Comics Picks of the Week of 27 March 2013

My impoverished ass doesn't buy many comics these days. In fact it has a small folder bursting (well--not bursting as much as mildly swelling) with comics from the past few weeks at the comic book store because I am poor for I am a river to my people--my people being the student loan bastards and also the credit card lords. Ah, the glorious life of an adjunct.

I figure I might let you all know what I plan to buy each week, which isn't much, and is almost exclusively from Image Comics these days as I'm so fucking sick of most superhero books, which is 95% of Marvel and DC.

Why might you want to know what I'm going to buy? Because maybe you're sick of Marvel and DC and want to try something new and you know I have impeccably peculiar tastes that match your own.

Since I only buy about eight comics a month, this is a fairly typical week.

DIA DE LOS MUERTOS #2 (OF 3) - 4.99 -- I like Rossmo's art and found the final story, about a mariachi who lost his love, in the first issue to be beautiful and heart-rending. Rossmo is so damn prolific and his style(s) work with a lot of writers' stories and this series is written by some of Image's best current writers!

 

PLANETOID #5 - 2.99 - Holy shit! It's been since maybe November since the fourth issue came out! I didn't find the first two issues super-engaging, but by the third issue I was hooked and wanted more and more. It was getting better and better like some intensely intimate and playful mind-blowing sex... and then...nothing! Hopefully the wait will have been worth it.

Honorable Mentions or  Stuff I Might Buy if I Could Afford It:

DOOM 2099 COMPLETE COLLECTION BY WARREN

ELLIS TP - 39.99 - Warren Ellis and Doom. 'nuff said.

LEGEND OF LUTHER STRODE #4 (OF 6) - 3.50 - I've heard good things about Mr. Strode

 

 

 

What Do You Think of Spider-Man?

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Growing up, it always drove me crazy that the Marvel Comics heroes would stay in costume while partying or hanging out by the pool. It made no sense to me that they wouldn't wear civilian clothes while off duty.*

As I got older and became more interested in character than in punching, I looked on these off duty scenes as a great opportunity to develop the characters. Alas, the heroes either talked about work** or something relatively neutral. I suspect that the writers feared that too much human interaction might turn off their action-oriented readers.

But juicy conversation topics are a great way to reveal personality traits and round out a character. Ultimately, a character's quirks make you care more about her/him. And nothing says more about a person than the way s/he talks about you behind your back.

These are the kinds of scenes that I'd like to see more of, and I suspect that having them would make superhero comics more accessible.***

* Obviously, it's harder for readers to recognize (and for Marvel to trademark) a guy in his civvies. ** "Work" being defined as "whom they are currently punching." *** There are lots of great character-driven comics; but most of them are not in the superhero genre.

All characters appearing in the above comic are (C) and TM Marvel Comics.

:01 First Second Books

There are times I feel the graphic novel publishing company First Second is the savior of the comic book medium. They produce high quality publications of comics in book form (in my mind a minor distinction from "graphic novels" which tend to be taller (as distinct from larger) imitating the traditional comic book height and often are simply collections of works originally printed in single issue form), using glossy paper and strong coloring to support, usually, very good writing--award winning, in fact--in dimensions that fit on bookstore shelves. While I obviously haven't read everything, they seem to avoid the superhero genre while spanning various age groups in terms intended audiences, although I would say young adult is their primary market. My only complaint, and reason I'm not fully convinced that they represent the future of comics, is that I often feel the stories are shorter than they should be. My purpose to bringing up the company is to alert people of :01's work, which they might enjoy, and to show comic fans of the possibilities of new ideas. The comic world often is its own worst enemy refusing to adapt to and grow with changing times and ideas. I'm constantly trying to have discussions with fans and insiders about potentials only to be shouted down with no!, we can't do that, it's not the same, etc. Fans seem more interested in sticking to their opinions and watching the medium they love disappear than being open to new possibilities. Is :01 the model for the future of comic publishing? I don't know. But, as someone who loves and creates comics, I'm willing to consider it, to examine what may or may not work, to learn from it, which, unfortunately, far too many others refuse to.

Comics are Dead #3

Comics are DeadClick to enlarge.

