Friday, September 14, 2012


Wow.  I didn’t think it was possible for me to be more disappointed with a WWC than I was with last year’s.  This is an all new low in conventions for me.  Not only were DC and Marvel absent again, but creators for both of those comic book companies didn’t show up, not even Brian Azzarello (who lives in the area).  It was an absolute disaster for anyone who loves comic books, and it went wrong for me from the beginning.


First of all, they didn’t let the press in early this year, like they had for every year previous.  This sucked, because I arrived early, thinking I could get in before the crowds and get a good lay of the land to figure out what stops I needed to make, where I could meet people I need to interview, things like that.  Nope.  They didn’t let me or any of the other press in.  Instead, I sat in a corner and watched all of these poor bastards (the customers) lined up to get in.  The VIP crowd was lined up first (those suckers who paid more for their tickets), and the rest were lined up like cattle in a chute, not just in one room, but two.  You see, they organized everything differently this year.  Instead of walking into the lobby and seeing the ticket booths, you had to search around for them.  The traditional entrance was simply an exit this year.  At least they put a few booths in the lobby to keep people entertained while they waited to get into the actual show.

Sadly, the clowns who ran this year’s show thought it was cool to work the crowd a little.  They kept crying out for bullshit cheers while these poor bastards waited in line to get into the convention.  Behold!  The suckers actually cheered back.  Were they that desperate to get in?  Did they even realize that they wouldn’t really get to experience anything comic book related?  Oh right.  They weren’t here for comic books.  They were here for the guests.  Sorry, I forgot.  I was still in C2E2 fantasy land.

Wait a minute.  Why are they playing Johnny Cash on the overhead?  This went on for a while, until they switched to something a bit more germane to the show:  the Star Wars soundtrack.  In the meantime, while I was people watching, I saw some of the strangest cosplay imaginable.  Why was there someone dressed up as Madonna in A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN?  Why were there so many people dressing up as the BATMAN & ROBIN version of Bane?  Did I really just see some moron dressed up as Tumblr?  Ugh!  An emo Freddy Krueger?!  That piece of shit didn’t even wear the burn-mask, he just brushed a wing of dark hair over his face.  And did Rick Moranis from the first GHOSTBUSTERS just walk past me?

Whoa!  That’s Karl’s brother from DIE HARD!  Okay, that one was pretty cool.


Also while waiting, I saw a box of WWC bags.  You know the kind.  Everyone gets one when they buy their tickets.  I took a peek into one of them to see . . . a bunch of plastic World of Warcraft cups.  That’s it.  Who the fuck would want these things?  Shockingly, quite a few people.  And for those who missed their bags, they put up a table with a bunch of free cups stacked up on it, and dummies surrounded it, grabbing up more free shit.


I was really, really happy I brought a flask full of whiskey.  It helped a great deal.


Once inside the actual show, I noticed that they’d changed everything around.  It used to be that if you walked in, you saw the big publishing companies crowded together.  Off to the side, you’d see an autographing area.  To the back and side of the big boys, you’d see a mix of smaller presses and comic book stores hawking their wares (as well as other comics-related stores).  All the way in the back, you’d find Artists Alley, comprised of several rows.


This year, as soon as you walk in, you see the autograph areas.  I guess that makes sense, seeing as how no one is here for comic books.  They’re here for celebrities like William Shatner, Stan Lee, Scott Bakula, Lou Ferrigno, a plethora of Buffy people, you know.  The usual.  To the left and right of this area are the people selling comic books, props, movies, t-shirts, and other various pop culture products.  Behind all of this, rather than all the way off to the side, is Artists Alley . . . except it’s not much of an alley this year.  Rather than sequester it off to the side, they decided to have the whole thing line the back of the convention in very, very long rows.  Thanks to this, you could wander into AA without even knowing it.


People are of two minds on this setup for AA.  Most people (me included) think it’s awful and confusing.  In the minority is Josh Filer, the creator of GROSS GRANDPA!, who told me that he expected business to be much better due to this new setup.  Because most people don’t realize they’re wandering into AA until it’s too late, something might just catch their eye that they wouldn’t have ordinarily seen before, and they might just buy that something.  From what I’ve witnessed, it did make AA seem busier than usual (at least the first few rows; if you were in the last few rows, like Jason Yungbluth, the creator of DEEP FRIED and WEAPON BROWN, you weren’t quite as surrounded), I don’t think it led to more business.  I don’t have the numbers, of course, but it seemed to me that most people were confused by wandering into this area back here.


Another change from the usual years:  ordinarily, they have one bar all the way at the back.  This year, they added a bunch more bars and scattered them throughout the show.  I appreciate booze with easier access, but I noticed one thing at least remained the same:  no matter which bar I went to, the line was always supremely short.  There was never more than one person in front of me.


Also:  once again, they stuck us with wristbands instead of lanyards.  This is possibly the stupidest thing they could do, especially for people who will be there more than one day, such as myself.  I had to keep this thing on Friday through Sunday, even when I showered.  I can’t tell you how much I hate the wristband.


As far as purchases, I made out pretty well.  Many of you know, I can’t go to a convention without picking up a pulp magazine.  This year, I scored big.  Check it out:  WEIRD TALES!  This one contains the first appearance of a story by Robert Bloch in which he kills off Lovecraft (published when Lovecraft could read it and thereby retaliate).  An excellent purchase.


I also found an issue of THE MAGAZINE OF HORROR.  Digest-sized horror books are hard to find, as there aren’t many of them.  MoH didn’t last for very long, but it was a quality magazine, and I’m proud to now own issue two.


