Tag Archives: Satan

Review: WINNEBAGO GRAVEYARD #1 (of 4)

WINNEBAGO GRAVEYARD #1 (of 4)

It’s that touch of strange that the best writers and artists tap into that makes all the difference. Writer Steve Niles says that his already odd story took some more twists and turns after he viewed what artist Alison Sampson had done with the first issue of their new limited-run comic book series, WINNEBAGO GRAVEYARD. Soon, you’ll be able to see the results for yourself. This is an advance review so a word to the wise (comic book retailers stock up!) and mark your calendar for this Image Comics release on June 14th.

Isn’t it spooky when you thought you saw something out of the corner of your eye? That particularly creepy feeling, the mixing of the banal with the terrifying, keeps building in this first issue in a most satisfying way. We begin in the small American Southwestern town of Acton, one minute after midnight. There’s an orgy of violence with a Satanic ceremony that climaxes with the emergence of a portly and banal naked man declaring his return from the dead. Who is this portly banal man? All we know is that he stepped right out of the body of one of that night’s victims to sacrifice.

This disturbing uneven feeling of disconnection and terror is quite pleasing, and the credit all goes to the team of writer Steve Niles and artist Alison Sampson. With dynamic and moody colors by Stéphane Paitreau. And lyrically placed lettering by Aditya Bidikar. Our story seamlessly rolls along a nightmarish landscape with characters nearly oblivious to what’s going on. It’s more of that delicious disconnection at play.

Winnebago Graveyard!

For, you see, the Winnebago from this comic’s title symbolizes a slice of normal that gets caught in this big fat wedge of crazy. It’s your all-American family, full of equal amounts of wanderlust and dysfunction, that find themselves way off course, all too close to Satan’s country. But are they aware of what’s going on? Sampson depicts them as utterly disconnected in such a masterful way. After spending a whole day in what amounts to an abandoned amusement park, they seem to be getting a clue that they’re very much out of their element. For now, it all seems like a sleepy nightmare.

I was mesmerized by Sampson’s artwork in GENESIS, a one-shot with Image Comics, and wrote a review of that you can read here. This latest comic lives up to what I expected to see next in her work. This is a smashing first issue. You will also want to check out the two essays at the end of this comic. One is on horror movies set in the American Southwest by Sarah Horrocks and it focuses on the 1987 horror classic, “Near Dark.” The other essay is about Satanism in the real world by Casey Gilly and it focuses on Anton LaVey’s Church of Satan and the potential motivations of its followers.

Both essays are part of a series that will run throughout all four issues. I am so glad to see these essays, which compliment the comic and, in fact, become part of the comic. As I like to point out to my readers, we do not live by comics alone. I make a point of writing about all sorts of things and they usually have a relationship to comics, even a quite meaningful connection, like my in-depth interview with novelist Jerome Charyn. Maybe I do things a little differently here but I’m not changing and I believe my readers appreciate that.

And let’s hold on just a bit. Yes, I would take issue with anyone who thinks a discussion about comics takes place in a vacuum. I don’t think anyone really believes that since, even the most so-called comics purist will veer off being strictly on topic. Life, the culture-at-large, bigger and brighter things, exist out there in the world. So, again, I say that the isolated prose, the two essays, in this comic becomes part of the comic. Gilly, in her essay, even directly refers back to the comic and asks the reader to question what the character Chrissie was really seeing. And Horrocks, in her essay, riffs so smoothly on the desert motif running throughout the comic. What a literate and artful comic! Buy it!

WINNEBAGO GRAVEYARD #1 (Of 4) is published by Image Comics and is available as of June 14, 2017. For more details, visit Image Comics right here.

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Filed under Alison Sampson, Comics, Comics Reviews, Horror, Image Comics, Jerome Charyn, Satan, Steve Niles, Supernatural

Review: ‘Paradise Lost: A Graphic Novel’

“Paradise Lost: A Graphic Novel” by Pablo Auladell

Spanish artist Pablo Auladell battled with demons and angels for some years before he ultimately created a graphic novel based upon the landmark in English lit, John Milton’s “Paradise Lost.” As many a college student will attest, reading this masterpiece can be a bit of slog, but a noble slog. As you immerse yourself in the text, the imagery comes alive. And so this is what happens when a skilled and nimble artist interprets this mighty tome. You get, “Paradise Lost: A Graphic Novel” The new translation by Angela Gurria has just been published by Pegasus Books.

