the service of presenting a man that’s been blinded by his faith to the point of confusing having control over someone for good intentions. The contradiction he upholds lies in his self-argued need for guns to do God’s work, which flies in the face of his own beliefs on the sanctity of human life.

Perlman’s cold and calm demeanor brings this unstable set of principles to the fore in a commanding way that exalts his misguided goal regarding human life. In his mind, taking someone else’s life is justified if it’s to guarantee a new life gets a chance.

Pro-Life

The voice Dwayne hears becomes more important in this context. In certain decisive moments, where doubt rears its ugly head, a deep and not so angelic voice is heard saying “protect the baby.” Dwayne lets it guide his sons, and his gun, into the clinic. The metaphor here doesn’t really need that much heavy lifting in terms of making itself clear as the politicization of abortion has already been well documented.

Pro-Life uses what the audience already knows to provide a more terrifying look into the consequences of subscribing to the entire anti-abortion discourse. It doesn’t treat its audience as ignorant on the issues. It just turns to horror to add a sense of urgency to the problem and why it still deserves our attention. Sometimes, simplicity is scary enough.

The pregnancy itself follows suit, with the baby revealed to be a spider-like demon that makes a considerably strong case for being terminated well before it came to term. Carpenter takes the opportunity to show how unsustainable the pregnancy is for Angelique, the mother. The demon baby thrashes around inside her belly, all but guaranteeing the mother’s death upon birth. It’s a detail that contrasts well with Dwayne’s bent on ending several lives inside the clinic to save one new life. In this case, the demon baby’s grandfather has accepted the potential death of his daughter for the survival of the baby, meaning he gets to decide who lives and who dies between the two.

Pro-Life

This might be where the movie’s metaphor hits the hardest. Carpenter tugs on every story strand and pulls every character arc together to show there is no such thing as pro-life. The very act of creating life, in whatever context, is founded on the concept of choice. In cases where a pregnancy can prove fatal to the mother, a choice between who lives and dies must be made.

In essence, Dwayne becomes the embodiment of the right to choose. And he chooses the demon baby.

There’s a lot left to say about Pro-Life. Dwayne’s storming of the clinic comes with a hasty acceptance of violence that pokes even more holes into the abortion debate, especially in terms of how dangerous these affairs have become in clinics. Angelique’s brothers also complicate the scenario as they decide to participate in the violence to “protect the baby.” It puts into question the role family plays in creating a religious identity infected by partisan politics and how damaging it can be when the relationships within the unit is so unequal (especially in terms of the rights some members have or don’t have). Pro-Life invites discussion and relishes in it well after the movie’s over. As the American Supreme Court seemingly prepares to override Roe v. Wade, John Carpenter’s Pro-Life becomes an unconventional ally in the fight for women’s rights. It proves that sometimes it necessary to go to Hell and back to better appreciate our most important freedoms.

Review: Night of the Ghoul #2

NIGHT OF THE GHOUL #2

It’s hard not to think about classic horror films when reading Scott Snyder and Francesco Francavilla’s Night of the Ghoul. I was reminded of the original 1951 The Thing, the 1964 film The Last Man on Earth (an adaptation of Richard Matheson’s classic novel I Am Legend), and even a bit of the black & white Universal monster movies. Not necessarily in terms of plot, but rather in terms of the dread that permeates through them. The comic just lives and breathes that kind of Fifties and Sixties horror that relished in making its characters slowly march towards their doom as they search for some impossible truth. It finds its life source in the creepy atmosphere those movies developed as well, the kind that builds up the mystery to heighten the horror at its core.

Night of the Ghoul is all of that and more, a vehicle for fear that establishes a kind of lineage of dark things that honors what came before it but also aspires to insert itself in the continuum. Snyder and Francavilla are tapping into some deeply unsettling things in their comixology series, ready for some serious mythmaking along the way.

Issue #2 digs just deep enough to expand on the legend of the Ghoul, a kind of proto-monster that transforms into the things other people are afraid of. The film researcher is making progress with the horribly disfigured director of the lost film he uncovered, the lost but now found “Night of the Ghoul,” but every new bit of information gathered points to a discovery of forbidden knowledge captured in celluloid, making the very act of watching it quite dangerous (an idea that reminded me of John Carpenter’s Cigarette Burns, about a rare movie that captures the torture of a majestic being).