Comics is a static medium. That means they don't move. And yet everyone wants them to move. That's why the more popular ones wind up in other media; because the real money lies in motion (cartoons, live action movies, and video games).

But the challenge of working in the comics medium is finding a way to overcome the reader's natural tendency to see static images as unmoving.  Through panels and pacing, the artist's goal is to pull the reader's eyes across the page and create the illusion of movement and the passage of time.

Although simple, the comic above "moves":  it takes you a few seconds to read the dialogue (so it takes place in time); and there is a change in the characters' positions between panel one and panel two (a motion you understand). Thus, a static image (two really) becomes a silly conversation between characters in the reader's experience.

That's the idea anyway. It's not always successful. But it's a completely different mindset from moving media.

Comics are Dead #2

Comics are DeadClick to enlarge.

No, really, really fast. Like lightning fast.

Now you know why I didn't go into marketing.

Comics are Dead, but comic-related merchandising is alive and well. T-Shirts, underoos, Halloween costumes, lunchboxes, you name it---they are all cheap to produce, and they bring in the cash. So while the Spider-Man comic is a dog, the Spider-Man brand is highly lucrative. And three multi-million dollar movies have only made it more popular.

One of the reasons that superheroes dominate the comic market is that they are easily recognizable---they come with their own logo and colors, just like any other corporate brand (think Joe Camel and Ronald McDonald). Marvel and DC are less interested in creating great graphic fiction than they are in protecting, promoting, and licensing their IP (intellectual property).

So while wifey has worn her Green Lantern t-shirt many times, she doesn't know her Guy Gardner from her Kilowog. And you didn't get that joke, because you don't read comics either.

Comics are Dead

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For people who don't regularly read comics, this comic may seem strange. Millions of people have seen the Spider-Man movies. But the Spider-Man comic book itself sells in the tens of thousands. Comics are a dying industry.

Comic books were once hugely popular, selling in the millions. Of course, this was the 1930s; and a lot of things have changed since then. On the plus side, there are more sophisticated comics today than ever before (some people call them "graphic novels" to make them sound more grown up).  But the comic industry itself is catering to a smaller and smaller market of superhero fans who seem mired in nostalgia and unwilling to change or expand their reading habits.

Outsiders still think of comics as something for children, but unfortunately, most comics are aimed at white men in their 40s and 50s. There are few avenues for children (or women or people of color) to get into comics; and Marvel and DC (the 2 largest producers of comics) seem disinterested in tapping into those markets. And so, the comic readership is dying off---aided by the development of new media. Who wants to buy a comic when you can see the movie or download an animated version?

While the comic industry may be limping along, I think comics as a medium is still a vibrant one. The art of combining words and pictures has been around since we invented words and pictures. And it'll be around long after Marvel and DC are long gone.

Which is to say, I'll keep creating comics---even though no one reads them...

Great Moments in Comic Book History: Alpha Flight #12

There’s no shortage of Great Moments in Comic Book History. There’s the death of Uncle Ben, the death of Gwen Stacy, the death of Dark Phoenix, the death of Superman (for some reason the “great moments” often involve death). But for me, the truly great moments were the quieter ones, the ones that made me really understand a character, introduced me to a new idea, or made me question my assumptions. Published in July 1984, Alpha Flight #12 by John Byrne has such a moment.

Alpha Flight (1983) #12

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Now if you thought that Alpha Flight #12 was important because it includes the SPOILER ALERT death of Guardian, you might be forgiven.

Parenthetically, Alpha Flight #12 might informally be called “the origin of the Spoiler Alert” as the inadvertent or clumsy revelation of the Guardian’s death prior to the release of the issue led to a long-standing feud between writer/artist John Byrne and then-peon Peter David. Byrne blames David for spoiling the ending; David claims he was trying to prevent word from getting out (here’s David’s version of the story).

In any case, the death of Guardian is not the reason that Alpha Flight #12 is important.

Let me explain. Alpha Flight was always a disappointment for me. It was such a great idea (Canadian-government sponsored fighting team) and a cool collection of characters: a guy with a flying battle suit, a sasquatch (named... "Sasquatch"), a metamorph, twin speedsters, a shaman (named..."Shaman"), and a very short acrobatic guy. Okay, so the team was a bit ridiculous, but they were drawn by the cool John Byrne (at least at the time I thought he was cool). And Marvel hyped that puppy! I was so psyched about picking up issue #1, only to find out it had a joke cover and a storyline involving a convoluted plot by aliens and a second rate Dr. Doom.

