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 The volume includes a previously unpublished short story titled “Spawn of the Werewolf” which caps off the trilogy nicely.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)

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Frankenstein # 1, Dell Comics


The Dell Comics monster issues from the early 1960s are overdue for a reprinting. They are highly sought after and increasingly hard to find. My copy of Frankenstein is a second printing dated August-October 1964. It’s the only one I own. The others are Dracula, The Wolf-Man, The Mummy, The Creature, and there was a double issue with Dracula and the Mummy. The beautiful painted covers and colorful interior pallet are pure kitsch, and loads of fun.  These comics were inspired by and approved for publication by Universal Pictures who are credited with the copyright on the indicia column. The story is a hackneyed rewrite of the Universal scripts, deviating sharply from the first film but retaining the shlock feel of the horror comics of the early 1950s. That makes it all the better. It’s creepy and fun and honors its source material, the films, and the monster intentionally resembles Boris Karloff. The artwork is moody although simplistic, and the coloring adds another layer of gaudy pulp thrills to the issue. After escaping from Dr. Frankenstein’s laboratory, he’s recaptured and drugged by the doctor who takes him aboard ship across the Atlantic. Once aboard the steamship, the doctor induces the monster to kill the ship’s captain. Once again on shore in America, they lay up at Hobbs Farm where the creepy scene ensues with the monster killing two horses. Meanwhile, the doctor is attempting to get recognition for his creation, unsuccessfully of course, and the monster is thought to have been killed when another ship he’s on goes up in flames and sinks. Dr. Frankenstein states in the last panel: “But I have created a super-human! And someday very soon, we shall return to this spot to discover how successful I have been.” Issue # 2 appeared a few years later, but transformed the monster into a super-hero in red tights. Issues # 2, 3 and 4 are lacking in the creepy atmosphere that makes this first issue so good. I don’t know any collectors that are enthusiastic about the subsequent issues, but this first one is great.


Tuesday, August 20, 2019

The Man With No Name’s Snake Grip Colt

The original snake grip Colt from the second episode of Rawhide
This post is in response to several e-mails 
and messages here and on FaceBook 
about the photo I posted of the Colt snake grip .45.
Click on any image to enlarge.

As most Clint Eastwood fans know, the famed actor first used the famous snake grip Colt Single Action Army (SAA) revolver in the first season and second episode of Rawhide. The air date was January 16, 1959. The episode was titled “Incident at Alabaster Plain.” Eastwood would use that same gun again in A Fistful of Dollars (1964) and For a Few Dollars More (1966), both directed by Sergio Leone. Eastwood had purchased the gun from the production company and owns it to this day. In The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966), the snake grips are seen on a different gun, the 1851 Navy Colt.
Troy Donahue (left), Mark Richman with the Colt in holster (center)
and Eastwood in  the Incident at Alabaster Plain episode of Rawhide 
I thought I would clarify the history a bit for the benefit of those new to riding the Old West range. In that Rawhide episode, the snake grip Colt is carried by actor Mark Richman who played a bad-ass named Mastic. Troy Donahue co-starred in this episode along with Martin Balsam and series regulars, Eric Fleming, Sheb Wooley and Paul Brinegar. This is a pretty good episode. In fact, in the final showdown, Eastwood gets a face full of adobe dust when a bullet (squib) blows a hole in the wall next to his face. The gunfight is well-staged, and Eastwood as Rowdy Yates chases Mastic into the bell tower of church. Fleming as Gil Faver helps knock Mastic off the tower by yanking on the bell’s rope. Mastic falls to his death.
Clint Eastwood and Sheb Wooley in the episode's finale with the snake grip Colt
Throughout the episode, we are afforded several views of the gun. The silver inlaid snake grips adorn both sides of the traditional walnut grip. Rowdy Yates has the gun in the finale and he hands it to Pete Nolan played by Sheb Wooley, who then becomes the third actor in history to handle that gun on film. I knew Sheb Wooley personally, and he always spoke fondly of working on Rawhide. He made no secret of the fact that Rawhide was enjoyable “play acting” as he called it, and Sheb later made a brief appearance in Eastwood’s The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976).
Eastwood with the snake grip Colt in holster in A Fistful of Dollars 
NOTE: As far as I know, the snake grip Colt is NOT seen in subsequent episodes of Rawhide. I did a brief scan of the first season episodes and Eastwood is wearing a traditional Colt with a plain Walnut grip. Of course a full review of all 217 episodes is needed to verify if the snake grip Colt shows up again. Anyone with additional information is free to contact me through this blog.
Eastwood reloading the snake grip Colt in A Fistful of Dollars 
Clint Eastwood brought the gun with him when he filmed both A Fistful of Dollars and For a Few Dollars More, and the gun is plainly visible in multiple scenes. However, as I mentioned, this gun was NOT used in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. That gun is an 1851 Navy Colt supplied by Uberti, the Italian gun manufacturer who are still in business today. Another silver inlaid snake grip was added to the Navy Colt.
Another view of the Colt from A Fistful of Dollars
Keen viewers can easily spot the snake grip SAA in A Fistful of Dollars although the best view doesn’t occur until Eastwood is reloading, and later when he is using the gun to tap some barrels to determine if they are empty or not. In For a Few Dollars More, the SAA is likewise visible in Eastwood’s holster and in a scene where he is reloading the gun.

The snake grip Colt in  For a Few Dollars More

Replicas of the snake grip SAA have been on the market for years, primarily made by Uberti in Italy, or Pietta for the American Firearms company, Cimarron. I own the Cimarron version. There are slight differences in the snake design. The original snake has a single tongue whereas the replica offers a forked-tongue. Also, the rattle tail has a slight downward curve compared to the original. The Cimarron replica features the snake on the right side only, unlike the original which has the snake on both sides of the grip. According to an excellent Internet article by Bob Arganbright, the grips were supplied to the Rawhide production team by Andy Anderson of the North Hollywood Gun Shop. There are multiple other snake grip replicas available, and you can even order knock-off grips minus the gun on Amazon. I have occasionally seen a custom SAA with the snake grips on both sides.
Eastwood reloading the Colt in For a Few Dollars More 
The Snake grip Colt is now part of Western television and film history largely due to Clint Eastwood. The Cimarron .45 caliber Man with No Name Model Colt Single Action Army revolver with a five-and-a-half-inch barrel handles as well as any Colt, Uberti Colt, Cimarron Colt, Taylor & Company Colt or even the Ruger Vaquero. This is a fine gun and those few of you that know me personally are aware that I consider the 1873 Colt Peacemaker the pre-eminent handgun, and owning them is a great privilege. As always, please follow the basic rules of safe firearm handling. When firearms are used in a safe and responsible manner, they provide much pleasure, satisfaction and protection, and represent a fundamental part of our personal liberty.
Author Thomas McNulty's Cimarron Colt .45 with the snake grip