Brendan Allen has probably had more jobs than you would reasonably believe. Dog trainer? He’s done it. Flooring contractor? Yep! EMT? Army NBC specialist? Road dog for a Celtic rock band? Yes, yes, and och aye! Now he reads comics and writes about them. His kids think he's Batman, and he just may be.
It’s notoriously difficult to get work as a young RN straight out of nursing school. In order to put in their dues and get the experience they need to get better jobs, many nurses have to take less than ideal jobs at facilities they’d rather not work at. However, that isn’t the case in Cullen Bunn’s new horror story, The Unsound #1.
Ashli takes a job at Saint Cascia because she’s young and naïve enough to believe she can make a difference in a broken system. Saint Cascia was founded in 1816 and ran continuously as an asylum until it was closed in the ‘80s due to lack of funding. It was recently reopened and suffers from a lack of funding, improper staffing ratios, and overpopulation.
The situation is creepy enough at face value, and we quickly learn there is more going on here than meets the eye.
Delve deep into the nature of reality, perception, and insanity in Unsound #1
Cullen Bunn gives us a behind-the-scenes look at the story of Unsound #1: “On the surface, The Unsound is about a young nurse taking her first job… at a haunted insane asylum. But as we go beyond the surface–as our characters will in this series–we discover this other world, a weird society that exists “beneath” the asylum. This world is one where the laws of nature have been supplanted by the “laws of madness.” Our heroes will find themselves caught in a weird labyrinthine world where they cannot trust what they are seeing and experiencing.”
Jack T. Cole provides the artwork in this cerebral tale. I asked Cullen Bunn about working with Cole, and he replied, “The Unsound is a slow burn creep-fest. It is intended to unsettle the reader. Jack’s art does a perfect job of reflecting that tone and fulfilling that goal.”
Babyteeth #2 picks up right where the first issue ended. To recap, in Babyteeth #1 we met Sadie Ritter, a pregnant sixteen year-old living in SLC. Confused and scared, she hides her pregnancy from everyone except her older sister, Heather. When Sadie goes into labor, her contractions register on the Richter scale….literally. With each contraction comes a massive earthquake.
“The world trembled as the boy approached, and when he arrived, it cowered like a beaten dog.”
When her baby is finally delivered, Sadie names him Clark (after Superman). Others will call him by different names. Among them are The King of Ash, Void-Lord, The Antichrist, and The Final Son. Sadie serves as our guide, telling the story in past tense as we’re seeing it unfold in real time (Babyteeth #1 is set to drop on Clark’s actual birthday).
In Babyteeth #2, we get to see Sadie’s little family rally around her, even though she refuses to give up Clark’s daddy. Being a single teen mother is tough enough, and out of nowhere, Clark won’t latch, won’t take a bottle, and won’t sleep. Add in that whole Antichrist thing, breaking open barriers between earthly and demonic planes, unleashing eternal suffering on all mankind, and the assassins already hunting baby Clark down to kill him, and Sadie has her hands full.
It’s the end of the world (as we know it) in Babyteeth #2
Donny Cates (Redneck, God Country, Ghost Fleet) delivers another brilliant script full of dark humor, terrifying reveals, and tender moments. There’s even a sly nod to Ghost Fleet. Garry Brown (Black Road, John Carter: The End, The Massive) delivers characters that are distinctive and authentic, with a wide range of emotion. Brown’s settings are also on point. From the SLC to a secret board meeting in a bunker, every setting has an idiosyncratic look and feel.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Everything Donny Cates touches right now is red hot. Don’t miss out! The only way to ensure getting your hands on a first print copy of Babyteeth #1 or Babyteeth #2 is by pre-ordering. Save 20% up front with a pre-order, or pay eBay prices later.
In 2002, a three-issue comic book miniseries from IDW lit the horror comic genre on fire. The brilliantly simple premise behind this comic is right in the title: 30 Days of Night. Everyone knows vampires are nigh invulnerable and that their only major weakness is sunlight. However, what would happen if a clutch of vampires were freed from this limitation for an entire month?
Welcome to Barrow, Alaska, population double digits. North of the Arctic Circle, the sun doesn’t set for thirty days and doesn’t rise again for thirty more. Led by a vampire named Marlow, a pack of vampires descends on Barrow with ruthless aggression. These aren’t the charming, sexy creatures found in some of the modern stories. Not even close. They’re feral monsters, taking immense pleasure in the suffering of their prey.