Holy shit!  Troma was there this year!  They haven’t been here for a very long time.  I remember when I first started going to WWC, and I picked up a bunch of VHS Troma movies at their booth.  This year, I got a handful of DVD’s, including SHAMELESS, TASTELESS, previously reviewed here.  With every purchase comes a free set of TOXIC CRUSADERS stickers.  Remember those Panini sticker books?  This packet was for one of those.  Talk about a blast from the past!


Too bad those motherfuckers left early on Sunday.  I had plans to go back and buy more stuff from them, and they were gone by one in the afternoon.  Fuckers.  They were about to make another hundred bucks off of me, money that Lloyd Kaufman probably needs for the new CLASS OF NUKE ‘EM HIGH movie that he’s shooting right now.


All right, there was one celebrity I was interested in meeting.  Check that, two.  I say one because I knew there was no chance I’d meet Scott Bakula due to his high prices.  I knew James Hong would not be quite so greedy, though, and thankfully I was right.  For a mere $25, I got to meet Lo Pan himself.  I talked with him for a little bit, mostly about the episode of HAVE GUN WILL TRAVEL he did waaaaay back in the day.  It was a good conversation, but when he signed the picture of Lo Pan and let the ink dry a little bit, I went to shake his hand as a nice-to-meet-you kind of thing.  He then stared at my outstretched hand, as if I’d just tried to stick it in his ass.  Finally, he held out a fist for a bump.  That was perhaps the most awkward fist-bump I’ve ever taken part in.


After that, I sat down near the back of the show to gather my wits.  Unbeknownst to me, I’d sat down next to the door all of the celebrities used to get from their cushy lounge to the autographing area.  Before I knew it, Scott Bakula zipped right past me, talking with someone I assumed was a publicist.  Being that close to Sam Beckett brought me back to my childhood and filled me with a little fanboyishness.  He actually doesn’t look all that old in person, not as old as he looks on that stupid sitcom he does these days.


Another brush with celebrity:  while I was walking back from a smoke break with Leo Perez and Jon Lennon, I practically ran into Amber Benson of BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER fame, presumably out for a smoke break, herself.  At first, I didn’t recognize her, but then it clicked in my head.  She must have seen that click, because she offered me a smirk before going on her way.


I also saw Sherilyn Fenn from TWIN PEAKS, who had aged rather poorly, and Sean Young, who had aged even worse.  Anyone who has ever gone to a convention knows how hot it can get during the show.  Granted, I’m a huge sweater when it comes to that kind of thing, but no one goes into one of these shows and gets cold.  Young was wrapped up in a blanket as she signed autographs.  Weird.


No one was lined up to meet Joey Lawrence.


As with last year, the real fun of WWC is hanging out with people in AA.  Faithful readers will know of my association with Leo and Jon, but this year I got to hang out with Josh Filer (who brought excellent beer that you can only get in Wisconsin), Kevin Bandt, John Hoban, Jason Yungbluth, Menton 3, and a number of other great writers and illustrators.  (Incidentally, when I was out on that smoke break with Jon and Leo, Menton 3 accompanied us, and he’s got amazing stories.  Remember that video Johnny Cash did for “Hurt”?  Menton 3 got to hang out at Cash’s house during the shooting of that video.)  Just before and after my interview with Josh, we had an excellent conversation about comic books of the past, in particular the underground comix movement.  We also talked about Chaos!, and I told him about how Brian Pulido invited me out to my first WWC.  I wish I’d recorded the entire conversation.  It would have made a good addition to the actual interview.


And I also got to see a friend of mine I haven’t seen for a few years.  However, he told me something that saddened me.  I can’t name him because he was talking to me as a friend, rather than a journalist, and this seems like the kind of thing that could get him in trouble.  You can probably guess who he is, though, if you’ve been reading my stuff for a while.


Once upon a time, this guy was a pretty big creator in the industry, but he ran into financial problems.  He lost his publishing company and went to work for another company.  He now shares a writing credit on a pretty high profile book for that company, but I feel the recent work on this book is a far cry from the way it used to be back in the old days.  I told him this when I saw him at this year’s WWC, and he said that he has very little control over the book anymore.  He said this in such a way as to imply that his name is on the book only because he owns the character, that the company has ultimate say in the direction of this book.  It’s too bad.


That pretty much covers everything except for one thing:  the Saturday night after-party.  I don’t ever really go to these things, and now that I’ve actually experienced one, I can say that they’re not worth the effort.  It was scheduled to take place at 8:00 in an adjoining hotel, so I went over there with a group of people from AA.  It took us a moment to figure out where the actual party was, but once we did, we sat around outside, waiting for 8:00 to roll around.  When it got closer, we crowded around the entrance and were told to line up along the side.  We got pretty good positions in line when the news came back to us:  no matter where you are in the line, people wearing costumes get in first.  LAME.


Somehow, we got in as a group, and the music was really bad techno music played loud enough to make your guts squirt out your belly button.  As if that was intolerable enough, as soon as we walked down the stairs to the dance floor, we saw a bunch of costumed people dancing with neon hoops.  I don’t think this could have gotten lamer.  The bar down there was not well-stocked.


We were in there for maybe a minute, but probably less.  As a group, we decided to go across to another party instead, where we all had a bunch of drinks, told a bunch of stories, and had a great time.


I had to walk for about a half-hour to get back to my car that night, and it was kind of odd.  I’ve never left WWC so late in the night, and it was a bit creepy, walking down that abandoned skyway, looking out at the empty city below.


So . . . am I going back next year?  I found this question equally hard to answer last year, maybe even moreso.  I had a lot of fun with my friends, and I made a few excellent purchases (I even got caught up on my INVINCIBLE and PARKER collections), but all of my other experiences were pretty lousy.  So, it’s hard to say for sure.  I’ll have to wait until next year.