For those familiar as well as new to it, this artful take on Milton’s most famous work is quite satisfying. It’s fascinating to study how Auladell went about interpreting some of the most iconic characters and images of all time. No doubt, it wasn’t easy. As anyone who has ever fancied going about creating their own graphic novel (good luck) and actually followed through, the whole process is quite time-consuming. The level of commitment is very demanding. Auladell is certainly up to the task.

Pages from “Paradise Lost: A Graphic Novel”

The only expectation for the reader is that here is a compelling reimagining of Milton’s epic poem on humanity’s fall from grace. Here is the monumental clash between God and Satan, good and evil, and life and death. For Auladell, he’s accomplished an ambitious work, put his personal stamp upon one of the greatest work of the ages.

Pages from “Paradise Lost: A Graphic Novel”

A work at this level is years in the making. Not days or months but years. There are so many people who wish to create their own graphic novel. But are they really prepared to put in the time required to create something worthwhile? Well, perhaps with the right combination of passion and persistence, each hopeful can achieve their particular dream. One key to all this is pacing one’s self. That’s the big secret. You need to pace yourself. Auladell did exactly that. He embarked upon one phase of the book and then another with no guarantee of a final result other than what pure persistence might promise. One creates hooks for one’s self. For example, Auladell chose to place a jaunty hat upon Satan’s head. That’s a hook that helps to inspire him to draw a legion of demons flying up ahead and so on down the line.

Page excerpt from “Paradise Lost: A Graphic Novel”

So this book is as much as study on the work itself as a study on the progress of creating such a work. As Auladell states in his introduction, he is self-conscious of how the work developed in stages. But to the reader, it will read as a smooth narrative due to an overall consistent quality. In Auladell’s case, he has already set the bar high so we are going from excellent work to even greater work.

“Paradise Lost: A Graphic Novel” is a 320-page hardcover available as of April 4, 2017. For more details, visit Pegasus Books right here.

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Filed under Art, Art books, Comics, Devil, God, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, Pegasus Books, Satan, Spain

Book Review: ‘Disappearance at Devil’s Rock: A Novel’ by Paul Tremblay

"Disappearance at Devil's Rock" by Paul Tremblay

“Disappearance at Devil’s Rock” by Paul Tremblay

Paul Tremblay’s latest novel, “Disappearance at Devil’s Rock,” rings true with elements of a boy’s adventure tale mixed with a crime mystery that takes one devilish turn after another. Gradually, the heat is turned up and, like any good work of horror, you get hooked. Taking a different approach from Tremblay’s 2015 novel, “A Head Full of Ghosts,” this new novel does not go in spooky right away.

This is a tale of a boy gone missing. Tommy is a well-liked teenager, with swagger and good looks, but he normally keeps a low profile. He has two best friends in all the world, Josh and Luis, and he treats them rather shabbily. Boys will be boys. What becomes apparent is that Tommy is a complicated kid. There is something strange and sad about him.

The dynamic between the three boys shifts when Arnold, a young man of indeterminate age, ingratiates himself into the trio. Arnold reveals he has psychic powers. This leads Tommy to open up about his struggle with dealing with his father’s death. Luis senses something not quite right about Arnold. Our story begins with the disappearance of Tommy at Split Rock, known to the locals as “Devil’s Rock.” From there, the narrative alternates between the search for Tommy and moments in the past that indicate Tommy was not as strong as he thought and quite vulnerable to the Devil’s charms.

Favoring an enigmatic route, Tremblay invests a good amount of time in developing the characters closest to Tommy like his mother and sister. Some of the strongest scenes involve them trying to make sense of what’s happened. It’s like the foreboding flashbacks belong to the males and the present problem-solving belongs to the females. In both cases, the Devil is not far behind. As is made clear in a folktale that Arnold recites, the Devil has a funny way of making his presence known. You will sense him but not exactly see him, only for a glimmer in the corner of your eye.

