Monday, October 31


God bless British horror.

I read a lot of Clive Barker alongside my Stephen King and Lovecraft, and I was a fan of the Books of Blood anthologies. I was slightly obsessed with Cabal, later adapted as Nightbreed, and its parade of outcast monsters. It was the horror version of X-Men, guaranteeing I would be all over it.

Hellrasier was a fine horror franchise alongside Nightmare On Elm Street or Phantasm. The Cenobites were fascinating as a subclass of demons, middle managers of Hell, slightly bored with the jobs at which they excel. The first two films remain nice dark horror films with as much atmosphere and suspense as gore. Marvel published a fine spin-off series about the Cenobites and those who stumble upon the puzzle box that summons them.

Saturday, October 29

The Mist

I waited more than 20 years to see this film.

I first read Stephen King's Skeleton Crew, an anthology that lead off with 'The Mist,' when I was at most a high-school freshman. My Mom got me stared on his works when handed me a copy of Night Shift from the library; she didn't care for it. She must have noticed my interest in UFOs and ghosts and "real" monsters and figured the King stories couldn't be any worse than the same three books I religiously borrowed from the school library.

'The Mist' is the longest work in Crew, benefiting from the extended format but eliminating tangents to stick with the premise: a fog enshrouds a small Maine town, trapping our characters in a grocery store, and monstrous things are emerge. Great story, great ending, ill-fitting sex scene seemingly tossed in to attract publishers. I avoided the audiobook (advertised in a 3D audio format) because I assumed it wouldn't match my internal version of the novella.

But when I heard of the movie, I was immediately curious, and I happily followed the vague backstage diaries posted at Ain't It Cool News. Matt Drudge, ever the dick, ruined the ending on his website, but I went anyway, curious how the film story would go where the novella didn't. I like it, I admit, because, without spoiling it the movie, the new ending is scarier for its implications. King himself said he would have used that ending had he thought of it. But I like King's original ending; it was the right kind of ending teenage me could accept.

My favorite mental image from those reads is the encounter with the giant monster, something so big that they people in the car could only see its legs stretching skyward until the fog enveloped them. The movie gives us a slightly different version of that scene, and I decided to mix the two. This image makes the big monster bigger but still visible to the passengers.

If you get the chance, watch the black/white version of the film. It's better.

I hadn't used hatching to this degree in years. We were discouraged from using it in my university art classes, and this style is a nod to the kind of technique I would have used it had I drew the scene back when I first read the story.

Wednesday, October 26

Prince of Darkness

I consider myself a jaded horror fan. I go into films with a half hope, but only half, that the film is gonna get me. It will unnerve me or jolt me or surprise me. It's that way with all types of movies, right? We don't want the movie to take the safe, predictable path. We want to see something new.

But that in itself isn't the highest measure of success. What I really love is when a scene, no longer new, continues to jolt upon repeated viewings. When you know what's gonna happen, and it still gets you, that's the blue-ribbon moment. And when that happens in a horror film, I think that's the highest mark in cinema, honestly. Those films are constructed to spook you, but 90% of those scares diffuse over time. But the other 100%, we horror fans treasure because of their rarity.

So it is with Prince of Darkness. Now it's not perfect. The film drags in spots. But the story is secondary to the visuals, and it's there that the filmmakers go all in. Essentially, it's a haunted-house movie: The people can't escape, and the danger is growing. In a small church sits a large cylinder, a prison for Satan, and it's weakening. A group of scholars is whittled away as the devil's influence seeps free, and doom with a capital D sets in.

What really gets me are the dream sequences. In the film, the scholars nod off and suffer a shared dream that's actually a time-shunted video from the future: Satan has escaped, and he's about to bring the thunder. It's a simple set piece -- a figure silhouetted in a doorway -- but director John Carpenter makes it work thanks to the "found footage" conceit. This presages quite a bit of modern horror/thrillers like Blair Witch Project, Cloverfield, Paranormal Activity, and the first alien scene in Signs. When Prince of Darkness was released (1987), home video was just starting to became affordable to everyone, and the audiences recognized what a first-person video moment looked like. More than 20 years later, this recurring scene gets me each time. And there's a significant alteration at the film's end that makes it all the creepier.

Monday, October 24

Legion/Exorcist 3

Despite the curse of a roman numeral title, Exorcist 3 is a great horror film.It contains a scene that never fails to spook me.

It should have been titled, at worst, Exorcist 2, but that was used for a studio-penned sequel for the film based on William Peter Blatty's novel. Blatty eventually wrote a true sequel titled Legion, a title that should have followed the book to the screen.

Fans of the original book and film will remember Lt. Kinderman, the detective investigating the death of the drunken director friend of the possessed girl's mother. In Legion, Kinderman is the main character, now pursuing a string of deaths seemingly related to a serial killer killed more than a decade ago. That search takes him to the psychiatric wing of the local hospital, and what he finds in a padded room dramatically alters the investigation and his burgeoning theory of the universe, a cosmology that can make sense of a fallen world.

I won't spoil it for you, but Exorcist fans will recognize the mysterious patient as quickly as Kinderman.

Did you know cartoon "surprise" effects cast shadows? Neither did I.

Thursday, October 20

From Beyond

This one may not be as familiar. I'll explain.

Right after the success of his Re-Animator adaptation, writer/director Stuart Gordon was asked to pursue another HP Lovecraft film. From Beyond was chosen. Unlike the Re-Animator stories, From Beyond is maybe five pages long. The gist makes it to the screen though:

In the story, the unnamed narrator explains how his friend built a machine called the resonator that expands our perception of the spectrum. It also breaks down dimensional barriers, and creatures cross over. People disappear, the inventor dies, and the narrator is driven insane. The end.

