Imagine an outrageous story, on par with Quentin Tarantino at his best, about an African-American seeking revenge over racists who have murdered his loved ones. Then imagine it created by some of the best talent in comics: Sam Glanzman and Joe R. Lansdale. That is what you get with RED RANGE, published in 1999 by Mojo Press. Unfortunately, Mojo went out of business that same year, and the book has been out of print ever since. Enter comics authority Drew Ford, responsible for bringing back to life a number of lost comics gems. His plan is to reissue the original RED RANGE in color. This is part of Drew Ford’s new publishing imprint, IT’S ALIVE!
Drew Ford has worked closely with both Sam Glanzman and Joe R. Lansdale to put some of their more important out-of-print works back on the shelves. For Glanzman, Ford put together the A SAILOR’S STORY collection, the U.S.S. STEVENS collection, and the ATTU collection. For Lansdale, Ford resurrected his first award-winning short story collection, BY BIZARRE HANDS.
So, it’s down to basic facts: books like these can remain lost to the general public or they can find a new home and new readers. Lend your support to the Kickstarter campaign to bring back RED RANGE, running until June 25th, right here.
William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson. Art: Henry Chamberlain
William F. Nolan is a writer with a brilliant career. Stephen King has acknowledged Mr. Nolan as “an expert in the art and science of scaring the hell out of people,” and Ray Bradbury has spoken of Mr. Nolan’s ability “to create an atmosphere of ultimate terror.” Crafting an interview with him can take a variety of directions. You could focus on race car driving, movies, television, horror, or science fiction. I chose to talk about genre fiction, specifically the pulp era, as Mr. Nolan is an authority on that subject. And, of course, we made our way to the biggest title that Mr. Nolan is attached to, Logan’s Run. He co-wrote, with George Clayton Johnson, the original novel and has gone on to write further Logan’s Run novels as well as the pilot episode to the television series.
Imagine yourself a young person with big plans to embark on a career in writing. It’s the 1950s. You’ve made it out to Los Angeles. You grew up reading pulp fiction. You adore it. Max Brand Westerns are the best! But you also love hard-boiled detective stories. Who better than Dashiell Hammett to deliver on that score, right? And then there’s science fiction. If only you might meet up with your hero, Ray Bradbury. Wouldn’t that be the tops? Sure enough, you meet Ray Bradbury. Not only that, Mr. Bradbury takes you under his wing and helps set your writing career on a high-flying course. That would be your first published story, “The Joy of Living”, in If magazine in 1954. Welcome to the life of William F. Nolan.
We focus on three major writers and, in turn, see how Nolan learned from them, adopted their techniques and tenacity, to become a professional writer in his own right. We talk about Ray Bradbury and his penchant to pay it forward with other writers. “We all support each other,” Nolan says. We talk about Frederick Faust, known as “Max Brand,” among other pseudonyms, and his uneasy relationship with fame. As for Faust’s all-time famous title, “Destry Rides Again,” it paled in comparison to his devotion to writing poetry, which never sold. It’s a similar case with Dashiell Hammett. Despite his wildly popular “Thin Man” stories, he wasn’t satisfied and had hoped to develop writing beyond his genre, but never did. Oddly enough, despite any reservations from Faust or Hammett, all three of these writers are held in high regard. But only Bradbury was to live to see and appreciate his place in fiction as well as his notoriety.
It’s a perplexing predicament to be, or aspire to be, a writer. “The problem is that most students of writing are lazy,” Nolan points out. “They want to become Stephen King over the weekend. Well, you can’t become Stephen King over the weekend. Stephen King couldn’t do that. People have some idea that he’s always had it easy and been rich. But, no, he spent ten years writing and struggling before ‘Carrie’ came along and made him a tidy sum of money.” And far be it for a writer to always be the best judge of his own work. As the story goes, King threw away the manuscript to “Carrie” in a fit of frustration. He tossed it into a waste basket only to have his wife fish it out and persuade him to send it to his agent. Good thing he did just that.