I was willing to overlook a lame beginning; but here’s the thing: the comic never got any better. Alpha Flight never operated as a team. In fact, most of the time they were spread out across Canada (which is, admittedly, a pretty big place) having unimpressive solo "adventures" like the (I kid you not) nearly-all-white issue  (18 pages of NO artwork) that I paid good money for (60 cents was a lot of scratch for a young Cej). And when the members actually did get together, they bickered with one another instead of beating up on bad guys! The only thing that was holding the book together for me was the relationship between James Hudson (Guardian) and his wife Heather.

And then Byrne killed Guardian!

But like I said, that’s not what elevates Alpha Flight #12 to the Great Moments in Comic History for me.

Let me set the stage: James Hudson has been lured to New York City with the promise of a new and exciting career; and his wife has come to meet him to start their new life. That’s where AF #12 begins.

AF-12p1

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As we shortly learn, the job offer is part of an elaborate revenge scheme to destroy James Hudson. We also learn fairly quickly that the woman giving Heather Hudson the run-around is actually a deadly robot (because, why hire a sexy personal assistant when you can build a sexy deadly robot?).

AF-12p1

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If you’ve read these pages, you may have missed it. The sexy secretary tries to placate Heather by offering her a little television. And that’s when Heather says the life-changing retort:

Heather Hudson: I’m not interested in watching the blasted television. There hasn’t been anything worth watching since 1966.

Not interested in watching TV? Good lord! I must have spent an easy six hours a day watching television in those days. What other pursuits were there?

Nothing worth watching? Are you kidding me? Had Byrne (via Heather) not heard of Too Close for Comfort? Had he somehow missed Solid Gold? Did they not get Three’s Company in Canada?

What makes AF #12 important is that this was one of the first times that someone I respected told me that television was a waste of time. Sure, sure, parents and teachers had been telling me the same thing for years---but they were required to say it. Alpha Flight had no ulterior motives.

Maybe TV really was a waste of my time.

Admittedly, I didn’t stop watching trashy TV, but I did start to question whether it was worth it. Who says comic books have nothing to offer us?

Of course, this scene also raised the question as to what was on TV in 1966 that was worth watching. Twenty-five years ago the young Cej had no internet access and no easy way of finding out what program(s) Byrne (via Heather) could have been referring to. I decided that he must have meant The Twilight Zone, which I watched religiously.

But now that I do have the internet, I haven’t bothered to find out. I mean, how good could it possibly be?

Great Moments in Comic history, ladies and gentlemen...

Batman: False Faces - Brian K. Vaughan OR shut-up and let me read the comic myself

What not to do in and introduction: write about how crappy the stories are that you are writing an introduction for. Few things an author can do infuriates me more than when they are belittling their own work. And no, it's not that they are being open-minded to their flaws; you can do that without doing the equivalent of telling me not to read the work. If I then read it, suddenly I'm the idiot for reading sub-par work, or worse still liking it. When an author does this all they are really doing is either being unnecessarily defensive by beating the reader to the punch in terms of criticism, or, more likely, displaying such outrageous egotism that they have to inform their imbecilic readers as to what is wrong with the work as they couldn't possibly figure it out on their own. Really Mr. Author? The work you did at age seven isn't as good as the work done at forty-seven? I'm utterly shocked. You may have noticed that I have yet to write about the work this blog entry is dedicated to. I'm not going to.  If the author doesn't care for his own work, then why should I?

Re: Covers: A Month of Spooky #31

The end is here! You've fought against it for so long that you assumed perhaps you were different. But now that your breath grows short and your heartbeat slows to a crawl, even you must admit that there's no escape from...day thirty-one of Spooky covers! And the last thing you see is Suspense #22 :

Suspense #22

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BY THE TIME YOU REALIZE YOU'RE STUCK WITH A CORPSE...IT CAN BE TOO LATE!

My friend, truer words have never been writ.

