Tuesday, November 26, 2019

30th Century Comics in London - A Haven for Book Collectors



Prior to arriving in London last August, I had conducted an Internet search for dealers of second hand books and comics, and found the website for 30th Century Comics in Putney at 18 Lower Richmond Road. Putney itself, quite naturally, has a rich literary history; Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, Algernon Charles Swinburne and E. M. Forster all lived here. However, I was seeking pulp fiction. I was specifically interested in the Sexton Blake digests. Sexton Blake started out as a pastiche of Sherlock Holmes in 1893 and over 4,000 stories by over 200 authors created his adventures through 1978. The 30th Century Comics website indicated a modest back-stock and I was eager for the hunt.
I smelled old paper when I walked into the shop, as familiar and welcome a scent for the bookhound as butter and pepper is for the discerning chef. The proprietor assisted me in immediately locating a modest supply of Sexton Blake titles. I then commenced in rummaging about their massive comic book collection. 
I found some early 1960s hardback Superman and Batman annuals, and my wife found some British editions of The Lone Ranger comic books and a wonderful Gunsmoke digest from 1969. I capped my stack of books with some horror paperbacks and paid up. I might easily have spent another more given the wealth of vintage material available. I complimented them on their excellent backstock.
And so, for you London Travelers interested in a unique experience, and especially for comic book collectors, I heartily recommend 30th Century Comics in Putney at 18 Lower Richmond Road.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Brain Damaged by David Owain Hughes


Brain Damaged is a collection of twenty stories. With Halloween only days away, this is the book that will chill you. It may even send you screaming for mercy; you may lock yourself in a room and find yourself shivering with abject fear. Writing with a hardcore, pulp influenced style but set to an extreme tempo, Hughes explores the human condition with a critical eye, delving into the psyche of some nasty characters. There is a supernatural slant to many of the tales, but what really matters here is the author’s handling of the human condition. He pulls no punches and offers us characters that are all too human; greed and desire, anger and selfishness are all on display. Without reading too much into it, I often think such splatterpunk tales are a type of social criticism. This is the world we live in, like it or not. David Owain Hughes himself is a Welshman and he demonstrates a storytelling command that will leave readers mesmerized. He’s also willing to take chances with his stories, pushing the boundaries of a three-point tale (with its traditional beginning, middle and end) and explore alternate formats. I think he has fun with writing, and you can’t ask for a better selection of tales than found in Brain Damaged. Published by Hellbound Books out of England, Brain Damaged is available on Amazon. Not for the squeamish, I recommend this one for a midnight reading. Guaranteed to send a chill down your spine and make you look over your shoulder.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

The Werewolf Omnibus by Guy N. Smith


Available for the first time in one volume, all three of Guy N. Smith’s classic werewolf tales have been reprinted by Sinister Horror Company. The volume includes a previously unpublished short story titled “Spawn of the Werewolf” which caps off the trilogy nicely. For readers unfamiliar with the GNS classic werewolf paperbacks (which now fetch premium prices by collectors), this volume is a spooky treat in time for Halloween. Written with the hardboiled classic style that has become his unofficial trademark, GNS has created the ultimate werewolf fiction, reminiscent of the classic Universal horror films starring Lon Chaney, Jr., but highlighted by Smith’s deft if not gruesome touch. This is hardcore horror, pulp fiction style, and without a doubt an instant collector’s item. Included here are Werewolf by Moonlight (1974), Return of the Werewolf (1976) and The Son of the Werewolf (1978). Sinister Horror Company had done an excellent job with the reprint; freshly edited and with a clean easy-to-read font and good quality paper, The Werewolf Omnibus is the ultimate Halloween reading material. I dare you to read this on a dark and stormy night when you’re all alone. Lock the doors and shut the windows. When the moon is full the werewolves begin to prowl, and they’re hungry for blood and flesh. GNS is a master at creating heightened suspense, and you’ll be flipping the pages with diabolical fury. Not for the faint-of-heart, settle down in a comfortable chair and get ready for some bloody mayhem.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Lady Death: Apocalyptic Abyss # 1


Lady Death might be the best thing to happen in horror comics in decades. Created by Brian Pulido, the character first appeared way back in 1994 and subsequently appeared in numerous versions until Pulido created Coffin Comics who publish exclusive Lady Death books and art prints. As of today, the Coffin Comics website is loaded with saucy prints and wild books, all with a grand pulp fiction B-movie feel. With a stable of artists and his incredible imagination, Pulido is a powerhouse of Halloween fun. Lady Death: Apocalyptic Abyss # 1 is a continuation of previous storylines, so it’s not exactly a good introduction to the character. Still, it won’t take new readers long to figure out which end is up, and just go along for a tumultuous and sometimes sexy, sometimes violent ride. The artwork in this issue is by Dheeraj Verma and I think it’s dazzling. The stunning cover artwork is by Mike Krome and Ceci de la Cruz. Coffin Comics puts out multiple variant covers which fans of sexy females will find exciting. I find them exciting, and the art prints are great as well. There are some Halloween themed prints with Lady Death wearing a pointed black witch’s hat in the style of the classic pinups, and Pulido and his team get high marks for their intent on creating and promoting a quality business with fantastic products. Here’s a company that makes Halloween fun, and the books are exciting to read. Lady Death is the best trick and treat I’ve seen in many years. Kudos!