“Writing is like a roller coaster,” Nolan says. But he is also inspired to share the fact that hard work will pay off. What best illustrates this is just talking shop with him. For example, you get great insight exploring the work that Nolan has done with George Clayton Johnson. Among the dozen or so writers that Nolan has worked with, it is with Johnson that he wrote his first teleplay and, years later, his first novel. It was to be firsts for both of them. In 1959, Nolan and Johnson wrote their first teleplay, “Dreamflight,” for “The Twilight Zone.” It was never produced. Thanks to the jet age, the show found itself with one too many airplane-related stories. It’s since been printed in the anthology, “Forgotten Gems.” And it is a gem, a modern day take on Sleeping Beauty.
In the intervening years, Nolan and Johnson would continue to grow as writers, in no small measure due to the collaborative process they developed as part of what became known as The Southern California Writers Group. And so they did work together again, including two unproduced “Star Trek” teleplays, finally leading up to one of the best collaborations ever, the original “Logan’s Run” novel.
As we closed out our interview, I asked about upcoming projects and William F. Nolan is, at 87 this March, as busy as ever. On his list of top priority items, he included his longtime friend and collaborator, writer/artist/filmmaker Jason V. Brock, who is set to work with Nolan on a new Logan’s Run novel that will deconstruct what has come before and is entitled, “Logan’s Fall.” Also on the list: “Images in Black,” an edited collection of Ray Bradbury stories with an African-American theme; “A Man Called Dash,” a definitive biography of Dashiell Hammett; “Soul Trips,” a collection of Nolan poetry; and a Nolan horror collection for the series, “Masters of the Weird Tale,” to be published by Centipede Press.
Just click below to listen to the podcast interview. Enjoy:
Cover art by Borja “Borch” Pena; Title Design by Adam Pruett
The great Western writer Max Brand had one of his characters say, “Words is worse’n bullets. You never know what they’ll hit.” That holds doubly true when you’ve got words and pictures telling your story. “Tall Tales from the Badlands #3″ explores the lore of the Wild West in this latest comics anthology published by Black Jack Press.
The stories are written by Mark Wheaton (Dark Horse Comics, horror novelist and screenwriter of “Friday the 13th” and “The Messengers”) Robert Napton (Dynamite, Top Cow), Matt Dembicki (Oni Press, Editor of the Eisner nominated “Trickster”) and Sean Fahey (Digital Webbing Presents, GrayHaven Comics, 215ink, Soaring Penguin Press, DC Comics). There is also have a great collection of artists on this book: Jerry Decaire (Marvel, Moonstone), John Fortune (Blue Water Comics), Ruben Rojas, Franco Cespedes and Ezequiel Rosingana (Blue Water Comics, Soaring Penguin Press). There are five stories collected here. Lettering throughout the book is done by Kel Nuttall, which enhances the book’s beautifully consistent look.
“The Judgment of the People” by Mark Wheaton and Jerry Decaire
“The Judgment of the People,” script by Mark Wheaton, art by Jerry Decaire, is a satisfying and spooky tale about justice gained by whatever means necessary. Wonderful pacing. Great build-up. The character of the malicious judge is perfect in his swine-like depiction.
“Apologies” by Sean Fahey and John Fortune
“Apologies,” script by Sean Fahey, art by John Fortune, packs a real punch with a story about a family in dire straits. There’s a delicious tension throughout as we see what looks like an ideal family on a downward spiral.
“Rustlers” by Robert Napton and Franco Cespedes
“Rustlers,” script by Robert Napton, art by Franco Cespedes, is a total knock out. The scope of this comic is very ambitious and lives up to its promising opening panel. With exquisite timing, you get a first-rate train robbing caper. And a fun surprise ending.
“All Mine” by Matt Dembicki and Ezequiel Rosingana
“All Mine,” script by Matt Dembicki, art by Ezequiel Rosingana, will bring to mind the feverish mania in the movie classic, “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.” Except, this time around, the crazed searching for riches leads to a supernatural connection. Wonderfully concise. Within the span of a few panels, you appreciate a bigger story being suggested and you care about the two main characters.