Standing between the vampire brood and the surviving residents of the town are Eben Olemaun and his wife Stella. Eben is the town sheriff and is investigating a wave of petty crimes around town prior to the invasion. Weird stuff, but nothing too serious. Dogs and cell phones turning up missing, that kind of thing. When everything hits the fan, these strange occurrences begin to make sense.
30 Days of Night Doesn’t Feature Your Normal Vampires
Writer Steve Niles (Criminal Macabre, Disciples, Aleister Arcane) didn’t allow the Olemauns any convenient “outs” when penning the graphic novel. The sun isn’t going to rise in a few hours, so there’s no time for the humans to regroup and plan. Garlic is a joke. Who even thought of that garlic thing? (Ancient Egyptians. I know.) Crosses are ineffective. Shotgun blasts to the face only make the vampires angrier and uglier. The only thing that seems to work is decapitation.
Steve Niles actually worked on the movie script five years later when Columbia Pictures partnered with Dark Horse Entertainment to bring the story to the silver screen. This lent continuity between the graphic novel source material and the movie. The major plot points remained mostly untouched between the two mediums.
The Changes Between Movie and Comic Are Minimal
There are only a few major differences between the graphic novel and the film script. The movie script has omitted two minor subplots. The book had a conspiracy theorist mother/son duo in New Orleans trying to prove the existence of vampires to the world.
The other omitted subplot had a second vampire leader descend on the town and question the wisdom of a feeding frenzy in a world where vampires had been relegated to folklore. Since no one really believes in vampires, bringing attention to their existence with this feeding frenzy could be suicidal in the long game.
An obvious difference is that the graphic novel doesn’t really have any other human roles besides Eben, Stella, and The Stranger. The series is so fast paced and brutal in its pacing, there really isn’t any room for extra characters. They aren’t needed to move the story. The movie, needing to fill two hours of screen time, added and developed a few more characters.
In the 30 Days of Night comic, Eben and Stella are happily married. The movie begins with their relationship being strained almost to the point of divorce. By the end of the film, they come around and realize how much they still love one another. This was likely another pacing issue.
Ben Templesmith Gives The Comic The Edge
The most glaring difference between the page and the screen is the overall aesthetic. There is just no way the filmmakers would have been able to match the art by Ben Templesmith (Fell, Criminal Macabre, Silent Hill: Dying Inside). Using an almost trash polka palette (with the addition of deep, dark blues), Templesmith brought a unique blend of surreal images and photorealism that would be impossible to recreate in another medium.
Clearly, some changes have to be made in order to make a comic book mini series into a feature length film. In this case, having the original writer on the team that penned the movie script meant that those changes were minimal and made sense in context with the source material. The endings of both stories are almost identical. The major plot points weave between both stories almost seamlessly.
Based solely on the artwork by Ben Templesmith, I’m going to declare the 30 Days of Night comic was better. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with the film; there just isn’t any comparison to the imagery in the pages of the graphic novel.
In 2012, Mike Mignola (Hellboy, Lobster Johnson, Baltimore) teamed with Christopher Golden (The Myth, The Boys Are Back in Town) to co-create and co-author the novel Joe Golem and The Drowning City. The tale takes place in an alternate timeline Manhattan, which is currently under thirty feet of water.
Simon Church is a Victorian-era detective who is kept alive for more than a century via a complex combination of bio-mechanical magic, clockwork gears, spit, and shoelaces. His assistant, Joe Golem, has bizarre dreams that speak to him of a former life. He has visions of being mud and stone and hunting witches. Unfortunately, he can’t quite piece together his own origin.
Four years after the release of the illustrated novel, Mignola and Guest revisited The Drowning City with a five part prequel comic book miniseries, The Rat Catcher and The Sunken Dead.
Mignola’s latest book The Outer Dark takes place two years after Rat Catcher. Three Germans on a water taxi attack passengers and police. One of the Germans, Bodo Wegener, escapes after killing two people with his bare hands while screaming in German about the otherworldly voices in his head. The local detectives usually end up on Mr. Church’s stoop when things get a little too weird, and this case is definitely “Simon Church weird.”
Joe Golem — The Outer Dark Sports an All-Star Creative Team
Patric Reynolds (Aliens: Fire and Stone, Hellboy and the BPRD: 1954) did the art for Rat Catcher and is also the artist for this new series. Reynolds brings an aesthetic to the project that looks like it’s straight from a pulp mystery novel. The Drowning City doesn’t exactly look like a place I’d want to raise children but I’d definitely want to explore it in daylight.