NIGHT OF THE GHOUL #2

The story’s dual narrative structure continues to build upon itself with key cuts in the narrative that show scenes from the “Night of the Ghoul” movie. These sequences offer more hints as to the actual content of the cursed film and the monster that lies within it. Francavilla is putting a lot of care into these segments, capturing a very genuine feel for the black & white horror he’s clearly inspired by, a quality that tends to make its presence known across his body of work.

Snyder’s script stands as one of his most focused and one of his most measured. There’s a real concern with style and structure that helps keep the story from going off the rails. Horror movies from the Golden Age (1910-1960) tended to focus primarily on the larger meanings behind their hauntings, on how they reflected upon society or a deeply seated fear on a collective level. Night of the Ghoul carries itself as such, at least two issues in. The mystery is carrying the story and its implications are what will keep readers hooked in as more gets uncovered.

Night of the Ghoul is a well-oiled machine made by two masters of the craft. Horror runs deep in its DNA and it understands the inner working of it in intimate detail. The comic is well on its way to becoming a horror comics classic. If it holds steady, it’ll become a story I’ll be recommending to readers interested in expanding into the comics medium for their horror fixes.

Story: Scott Snyder, Art: Francesco Francavilla
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0
Recommendation: Buy and subscribe to a streaming service that features old horror movies.


Purchase: comiXologyKindle

Criminal Macabre Returns with Spirit of the Demon

Dark Horse Comics and Steve Niles are teaming up again for more Criminal Macabre! Criminal Macabre: Spirit of the Demon is an all new original Cal McDonald story told as a self-contained hardcover graphic novel illustrated by Szymon Kudranski.      

Supernatural detective Cal McDonald, is ripped again from his self-imposed retirement to resume his monster-killing career after hunting down a serial-killing priest with a blood-draining knife on a trail leading him directly to the gates of Hell!

Criminal Macabre: Spirit of the Demon hardcover will be in comic shops July 6, 2022. It is available for pre-order on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and at your local comic shop and bookstore. Criminal Macabre: Spirit of the Demon will retail for $19.99 and will contain an introduction from horror icon John Carpenter!

Criminal Macabre: Spirit of the Demon

Criminal Macabre: The Complete Cal McDonald Stories is Coming in March 2022

Dark Horse Comics presents the newest edition of Steve Niles’ Criminal Macabre: The Complete Cal McDonald Stories featuring two brand new tales and an introduction by the horror legend John Carpenter. This new, bone chilling collection collects the complete Criminal Macabre prose stories Savage MembraneGuns, Drugs, and MonstersDial M for MonsterAll My Bloody Things, and the two new stories The Dead Son and Out of Water.

The world has two faces. The natural and the supernatural. The face we see every day, people filing past us in an almost zombie-like stupor, numb to the horrors of everyday life or driven to madness by the pain and agony of modern-day existence. And those are the people who aren’t zombies or monsters!

Cal McDonald is a detective with one foot in the real world, and one in the world of magic. For Cal, the horrors we all dream about in the fevered darkness of the night are all-too real, kept at bay through an almost constant influx of drugs to numb the pain, but never erase it. Cut from the same mold as Sam Spade, Jake Gittes, and the famous detectives of Chandler, Hammett and Spillane, Cal McDonald, whether he likes it or not, is all that stands between us and the nightmare world just outside our vision.

Criminal Macabre: The Complete Cal McDonald Stories trade paperback will be available everywhere books are sold March 2, 2022. It is available for pre-order on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and at your local comic shop and bookstore. Criminal Macabre: The Complete Cal McDonald Stories will retail for $19.99.

Criminal Macabre: The Complete Cal McDonald Stories

Review: Year of the Villain: Joker #1

Year of the Villain: Joker #1

In general, I haven’t paid too much attention to DC’s Year of the Villain. As a concept, it hasn’t really jumped out to me. But, with John Carpenter writing Year of the Villain: Joker, I had to check it out.

The Joker, and his new companion the Six of Hearts, run around Gotham with the Joker attempting to get his groove back. But how does he go about that?

