Wednesday, October 31, 2012

'If I Only Had A Heart'
(si al menos tuviera corazon)
by Eberoni and Frada
from the 'Robot Special' issue of Metal Hurlant Spanish-language edition, 1982

Warped (some might say sick) humor and brilliant artwork suffuse this little look at 'The Wizard of Oz'......with some of the most gruesomely realistic imagery I've ever seen in any incarnation of Heavy Metal / Metal Hurlant.

Just right for Halloween 2012  !

Sunday, October 28, 2012

'Father Shandor, Demon Stalker'
'Spawn from Hell's Pit'
from Warrior No. 1 (UK) March, 1982

'Warrior' was a black-and-white comic book launched in the UK in March, 1982 by publisher Quality Comics. It ran for 26 issues before ceasing publication in January, 1985. 

Among its best-known contributors was Alan Moore, who, with artist David Lloyd, provided 'V for Vendetta', starting in issue 1.

'Warrior' was an anthology comic book, featuring 6 or more stories running in installments with each issue. The contents included superhero, sf, and fantasy tales.

All of the entries in 'Warrior' made up for its lack of color printing via finely detailed pen-and-ink work. As well, the reproduction and printing processes for 'Warrior' were considerably superior to those used by their full-color, American counterparts. 

Among the best strips to run in the early issues of the magazine was 'Father Shandor, Demon Stalker', written by Steve Moore, with outstanding artwork by John Bolton.

Here is the very first 'Father Shandor' tale, 'Spawn from Hell's Pit', from issue No. 1 of 'Warrior'.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

'Homo Detritus' by Caza
from the August, 1981 issue of Heavy Metal

Brilliant artwork, and a good meshing of horror and humor...including booger-flinging !

Caza excels in this strip from 1981.

Monday, October 22, 2012

'The Kiss of Death', featuring Satana
from Vampire Tales (Marvel / Curtis)
No. 3, February, 1974

Never one to shy from exploiting a concept originating from a competing publisher, in the Fall of 1973, Stan Lee introduced Satana, 'The Devil's Daughter', in issue 2 of the Marvel / Curtis black and white comic magazine Vampire Tales

Satana was a rather blatant effort to appeal to the same reader demographic then being captured / massaged by Warren magazine's Vampirella. Indeed, in Satana's second appearance, in issue 3 of Vampire Tales (February 1974), Marvel even employed the skills of artist Esteban Maroto, a regular contributor to the Warren publications.

However derivative a character Satana was, Maroto's artwork holds up very well, nearly 40 years after the fact.


Starting in 2010, Marvel has been reprinting its Vampire Tales issues in paperback format, with three to four issues per volume, and ~ 200 pp per volume. Three volumes have been released to date, available at prices under $10 for good-condition, used, copies.

I haven't purchased any of these, but reviewers at amazon take pains to point out that these are not trade paperbacks in the 'Marvel Essentials' format, but are in fact sized closer to a mass-market paperback. 

I can't see the wisdom of getting excited over such a series, particularly in light of the fact that the various prose and photo essay pieces Marvel used to pad out their magazines' page count also are reproduced.....but then again, good-condition issues of the original Vampire Tales go for a pretty price at eBay. So if you're looking to recapture that 70s 'vampire nostalgia', these digest-size compilations are one way to do it.......

Friday, October 19, 2012

Book Review: 'Breakthrough' by Richard Cowper

1 / 5 Stars

‘Breakthrough’ was first published in 1967 in hardcover; this Ballantine paperback (218 pp.) was issued in July 1969. The oustanding cover illustration is by Steele Savage.

[‘Richard Cowper’ was the pseudonym of the British author John Middleton Murry, Jr.]

It’s the Summer of 1964, and on the campus of Hampton University in England, newly hired English professor Jimmy Haverill befriends a fellow professor, ‘Dumps’ Dumpkenhoffer.

An American, and something of an eccentric, Dumps runs the Parapsychology Research Department, a unit housed in an older building on the campus. Haverill visits the parapsychology laboratory and witnesses students engaged in experiments reminiscent of those conducted by J. B. Rhine at Duke University in the 1940s; i.e., students are asked to guess which of five symbols are printed on the face of 25 playing cards. Correctly guessing the identity of a certain percentage of the cards may be taken as an indicator of some form of ESP.

Only half-serious about the concept, Haverill has a go at the psy ability test, and to Dumps’s astonishment, performs unusually well. Does Haverill have genuine parapsychological powers ? Perhaps – but the plot deepens when an attractive coed, Rachel Bernstein, also displays considerable aptitude at the symbol-guessing test. It appears that there is some sort of ‘psychic’ link between Haverill and Bernstein.

In due course, the two test subjects progress from acquaintances to romantic partners. Along with this progression comes a realization that the two of them are capable of additional psychic powers, including out-of-body experiences, some of which involve mysterious dreamscapes, and the presence of entities from what may be another dimension.

As Rachel Bernstein becomes more engrossed in these strange phenomena, it’s up to Dumps to discover a way to understand the connection between the two worlds, before a psychic implosion threatens Rachel's sanity - and even her life.

‘Breakthrough’ was one of Cowper’s early novels, and as such, it’s unremarkable. It’s really more of a romance novel, than a sf novel.

The narrative moves at a very slow pace, and centers on the emotional interactions of the main characters, rather than the parapsychological phenomena which occupy the backstory.

Cowper devotes most of his narrative to conversational exchanges, which often feature first-person narrator Haverill using words and phrases from British slang that were painfully outdated even at the time of writing. (For example, readers will quickly tire of Haverill’s use of ‘old thing’ as a term of affection for his girlfriend).

These conversational exchanges are reasonably well-written, and signal that in this regard, Cowper is a capable author. But in the absence of a compelling plot, they alone cannot make up for the novel’s shortcomings.

In short, ‘Breakthrough’ is rather a dull and unimaginative novel, and even Cowper completists will find little to engage them here. Better things were to come from this author as his writing career progressed.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

'The Eyes of the Cat'
('Los Ojos del Gato', 'Les Yeux du Chat')
by Jodorowsky and Moebius
from Metal Hurlant No. 1 (Spanish-language version)

To the best of my knowledge, 'The Eyes of the Cat', taken here from the Spanish-language version of Metal Hurlant No. 1 (1981), was never republished in the Leonard Mogel / US version of the magazine. 

It did appear in 1991 in issue No. 4 of the notorious Taboo graphic novel series, and this past August, Humanoids republished the strip in a hardcover edition, in English, available at amazon for $23.00.

'Eyes of the Cat' first appeared in 1978, as a specially-printed hardcover book, distributed as a gift to subscribers and friends and acquaintances of the Metal Hurlant staff.

It's unfortunate it never made it to Heavy Metal, because 'Eyes' is one of the creepiest, as well as brilliant, comics to appear in any edition of Metal Hurlant. 

The dialogue, however scant, neatly matches the narrative, and the passage of each panel - which are presented in a novel, but visually effective, side-by-side format  - lets the story unfold with just the right pacing all the way to its final, disturbing sentence.

All this, and some brilliant pen-and-ink work by Moebius

This comic was miles (light years ?) ahead of anything in the Marvel or Warren catalog of black and white horror comics of the 1970s / 1980s.

[My translation into English is paraphrased and not literal, but hopefully it gets the job done.]

 The Eyes of the Cat

I feel hot....
Finally, a sunbeam !

 Attention, Meduz: go out !
I hear his footsteps

 There he is....

 Very, Meduz !
Descend !

 Bravo, Meduz !
Do not forget to keep my eyes....

 It's marvellous !

I'm playing at seeing....
Next time, bring me the eyes of a child......