Thursday, October 18, 2018

Siren’s Call by Mary Ann Mitchell

Siren’s Call is about a stripper named Sirena who happens to be a serial killer. She’s hot and sexy and suffered abuse as a child and that’s what flipped the wrong switch that puts her on the road to murder. The story moves briskly and involves her friends at the strip club called Silky Femmes. You’ll meet Chrissie and Treyce and Ross, and later a few more. Ross the bartender is quite fond of Sirena without knowing anything about her. One circumstance leads to another shortly after Sirena kills a pick-up named Duncan. Ross become suspicious of Sirena after Duncan never returns home, and someone naturally comes looking for him. The set-up is typical of a thriller of this type, but Mitchell keeps it lively. The graphic descriptions of Sirena cutting up the bodies are appropriately brief, but be warned there’s a dash of necrophilia here. Siren’s Call is a solid thriller and available for Kindle. Mary Ann Mitchell previously had published several top-flight vampire novels with Leisure Books. All of these are now available as e-books as well. Cathedral of Vampires, Ambrosial Flesh and Sips of Blood are all recommended. I haven’t read everything that Mitchell has published, but when I do read one of her stories I’ve always enjoyed them. The Siren’s Call enticing cover should spice up your Kindle, and Mitchell’s prose will keep you flipping the pages.

Monday, October 15, 2018

The Bronze Age Swamp Thing Vol. One

Swamp Thing first appeared in House of Secrets in the summer of 1971. Created by writer Len Wein with artist Bernie Wrightson, the first issue of Swamp Thing appeared in the autumn of the following year and together Wein and Wrightson had created the best horror comic in DCs long history. The Wein and Wrightson collaboration lasted ten issues and then Nestor Redondo drew the next three issues. That initial run of the Swamp Thing comic book would run 24 issues but those first thirteen issues are the ones that count. After that, other editors, writers and artists would tackle the muck-encrusted monstrosity, make changes to the origin, and generally bugger-up a premise that didn’t need changing. Even later, when Alan Moore penned the series – and he was very good – unnecessary changes continued to be the standard operating method. Go back and read those first stories by the late great Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson and Nestor Redondo, and you’ll no doubt agree as to their value. I’ve always been a Swamp Thing fan, and I even interviewed actor Dick Durock, the actor who played Swamp Thing in the films and on television, and that magazine article I wrote is one of my favorites. Dick Durock was cool and Swamp Thing is cool. This compilation collects all of the Wein and Wrightson/Redondo issues and is part of DCs outstanding dedication to quality reprints of their famous titles. This, at last, they have done right. The stories are reprinted in their entirety, in full color, and with the covers reproduced as well. This is Wein and Wrightson and Swamp Thing at their best. The weirdness factor ramps up quickly, and serves as a reminder that Swamp Thing was first and foremost a horror comic with science fiction elements. Later writers and artists forgot or ignored that crucial point. Yes, there were some excellent Swamp Thing issues later on, but this trade paperback gives readers the quintessential tales that defined the character. Mark it as Must-Have.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Cursed Comics Cavalcade # 1

Fresh on the racks from DC Comics is Cursed Comics Cavalcade # 1 featuring 10 terrifying tales for Halloween. With a cover design and artwork intentionally mimicking the historic 1950s horror comic books, Cursed Comics Cavalcade # 1 is something of an anomaly in DCs roundup. I was startled to learn they were even attempting such a book, but I’m glad they did. With a gruesome cover by Doug Mahnke and starring Swamp Thing, Guy Gardner, Zatanna, Batman, Superman, Black Lightning, Green Arrow, and others, Cursed Comics Cavalcade # 1 offers up a macabre series of chilling tales for Halloween. The diverse artistic styles mesh perfectly with each other without seeming obtrusive. I think my favorites are the Swamp Thing tale by Tim Seely and Kyle Hotz, followed by Gary Dauberman and Ricardo Federici’s Batman tale and Michael Moreci and Felipe Watanabe and Jonas Trindade’s Green Arrow Story. These stories are a tad more explicit than you normally find in a DC Comic, and DC marketed this book as “the most terrifying, most shocking and most horrific comic that DC Comics has ever published!” That bold statement is nearly proven on every page, although still shy of the shock value found in 1950s era classics like Tales from the Crypt or The Vault of Horror. This title, in conjunction with DCs recently released Swamp Thing Halloween Horror Giant # 1, might help usher in a new era of monthly horror titles – if we’re lucky.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Swamp Thing Halloween Horror Giant # 1

All but one of the stories included here are reprints, but these are good stories. Swamp Thing Halloween Horror Giant # 1 is available exclusively at Wal-Mart as part of their special contract with the retailer. To date, this is the one title DC has released to Wal-Mart that I believe should be considered a hot, collectible book. This compilation begins with a new, short Swamp Thing story by Brian Azzarello and Greg Capullo and concludes with a reprint of the first Swamp Thing story by Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson from House of Secrets # 92. Wein and Wrightson both passed away last year, and that makes this book bittersweet for us Swamp Thing fans. The other stories feature Aquaman, Superman, Zatanna, The Enchantress and Blue Devil. Notable is the inclusion of the classic Batman story, “Night of the Reaper,” by Neal Adams, Dick Giordano and Denny O’Neil. Best of all, none of these stories are “continued next issue...” which plagues the other Wal-Mart titles. Overall, this is a great collection of spooky tales. There are fewer Halloween themed comics on the racks these days, and when they do appear they usually mimic (unsuccessfully) the classic horror titles of the 1950s. In fact, DC Comics just released Cursed Comics Cavalcade which I’ll review next. Anyway, Swamp Thing was originally a horror comic with science fiction elements, but over time DC writers and editors tried to mold him into a superhero, which never really worked. Swamp Thing Halloween Horror Giant # 1 gives us a taste of the source material, and makes for a fun Halloween season read.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