Sunday, October 13, 2019

Beware the Witch’s Shadow


Beware the Witch’s Shadow is an independent black and white anthology horror comic from American Mythology Productions. I bought my copy at Forbidden Planet in Soho, London, and it was the best comic I bought there. The book intentionally emulates the classic EC horror comics from the 1950s which is an ongoing trend these days. This one works quite well. This premier issue features three stories and I enjoyed them all. The first story is called “Snow Day” by Jason Pell, with artwork by Richard Bonk. A short but chilling story, right in the classic mold of an old EC comic or magazines like Creepy. “Snips and Snails” by S. A. Check and Eliseu Gouveia and “The Wicked West-A Day in the Afterlife” by James Kuhoric and Neil Vokes are fine but their brevity works against them. Still, I liked the creepy mood here and the series might be fun if the stories were a bit longer. I didn’t mind the black and white format at all. The transition panels featuring the witch were written by James Kuhoric with art by Puis Calzada. EC comics inspired horror books appear regularly each year, but few of them last long. Nothing outstanding here, but the book is a sincere effort at traditional but campy horror. Shown here is the “Main” cover with artwork by Puis Calzada who also created the “Risqué” cover with Arthur Hesli. There is no nudity on the interior panels, and I don’t have a problem with risqué variant covers. What matters are the stories. This is a good start, but my instinct tells me it won’t last. The stories need a bit more kick, and EC horror comics are difficult to emulate. Let’s hope they can do it. I would love to see a title like this become a mainstream success.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Joseph Payne Brennan - The Dover Editions


Joseph Payne Brennan fans will be pleased to learn that Dover Publications have reprinted Brennan’s quintessential anthology, The Shapes of Midnight, originally published by Berkley in October 1980. That Berkley paperback, with Stephen King’s introduction, is a now a highly sought-after collector’s item. However, there is a caveat to this Dover edition. This edition does not faithfully reproduce all of the stories from the Berkley edition. The reason is simple; Dover recently also re-published Brennan’s Nine Horrors and a Dream where several of those stories appeared, so “Slime” and “Canavan’s Backyard” are NOT included in Dover’s The Shapes of Midnight, but you can find them in Dover’s Nine Horrors and a Dream. So buying both Dover editions is obviously essential, which is fine, because Brennan’s stories are not easy to acquire. Here is the table of contents for both Dover editions:

Nine Horrors and a Dream: Slime, Levitation, The Calamander Chest, Death in Peru, On the Elevator, The Green Parrot, Canavan’s Backyard, I’m Murdering Mr. Massington, The Hunt, The Mail from Juniper Hill.

The Shapes of Midnight: Diary of a Werewolf, The Corpse of Charlie Rull, The Pavilion, House of Memory, The Willow Platform, Who Was He?, Disappearance, The Horror at Chilton Castle, The Impulse to Kill, The House on Hazel Street.

Keep in mind that the Berkley edition was in itself a popular paperback edition that brought together stories from Brennan’s other hard-to-find collections, such as “The House on Hazel Street” which appeared in his 1973 Arkham House collection, Stories of Darkness and Dread. I recommend that Dover publishes a larger collected stories edition to help eliminate the confusion while providing a substantial edition for Joseph Payne Brennan’s many fans (and new readers).
All the same, I’m grateful to see these Dover editions published, and I do recommend them. They are low-cost, slender volumes with great, creepy stories. Joseph Payne Brennan has long been a favorite, and seeing his stories available again is good news. Brennan was the master of the short form, and what he can do with a few pages of prose can leave you terror-stricken and hiding under the bedsheets. Recommended.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

The Charnel Caves by Guy N. Smith


The Charnel Caves is the 9th Crabs book by Guy N. Smith. Published by the Sinister Horror Company, I was fortunate to purchase my signed copy at Guy’s house at this year’s GNS Convention. It takes a special kind of writer to make giant crabs squeamishly horrific. GNS hasn’t lost his touch. Although the book is short, it’s suspense level is high, and the book might serve as a coda to the Crabs’ series. Cliff Davenport is back for one final encounter with the crabs, except this time there’s a giant jellyfish lurking about. This leads me to wonder if GNS has another sequel in mind. Cliff has been having nightmares and trouble sleeping due to his previous encounters with the crabs, so he decides to return to the Welsh coast to put his demons to rest. As fate will have it, another batch of mutated crabs are growing and immediate action is required. Divers are employed to verify the location, and naturally a few locals become victims to the hungry crabs. These scenes are typical of the series but are handled well by GNS. The twist here is the inclusion of a giant jellyfish which isn’t really exploited, hence my suspicion that GNS isn’t quite done with this series yet. A subplot involving a top secret Russian submarine encounter with the crabs adds a wee bit of texture. This is a fast read and loads of fun, especially for readers familiar with the other books. I do recommend you read this series in order.

COMPLETE CRABS TITLE LIST:

Night of the Crabs (1976)
Killer Crabs (1978)
The Origin of the Crabs (1979)
Crabs on the Rampage (1981)
Crabs’ Moon (1984)
Crabs: The Human Sacrifice (1988)
Killer Crabs: The Return (2012)
Crabs Omnibus (shorts collection, 2015)
The Charnel Caves (2019)