6 Quick Questions About Quirk’s DAWN OF THE DREADFULS

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1.  What is Dawn of the Dreadfuls?

It’s the prequel to Quirk Classics’ Jane Austen mash-up Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.  And it’s very, very funny.

2.  I probably need to read that book first to enjoy it, right?

Not at all.  I didn’t, and I could completely enjoy and follow Dawn of the Dreadfuls on its own.  Probably because author Steve Hockensmith is most likely insane.

3.  Should I at least read Pride and Prejudice beforehand?

Nope, you don’t have to.  I’ve only seen the Kiera Knightley movie, and I have no intention of visiting the original novel.  I’m sure the little bit of knowledge I gained from watching the film probably helped some, but I think all it really did was let me put Donald Sutherland’s face on Mr. Bennett in every hilarious scene.

4.  What’s it about?

The delightful Bennett girls are forced to put aside their ladylike, oh-so-very-British ways and kick major zombie ass.  If that’s not enough for you, it’s got kung fu and romance.  And if that’s still not enough for you, it’s got pictures (by illustrator Patrick Arrasmith).  You sure are picky.  Want a quick pitch?  Imagine Shawn of the Dead set 200 years ago and infused with an irreverent, spot-on lampooning of Georgian-era Girl Power.

5.  That sounds pretty awesome, actually.  How can I find out more about Quirk’s books?

Go to their website!  Dawn of the Dreadfuls hits stores on March 23, 2010, but they’re currently building an entire library of literary monster-mashes that would make your English Lit teacher weep.  With joy.

6.  Will you give me your copy?

Hell, no.  But if you just click here and tell them you saw it on Horror’s Not Dead, you’re automatically entered to win one of fifty Quirk Classics prize packages, which includes…

  • An advance copy of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies:  Dawn of the Dreadfuls
  • Audio books for Pride and Prejudice and Zombies as well as Sense and Sensibility and Seamonsters
  • Exclusive access to sample audio chapters from Dawn of the Dreadfuls
  • An awesome Dawn of the Dreadfuls poster
  • A Pride and Prejudice and Zombies journal
  • A boxed set of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies postcards

Now, hurry!  The contest ends on March 10. 2010.  All you have to do is click here to enter!


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Directed by Scott Stewart, 2010
Written by Peter Schink, Scott Stewart

Joining the ranks of Night of the Living Dead, Assault on Precinct 13, Demon Knight, From Dusk Till Dawn, Feast, Maximum Overdrive, and a host of other “siege” horror films, comes Legion, an unrepentantly dopey fantasy-action-horror hybrid built upon the idea that God hates us all.  Personally, I don’t believe that God hates us all, but He’s got to be a little peeved at director Scott Stewart for casting Him as the villain in such a stupid genre exercise.

The nicest thing I can say about Legion is that it’s conventional.  All of the elements and characters you’d expect from a siege movie are here — a remote location (deserts work best), a stranger with a past, a single mom, a bickering married couple, a wise black guy, a local bohunk who can’t live up to his full potential as long as he stays in this dead-end town, and a dude that shows up out of nowhere and starts barking orders because he’s the only one that knows exactly what’s going on.  You even get the “don’t open that door or we’re all dead” scene several times, which, in all honesty, kind of loses its impact after the first time when they don’t end up “all dead”.

What sets Legion apart is its faithful devotion to spiritual hooey.  The gist is that God is fed up with “all the bullshit” (as explained to us in Adrienne Palicki’s voiceover at the start of the film and repeated verbatim at the end, for those of us who can’t remember things that happened ninety minutes ago).  He sends the archangel Michael (Paul Bettany) down to a greasy-spoon diner to kill the unborn baby of Palicki’s character, Charlie, for no specific reason (Some lip service is paid to Charlie’s baby being the thing that will save mankind, whatever that means.  This movie doesn’t like dealing in specifics).  Michael changes his mind, decides to save the baby, and basically screws things up for the whole world — causing an unstoppable horde of angel-possessed human monsters and rival archangel Gabriel (Kevin Durand, most famous for playing lunkheads) to try and finish the job.


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What can I add to roughly twenty-five years worth of unfettered praise and critical analysis of Alan Moore’s brilliant run on DC Comics’ Swamp Thing? This question has been haunting me for the past few weeks, as I’ve explored DC’s new hardcover reprint of the material previously collected in the Swamp Thing: Love and Death trade paperback. For many, Watchmen and Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns were the comics that changed the way folks looked at comics as a storytelling medium. Love and Death was that book for me.

I had an interest in the Swamp Thing television show when I was in high school, based on my enjoyment of the 1982 Wes Craven film which used to be a cable mainstay in the early-80’s when I was a kid. My high school friend, Craig, wasn’t really that much into comics, but it was the early-90’s — everyone was buying them. Somehow Craig ended up with a Swamp Thing: Love and Death trade paperback and, probably finding it way too weird, gave it to me. He knew I watched the TV show, and he knew I was open to DC books (A lot of kids, and I’m sure this continues today, were strictly Marvel only. Then, Marvel and Image only.)