The last thing I did at this WWC was buy this piece by Jon Lennon.  I really do hear Christian Bale’s Batman voice when I read this speech balloon:

One more thing:  this was up on Jon and Leo's table for quite some time, in addition to issues of PRODUCT OF SOCIETY.  Yet for some reason, kids and their parents were crowded around this table.  Why?  Because Leo was doing a bunch of ADVENTURE TIME sketches.  That's right, one of the most questionable tables in convention history was doing business with children.  Can it get any more incongruous than that?

Thursday, September 13, 2012

MORE BATSHIT LUNACY FROM RYAN BROWNE: A review of . . . what exactly is this book called?

There is no cover to this book.  There is no title.  All it bears on the first page as means of identifying it is “A 24 Hour Comic by Ryan Browne,” but that’s what all of his miniature comic books say.  And as cosmetic as that might seem, it’s not the craziest thing about this tale.  Then again, since Browne’s name is on it, that shouldn’t be surprising.  He did, after all, give us GOD HATES ASTRONAUTS and BLAST FURNACE.

We start out in the desert, where a sweaty, frantic man is carrying, on his back, a throne.  Seated in said throne is a monocled, mustached bear, sipping on lemonade.  The unnamed man is on the verge of collapsing, and he begs his master for a drink.  The bear responds by breaking the glass over the poor bastard’s head.  Since the guy no longer has control over his balance, he topples over, impaling the inconsiderate bear on a cactus.  (Best of all, when this happens, instead of seeing a SPLAT! or a POW! or any of the usual Batman-type noises, we see KARMA!)

Well, it turns out that this bear is an important world figure.  He was a diplomat, and he was on his way to sign a treaty.  If he doesn’t succeed, the world will spiral into chaos.  It falls to a group of unnamed superheroes (well, one of them is named Larry) to find Lord Bearington (yeah, no shit).  The problem is, two of the three superheroes are useless slackers.  Their leader has to whip them into shape, but first, one of them accidentally invites a group of Draculas into their headquarters.  (Yeah.  DRACULAS.)

In the meantime, the heat has gotten to the poor guy from the beginning, and he’s hallucinating about Magictown, “where everything is possible.”  Can the superheroes get to him in time to save his mind?

Who gives a shit?  For those who don’t know, the idea of the 24-hour comics is that Browne does a page in an hour a day with no planning or script whatsoever.  This leads to stories built out of sheer nonsense.  Take a look at that picture above.  Would that come from a sane mind?

Not to ruin anything for you, but the superheroes do find Lord Bearington.  Faced with letting the world go to Hell, they come up with the most ridiculous solution to their problem that anyone, inside an asylum or out, could think of.

Don’t look for grand art from this book.  Sit back, relax, and let Browne’s fucked up imagination take you for a ride you’ll never forget.

Written and illustrated by Ryan Browne
Published by . . . good question
26 pages

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


Meet Jonathan Kincaid.  He’s a straight-and-narrow banker with a lot of personal problems.  Chief among them is a childhood incident, in which his twin brother Jeffrey did time because of a crime Jonathan committed.  Now he finds himself living a life of mediocrity, desperately hoping that the office slacker with big tits will go out with him.

Naturally, his life can’t stay this way, and PENCILNECK brings him to the complete polar opposite in the space of just a few days.  By the end of this book, you won’t recognize this protagonist, and it’s a hell of a memorable ride.

It all starts when Jonathan finally gets his date with Beth, the aforementioned slacker.  He goes back to his shitty apartment, happy as can be, only to be ambushed by some goons.  His brother has gotten himself into trouble, and he thinks Jonathan can get him out by helping these thugs rob the bank he works at.  Driven by a desire to make things right with Jeffrey, Jonathan puts himself on the line to take part in this robbery, except . . . well, things don’t go all that well.  All of the innocent bystanders get shot at the bank, and only Beth survives, even though she’s been gut shot.  Now Jonathan finds himself at the mercy of these criminals with no way out for himself or his brother.

Remember that childhood incident?  Jonathan wasn’t always so mild-mannered.  A local bully fucked with him, and as a result, Jonathan beat the piss out of him with a pipe to the point of near death.  Jeffrey stops him, but a cop sees what’s going on.  The brothers try to escape, but Jeffrey falls behind, and Jonathan doesn’t stop.  Jeffrey takes the fall for his brother, and Jonathan does nothing to help him.  Thanks to this, Jeffrey goes to jail, and Jonathan reevaluates his life.  He decides to straighten himself out, and he goes on to become a banker.

But with that many years of repressed anger inside of him, something is bound to snap.  And fucking how.  Angry over how things turned out at the bank (he believes Beth is dead) and pissed off that he can’t save his brother, Jonathan manages to get his hands on a gun and starts killing his way through mobsters in a lunatic frenzy, desperate to rescue his brother.

Holy.  Fucking.  Shit.  Right?  This book is an orgy of blood and violence and raw emotion.  Writer Victor Carungi isn’t messing around with this one, and he’s not afraid to shift character dynamics as he goes.  Along the way, Jonathan joins forces with the guy who sent the thugs to his apartment in the first place, and they carve their way through so many mobsters, it’s ridiculous.  And to top it all off, Carungi has a surprise lurking about halfway through the book, something that adds to Jonathan’s struggles with the animal inside of him.  Jonathan and Jeffrey are twins for a reason, you know.

The artists, Jeff Blascyk and Antonio Brandao are the perfect match to the material.  There isn’t a polished look to this tale at all; it looks just indie enough to pull off an action book like this, balancing between noir and crime as it does.  Their first depiction of Jonathan is exactly what you would expect from a mild-mannered pencilneck, but by the time they’re finished with him, he’s got more in common with Jason Statham than Robert Picardo.