Why, if I had a nickle for every time I woke up strapped to a corpse...

Suspense #22 falls into that coveted category that I call Oh Shit! Now, admittedly, almost any Spooky cover could classify as an Oh Shit! cover. Let's face it, whether your town is being attacked by giant monsters, or you're being chased by a ghoul, or you're being dragged down into your own grave, or whether you're being led to your doom, or you just can't help yourself, or you're just a fricking idiot, I think the first thing in your mind is probably "Oh shit."

But that's too easy.

No, the Oh Shit category is reserved for those situations wherein one cannot fathom what to do next, even while understanding that you are completely and profoundly screwed. You can run from monsters; you can struggle against demons; you can even resist temptation.

But what the hell do you do when you wake up tied to a corpse?

All you can do is scream!

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Oh, my pretties! A single month isn't nearly long enough to tell you of all my favorite Spooky covers. But for now we must put out the lantern, close the crypt, and say good night!

Happy Hallowe'en!

Re: Covers: A Month of Spooky #30

Bong! Bong! Bong! The clock is striking midnight. The witching hour has arrived. As the darkness surrounds you, all of your fears are made manifest. Your time is up! Feel the icy hand point your way. There's no escape from...day thirty of Spooky covers! Your penultimate fear comes in the form of  Crypt of Shadows #21:

Crypt of Shadows #21

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CoS#21 is admittedly one of my favorite covers. Any cover that so obviously falls into the You're an Idiot category (first discussed here) can't help but earn easy screams, but CoS #21 goes the extra mile.

Mile 1: This guy had premonitions of doom. Now, I think we've all felt that creepy feeling that things weren't right or that something bad was imminent. But most of us do what we can to avoid the source of those feelings. This clown allowed those feelings to lure him to disaster.

Mile 2: This guy knew beforehand that someone was going to die. But driving alone on a deserted road didn't clue him in that the death might be his.

Mile 3: He's driving on a single lane winding road with no railing and a thousand foot drop on both sides, but he keeps on going despite obvious perilous driving conditions and (should we say it again?) a premonition of death.

Mile 4: The cliff is in the shape of a freaking skull! What more does this guy need?

And over the edge: Yes, it's true, there are no CAUTION signs or barricades to alert the driver. Maybe that's because it's so freaking obvious that you shouldn't be driving here! Who even built this road that ends in a skull cliff (hereafter to be known as a skliff)? Are those my tax dollars?

And yet despite all that, this loser is still shocked that the end is here. I guess you might argue that, given all of the warnings, this cover might actually belong to the I Can't Help Myself category (first discussed here).

I love this cover. It makes me scream and scream and scream and scream.

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Re: Covers: A Month of Spooky #29

A cold chill goes up your spine. Your skin feels clammy. A eerie voice whispers your name. And now, a strange apparition takes form in front of you. It can only be...day twenty-nine of Spooky covers! Today's frightful feast is House of Secrets #123:

House of Secrets #123

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The cover to HOS #123 is a bit different from the ones we've seen so far in our series in that it involves the reader. Sure, we've seen other covers talk to the reader, warning him of the frights to come or daring him to pick up the book. But HOS #123 breaks the fourth wall and interacts with the reader directly, offering him a chance to be a part of the horror.

Since there is clearly something nefarious going on here, I'm going to say this cover belongs to the Setting the Trap / Leading You to Your Doom category (first discussed here).

What makes this cover interesting to me is that it plays on two very powerful human emotions: pleasure and fear. Is your desire for pleasure (from eating the ice cream) greater than your fear (of the scary face)?

Now I'm willing to stipulate that there may or may not actually be anything wrong with the ice cream. The human brain is hard wired to see  faces---even where no face exists.

This is not a face

And our propensity to see (and make emotional connections to) faces, leads us to make all kinds of wild conclusions. It's why some people swear they see ghosts, and why the Virgin Mary keeps popping up in weird places.

So maybe there really isn't a monster in that ice cream. Maybe it's just millions of years of evolution prompting me to interpret cherries, chocolate, and melting ice cream as a scary face.

But there is a skeleton hand holding that cone! Run! Because if you are stupid enough to eat that ice cream, then the cover immediately crosses over to the You're an Idiot category (discussed here)! 