“Where The Heart Is” by Sean Fahey and Ruben Rojas
“Where the Heart Is,” script by Sean Fahey, art by Ruben Rojas, takes the cake with a really inventive twist on what happens when a homesteader family develops cold feet about living in the wilderness.
“Tall Tales from the Badlands #3” is one of the smoothest comics anthologies I’ve read. It is distinctive in how well it keeps to its thematic vision. It is quite a polished and professional book. Also included is a set of fun pin-up art by Mauro Reifschneider, Crash Landen, and Adrian Bago Gonzalez. This is a 52-page comic priced at only $3.99 for print and $1.99 for digital.
We are assured that capitalism will always survive because humans are never satisfied with the status quo and must push forward to whatever and wherever their “enterprising” minds take them. In the new sic-fi comic, “Drifter,” we see what some of these minds have wrought in a distant future both bleak and dangerous. Of sure, the environment, from one planet to the next, was the first to be compromised for these human settlers from the future. Is it a curse to be human? Our main character, Abram Pollux, stumbles upon the scene, barely surviving a crash landing to the lawless backwater world of Ouro. His first action is to kill a native point blank. Not off to a good start.
“SHERWOOD, TX,” is a comic high on quirk and action, part of an intriguing line up of hard boiled and gritty titles from 12 Gauge Comics. The premise gets right to the point early on: Imagine if we had contemporary versions of Robin Hood and his merry men and they were a biker gang at war with Prince John (now John Prince) and his biker gang. The Nobles are going to have hell to pay for what they have done to Rob Hood and the Jesters! And the crooked sheriff of the City of Nottingham isn’t going to slip away either!
“Pretty Deadly,” a new series published by Image Comics, is written by Kelly Sue DeConnick, who has a flair for the dramatic and the poetic. Emma Rios is the artist and she’s right in step with this refreshingly offbeat Western. Colors by Jordie Bellaire give us a good spooky mood. Letters by Clayton Cowles add to that mood. And Sigrid Ellis provides the edits. All in all, a very well put together comic about Death out to exact justice through various methods. It might, for a moment, sound like “East of West” but, no, it’s out there dancing to its own beat.
Jonathan Hickman has a need to juggle many balls in the air. It is a dazzling thing to behold going back to “Transhumans,” “S.H.I.E.L.D.,” as far as it got, “The Manhattan Projects” and, of course, his run on “Fantastic Four” at Marvel Comics. With “East of West,” for Image Comics, he unites with his “FF” artist, Nick Dragotta, and gives us quite a show.
So far in the story, we are in for a dystopian treat with an alternate America cut up like a wedding cake. One big hunk goes to Texas, just because. The North and South get their shares, this being the only way to resolve the Civil War. The cajuns get a bigger slice than they already had. The Indian Nations get a piece big enough to settle many scores. The Chinese end up with a big hunk. And there’s a spot in the epicenter, perhaps a demilitarized zone. Well, that’s where the comet crashed, right in the middle of the North American continent during the American Civil War, but more on that later.
This scenario alone would be plenty to work with for any story. But, no, Hickman throws in the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse! Now we’re cookin’! They’re really what “East of West” is about after all. Nothing is going to result in a world, as we know it, in this story and that could be a good thing–but probably not. Getting back to that comet. It was pretty hefty. It was such a game changer it ended the Civil War and brought about the creation of the Seven Nations of America. Will we learn more about this comet? Is there more to this–like more of Earth beyond this new America? Hmm, lots of balls in the air which is good insofar as adding texture and probably a whole lot more. So, yeah, whether Hickman ever gets back to explaining any of this comet blast stuff or not, that’s our starting point and then we fast forward the clock to the year 2064 and we see that, while peace may have broken out after the comet blast, it has eroded back to civil war. Conquest, War, and Famine have returned in the form of children and with a no-show, Death. The Three Horsemen, as it were, are ready to bring on the Apocalypse but where’s Death?