There really is one flaw, but it can’t be described without spoilers.  There is a scene in which the big bad guy decides that the only way to get back at Jonathan is to threaten the life of Beth (because Jonathan is clearly in love with her).  But how could the bad guy possibly know that?  Jonathan just recently got a date with her.  It’s a small quibble, but still.

Many years before, Carungi tried to tackle PENCILNECK in a very different way.  To any who have seen pages from this early incarnation, you’d be shocked to see how different they are from this new book.  How truly awful they were.  He knows.  If you buy PENCILNECK at a convention, he’ll probably give you an issue of the old version for free.  He’ll probably tell you that it’s “the worst comic book ever done.”  Well, it’s not, but it’s shit compared to the masterpiece that is PENCILNECK.

The world is better for this revision.  Your life can only be enhanced by this book.  Don’t miss the sheer lunacy that makes up Jonathan’s life.

Written by Victor Carungi
Illustrated by Jeff Blascyk and Antonio Brandao
Published by Paper Street Comics
Waaaay too many pages to count (they’re not numbered)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


If you’re from Chicago and you love horror, then you’re familiar with Horrorbles, a store dedicated to satisfying all of your horror needs.  They really do have everything you could ever want there, from model kits to movie props.  It’s a great place, but does it make for a great comic?

That depends on what you’re looking for.  If you’re out for cutting-edge horror, nasty things you’ve never seen before, and other truly horrifying things, then you might want to look elsewhere.  However, if you want to satisfy the fanboy within, this is probably more your speed.  Hell, it even includes an introduction by Svengoolie.  How cool is that?

The first story is “The Monster Man,” written by John Aranza and Rafael Nieves and illustrated by Dan Dougherty.  It is the “true” story of how Aranza came to be the owner of Horrorbles.  When he was an outcast kid, he was drawn to monster movies, and one day, he wanders into a place called the Curiosity Shoppe, which is run by an old man who looks suspiciously like Ray Bradbury.  In this store, he finds a magical box, and once he takes possession of it, he is inspired to amass a grand collection of horror memorabilia.  He even starts becoming popular with the other kids.  What’s in the box?  The writers never explain it, but clearly it’s inspiration to follow one’s dreams.  Yeah, that’s kind of cheesy, but it speaks to the child in all of us.

Next up is “The Things You Leave Behind,” written by Nieves and illustrated by Dougherty.  It’s about a young man who finds himself locked in Horrorbles overnight, and he discovers that when the lights are out, the monsters come out and play.  He also discovers something interesting about himself, too.  Again, there’s nothing outrageous about this one, and it speaks to the etc., etc., etc.  It’s capped off with a germane quote from Bradbury himself, reinforcing the idea that he’s probably Aranza’s favorite writer.

“Shoplifters . . . Beware!,” written and illustrated by Dougherty, is a cautionary tale of what happens when someone tries to steal an alien-head guitar pick from Horrorbles.  He soon discovers that every time he walks through a door, be it on a building or on a vehicle, he finds himself back at Horrorbles.  As it turns out Madame Wells has cursed items in the store.  If you shoplift them, you’ll be cursed to keep returning to Horrorbles until you’re allowed to buy the item.  The protagonist then has to travel down to New Orleans from Chicago to meet with Madame Wells, to beg her to remove the curse, and he has to do it all on foot.  (Remember, he can’t walk through any door.)  Exhausted, he shows up on her doorstep, and she invites him in . . . and he finds himself right back where he started.  This is easily the best story in the book due to its maddening premise.  Remember Neil Gaiman’s THE SANDMAN?  In the first issue, Morpheus cursed the villain who had captured him for a hundred years to a lifetime of waking up from nightmares with no relief.  This is kind of like that.

“The Life of the Party,” written by Nieves and illustrated by Dougherty, is about a birthday party being thrown in the basement of Horrorbles, but the birthday boy is kind of a jag off.  He starts fucking around with the displays and makes vague threats to busting the place up.  He wanders down to see the rest of the guests only to find them all brutally murdered by a malevolent spirit inhabiting the body of a friend.  All in all, this is the weakest of the bunch mostly because it’s silly.  It barely makes sense, and it’s the most formulaic (if you can imagine that odd combination).

Last up, we have “Err, A Parent,” written by Nieves (with an assist from Ernesto Avina) and illustrated by Dougherty.  Local horror show host Lou Garoo (yeah, this is kind of a punny story) does a signing at Horrorbles, and the suspiciously named Ernesto Avina, a huge Garoo fan, takes his wife and baby to meet him.  Avina chatters at the host for quite some time while Garoo stares creepily at his wife and kid.  As they leave, they make a horrible discovery:  their son is gone.  They rush back into the shop, which has just closed, desperate to find their kid.  What they don’t know is Garoo—and brace yourself, because you probably NEVER SUSPECTED—is actually a werewolf (what are the odds?), and he’s got a definite plan for young Bruce.  For the most part, this one’s pretty silly, but it’s got quite a grim, violent ending that more than makes up for it.

The art for the entire book, all done by Dougherty, is masterful and perfect.  He is great at depicting mundane scenes, and he’s superb at illustrating the horrific scenes.  There are also a few great pin-ups scattered between the story, and they feel like they belong in this book pretty well.

So if your favorite uncle is Forry, this is a must-read book.  If you miss it at the conventions, you can probably amble down Roosevelt Rd. and Oak Park Ave. to Horrorbles and get it right at the source.

Written and illustrated by various artists
Published by Silver Phoenix Entertainment
44 pages

Monday, September 10, 2012


Take a look at that cover.  Consider the title.  Did you notice the hanger in the O of ABORTED?  This book is clearly intended to offend EVERYONE.  It’s hard not to like a creative team who takes that kind of attitude.  It’s to be expected that with such a heavy subject matter as abortion, a heavy hand will be taken in the execution.  Actually, with these guys, they fuck with everybody on this issue, regardless of your stance.  The only one that comes out of this tale looking decent is the protagonist.