Mignola and Golden give us a script that will appeal to fans of horror, pulp, noir, steampunk, monsters and magic. There is enough backstory that a new reader can easily pick up the series. However, if you haven’t already read The Rat Catcher and The Sunken Dead, I’d recommend picking up the hard copy. Readers of series like The Goon and The Damned will feel right at home with Joe Golem.
Donny Cates (Redneck, God Country, Ghost Fleet) is back at it again. This time, he’s partnered with Garry Brown (Black Road, John Carter: The End) to bring us Babyteeth #1, a story of the not-so-immaculate conception and birth of the Antichrist. Where does this not-so-immaculate conception take place? In Salt Lake City Utah, of all places.
Sadie Ritter is a pretty normal teen, except for one thing. She’s pregnant, and her baby is the Antichrist. While you might expect this story to unfold in the exact opposite manner as the Nativity, it’s actually pretty innocent. That is, if you can get past the mystery of the baby’s father and the massive earthquakes that coincide with Sadie’s contractions. There’s also the matter of the destruction of the barriers between earthly and demonic planes.
Sixteen Years Old, Nine Months Pregnant with the Antichrist
When asked about Babyteeth in an exclusive interview with TFAW last month, Donny Cates gave us the elevator pitch. “Sadie Ritter is sixteen and pregnant with the Antichrist. Once the baby is born, all hell comes with it. It’s very sweet.”
Garry Brown’s art style is well known for beautiful brutality. The depth of detail Brown provides in the landscape and scenery makes the modern day setting of Salt Lake City jump off the page. The expressive detail he lends to the characters’ faces sells Cates’ script beautifully and helps make Babyteeth a highly emotional read.
Donny Cates Knocks It Out of the Park in Babyteeth #1
Everything Donny Cates is writing these days is pure gold. With God Country currently in its fourth printing, Redneck already going back to press for it’s second run, and the brilliant showing here by Cates and Brown, Babyteeth #1 will undoubtedly fly off the shelves as well.
In Redneck #1 and #2, we met the Bowman clan, a three-generation clutch of vampires living on the outskirts of a small East Texas town. There is an uneasy sort of truce between the Bowmans and the Landrys, a family in Sulphur Springs that is aware of the Bowmans’ true nature.
After one of his boys is brutally murdered, JV tries his level best to avoid an all out war with the Landrys. JV locks Seamus and Greg in the basement and sends the brood’s two familiars, Phil and Evil, into town to try to negotiate with Father Landry. Chapter two ends with an armed standoff on the front porch of the Bowman ‘stead.
The only witness to what actually happened the night Slap was killed is Bartlett, and he was too drunk to remember anything. There’s a possibility that one of the clan’s two psychics can root around in his head and find the memories he’s suppressing; however, Perry’s too young, and Bartlett is terrified of Granpa.
I asked Donny Cates to sum up chapter three for us, and this is what he had to say: “The Bowman boys are unhinged and unleashed, and only JV can stop them. In the meantime, Bartlett must face his darkest fears and have a conversation with the mysterious monster in the attic. Meet Granpa everyone…God help your soul.”
Bartlett Confronts the One Sonuvabitch That Puts Fear in Other Vampires in Redneck #3
Redneck continues to deliver a compelling, emotional story about loyalty, family, and coming to terms with the past. Lisandro Estherren’s rough pencils and Dee Cunnife’s muted palette bring Cates’ script to life in a gritty way that is purely East Texas.
Redneck is one of those stories that you will look back on and wish you had gotten in on the ground floor. Snag copies of these first books while you can.
Bane was first drawn in the pages of Batman: The Vengeance of Bane (January 1993). Typically, DC portrays Bane as a genius with an accelerated healing factor and Venom-enhanced strength and durability. Bane’s biggest stage to date was the Batman event Knightfall, in which Bane broke Batman’s back. Over two decades later, DC Comics has finally given Bane his own miniseries, which begins with Bane: Conquest #1.
Bane: Conquest #1 opens with a shipment of spent plutonium warheads headed toward Gotham. Bane chases down the freighter carrying the missiles and and is accompanied by his classic cronies: Trogg, Zombie, and Bird. He commandeers the vessel and swiftly dispatches the redshirts on board.