“Disappearance at Devil’s Rock,” is a 336-page hardcover published by William Morrow, an imprint of Harper Collins and available as of June 21st. For more details, visit Harper Collins right here.

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Filed under Book Reviews, Books, Harper Collins, Horror, Paul Tremblay, Satan

Review: ‘The Case Against Satan’ by Ray Russell

Ray Russell illustration by Henry Chamberlain

Ray Russell illustration by Henry Chamberlain

When you write a story about the Devil, you are in some sense, summoning him. You cannot take that lightly for one very good reason: if you don’t take it seriously, you will amount with less than a gripping story. Ray Russell knew not to disturb Satan for no good reason. Russell was, by extension, part of the original Southern California Writers Group of the Sixties. This was “The Group,” the guys who went on to do such amazing things as write for the original Twilight Zone. Ray was not so much a regular at gatherings but he knew the art of writing as well as the best of them. He published the best of them as the fiction editor at Playboy, no less. And his own writing rose to the occasion too. One shining example of this is his 1962 novel, “The Case Against Satan.”

The early Sixties were dripping with modern cool with trailblazers bursting upon all the arts. In writing, one fertile ground was pushing the limits of gothic and dark fantasy. It is in “The Case Against Satan” that Russell broke new ground and created the contemporary demon possession story. It is more than fair to say that it was the precursor to William Peter Blatty’s 1971 novel, “The Exorcist.” And, most assuredly, it is a novel still every bit as chilling today, oddly enhanced by its vintage. Certain modes of communication, like social media, just weren’t available to our characters in 1962 while others were more commonly relied upon, like a simple pamphlet, printed by the local zealot, and circulated amongst the neighborhood.

Ray Russell Case Against Satan

This is a story that depends a lot upon communication. Susan, a pretty sixteen-year-old, will prove a most enigmatic figure who may, or may not, be possessed by Lucifer himself. Her every word seems to harbor a double meaning. And, as we progress, all depends upon what is true and what is false. This is also a philosophical story as Susan will bring two men with very differing views together to help save her soul. The argument between them is one of faith. Can you only believe what you choose to believe or, when push comes to shove, must you give yourself completely over? The question is whether Satan actually exists. Sure, God is relatively easy to believe in. But, if there is a God, is there not a Satan?

Russell is more than just a master of the horror genre. You could say that simply writing horror is only the first step. In order for it to matter, the writer has to take on his own leap of faith. The writer has to have skin in the game, so to speak. Well, Russell is, without a doubt, a writer willing to give his skin, and heart, over to what he did. He has a way of drawing you in completely too. You arrive closer and closer to the bogeyman to find yourself butting right up against him and then you may gasp, or you may be in awe, as to how you got there. Russell does not hammer away. He may mention something only once but that one time will suffice. You cannot help but bookmark it and eagerly anticipate a return.

Much in line with the trim and fast-paced novels of the era, like Robert Bloch’s 1959 novel, “Psycho,” this is story that is very focused, very much a page-turner, with an eerie elegance running throughout. It breaks my heart to think that this was never turned into a major motion picture. With some adjustments, it could still be made as an updated version. Or, better yet, you could remain close to the spooky cool of the original.

Perhaps it might do well to adapt this story into a play. “Doubt” comes to mind. For this is very much a story about overcoming one’s doubt. It is, in large part, a story about Gregory, a priest in crisis, at a crossroads in early middle age. And his counterpart, mentor, and friend, is a visiting bishop. In fact, the meeting between them was to be fleeting at best. However, circumstances would dictate otherwise. Above all else, Russell masterfully balances the inner and outer turmoil of these two, among a cast of other characters emerging from varied backgrounds, all brought together by a demon possession, that may or may not be true.

“The Case Against Satan” is a 160-page paperback published by Penguin Random House. For more information, and to purchase, visit our friends at Penguin Random House right here.

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Filed under Book Reviews, Books, Penguin Random House, Playboy, Ray Russell, Satan, Southern California Writers Group, The Twilight Zone

Easter Review: ‘God Is Disappointed in You’ by Mark Russell and Shannon Wheeler

God-Jesus-Easter-Bible-Shannon-Wheeler

Can you take a joke? That is a good question. Well, what if a few jokes do some good? What if they actually educate you about the Bible?