How to describe Abe?  Well, his mother goes to the ludicrously named Dr. Choice to get a late-term abortion.  As it turns out, the young fellow survives the procedure, only to be thrown in the trash by Dr. Choice.  The kid manages to crawl out of the garbage (through a mess of successful abortions, by the way), and with the aid of an abortion-clinic-hating pro-lifer named Placentile, he escapes from the clutches of Dr. Choice . . . but it’s out of the frying pan and into the fire for him.  Placentile works for the Catholic church, and they have plans for this poor kid.  (In fact, she names him Abe after Abraham of, you know, Biblical fame.)

It falls to Uncle Sam and Captain John Kickass (the epitome of every action star ever, ever, ever) to rescue Abe from the Catholics.  You see, Pope Palpatine (yes, really) has plans for young Abe.  As it turns out Jesus was really a failed abortion (which, by the way, was a mule kicking Mary in the stomach), and his survival was deemed a miracle.  He went on to become the son of God, etc.  The church has been waiting 2,000 years for another such miracle (to the point of scientific experimentation), and now that Abe has survived his abortion, they’ve decided that he’s the second coming of Christ.

Unfortunately for Abe, Uncle Sam has his own plans for the tyke.  (John Kickass is just too fucking stupid to have ulterior motives.)  Everyone is a lying scumbag, even Rita the Riveter, who was Dr. Choice’s nurse in the first place.  Yet it all comes to a head when the major players meet up at the Vatican for the final battle . . . and the Pope transforms the city into a giant killer robot.

What is not to like about this book?  Writer Z.M. Thomas doesn’t have a serious bone in his body.  There isn’t a moment where this subject matter is treated with respect.  If there is a moral in any of this, it seems to be FUCK EVERYBODY.  The government is full of shit.  Religion is full of insane shit.  And in the middle of it all is poor, innocent, likeable Abe.

The style of artist Anthony Tan only helps matters.  His work is so cartoony, it’s hard for even the targets of this book to feel offended.  Everything is just over the top, and it’s all done for humor.  How refreshing for such an important political issue!

And then there’s John Kickass, the impossibly over-muscled action star of this book, full of one-liners and misogyny and his love of Rush Limbaugh’s oxy-snorting bigotry.  At one point, he refuses to fly to the Vatican because their pilot’s name is Kennedy.  “There are two things I’ve learned in the course of my life . . . ONE!  Light beer is for faggots!  TWO!  Never get in a car or a plane with a Kennedy.”  Wow.  Just . . . wow.

And where is Jesus in all of this?  He’s working at a taco stand named Jesus Taco, where most people just think he’s Mexican.  And JFK survived his assassination attempt as a brain attached to a super-computer, eternally working for the government.

Seriously, you can’t get more batshit crazy in a book that isn’t written by Ryan Browne.  To top it all off, Thomas is working on a new book called THE BIBLE 2.  How fucking awesome is that?

Written by Z.M. Thomas
Illustrated by Anthony Tan
Published by Trepidation
Too many pages to count (they are not numbered)

Friday, September 7, 2012


“Discovered in the lower depths of the Ukrainian black market, Troma proudly presents the infamous works of Soviet sleaze-maestro Yakov Levi. With casts comprised of real-life criminals, prostitutes, and narcotic addicts, this depraved anthology chronicles the misled adventures of degenerate whores, possessed sadomasochists, and murderous undergarments. Available for the first time in America (with English subtitles), SHAMELESS, TASTELESS: TRASH CINEMA FROM THE SOVIET UNDERGROUND takes transgressive art to a new level of moral corruption.” So reads the back of the box. But there are a few problems with that.

First of all, it should be noted that Yakov Levi isn’t even Soviet (or Ukrainian); he’s a Canadian who stayed in Ukraine for a while. And while the cast does include prostitutes and strippers (and criminals, since the former is a crime), there is no evidence to support the presence of narcotic addicts. (However, the main star of Levi’s films is a mental patient who was released from the asylum so he could film a couple of shorts with her.) And sure, the subject matter is pretty transgressive, but there is no “new level of moral corruption.” Anything you’ve seen in the films of, say, John Waters would prepare you for anything here.

In fact, many of the short films here aren't all that transgressive. For example, “Matroshka Dolls of Doom” really isn’t all that far out there. A group of young women vacationing in a forgotten corner of Ukraine stay with a seemingly harmless (although odd) old babushka (played by Ukraine’s version of Divine, Baba Alla), only to find that the old woman has been kidnapping people and transforming them into matroshka dolls so she won’t be so lonely. (For those who don’t know, matroshka dolls are those Russian dolls that fit inside of each other.) There is nothing outrageous in this film. About as far as Levi goes is having his young protagonists dance sexily with the matroshka dolls of young men who have been kidnapped by the babushka. That’s it. There isn’t even nudity in this.

“The Ghost of Marquis de Sade” goes a bit further. Three young women (noticing a trend?) decide that there isn’t enough romance in their lives, so they decide to hold a séance to bring a ghost from the past to life to woo them. They don’t know who the Marquis de Sade is, but his name sounds French, and the French are supposed to be the most romantic of lovers, so they bring him back. In a rather remarkable scene, one of the woman is tortured and whipped by an invisible force, and she is forced to give fellatio to an invisible dick. All right, the effects are lousy (in fact, the effects are non-existent), but the idea is kind of fun. Her friends don’t believe her, and the next night, one of them is possessed by the Marquis and starts to torture her companion. In one ridiculous moment, she shoves a broom handle up her friend’s ass, and it comes out her mouth. But this doesn’t kill the poor girl, it’s just one of those things. However, like the previous movie, there is no nudity.