In Bane: Conquest #1, it’s all about CONQUEST
Based on the initial events in this first chapter (of twelve) of Bane: Conquest, Bane could almost be seen as a hero. Almost. Bane sees the incoming shipment to an unknown entity as a threat to his territory, and Gotham is his and his alone to smash. He has big plans that begin with Gotham and end in global domination.
It’s refreshing to see Chuck Dixon and Graham Nolan teamed back up on the character they co-created back in the ’90s. Neither has lost a step. The book has a throwback feel and look from that era. The plot moves quickly, with bursts of action. Nolan updated Bane’s look without losing that retro mood.
Bane: Conquest #1 serves as a re-introduction to a character most readers are at least conversationally familiar with. It’s a great jumping on point for new readers and a great jumping back on point for readers from the Knightfall era. Overall, it’s just a fun book to read.
Cullen Bunn (Harrow County, The Sixth Gun, Regression) and Brian Hurtt (The Sixth Gun) met at a comic book store where they both worked many years ago. They used to pass the time by talking about comics they would someday work on together. A little over a decade ago, Bunn and Hurtt pitched their horror noir story to Oni Press. Oni wisely snatched it up, and The Damned was born.
While Bunn and Hurtt both moved on to other projects over the years, The Damned is something Cullen Bunn has always wanted to revisit. “The Damned was my first professional comic book project, and it is a book that I am very proud of. I’m thrilled that Brian Hurtt and I can come back to this project (now with Bill Crabtree on colors) and share the epic horror noir story we’ve always had in mind.”
Set in the Prohibition era, The Damned centers on a man named Eddie and his demonic curse. While Eddie can and frequently does die, the problem is that he can’t STAY dead.
Once Eddie’s corpse is touched by a living being, Eddie is resurrected and the poor soul who touched him takes his place in the afterlife. The only evidence of his recent mortality are the deep scars that line his face, neck, and body.
In The Damned, the mob runs everything, and most of the mobsters are closet demons. The only people who can see demons in their true forms are the ones who made deals with the mob for their ever-living, never-dying souls.
Oni Press has also kindly reprinted The Damned Vol. 1: Three Days Damned to get you up to speed. The new series stands on its own as a perfect jumping on point, but I highly recommend picking up the trade paperback for only $9.99. You will want to read the entire collection. It’s that good.
In Redneck #1, Donny Cates introduced us to the Bowmans, a clutch of vampires that survives on the outskirts of a small Texas town called Sulfur Springs and who own the local barbecue joint. So far, they’ve avoided scrutiny by drinking blood collected from the cattle they slaughter for the restaurant.
Feedin’ People, Instead Of On People
Cates wastes no time dancing around introductions. By the sixth page, we’ve met most of the Bowman clan. There’s Bartlett, previously human, JV, the patriarch, Seamus, Slap, and Greg, the boys, Perry, the youngest, and Granpa.
We meet the Landrys later, the only other family in Sulfur Springs who recognize the Bowmans for what they are. A generations-long feud has been simmering, each side waiting for the other to make a move.
The three brothers head to town against JV’s orders to blow off steam at a local gentleman’s club. Bartlett follows to make sure they don’t get into too much trouble. By the time he catches up, all hell’s about to break loose. Bartlett finds the boys in an alley, about to face off with a group of Father Landry’s kin.
In the very next scene, Bartlett’s passed out on the front porch of the Bowman homestead covered in blood. He has no recollection of the previous night’s events. Slap is swinging by his neck from a branch, engulfed in flame. The family’s livestock has been slaughtered and left in the sun to rot.
The Sun’s Setting Soon
Redneck #2 opens with the Bowmans caring for their dead and contemplating the next move. Traditionally, when a vampire is killed, their brood would ride on the town, “facts and reason be damned. For fear of not killing the right one, (they) would just kill everyone.”
Shots have been fired. As the sun begins to set, JV has to figure out quickly what he and his family can do to survive. He is a pacifist, but now his wife and son have both been buried. A war is coming to his doorstep, whether he likes it or not.
This second chapter is absolutely as brilliant as the first. Donny Cates is solidly establishing himself as a heavy hitter in horror comics. Lisandro Estherren’s art sells Cates’ gritty story beautifully. In an exclusive interview with TFAW last month, Cates told us “Lisandro draws ugly things really pretty. That kind of blend of hideous and beautiful, mean and emotional was just perfect for this book.”