Carpenter is joined by Anthony Burch on writing duties and the story is rather entertaining. There’s an interesting focus on the insanity of the Joker from the perspective of someone else. Carpenter and Burch capture the humor of the Joker. There’s a playful randomness about it all that keeps readers on their toys.

It’s not all smooth. The comic is a bit of a drag to stat but as the story gets going to entertainment factor ups and goes into overdrive when the Joker crosses path with another villain at a convenient store.

The art is a bit mixed. Philip Tan handles the pencils with Marc Deering, Danny Miki, Jonathan Glapion, and Tan on ink. Jay David Ramos handles the colors. The art towards the beginning of the comic doesn’t feel like the same as what’s at the end. It’s a weird shift. At first, I disliked the art but by the end, I really enjoyed it, especially when Joker does his dynamic duo impersonation. The detail of saggy costumes is fantastic.

Year of the Villain: Joker #1 is a bit mixed for me. I started off hating it but by the end found myself really enjoying it and my opinion completely changed. Where I struggled to start I flew through the end. I almost stopped reading it at one point. But, by the end, glad I didn’t. The comic doesn’t have the insight I’d hope from Carpenter’s writing but it has his humor. Even if you’re not interested in the “Year of the Villain,” this is a comic you can pick up and enjoy.

Story: John Carpenter, Anthony Burch Art: Philip Tan
Ink: Marc Deering, Danny Miki, Jonathan Glapion, Philip Tan
Color: Jay David Ramos
Story: 7.75 Art: 7.75 Overall: 7.75 Recommendation: Read

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Preview: Year of the Villain: Joker #1

Year of the Villain: Joker #1

(W) John Carpenter, Anthony Burch (A/CA) Philip Tan, Marc Deering
In Shops: Oct 09, 2019
SRP: $4.99

In the Year of the Villain, what’s a Clown Prince of Crime to do when the world has started to accept doing bad as the only way to live? Out-bad everyone else, of course! The Joker is on a mission to get his mojo back and prove to the world that there is no greater villainy than the kind that leaves you laughing.

This special one-shot is co-written by legendary film auteur John Carpenter (The Thing, Halloween) and Anthony Burch (the Borderlands video games), making for a Joker comic that’s twisted in ways you never imagined!

Year of the Villain: Joker #1

NYCC 2019: Halloween Starts With Storm King Comics

Storm King Comics

Nothing says Halloween like John Carpenter and Sandy King and nothing starts Halloween like the Storm King Comics booth #2304 at New York Comic-Con. The award-winning in-house publishing line from the horror master has made the yearly anthology release of John Carpenter’s Tales For A HalloweeNight a treasured fall tradition in many comic households. NYCC is the first chance for fans to get this year’s con exclusive signed by creators. 2019 is the fifth-anniversary edition of the Halloween release and to make it extra special the cover art is courtesy of renown comic artist Cat Staggs (Wonder Woman 77, Crosswind). John Carpenter’s Tales Of Science Fiction: Twitch graphic novel will be premiering at the show as well and both releases will have creative teams on hand for signings. John Carpenter will not be attending the convention but signed copies of all of the new trades as well as tour DVDs will be on hand for sale. 

SIGNING SCHEDULE

THURSDAY:
 2:00 – John Carpenter’s Tales for a HalloweeNight team signing (Sandy King, Janice Chiang, Andy Price, Chandra Free, Guy Dorian, Sr., Cat Staggs, Sara Richard, Frank Tieri)

FRIDAY:
12:30 – John Carpenter’s Tales Of Science FictionTWITCH TPB signing (Richard P. Clark, Sandy King & Janice Chiang)
 3:30 – John Carpenter’s Tales of Science FictionSURVIVING NUCLEAR ATTACK signing (Cat Staggs, Joe Harris, Sandy King & Janice Chiang)

SATURDAY: 
2:00 – John Carpenter’s Tales for a HalloweeNight team signing (Sandy King, Janice Chiang, Andy Price, Chandra Free, Guy Dorian, Sr., Cat Staggs, Sara Richard, Frank Tieri)
Storm King Comics is owned and operated by Sandy King Carpenter and she will be participating in the Wonder Women: Female Comic CEOS panel at the convention. Want to hear what it’s like to break into comics and run a company in what used to be a dominantly male industry? Make sure and get a seat Thursday, October 3rd at 6:30 PM room 1B03. Additional panelists include Paula Garces ( The World of Aluna, Netflix’s On My Block), Tina Fine (Offgirl), and Wendy Chin-Tanner (A Wave Blue World).