In “Vanity Insanity,” two girls (yeah, only two this time) come into possession of a mirror once owned by an actress. One of them falls in love with her own reflection while the other falls in love with her friend. While there are some really interesting images in this one (like the one woman squirming around on the mirror, covered in whipped cream, or the moment where it looks like she’s licking the reflection of her pussy), again, there is no nudity. How can this possibly be considered trash cinema?

The secret is in the other films. “Penisella” 1-4 more than makes up for the lack of trash. Penisella is a hot woman with a 12-inch cock, and all she wants is to find love. Instead, all the men she tries to entice run away from her as soon as they see what she’s packing. It’s so big that when she wears short skirts (which is always), it hangs out the bottom. In one instance, she puts a Santa’s hat on it and kisses the tip. All right, the cock is fake, and Penisella is really just Levi’s neighbor, but that’s a sight more transgressive than anything else in this collection, especially when she meets VaJohna. John is a guy she meets through the internet, and before long, she realizes that he’s a man with a pussy. They make wild, passionate love, and in the end, they get married and have kids. Isn’t that romantic?

But you want the really nasty stuff, don’t you? Perhaps you’ll find more enjoyment with two shorts called “Shameless” and “Tasteless.” (The latter is the sequel to the former.) Most people really enjoyed the babushka from “Matroshka Dolls of Doom,” and they wanted Levi to make more movies with her. The problem was, by this time, Baba Alla had been committed to a mental institute. In order to get her out to film these two shorts, Levi told the staff that she was going to play this old lady who gets hit on the head and thinks that she’s 17, so she starts hitting on all these young men in the park. Of course, that was a complete lie. What the movie really is about, is an old woman who is trying to support her son’s heroin habit by whoring herself. While she hangs out by the dumpster, she shouts out to all these potential customers, trying to entice them by saying she’s 17 years old and a virgin. Enter three young men (yeah, men this time), and they are so disgusted with her that they dare each other to do horrible things with her. The first is dared to kiss her on the lips, and he pukes all over himself when he’s done. The second is dared to kiss her pussy, and when he comes away, his mouth is covered in mush and twine and cigarette butts. The last guy is challenged to fuck her in the ass, and when he does, she shits on his legs. How’s that for fucking grotesque?

In “Tasteless,” the third young man is the protagonist. He’s a chronic masturbator, but he’s tired of blowing his load all over porn, coffee mugs, and even pens, so he calls the local escort service only to find that the two dollars he has won’t get him a regular woman. Instead, the pimp sends over Baba Alla, who puts on the most disgusting strip tease ever put to film. It’s enough to make John Waters gag, especially when she squeezes her tits and shoots milk all over the poor guy’s face. While she’s dancing, a baby pops out of her. Does she care? Nope. That just happens every nine months, that’s all. Her ride shows up, and she leaves the guy with the kid, but when he calls up the escort service to complain, the pimp simply tells him to throw the kid in the trash. So THAT’S how they do things in Ukraine . . . .

After all of these films, Levi got tired of spending so much money and getting very little recognition. He quit the business and moved back to Canada, and that was when Lloyd Kaufman of Troma fame discovered him. Not only did he agree to release all of these films in one collection, he also gave Levi enough money to fund another short film to round everything out. What did Levi come up with?

Witness “The Killer Bra.” A young woman sees a bra so desirable she will do anything to get it. Sadly, another customer sees it at the same time, and they fight each other for it. One of them falls down the stairs in the store and breaks her neck. Satisfied, the young woman buys her bra and brings it home.

What she doesn’t know is that the bra is now possessed by the spirit of the woman who died, and it will use its supernatural power to murder this young woman and all of her friends. It is simply the most ludicrous thing to happen to horror since Bruce Campbell fought his own hand in EVIL DEAD 2. This bra strangles and smothers people in the most ridiculous ways imaginable, and the protagonist does everything in her shallow mind to kill it (even putting it in a blender after burning it with a clothes iron). It’s a masterpiece of horror-comedy, and unlike many other tales in this collection, there is an abundance of nudity, therefore qualifying it for trash cinema.

Not only are the movies great and engaging, so is the commentary. Ordinarily, the commentary is the most boring DVD feature imaginable. There are a few people who manage to handle it well, like Kevin Smith, the Broken Lizard guys, and Matt Stone and Trey Parker. Now, add Yakov Levi’s name to that august list. The stories he tells about the making of these films are amazing. He will point out the prostitutes and strippers to you. He will tell you about how a candle in “The Ghost of Marquis de Sade” nearly burned down the set. He will tell you about how, once when he was getting exterior shots of buildings, the Ukrainian police arrested him, thinking he was a terrorist. He will tell you about how he met Baba Alla and how he liberated her from the asylum to film those two shorts. He will tell you all the dirty little behind-the-scenes stories, and why you should NEVER pay an actor in advance. He will tell you about how one actress’s prostitution got in the way of shooting, and how a bunch of thugs masquerading as police officers tried to shut down the filming of one of his lesbian shorts. (He has a great love of lesbians.) Also included in the extras is the most horrifying boardgame EVER. You will never ever EVER want to play this game, guaranteed. For example, if you land on one square, you have to give your opponent a rimjob. Even if you win, you lose, as you will see if you check it out.

Is SHAMELESS, TASTELESS really “trash cinema from the Soviet Underground”? Some of it is trash cinema, and since most of it was filmed in Ukraine, it is more or less Soviet. But it is definitely worth your hard-earned cash. You will never see anything like Baba Alla prancing about by the dumpsters. Hell, you will probably wish you’d never seen anything like it. Also, be sure to keep an eye out in the extras for a bonus film about a man who masturbates so much his dick runs away from home and gets into all sorts of trouble. Hopefully, Levi has not retired from film after all; just think of all the crazy shit he can still get up to . . . .