Through the years, legend has spread about an answer to the world’s ills in the form of The Message. Those who have read it, know what to do. Death has read The Message and appears to be on a killing spree involving The Chosen and world leaders. Death begins by making short work of the President of the North. He keeps killing down the chain of command until he settles on the Secretary of the Interior. This choice fits in with his plans which turn out to be more than mere killing. He’s setting up a whole new world leadership. However, Conquest, War, and Famine have other plans, like finding Death, for starters. Maybe his “wife” can help? That’s where we come in with this third issue.
While Hickman follows comic book tropes pretty faithfully, as in ending with a surprise, his surprises are all the more surprising, you know, given his skill to spin a tale. For Issue Three, he has us get to know this mystery woman in Death’s life. Could she really be his wife? We learn that she’s the daughter of the Chinese leader and that would put her father right in Death’s crosshairs. Of course, Death don’t need no stinkin’ crosshairs, but you know what I mean. Anyway, this issue is another killer in visuals. Nick Dragotta does a beautiful job of brining to life the mystery lady. Lush color by Frank Martin. And spot on lettering by Rus Wooton, too. All shout outs here essential.
The woman in question is young and brash, excels at martial arts, is something of a mystic, enjoys walks on the beach, and wishes to be left the hell alone. Her name is Xiaolian. Can you see Death dating her? One thing is for sure, Death, like taxes, is a certain thing. Death means business and it doesn’t look like an intriguing young woman is going to hold much, if any, sway in his decision-making. However, and there are always “howevers” to deal with, maybe love will find a way. As kooky as it sounds, yeah, maybe love will find a way. That’s what Death’s entourage, made up of two ethereal and spooky characters, known as Crow and Wolf, think. Yeah, Crow and Wolf believe in love! It’s a testament to confident storytelling to take this detour, by gum! And, we all know there’s more going on.
Some comic books are just barely holding up a plot while others stand out as something special. “East of West” aspires to be the next big thing and so far so good. The story has plenty of leg room and could go in all sorts of directions. There’s a lot of thought put into this and could easily be developed into a prose book or series of books. Of course, comic book investors hope to see this become the next “Walking Dead.” For now, appreciate the comic because the comic alone could indeed keep growing and exceed anyone’s wildest dreams.
“East of West #3” is currently available and Issue Four is on sale as of July 10. Visit our friends at Image Comics.
Sarah Palin? Are you around to help? Tarnation! The whole country has bust a nut in this Zombie Western graphic novel. But, don’t you worry, it’s the latter 1800’s and, nope, dinosaurs weren’t roaming the Earth. It’s the time of, well, think of John Wayne, yeah that time, the time of the Westerns. Maybe your great-great-grandma could help. We shall see. We shall all see in, “ROTTEN VOLUME TWO: REVIVAL OF THE FITTEST.”
The U.S. presidential election of 1876 was supposed to be both a celebration of the one hundredth anniversary of the United States of America and a time to move forward. Instead, the hotly contested election threw the country into a panic and nearly caused a second American Civil War. Rutherford B. Hayes was chosen to become president in a backroom deal. Samuel Tilden, who won a clear majority of the popular vote, was shut out. Mark Rahner and Robert Horton take that rather acrid period in American history and propose that a sickness took root in the young and struggling country that spawned a series of outbreaks of the living dead. The latest collection of their zombie comic book, “Rotten” lays out in gorey detail just what happens when the zombies come marching home.
