Wednesday, October 18, 2017

31 Days of Halloween - Day 18

Ghosts and Ruins by Ben Catmull

Fantagraphics Books. 2013.

Catcall takes us on a tour of thirteen creepy locations, effectively evoked through his precise descriptions and beautifully unsettling art. There is no narrative to speak of, but, as Catmull suggests, this the perfect book to read "alone late at night in the dark far away from civilization, preferably during a power outage."

I pull this book out to read periodically, and it never loses its power to fascinate and disturb.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

31 Days of Halloween - Day 17

The Van Meter Visitor by Chad Lewis, Noah Voss, and Kevin Lee Nelson

On The Road Publications. 2013

Over a couple of nights in 1903, the small town of Van Meter, Iowa, found itself disturbed by the presence of an eight-foot tall bird-like creature, with bat-like wings, four-legs, and a bright light which shined from a horn-like protrusion on the top of its beak. It caused no harm, but was shot at repeatedly to no avail before vanishing (along with a second, smaller creature) into the town's mines.

The entirety of this strange experience was initially related in a single, short, newspaper article that was published at the end of the events listed above. No follow up was ever recorded, so there's no way to know if that was the end of the story. The authors of this book deserve credit for taking what could've been a single paragraph, or foot note, in a more expansive book on weird phenomena, or cryptozoological beings, and making a full book out of it.

They did what research could be done over a hundred years after the related events, and for the most part, provided sound analysis. The part for me that I have issues with in books such as this one, is when they start getting into areas such as "ultraterrestrial" explanations, conjecturing that strange creatures, such as the one being investigated, could possibly be visitors from another dimension. It's hard enough to try and identify a mysterious creature using behavioral and biological bases, but when you are taking a creature not proven to be real and using theories about parallel universes which are not proven to be real, to account for them, you're building a case lacking any solid foundation. Especially so, when you've already gone to great lengths to relate your careful, sound investigative techniques and analysis.

Don't get me wrong, parallel universes and the collective consciousness are fascinating to me, but risk erasing constructed credibility because they seem like entirely speculative conjecture, and probably sound a bit crackpot to the lay reader.

A very interesting read, though.

Monday, October 16, 2017

31 Days of Halloween - Day 16

Ghosts and Other Unpleasantries by C.S. Sahu

J.W. Sheahan & Company. 2016

Thirteen types of ghostly tales by Sahu are collected here. A tale of just desserts, revenge and vegetables, magic candles, la llarona, a rambling house, etc. There a couple stories here that are murder tales vs. ghost stories, making them the "other unpleasantries" of the title.

Sahu has a style that suggests these stories would be at home as part of a television anthology series. There's nothing particularly dark, or sinister about her presentation. They feel more 4:00 in the afternoon on a pleasant day than 2:30 in the morning on a stormy night. This is what catches you off guard. While there are a few tales here that are more charming than churning, many of them take a wicked turn and come to a truly dark finish. I'd never heard of Sahu before picking up this book, but I'm glad I found her.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

31 Days of Halloween - Day 15

Sam Specter and the Book of Spells by Ricardo Delgado

Treasures Publishing. 2009.

Sam Specter is a ten-year-old ghost who fancies himself a private eye. He lives in Netherworld City, a vast metropolis inhabited by all manner of supernatural being. Like most kids his age, Sam has the usual problems; homework, bullies, adults who don't believe some of his accomplishments in the world of private investigation. Currently he's working two cases; finding the lost guitar belonging to a member of Netherworld's most popular band, and recovering the Book of Spells, a powerful grimoire, stolen by a gang of monsters performing the bidding of a much greater evil.

Delgado, an accomplished comic book and concept artist crafts three-quarters of a really enjoyable book. Most of the problems are first time writer problems that could have been solved by some good editing. Important scenes take place between chapters, supporting characters could have stood more development and purpose in the story as a whole, and there are a lot of descriptive passages pertaining to the architecture and furnishings of Netherworld City that aren't going to connect with the age group this book is aimed at. Once the story gets rolling it is fast paced, action packed, suspenseful, and very entertaining. Given Delgado's background, I think it would have been more successful as a graphic novel, or as a more fully illustrated book. As is is, beyond the cover, there are only tiny thumbnail sketches at the top of each chapter and these do not convey the true ability of the author, or really provide the reader with helpful visuals to latch their imagination on to.

I'd like to see more adventures of Sam Specter, but hope that Delgado gets some editorial guidance to bring his stories to their fullest potential rather than the almost there story that this first outing is.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

31 Days of Halloween - Day 14

Visceral: The Art of Jason Edmonton 

Cernunnos. 2017.

Jason Edmiston is one of the masters in the pop culture art explosion of recent years. He's uncannily tackled many icons of the big and small screen, not all of them horror icons (he's also painted Batman, Star Wars,  and Transformers characters as well as Willy Wonka, Pee-Wee Herman, and some Disney characters to boot), but his emphasis has been on the darker side of the silver screen. This book is full of monsters, a thick tome of Frankensteins, Freddys, Creatures, Predators, Aliens, Kongs, Jasons, etc. If you love art and horror, this book is not to be missed. 

Friday, October 13, 2017

31 Days of Halloween - Day 13

Vampyres by Christopher Frayling

Thames & Hudson. 2016.

This expanded edition of Frayling's 1978 book is indespensible to scholars and fans of vampire fiction alike. Grayling traces the origins of vampire fiction back to its origins in folklore and its actual birth on the night of June 17, 1816, the same fateful night and location where Frankenstein was born as well. Grayling surveys dozens of stories between then and the creation of Bram Stoker's Dracula, taking some side trips along the way and presenting excerpts, or entire stories that exemplify the evolution of the vampire tale between John Polidori's The Vampyre, and Stoker's more famous creation. Always fascinating, which is a real feat considering the amount of scholarship covering the night of June 17, 1816, as well as Stoker's Dracula, Vampyres provides some rare treats, essential reading, and concludes with a story by Angela Carter, which has its origins entangled with Frayling's research for this book. 

Thursday, October 12, 2017

31 Days of Halloween - Day 12

Jay Disbrow's Monster Invasion edited by Craig Yoe

IDW Publishing. 2017.

Craig Yoe continues his outstanding series of books collecting pre-code horror comic treasures that have fallen through the cracks of time. All are outstanding. This volume dedicated to the works of Jay Disbrow is no exception. Disbrow's art is energetic and disturbing in it's almost naive, off-model carnival spook house style, which is a selling point, not a criticism. The stories are fun and have the feel of independent, low budget horror movies of the 60s, but with better monsters. You also have to give him props for selling the exact same story to two different comic book companies which published them only a couple of months apart (both versions are included).