Around the Tubes

Daredevil #10

It’s a new week and we have lots on tap for the week! As we roll into a new week, here’s some comic news from around the web in our morning roundup.

The Washington Post – How Pia Guerra became one of the Trump era’s most moving political cartoonists – It really is some fantastic art.

Bloody Disgusting – John Carpenter Says “Tales for a Halloween Night” TV Series Has Found New Life at Paramount – Hope this happens.

CBLDF – History of Comics Censorship, Part 1 – Some comic book history.

Reviews

AIPT! – Daredevil #10
Comic Attack –
Excellence #4
Talking Comics –
Powers of X #3
CBR –
Year of the Villain: Black Mask #1

John Carpenter and Anthony Burch Co-Write The Joker: Year of the Villain

Acclaimed director, screenwriter, and producer John Carpenter and Anthony Burch, writer of the hit video games Borderlands 2 and League of Legends, will make their DC Universe debut in a one-shot comic as part of the publisher’s “Year of the Villain” event in The Joker: Year of the VIllain #1, on sale October 9. 

Now a human-alien hybrid, Lex Luthor has made his appeal to the world, asking its citizens to embrace doom and give in once and for all to evil, humanity’s true nature. In exchange, he will grant them the tools to ascend to their ultimate selves. While some DC villains (and heroes) are willing to hear what “Apex Lex” has to offer, the Clown Prince of Crime isn’t going to wait around until Lex gets to him. This puts The Joker on a mission to get his swagger back in a world gone bad by out-badding everyone else, proving that the greatest evil is always the one that leaves them laughing. 
“The Joker is the greatest villain in comics,” said Carpenter.  “I’m proud to be reunited with Anthony on this project.”

While this one-shot is the first time that Carpenter and Burch will be writing a DC story, they’re no strangers to collaborating on comic books that tell big, over-the-top and bombastic tales, having previously co-written BOOM! Studios’ Big Trouble in Little China: Old Man Jack miniseries. 

The Joker: Year of the VIllain is a 40-page one-shot priced at $4.99 and debuts in comic book stores and online retailers on Wednesday, October 9 and features art by Philip Tan and Marc Deering.

The Joker: Year of the VIllain

SDCC 2019: Storm King Comics Launches Storm Kids

Storm Kids

From the mind of John Carpenter and the heart of Sandy King, multi-award-winning publisher Storm King Comics is launching their ages 10+ horror imprint Storm Kids at San Diego Comic-Con 2019.

At Booth #2205, fans can get a free Storm Kids sampler comic and families are invited to come to the launch panel Friday at 5pm Room: 29AB.  Hear from the panelists creating the line and have a little fun with a Truth or Dare Q&A. Panelists include Louise Simonson (New Mutants, Superman), Steve Niles (30 Days of Night, The October Factor), Sandy King Carpenter, (They Live, Vampires), Janice Chiang (DC Superhero Girls, Transformers). San Diego Comic-Con 2019 will be the convention premiere for the graphic novel collected edition of John Carpenter’s Tales of Science Fiction: The Standoff as well. 

Storm King Comics Booth Signing Schedule: 

FRIDAY

John Carpenter’s Tales of Science Fiction: Twitch
1pm-Duane Swierczynski (writer)
John Carpenter’s Tales For a HalloweeNight, Storm Kids
3pm – Steve Niles (writer)

SATURDAY

John Carpenter’s Tales of Science Fiction: Twitch
1pm-Duane Swierczynski (writer)
John Carpenter’s Tales of Science Fiction: Surviving Nuclear Attack
3pm – Cat Staggs (art) and Joe Harris (writer) 
John Carpenter’s Tales of Science Fiction: The Standoff
5pm – Andres Esparza (art) and David J. Schow (writer) 

Sandy King Carpenter will be signing at the booth the entire show. Janice Chiang will be on hand as time allows.

Sandy King Carpenter will also be part of Wonder Women CEOS – Female Owned and Operated Comic Publishers panel Sunday, 7/21/19, 3:00p.m. – 4:00p.m., Room: 7AB. 

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