Three cheers screams for the amazing Frank Robbins who created this cover.

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Re: Covers: A Month of Spooky #28

Arachnophobia: fear of spidersXenophobia: fear of strangers and foreigners Verminophobia: fear of germs Acrophobia: fear of heights Triskaidekaphobia: fear of the number 13 Ophidiophobia: Fear of snakes Spookadookaphobia...fear of day twenty-eight of Spooky covers!

Today's fright is Dead of Night #9:

Dead of Night #9

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DON #9 belongs to the Monster Chase category. We could quibble and say that Death is waiting for the bus rather than chasing it, but anyone who has been late to work because of public transportation knows that there isn't much difference.

My main question about this cover is: is that really Death? Or is it just some irate customer who has been waiting a really long time for his ride to appear? We all know that waiting for a bus in the middle of the night is always annoying, and it seems that whenever a bus does come along, it is always like this one: Not In Service.  I've wanted to chop a few of those in half myself.

But as creepy as this situation is, is it really that scary? If I'm the bus driver, I think I could take this guy.  I've driven past many a sketchy-looking customer without blinking an eye; why should this one be any different? And really, what is a scythe compared to a 2-ton bus going 35 mph? I mean, what do I have to lose by trying to run him over?

Or just pick him up. Maybe Death isn't after the driver at all. Don't forget to give him a transfer! Two screams for frightening fun and one scream for using public transportation!

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Re: Covers: A Month of Spooky #27

Slosh, slosh, slosh. You knew that cutting through this bog would be messy, but you thought you could save a few minutes of time. But now that the lights are getting dim and the methane off the swamp is getting to your head, you realize that perhaps it wasn't the best plan. Something in the murk begins to percolate. The scum begins to rise out of the water. And before you stands the horrible sight of...day twenty-seven of Spooky covers! Today's muck-encrusted madness is Tales of Suspense #8:

Tales of Suspense #8

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By now, my pretties, you recognize a Monster Mash cover when you see one. And TOS #8 is a clear example of a creature on the loose.

And just look at that behemoth! Although his name is similar to the creature from Day 3 (Monstro / Monstrom: clearly lots of thought went into these issues), he looks like he might be a larger scale relative of the creature from Day 7. Whatever lineage he belongs to, he’s a big one. What makes Monstro so scary is his destructive ability. He’s taking out a plane, a ship, several people, and a dock, and he’s still half submerged! Once he gets on land it’s bye-bye civilization!

What I love about Monstro is his sense of scale. Just how big is he anyway? The more you examine this cover, the more you realize that something funky is going on here. In the foreground, one tentacle is smashing the dock. And that tentacle is about twice as thick as a human being. Let’s call it 12 feet in diameter. But look further back on the right: a second tentacle is lifting an entire ship. Now maybe that ship is just far away (making it seem smaller in perspective), but that would make the second tentacle closer to 100 feet in diameter. That seems odd, but it could be possible. Except, at what appears to be the same distance (on the left) is another human holding onto the first tentacle, suggesting that the tentacles don’t grow significantly as they get closer to Monstro’s body. But wait, even further back is Monstro’s enormous head. At least it appears enormous at first, but look closer: there is a man falling near the head who isn’t significantly smaller than the people in the foreground (and definitely too big for the ship that is in front of him). And then there’s the (even further back) tentacle that is smashing the plane.

Monstro is not only incredibly destructive, he disobeys all laws of size and depth perception. He is as big as he wants to be; dangerous at any distance! When people call him the scaley sea-monster, they aren’t talking about his skin!

Two screams!

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Re: Covers: A Month of Spooky #26

They seemed like such nice neighbors. Their kids seemed perfectly well-behaved. But at night you could hear strange noises coming from their house. What was that scratching noise? Were those muffled screams? Eventually, you go to check it out. At night you quietly sneak up to the house, creeping behind the hedges. You slowly approach the window. You peer over the sill. And you are struck dumb as your eyes witness the horror of...day twenty-six of Spooky covers! Today's nuisance is Black Magic #4:

Black Magic #4

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There are very few Spooky comics that are actually scary. In fact, as I mentioned in the introduction to this Month of Spooky, scary really isn't a criterion. Campy, cheesy, adbsurd, and ridiculous are closer to the elements that make a comic "spooky" for me.