Ben Reilly has appeared under many aliases since his introduction in The Amazing Spider-Man #149 (October 1975). Among them are Spider-Man, The Jackal, Spider-Carnage, and The Scarlet Spider. But as a clone of Peter Parker, Reilly was apparently killed at one point, sacrificing himself to save Parker’s life.
In Dead No More: The Clone Conspiracy, a resurrected Reilly was revealed behind an Anubis mask, masquerading as The Jackal. By the end of the event, Reilly took back up the mantle of The Scarlet Spider, stealing a costume off a cosplayer and heading off to Vegas.
Peter David is no stranger to writing for the Spider-Family. In Ben Reilly:The Scarlet Spider #1, David picks up the story seamlessly right were Clone Conspiracy left off.
The Controversy Has Only Just Begun
In a desperate attempt to become the hero he feels Vegas deserves, Reilly tries to recreate Peter Parker’s life. His efforts to find his own versions of Mary Jane and Aunt May are two of the many high points in this chapter. Of course, things don’t quite work out to plan.
Mark Bagley does a fantastic job creating three distinct looks for the faces of Reilly. The past Scarlet Spider phase has an innocent, bright appearance. His Jackal phase is dark and twisty. The current embattled and confused phase lands somewhere in between.
Ben Reilly: The Scarlet Spider #1 is a great jumping on point for new readers. Unfamiliar readers are brought up to speed nicely with just the right amount of exposition. There’s plenty of meat on the bone for seasoned readers as well. This first chapter flows right out of the previous event.
The Venom Symbiote made its first appearance in Marvel Heroes Secret Wars #8 (May 1984). Spider-Man accidentally released the parasitic Klyntar following a scuffle on Battleworld. Spidey thought he was simply generating a new suit after his was shredded in the fight.
When Spidey finally realized the slick black and white suit was actually an alien organism, he rejected it. However, during the time the two were bonded, the Symbiote learned Peter Parker’s genetic code. Now Venom has the ability to grant any wearer Spider-Man’s abilities.
Since Peter Parker, there have been many notable wearers of the Black Suit. Eddie Brock is the most notorious. It was Brock’s time in the Symbiote that solidly established Venom as Peter Parker’s worst nightmare.
A Fresh Take On An Old Villain
In Venom #1, writer Mike Costa introduced a new perspective on the sentient alien goo. Taking us inside the Symbiote’s consciousness, Costa raises some interesting questions about a character we all thought we knew.
What if Venom is merely an amplification of the wearer’s Id? What if the Klyntar has less control over its actions than it appears, and the host is subconsciously in control the whole time?
By the time we roll around to Venom #6, it’s evident that the current host is bad news. Lee Price is a horrible person. He is a disabled military veteran with a grudge. His experience as an Army Ranger has made him mentally hard and his disability has made him bitter.
Lee dominates the suit to the point of abuse. For the first time, the suit appears unable to overcome the will of its host.
Now, with the FBI chasing it down, Venom crosses paths with The Amazing Spider-Man. In a bizarre turn of events, the leader of the Bureau’s Anti-Symbiote Task Force is none other than…Eddie Brock.
Vampires have come a long way since John Polidori’s The Vampyre in 1819. Popular culture has since seen creepy vampires, sexy vampires, and even high school teen angst-y vampires (in both buff and sparkly categories). In Redneck #1, Donny Cates takes the standard set of vampire mythos and applies them to a redneck family in East Texas.
The Bowmans run the local BBQ in a small East Texas town called Sulphur Springs. Secretly a clutch of vampires, the family survives on cow’s blood and mostly keeps to themselves. Father Landry and his brood are the only other family in Sulphur Springs that suspects the Bowmans’ true nature.
Bad Blood Tends to Beget Bad Blood
The Landrys and Bowmans have literally been at each other’s throats for generations. It’s been pretty quiet for a spell, but the tension is building. A couple of drunk kids out on the town is about all it would take to start an all out war.
“It’s a story about a family’s quest to turn themselves into more than the monsters they’ve always been. To find a little peace in a world that hates them,” says Cates of his new series in an exclusive interview with TFAW. “It ain’t gonna be easy. And it’s sure as hell gonna be bloody. But it might just be the best time you’ve ever had reading a book about vampires!”
Image Comics is seeing the payoff after going to the well again with Cates. He smashed it with God Country and is riding that success into another promising series. Fans of God Country,Harrow County, vampire lore, and horror comics will definitely want to get in on this series.