Written and directed by Yakov Levi
Produced by Troma Studios
200 minutes

Thursday, September 6, 2012


Right off the bat, this book is overwhelming in its beauty. This hardcover is so tall and wide it resembles a tome of old rather than a graphic novel, and the painted image depicted on the wraparound cover is so beautiful and strange, a customer would have no choice but to buy it. It catches the eye like no other book on the market. Does the content live up to expectations?

It exceeds expectations by far. The story is fairly simple. It takes place kinda’ nowish, kinda’ near future-ish. Unbeknownst to humans, there is a war being waged between two groups of immortals: the Antedeluvians (who have been here since this planet was formed, who deal with creatures known as Seraphim, and who number Moses among them) and the Olignostics (who were created by science fairly late in the game). Both seem to feed psychically off of human beings, and due to their immortal status, no one ever dies in this war. And then comes the one-eyed being known as Monocyte, who has been prophesied to start killing these immortals. Surely enough, when he arrives, he starts going about ending these creatures.

This is a pretty cool idea, even though it’s not particularly new. The true star of this book is the art. It is simply mindblowing work. Every page should be hanging in an art museum somewhere, it is that amazing. It is all painted, and it is creepy beyond thought. With a heavy dose of Clive Barker and a dash of H.R. Giger, with perhaps a helping of Simon Bisley and Keith Giffen, it takes into account all of these influences and grows beyond them so far it can’t even be conceived of. Menton 3, the artist, is an unsurpassed genius who should be numbered among the greatest painters our nation has to offer. Not only does he have the instincts to tell a very creepy story with his art, he has everything spatially figured out. Look at the geometric designs in his art, and you’ll see the extent of his madness/method.

It helps that he co-wrote the story; Kasra Ghanbari also had a hand in this tale, and the two of them together have woven a truly beautiful work of art. Perhaps this is even the next step in the evolution of the graphic novel. One can hope that this isn’t the only offering this creative team has for us. Pick up this book as soon as you can. It’s a bit pricey, but it’s worth every penny and more.

Written by Menton 3 and Kasra Ghanbari
Illustrated by Menton 3
Published by IDW
224 pages

Wednesday, September 5, 2012


Culture has had a long tradition of inappropriate clowns. Please welcome to their ranks someone who is possibly the filthiest clown in history: Gapo.

Gapo is the host of a children’s TV show, much like Bozo, but he absolutely hates his job. He hates kids. He hates . . . well, just about everything, except for dirty sex, gallons of booze, and other people’s misery. This volume collects all the comic strips he starred in over the years, and it chronicles his adventures with a tapeworm, a homicidal co-host, his family issues, a big-tittied stalker, and . . . is that comedian Jim Norton? Holy fuck, it is. What the hell is he doing in this book?

Norton is in his element. Gapo can’t possibly sink lower in this book. Imagine Bad Santa ratcheted up to about a thousand, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. At one point, Gapo kills a little girl with the power of his flatulence. That’s right, a child died in that joke. At one point, he accidentally finds himself enslaved to work at a theme park, and the only way he manages to escape is by killing a giant gorilla with a bocce ball. And let’s not forget the time that he carelessly burns down a co-worker’s apartment and is the only one on staff who doesn’t offer her a place to stay.

Yeah, he gets up to a lot in this book. There’s the quarrel he has with his midget brother over a cheeseburger (and not just any cheeseburger, but the greatest cheeseburger in history, of which no one can make any more because the cook died in a eating contest without telling anyone the recipe) which gets resolved after a bit of help from one of the show’s head writers. There’s the incident where Gapo gets a tapeworm and decides to keep it as a pet. Or how about when a co-host is hired for the show? You know, Licorice. The European clown who keeps the souls of children in a jar in his pocket and who claims he’s not here to hurt Gapo but to KILL HIM.

For all of this (including many awful depictions of Gapo’s hairy, doughy nudity), writer and artist Tony Miello doesn’t really swear. When it comes to some of the nastier ones, he uses symbols, like some kind of old-timey comic book.

But despite all the wonderfully obscene jokes, there are flaws. For instance, Miello relies on the same joke over and over again and thinks self-reference is enough to not get his readers to notice it. He also seems to not be able to use the word “you’re.” It is ALWAYS “your,” no matter what. And it seems kind of forced when characters break the fourth wall. The worst, though, is the first strips. It takes him a while to warm up. As a result, the beginning just seems lame. However, that is the case with most strips. As soon as he finds his path, he blazes down it like a madman. By the time you’ve reached the end of Gapo’s misadventures, you’ll be hungry for more.

Slog through the beginning. It’s tough, but when you get to the good stuff, you’ll be very happy you stuck with it. There is a pot of gold at the end of this fetid, shit-stained, cum-encrusted rainbow, and you’ll be glad you found it. (P.S. Keep an eye on the cover. Check out the titles in his library.)

Written and illustrated by Tony Miello
Published by Transfuzion Publishing
143 pages

Tuesday, September 4, 2012


The covers don’t look like much. Just another couple of horror anthologies in Artists Alley, nothing special. And they probably have something to do with, ugh, zombies. But it comes from the same people who did MODERN TALES OF THE FUTURE, so there might be something here.

As it turns out, there is. These books comprise of two continuing stories with one stand-alone per issue, and as with their SF book, there is definitely something good here.