But occasionally you find a cover that is truly creepy. BM #4 earns that distinction. 

The truly wonderful art by Joe Simon/Jack Kirby make it appear that the woman is peering into the Great Unknown with her enormous eyes. Perhaps she sees something wonderful, but the ominous red scar forming behind her head indicates that what lies beyond is too terrible to contemplate. And the warning by the doctor tells us that man was simply not meant to know the truth.

But once I get over the "creepy" factor, this is one of those covers that actually kind of makes me angry. Here you have a guy (her husband, maybe?) who is a complete ghoul. The poor woman is dying, but rather than seek comfort for her, this jerk is berating her to tell him what she sees. Grabbing her arm with his gnarly hand, and shaking her shoulders---is it any wonder the poor woman is freaking out? Is this really the way to treat a loved one?

And the idea that people near-death can see something beyond is completely unprovable; and yet it persists as a "truism" for many people---sometimes because it is unprovable. How could you even go about testing such a hypothesis? Even under perfect conditions, people on their deathbed make unreliable, and ultimately un-cross-examinable, witnesses.

These (at best) anecdoctal tales of deathbed sightings seem to me to be yet one more way to prey upon scared and desperate people. But urban legends (like the soul weighing 21 grams) remain in the public consciousness because they provide some solace for the uncritical. And that's the truly scary part for me: that end-of-life issues are still handled as if we were living in the Dark Ages.

When I'm dying, please do what you can to make my end bearable. And I promise not to haunt you from the other side.

Two screams for a great cover, and one for "the best health care system in the world."

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Re: Covers: A Month of Spooky #25

The dead are leaving their graves. They shuffle along the street, moaning and groaning. They pound on the doors and windows. You try to lock them out, but there are too many of them. They crave your brains...it must be day twenty-five of Spooky covers! Today's cadaver is Vault of Horror #19:

Vault of Horror #19

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Now if you were to say that VOH #19 is a case of Monster Behind You, I couldn't really fault you. I'm tempted to place it into a category called Monkey Paw (AKA: Be Careful What You Wish For), but I haven't found enough covers of that sort to create a whole category (although I'll be happy to discover that there are scores of examples).

So I prefer to think of this cover as a case of The Ironic Death (discussed here). Yes, it's not certain that Ralph has returned from the dead to kill our wispy waif, but I like to think that Ralph died of a broken heart after this girl dumped him. Now that she realizes how good she had it, it's too late! Good riddance, bitch!

What? No, I've never been dumped. Why do you ask? No, really, it was a mutual decision.

Anyway, it's not that I doubt this poor girl's grief. Look at her, she's clearly wasting away from despair. Despite being dead, Ralphy-boy still outweighs her by a good 50 lbs. If he's come to eat her, he'll leave hungry!

(And what's up with those tree roots? Could that be a cousin of Groot?)

Because of my faith in never-ending love, this cover earns one scream. 

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Re: Covers: A Month of Spooky #24

Your mirror cracks. A black cat crosses you path. You accidently walk under a ladder. And your elevator goes to the thirteenth floor. It must be...day twenty-four of Spooky covers. Today's hapless entrant is House of Mystery #109:

House of Mystery #109

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Now, on first glance you might be tempted to label HOM #109 as a case of Monster Chase. But you'd be wrong, my friend. Take a look at the policeman's dialogue, and you'll see that this cover is a case of I Can't Help Myself (originally discussed here)!

Despite the fact that there is already one crazy gigantic multi-part creature on the loose, this guy just can't stop himself from creating another one. Oh sure, he may rationalize it by thinking that monster #2 could potentially stop monster #1, but his facial expression tells us the truth: he's mesmerized by the power he wields!

Look, I'm a rational, reasonable human being; but if you gave me the ability to make giant monsters out of toy parts, I'd at least make one just to see how it worked. It's like giving a kid fireworks and then saying "...but don't light them." You can't fight human nature, especially when it means big smashy monsters.