The New Adventures of Frankenstein by Donald F. Glut

This is volume one reprinting Don Glut’s pulp paperback stories from late 60s and through the 70s where he resurrected Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein monster. Included here are the novels Frankenstein Lives Again, Terror of Frankenstein, Bones of Frankenstein, Frankenstein Meets Dracula, Frankenstein Vs. the Werewolf, and Frankenstein in the Lost World. A lifelong fan of the famed Universal Studios classic monster films, Don Glut is a comic book writer, book collector, film collector and film director, and super-fan extraordinaire.  These moody and pulpish creepshow stories reflect all of those influences, with a dash of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Arthur Conan Doyle and Bram Stoker thrown into the mix. The material is often wacky and over-the-top, defying logic and demanding that you suspend your disbelief. That’s okay with me, because Glut is a fine writer and the creepiness and action seldom let up. This oversized edition comes with photographs scattered throughout, and a concluding essay by Glut explaining the origins of the stories and why he chose to amend and rewrite sections of the novels. I thought it was all great, and my only nitpicking complaint is that the oversized book is hard to hold in your hands. A small Trade Paperback size would have been the better size choice. Mark Maddox created the splendid cover, and it’s all published by Pulp 2.0 Press. Volume two is already available. Don’s latest venture is an independent film titled Tales of Frankenstein and should be available on DVD soon.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Three Ghosts in a Black Pumpkin by Erika M. Szabo and Joe Bonadonna

This delightful book offers a great story for middle-grade children who enjoy Halloween tales or who simply love to read. When Nikki and Jack find a black pumpkin on Halloween, a skeleton named Wishbone tells them that inside the pumpkin are the ghosts of the Wishmothers. This clever premise sets up the ensuing adventure. Nikki and Jack decide to help and Wishbone takes them to a place called Creepy Hollow where they need to find the three wands required to free the Wishmothers. The adventure is all great fun, creepy but never gross, and a truly fine story for readers of any age. You’ll meet Ghoulina, a beautiful vegetarian, and Catman, both of whom assist Nikki and Jack. The authors do a great job of world building as Nikki and Jack venture through Red Crow Forest (I love that name), and the Cave of the Spooks. The villain is the wicked Hobgoblin whom you’ll meet up front in the tale’s preface. Erika M. Szabo also provided the cover and interior artwork which adds another appealing layer to the novel. Three Ghosts in a Black Pumpkin is a modern Halloween classic for middle-grade readers and highly recommended. Best of all there is a sequel, The Power of the Sapphire Wand, and a combined edition is available as Creepy Hollow Adventures 1 & 2. Kindle and audiobook editions are also available. Authors Erika M. Szabo and Joe Bonadonna have published many books independently and interested readers will do well by tracking down books by these authors. Three Ghosts in a Black Pumpkin is a must-buy for Halloween.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Frankenstein’s Tower by Jean-Claude Carriere

Originally published in French in 1957 under the pseudonym Benoit Becker, this edition is translated by Denese Morden and was published by Grey Tiger Books in 2016. Carriere wrote six novels that continued the plot of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein: Frankenstein’s Tower, Frankenstein’ Tread, The Night of Frankenstein, The Seal of Frankenstein, Frankenstein Prowls, and Frankenstein’s Cellar. These French novels initiated a cult following for decades. I am missing the final two, but will attest to the quality on the first four. Frankenstein’s Tower is a bone chilling fright-fest. In September 1875, and in the countryside of Kanderley near Belfast, eighteen-year-old Helen Coostle is visiting her grandmother where she soon meets a fascinating old man that tells her about the ruins of a nearby castle that features a museum about Dr. Frankenstein. Intrigued, she ventures forth and soon views what she believes are the remains of Frankenstein’s monster. The monster now has a name – Gouroull. He is gigantic, grey-skinned, vicious and vengeful. Awakened from his slumber after surviving the ice-flow decades earlier, Gouroull is unleashed upon the world once more. Frankenstein’s Tower has the feel of a pulpish penny dreadful, with breezy prose but grim circumstances and a strong sense of evil. An older man named Blessed is instrumental in sparking Helen’s interest in the allegedly haunted castle, and with Gouroull soon rampaging about, her terror and confusion mount with each swift chapter. The plot doesn’t get resolved with a bouquet of flowers. In fact, the conclusion is chilling. Highly recommended for fans of both Mary Shelley’s novel and the legendary films from Universal Studios. The cover art is by Michael Gourdon from the original French dust jacket and pays homage to Boris Karloff.