Not surprisingly, the mindblowing story comes from writer/illustrator Matt Collander in the form of “Smoke and Mirrors.” Detective Lankham is having marital problems and has odd dreams of magic and cross-dressing. Now he finds himself involved in a very strange case in which all victims are found with broken fingers and are surrounded by 51 playing cards. Before long, he discovers he’s being led into a trap by a secret society of magicians in a rather baffling series of crimes. Soon he is being harassed by them, as is evidenced by the pigeons that emerge from his toaster or bottles that breathe fire. This more than motivates him toward out-thinking these dastardly magicians in a court of law, no less. It’s very clever writing, and it’s very interesting to see how this case completely warps Lankham’s way of thinking. Unfortunately, as with last time, Collander’s artistic style is so plain that it kind of weighs the story down. It’s a minor complaint, though.

The geek story is, of course, a zombie story. Unlike many, though, it seems to take place in our world, where people are very much aware of the concept of a zombie apocalypse. Written by David Canario and illustrated by Jason Swearingen, “Geek Army” is the story of what happens when a bunch of youngsters in the middle of a role-playing session in the local comics store realize that zombies are walking the earth. It doesn’t take itself very seriously, which is a good sign when it comes to this kind of tale, but the problem is, that starts to reverse itself by the second part in issue two. It loses its sense of humor as things start to get . . . realer, for the lack of a better word. Also, before this tale, there was SHAUN OF THE DEAD, but even before SHAUN, there was the superb series, LIVING WITH ZOMBIES, and they cover a lot of ground that “Geek Army” covers (although this story covers it with a little more class; none of Canario’s characters decide that since the rules of society are canceled, that they won’t need to wear pants ever again). Still, it’s pretty funny, and it’s not a waste of time.

Sadly, there isn’t much to the stand-alone stories. In issue one, we have “The Devil & Patsy Pulman,” written and illustrated by Kat Murphy. A kid who knows that all deals with the devil turn out to be bullshit in the end allows herself to be tricked by the devil for the ability to play her violin well. Aaaaaaaand that’s it. Even worse, the artwork is waaaaaay more simplistic than Collander’s.

In issue two, we have “The Lesson,” written and illustrated by, ugh, Crow. A woman who wants to help out in the community walks home through the woods and decides to help an old lady pushing a carriage down the path. The baby turns out to be a severed monster head, and it chases the protagonist through the woods, and when she tell the authorities about this, they don’t believe her because she’s black. Aaaaaaaand that’s it.

Fuck the stand-alones. Buy these books for the continuing stories. While they have flaws, they’re worth your time.

Written and illustrated by various artists
Published by Dread Arts Co.
40 and 44 pages, respectively
$4.99 each

Monday, September 3, 2012


After reading TWISTED TALES OF TERROR, one can only feel a sense of regret as one picks up yet another book from Legion Studios. This one has exactly the same kind of childish horror cover, but unlike the other, it has a big warning. “If you are easily offended or disgusted do not open this book . . . yet beware this kind of depravity actually exists.” This just reeks of the idea that there’s going to be more exploitative bullshit within these pages.

Surprisingly enough, this book isn’t quite as bad as the other one. Don’t get the wrong idea, it’s still pretty bad, but it’s not AS BAD. At least this book doesn’t rely on boobies and puerile thoughts. Still, it relies heavily on really, really dark sex.

There are only two stories in this one, and the first is “Basement Screams,” written by Spider C. Guffey and illustrated by Jeremiah Buckle. A suburban family man comes home from his white collar job only to don a clown’s outfit and go downstairs, where he keeps a kidnapped girl in a cage. He brutalizes her (and yes, that means exactly what you think) until she escapes and tries to exact her revenge. Can this happen in real life, just like it says on the cover? Sure. It has, many, many times, and that puts this story a head and shoulders above anything in TWISTED TALES OF TERROR. Sadly, that’s just not good enough. When it comes right down to it, sure, depicting tales of children in danger is inappropriate, but art is full of inappropriate things. That’s not why a story like this is weak. When you get right down to it, child-in-danger stories are weak because they’re a cheap shot. There are two kinds of people in the world: those who jerk off to kiddie porn and those who are disgusted with anyone who would hurt a child. The former is the minority, so when a writer tells this kind of story, they’re preaching to the choir. That is the opposite of good art. It’s like flipping a coin with two heads and calling heads. Guffey isn’t the only weak one here; Buckle’s art is good in places, but when it really needs to be good, it’s impossible to figure out what is going on. That is about as weak as you can get in a visual medium.

The second story is “Dead Fuck” written by Master Legion (oh no, not again) and illustrated by Adam Geyer. This one packs a bit more of a punch, and it exploits a little-known law in Wisconsin. Up until very recently, it was not a crime to fuck a dead animal in the land of cheese.

Legion introduces us to Edward Hein (ho-ho, get it?), a child who has just hit puberty. He doesn’t really hurt anyone, but he has a penchant for fucking dead animals. The townsfolk want the sheriff to do something about him, but what can he do? There’s no law against Edward’s crimes. However, when he finds Edward violating a dead deer by the side of the road, he is very tempted to blow the kid’s brains out. He forces himself to back down until one day, he decides the only way to handle this kid really is to kill him. It turns out that JURASSIC PARK was right, though: nature finds a way. In this case, nature has a definite plan as to how to deal with this necro-bestial fucker. This actually isn’t a half-bad story, but just like in the previous tale, it creates a villain so nasty that there is no way a reader could ever sympathize with him. Each and every reader is rooting for the sheriff to pop the kid. You can’t have successful horror without having a gray area. At least Geyer gives us something good and ugly to look at, even though it’s more than a bit reminiscent of John McCrea’s work on DICKS. Unfortunately, he falters on the last page, when he needs to be the most effective. It’s a jumble of images that makes no sense.

Is this one better than the previous Legion book? Yes. Is it worth purchasing? No. Unless you want to jerk off at the thought of fucking children or dead animals. If you’re looking for honed horror, don’t even bother.

Written and illustrated by various artists
Published by Legion Studios
28 pages