Even the policeman, as concerned as he is, is not taking the obvious step. He could tackle this guy, or shoot the toy out of his hand, or even shoot the man. But he isn't doing any of those things. And why? Because deep in his lizard brain is this thought:

Policeman's subconscious: But...but two big smashy monsters would be really cool!

Amen, brother.

So while this cover really only rates one scream, I'm giving it a second scream. I can't help myself.

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Re:Covers: A Month of Spooky #23

Everything is dark. You are tightly bound. The air is thick. You hear a dull, but constant thud on the the surface above you. And just before you black out you realize, you are being buried alive...by day twenty-three of Spooky covers! Oozing from today's wounds of despair is Vault of Evil #15:

Vault of Evil #15

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One might argue that the cover to VOE #15 belongs to the Monster Chase category. But it more correctly belongs to a category I call Setting the Trap (aka Leading You to Your Doom). These covers typically involve two characters, with Character A leading Character B into an obvious (at least to the viewer) doom. Now with this particular cover, Character A happens to be the Devil, but that doesn’t change the motive. He isn’t chasing Character B; he’s leading him---and thus the distinction in category.

This cover makes the cut not only because it offers such valuable advice (Don’t Shake Hands with the Devil---who knows what diseases he may be carrying), but also because the action taking place is ambiguous.

Has the gentleman already shaken hands with the Devil (and that’s the reason he’s falling off the roof); or is the mere presence of the Devil enough to cause him to fall off the roof? In either case, it’s problematic.

If he falls of the roof before he shakes hands, the Devil may “win,” but without completing the deal (and potentially losing a soul). And if Character B falls off the roof immediately after shaking hands, can the Devil really claim to have fulfilled his part of the contract? If so, I guess you really can’t trust the Devil!

Or maybe Character B's wish was to be able to fly...ooh, tricky Devil!

So one scream for such scholarly advice, and another for complete bewilderment as to what is happening here. Watch your step!

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Re:Covers: A Month of Spooky #22

They dared you to come here. They said you weren't man enough. But after a few drinks, you figured that there was nothing to fear in this old graveyard. But now that you're here, and the wind is whipping up, and the chill is dancing across your shoulders, you don't feel so sure. You hear a noise, and turn to find a tombstone...with your name on it! Something is clawing out of the ground; it can only be...day twenty-two of Spooky covers! Today's rotting stench comes from Tales to Astonish #13:

Tales to Astonish #13

Clearly TTA #13 falls into the Monster Mash category, given how Groot is out to cause general mayhem to citizens and property.

But what earns this cover a special scream is that Groot is unlike other monsters we've seen. He's not simply knocking over buildings willy-nilly. No, he's actually growing into the town! Groot "the Root" is the kind of menace that every home owner fears: foundation troubles caused by that old oak tree!

But that's not all! This cover earns an extra scream because of the defiant tone of one of the civilians. Unlike other menaced individuals, this one doesn't give up hope or head for the hills. No he stands up to the monster! And more, he talks smak right back at him!

Upright Citizen: Imma put you down by midnight, boyo!

That's the way to put a monster in his place! Such specificity is like termites to the beings from Planet X!

Two screams for you. One for the gnarly trash-talking tree, and one for the fearless fool who takes up the challenge.

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Re: Covers: A Month of Spooky #21

Your head pounds. Your teeth ache. Your hands seem to elongate and grow fur. And then you notice the full moon. Finally you realize that gypsy curse was real truth. You are becoming...day twenty-one of Spooky covers. Today's beastly fright is House of Secrets #114:

House of Secrets #114

Good Lord! What is going on here?

This poor figure skater is being hounded by a bunch of ruffian hockey players...who just happen to be skeletons.

But if that weren't bad enough, she's being chased toward a hole in the ice, where another skeleton is breaking through!

This woman is having a very bad day. Or maybe a bad night. It isn't clear whether this takes place inside or outside. The darkness suggests outside at night. But the spotlight suggests that this is taking place on a rink of some sort. But then, how would a skeleton be breaking through the ice if there weren't water underneath? And who is manning the spotlight? I hope he is calling for help---or maybe he's a skeleton too!

Whatever the story, this just goes to show you why "All Skate" is a bad policy.

I don't have a category for this cover other than What the @#$%. For sheer absurdity, this covers earns three screams.

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