“Rotten Volume Two: Revival of the Fittest” draws us closer to these creatures. Apparently, there are a variety of species, with each new discovery seeming to be more fierce than the last. Back then, they were to be known as “revenants.” That’s the best name that Agent J.J. Flynn can come up with, something taken from the Bible. Not to say that he’s anywhere near religious himself. He’s more the pragmatist, much like his partner, William Wade. Funny thing is, that old time religion keeps finding its way into this story. With one “revenant” outbreak after another, there’s always a charlatan ready to exploit the situation in the name of God like a Bill O’Reilly-type character or a Glenn Beck-type character. The first leads a charge against Charles Darwin. The second, the Glenn Beck-like one, gets the spotlight as a dim witted yet conniving con artist leading a town down a road to hell.
Much of the appeal of “Rotten” is how it has managed to construct a perfect backdrop for total mayhem. It doesn’t take itself too seriously either. There’s the political satire but it strikes like a cobra, it doesn’t whine. Then there’s the sheer majesty of zombies let loose on the Wild West. You’ve got the two agents, serving under orders from the President of the United States, Flynn and Wade, and it’s up to them to make sense of what’s going on and take out as many zombies while they’re at it. Flynn, the guy with the cool eye specs, does most of the research. Wade, the guy with the mile wide grimace, does most of the ass kicking.
It’s great to see these two characters develop over the course of this book. Flynn is the intellectual. He is certainly capable of doing battle with zombies but he’s even better at a battle of wits. He spends a good chunk of time in conversation with Charles Darwin and his colleagues debating the possibility of the living dead. He also makes a lady friend, the owner of a rather curious Chicago restaurant that specializes in a most robust and unique sausage. Wade, on the other hand, is a lit fuse ready to blow. He could battle zombies in his sleep. And he’s doing a lot of that in the Pacific Northwest, where new zombie outbreaks have his hands full. But he too, has some time for pleasure. There’s a hint that he may get a chance once more to pursue the beautiful wife of the owner of the notorious Hep (Can you say, Halliburton?) Industries. Oh, but wait, Flynn’s lady friend, Minnie, was an old flame of Wade’s. Hmm, that complicates things.
There are a number of awesome scenes in this book, much to the credit of the book’s artist, Dan Dougherty. They will take your breath away. Let me share the one extended scene that I can come back to over and over and that I want to see in a “Rotten” movie. That’s the scene where Wade has a whole town’s worth of zombie mob crazy after him. These things can really haul ass. And they’re as determined as pit bulls. We see Wade high tail it into the woods, into the fields, down a log chute, into a stream, and those things are still after him! Finally, out of nowhere, a grizzly bear appears roaring his head off and charging after Wade. With one last forceful push, Wade gets a hook into a tree with one of his trusty zombie spikes and climbs his way to safety. The grizzly tears into the zombies. And then the zombies tear into the grizzly bear. Yes, total mayhem ensues as only “Rotten” can provide.
Dan Dougherty is a master illustrator. He creates endless variations of zombies, a multitude of facial expressions, an amazing array of anatomical contortions. This is some of the most inventive stuff going on today in horror and in comics in general. When was the last time you saw a zombie dislocate a horse’s jaw? Right. That’s just one fine reason to pick up this book. You want to read the story that goes along with that zombie dislocating that horse’s jaw.
I’ve been keeping up with “Rotten” from the very beginning and I am confident that we can expect more awesome zombie goodness ahead. The book leaves us with some tantalizing loose ends. For one thing, there’s this strange albino bounty hunter type who is in closely following what the agents are up to. In fact, he is following way too close. And then there’s that restaurant back in Chicago. There’s something really wrong with that meat. It’s no spoiler to tell you this but THAT’S ZOMBIE MEAT! What the consequences are for Flynn, who ate quite of bit of that special sausage, are up for grabs. So, for now, grab yourself a copy of this latest collection. It will definitely satisfy and leave you wanting more, although it may put you off from eating sausage, at least for little while. If you read “Rotten,” then you probably like sausage too much to give up. Anyway, I digress. The book collects all the recent issues of “Rotten,” from number 7 thru 11. The last two issues are new, never before published material. It is 156 pages. Find it at your local comics shop for $15.99 or go check in on Mr. Rahner’s site for more details on where you can get your hands on “Rotten.”