In the movie, all that happens before the opening credits: machine, creatures, death, institution. From there we get a story of fetishism, liberation, addiction, and monsters. Turns out the creator wasn't killed despite his head going missing. Instead, he merged with the monster that chomped his brains, and he's developing control of the resonator "from beyond." When it's on, he and his menagerie can cross over to call dibs on a planetwide brain buffet. This goes to the core of Lovecraft mythology: man discovers he's nothing compared to the violent mysteries of the universe.

So today's image is of the inventor as he again crosses over. Each time he does, he loses more of his humanity, and his appearance mixes with that of the giant bug that ate him (designed by comics legend Neal Adams and inspired heavily by William Blake's Red Dragon, yes, the same creation used for the Thomas Harris book and films).

Our heroes get the double whammy of seeing his incremental distortions along with their own dissolving sense of reality. It's a fun movie. Very gory, but not so much bloody. Not for kids though. Tuck them in first.

Friday, October 14

Warming Up

As of yesterday, I finished the initial thumbnails for next year's comic. Currently, it will only be one comic but will closely tie in to the previous Focus/eMMA comics. It'll be bigger in size and action, a big blowout episode. The script thumbs out at at least 33 pages, and that might expand as I inflate the fight scenes. The little scenes, I mean; the whole comic is practically a fight scene.

These are the thumbs, sketched on the 7x10 paper, making each page sketch about 2 x 1.5 inches. I want to check panel layout, camera movement, and beats. Make sure my characters hit their marks.

The script will need tweaks, the first of many all the way up until the book is sent to the printer. The recent theme artwork has my drawing brain segment confident I can draw whatever the writer brain segment has cooked up.

The first scene of the book came to me as I mowed my lawn a few weeks after I attended an open house at the local fitness center. It's also dedicated to two longtime friends of mine who teach fitness courses. So I need to get those pages right or they'll make me workout until my joints pop off.

And now that I look at the pages above, the comic doesn't seem that big at all. I think I'll tightly choreograph the fight scenes and stretch them out.

Wednesday, October 12

Jason Voorhees

Admission: I'm really digging this new sketchpad size.

Confession: I have not seen a Friday the 13th film.

Declaration: I'm OK with that.

Still, I thought this turned out really well.

Sunday, October 9

Creature from the Black Lagoon

I don't remember when I saw this guy first. Was it the books on monster movies I read obsessively as a boy or was it when the local NBC affiliate aired it as a 3D movie (and we had to buy glasses at the local convenience stores, and I still couldn't use them because of my bad eyes)? Either way, I was young, and this was one of the first monsters I knew as a movie monster instead of a creation from books that were adapted into films. That seemed to make him distinct, less real. And as I didn't live around big bodies of water, I wasn't afraid of him.

Great design. Not a great boogeyman.

Friday, October 7

The Fly

"Oh sure, being half-man, half-fly has its downside. I mean, lookit my hand. I can't wear proper oven mitts when I bake my cookies. I can't wear that hat my Nana knitted me when I was 14. And I loved that hat. That hat and me have seen some crazy times, you know. Crazy times. I also can hear the neighbors breathe, and that gets old right quick.

But, hey, I can walk on walls. I can eat as much sugar as I want, and I, frankly, never knew poo tasted so good. You should try it. It goes great with this '87 Sangiovese. Remember when you had to only eat certain food with red or white? Listen, Sangiovese goes with e'reythang, let me tell you. But it makes poo sparkle. Sparkle. I'm spoiled. I won't go back to chardonnay. Just won't."

Thursday, October 6

Sharing Is Caring: Kill Bill 2 Deleted Scene

Found this on Grantland, ESPN"s spinoff clubhouse for Bill Simmons and friends. This is from the DVD for Kill Bill Vol. 2, which I don't have as I, along with a lot of the films' fans, am waiting for the ultimate combined cut of the two films. Also, a commentary track would be nice.

I can see why the scene was cut, as it feels slow and never quite achieves the cool for which it strives, but it's validated completely by Uma's face at the very end.

For those of us who never quite bought her attraction to Bill, this scene explains it and does so without words. It's very similar to Rosario Dawson's moment in Death Proof when her character shifts from terrified to calm to delighted in the space of six seconds. One of my favorite moments in film. I always liked Dawson. This made me love her.

Monday, October 3

Sharing Is Caring: Coriolanus

Here's a film I just learned of today, a new Shakespeare adaptation directed by first-timer Ralph Fiennes.

I find him fascinating. Clearly a thinking actor, he's played a remarkable range of roles including Voldemort (the clear hero of the Harry Potter series), Francis Dolarhyde, Amon Goeth, and John Steed. He's also played opposite Jennifer Lopez and Wallace & Gromit. I cannot help watching him no matter the scene or the co-star. He is magnetic, and I'm not surprised a person of his apparent consideration has tried his hand at directing.


The first of our Spooky Monsters of Spooky Spookiness. And it's the Big Daddy: Dracula. I went with the vampire described in the Stoke novel instead of the Lugosi template.

As with most of what I'm posting here, this was an experiment of design, and it's pretty much what I had in mind. I'm clearly veering away from sketches and into (quasi)polished works, and that's gonna force me to be more exacting in design and execution. Still, this is fun stuff, and it teaches me what to avoid or repeat as I tackle the next comic.