Anytime is a good time to brush up on The Holy Bible. Today seems like an especially good day. And what better way than through the irreverent, and informative, “God Is Disappointed In You,” the hilarious guide to the holy tome, published by Top Shelf Productions.

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Filed under Comics, Comics Reviews, Reviews, Shannon Wheeler, Top Shelf Productions

Interview: Cast from Adult Swim’s YOUR PRETTY FACE IS GOING TO HELL

Your-Pretty-Face-Is-Going-To-Hell-2013

YOUR PRETTY FACE IS GOING TO HELL is faster and funnier than your average comedy show. It’s whipsmart, which is a good thing considering this show’s setting. There’s whips, there’s chains, all manner of fire and brimstone but, when you really come down to it, isn’t it always about the characters? That’s what I came away with after a brief chat with the cast from this hilarious new show on Adult Swim, Thursdays, at midnight.

Matt Servitto, as Satan

Matt Servitto, as Satan

First up, is Matt Servitto, who is a seasoned actor with an impressive resume. He is known for his work on THE SOPRANOS as well as a variety of other shows. He was recently in PRICE CHECK, with Parker Posey, and that is a must-see and available now on DVD. In YOUR PRETTY FACE IS GOING TO HELL, Matt plays a high profile character, the big guy himself, Satan. For inspiration, Matt turned to Ed Asner’s character, Lou Grant, on THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW. You might wonder about that. There are a number of impressions of Lou you can come away with but, at his core, he was always short tempered, a bit erratic, and not someone you wanted to displease. “If you think back, that guy could be crazy. You felt sorry for Mary whenever she was called into his office.”

Henry Zebrowski, as Gary

Henry Zebrowski, as Gary

Next, we have Henry Zebrowski, who plays Gary on the show. He’s shuffling along as a good worker demon but his heart isn’t in it. Henry likens the sharp-witted humor on PRETTY FACE to sharking around a pizza at a party and grabbing a slice before they’re all gone. His quick reflexes landed him a role in the upcoming Martin Scorsese film, THE WOLF OF WALL STREET. Henry let us in on a different aspect to the movie that audiences may not be expecting. “This one is going to be bloody. It’s going to be the next SCARFACE.” Well, that’s Henry’s interpretation so take it with a full grain of salt.

Craig Rowin, as Claude

Craig Rowin, as Claude

Craig Rowin rounds out the cast as the conniving intern who is adapting quite well to literally working in corporate hell. Being in hell doesn’t seem to phase him and he looks like he’s going to thrive while his supervisor, Gary, is only going to flounder. Both Craig and Henry come from working on the sketch comedy show, COLLEGE HUMOR ORIGINALS, and, as the title implies, they have both earned their stripes. When I asked Craig if he could define comedy for us, he had a very good answer related to what makes PRETTY FACE work. “You’re working off a baseline of insanity. It’s absurd humor playing off reality.”

Henry jumped in to agree with his fellow comedian. “It’s all about that 9 to 5 office job. You might be working with some of the saddest cases. It’s about that unreal office world.” And that’s good comedy for you, keeping it real in the unreal. Even though this show is set in hell, don’t these office workers bleed if they are papercut? You bet they do. They cry sometimes too. And, since it’s that kind of show, they even explode into tiny little bits. It’s all possible coming from the creators of the show, Dave Willis and Chris Kelly, both steeped in Cartoon Network writing experience, including AQUA TEAM HUNGER FORCE. As Craig points out, it’s that background that gives the show its animated zip even though it’s a live action show.

It was at this point in the interview that things took a sudden ugly turn. Henry got a little too excited and called Craig, “A tiny-eyed rat-faced boy.” While a seemingly random swipe at Craig, he took it well and considered it a compliment of sorts. All three actors agreed that this moment of potential danger was all in good fun. Just the right note to end this interview on.

Catch YOUR PRETTY FACE IS GOING TO HELL, Thursdays at midnight, on Adult Swim.

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Filed under Adult Swim, Cartoon Network, Comedy, Humor