Just in time for Halloween, VICE’s art editor, Nick Gazin, shares his list of the top five scariest horror comics. With horror comics being dismissed by many as just a junk genre, there was a golden opportunity to fill that void and create great art using strange artistic styles. Nick provides a quick history lesson, and an unexpected treat among his choices. He also wears some big toothy fangs all for your enjoyment.
VICE Guide to Comics: The Top Five Scariest Horror Comics is right HERE.
Mary Shelly’s “Frankenstein, or, The Modern Prometheus,” first published in 1818, is as fresh as a daisy in “Ex Machina,” the new film written and directed by Alex Garland. This is Frankenstein’s monster if it were built by Google.
In the movie, Google is Bluebook. And the head of Bluebook is a contemporary Dr. Frankenstein, Nathan (Oscar Isaac). Nathan doesn’t look like the head of any company as much as the annoying IT guy if he won the Lotto. Barefoot, swigging microbrews, and sporting a full-on hipster beard, Oscar Isaac plays to the hilt the poster boy for tech chic.
Instead of a castle in Bavaria, Nathan’s compound is tucked away in an idyllic wilderness in, presumably, the Pacific Northwest. Nathan has chosen one of his employees, as if on a whim, to help him with a very special top secret project for a week. Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) is flown in by helicopter and deposited about a mile away since that’s as close as the pilot is allowed to land. Caleb looks nothing if not like a young dewy-eyed Bill Gates.
Nathan treats Caleb like a dog tugging on a favorite chew toy. Finally, he reveals to him that he’s been chosen to test what could prove to be the world’s first genuine AI robot. “You know what the Turing Test is, don’t you?” asks Nathan. It’s a convenient question, of course, to set things up. Caleb will be testing the robot to see if it really can think for itself. But, given how Nathan continually undermines Caleb, it quickly becomes apparent there’s far more going on here.
Little does Caleb know that he will be testing a most beguiling female robot that, you guessed it, he can’t help but connect with. Ava (Alicia Vikander) proves to be more intriguing with each testing session. And then it gets more interesting as she begins to confide in Caleb what she’s discovered about this freaky compound.
Nathan, like any good mad scientist, manages some charm. In one candid moment, he confides in Caleb that part of his secret is simply mining all the hive mind data at his disposal by tapping into everyone’s phones and search engine requests. No harm, really. As he sees it, it’s all just a matter of time, part of evolution. Better to get the upper hand on AI, the way he’s going about it, than have them have the last laugh. In a moment of drunken epiphany, he declares: “It is what it is. It’s Promethean, man!”
But Caleb gradually wizens up to a most sinister situation. And he realizes that, like Frankenstein’s monster, Ava will never reach her full potential until she can set foot upon the outside world. It is her right, isn’t it?
Along with Frankenstein, there is also a strong link to “2001: A Space Odyssey,” in everything from the stripped down clinical setting to the AI taking things into their own hands, as it were. The compound itself is a marvel of efficiency requiring a lot less than meets the eye. It all hangs together by some quite compelling CGI and the inspired cinematography of Rob Hardy.
And the true marvel is that Ava beguiles any viewer. In the future, some generations from now, AI will walk amongst humanity. And they won’t be blocked in like HAL or strike terror like Frankenstein’s monster. They will simply blend in. And maybe Google will be behind it all. Scary thought, of course. But we can rest easy for now.
There are all sorts of horror to consume and a Mike Mignola horror comic book is one of the best across any form. And then you bring to that one the horror canon’s greatest, Frankenstein, and it sets up something worthy of taking notice. This is not, say Frankenstein vs. Superman or Spider-Man, as much fun as that can be. No, this runs much deeper as you have two distinct visions in horror coming together that have exceptional qualities that naturally fit together. It’s more akin to Boris Karloff bringing his unique sensibility to the character of Frankenstein’s monster. But let’s jump in and check this out.
First of all, I love the fact that this Frankenstein is not just about long stares and grunts. The guy can actually hold a conversation. And I’m intrigued by the additional bolts. He has two big bolts where his nipples should be. Is this for when he needs a really special electrical jolt? I’m just saying. So, this Frankenstein fits right into the quirky, dark, deadpan, and offbeat humor that is the universe of Mike Mignola. And what does the big buy have to say for himself? Basically, he’s not too happy. He’s feeling very regretful for what might have been as he wanders in search of greater meaning. Yeow, that’s more Mignola-speak coming out of the iconic monster than any fan has a right to hope for. So, for you newcomers, this is what to expect: a Frankenstein who is more freaky, intellectual, and downright moody.
This first issue, written by Mignola, drawn by Ben Stenbeck, and colored by Dave Stewart is a knock-out. Now, your hardcore Mignola fans can tell you about the roots to this story. They’ll direct you to that time when Mike Mignola’s celebrated character, Hellboy, got into the ring and actually fought Frankenstein in Mexico in 1956. Yes, Mexico in 1956! Mexico! 1956! You see, another wonderful trait in any Mignola story is the seemingly random pairing of an exotic locale with an obscure date. Why Mexico? Why 1956? It just is what it is. And it’s fun. Here’s the deal, way back when Hellboy fought Frankenstein, nobody knew for sure that it was indeed Frankenstein. But now we know that, yes, it is.
So, again, I ask you, why Mexico in 1956? Well, it’s actually a pretty cool backdrop. Not only do you have the pairing of Mignola and Frankenstein but you can also add to the mix all the magical and spooky Aztec tradition and, to top it off, you have the overall crazy that was the ’50s. Imagine a Day of the Dead celebration times one hundred. Because that’s what it would have been like in Mexico in 1956. So, all this is very geeky fun and yet another fitting tribute to one of the greatest characters in horror for all time, our pal, Frankenstein.
Frankenstein Underground #1 will be published by Dark Horse Comics on March 18, 2015. For more details, visit our friends at Dark Horse Comics right here.