My mind was blown. Within these pages were nightmare visions of hell, leering demons, supernatural heroes, funky aliens, and psychedelic vegetable sex. The language was more poetic than anything I’d read in a comic book before; the images more grotesque than my imagination allowed. This comic book scared me.

VICTORIAN UNDEAD Review [Horror Comics]

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There’s a cover blurb on Victorian Undead, the new horror/adventure comic from DC/Wildstorm that proclaims in bright green letters, “SHERLOCK HOLMES VS ZOMBIES!” I feared that the story inside would read as a cash grab opportunity to sell issues based solely on the upcoming Guy Ritchie film. Turns out Victorian Undead’s greatest credit is that it doesn’t smack of opportunism at all — it’s simply a story that writer Ian Edginton felt compelled to tell, a quasi-What If? in the tradition of Alan Moore’s playful historical fiction comics.

I can’t judge how faithful Edginton stays to the tropes of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous detective, having read only The Hound of the Baskervilles at a very young age, but it certainly feels like classic Holmes and Watson. There are some elements of the fantastic added to the familiar mix, like androids and, of course, zombies, but nothing that betrayed my perception of the way these characters should behave. Issue 1 (I’m assuming this is a mini-series, but there’s nothing in the comic to indicate how many issues are planned) is essentially a very simple set-up, wherein a comet passes over 1854 London and brings the recently dead back to life. Sherlock Holmes is called in by Scotland Yard to investigate.

Do I want to know what happens next? Yes. The book is light horror, due in part to the pencils of Davide Fabbri (who seems heavily influenced by DC stalwart Dan Jurgens), and Edginton provides just enough of a hook to make you curious about where the story is going next. Nobody is trying to re-invent the wheel here, and I think it makes Victorian Undead one of the breeziest horror comics in recent memory. Fabbri doesn’t draw anything inside the pages as gruesome as Tony Harris’s hilariously revolting cover art, and, in a different artist’s hands the book would’ve probably felt more adult.

House of Mystery Halloween Annual #1

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Written by Matthew Sturges, Mark Buckingham, Bill Willingham, Peter Milligan, Chris Roberson, Matt Wagner

Pencils by Luca Rossi, Kevin Nowlan, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Mike Allred, Amy Reeder Hadley

One of my favorite horror comics is DC/Vertigo’s anthology title Flinch, which was published for a too-brief sixteen issue run before cancellation in 2001.  Flipping through Vertigo’s brand-new House of Mystery Halloween Annual #1, I got a little excited that I might be looking at something that recaptured what I loved about Flinch–incredibly twisted stories, written and drawn by some pretty big names in comics.  My expectations were off the mark.  House of Mystery Halloween Annual #1 is a much lighter comic book than I’m used to from Vertigo, and it serves as an entertaining “sampler pack” for Vertigo’s monthly titles.

The stories all center around a cursed mask, featured on the fantastically creepy painted cover by Esao Andrews, that passes through the hands of characters from Vertigo books, including, in order, the cast of House of Mystery, Merv Pumpkinhead, John Constantine, Gwen from the upcoming title I, Zombie, and Madame Xanadu.  I knew Merv and Constantine, but I’ve never read the new House of Mystery title or Madame Xanadu, and the book didn’t do much to familiarize me with those characters.  I never felt lost, though–just a tad left out.

TRICK ‘R TREAT Graphic Novel Review.

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Written by Marc Andreyko
Art by Mike Huddleston, Grant Bond, Christopher Gugliotti, Fiona Staples

If you really want to experience the differences in storytelling between comics and film, comic book movie adaptations are always a great place to start.  The panels serve as a series of “greatest hits” moments from the film, the writers and artists thanklessly reducing thrilling cinematic action sequences into a static panel or two, and swapping emotional character beats for only the choicest one-liners.  It’s got to be a tough job.  DC/Wildstorm does their best effort with TRICK ‘R TREAT, the comic adaptation of Michael Dougherty’s straight-to-video anthology love letter to Halloween.  Sporadic screenings and good word of mouth have helped TRICK ‘R TREAT gain a cult audience in advance of its official release, and I think those that are already huge fans of the film will be interested in seeing how the story unfolds in a comic book format.

There are four different artists at work here, working under Marc Andreyko’s writing, which is faithful to Dougherty’s script, but uninspired.  Mike Huddleston (Gen 13, Friday the 13th:  Badland)  tackles the first quarter of the book, which includes two major scenes from the film–the opening vignette wherein a young couple return home from a long night of partying, and the film’s most conceptually disturbing story, which introduces sinister school principal Mr. Wilkins.  Huddleston has a straight-forward, pleasing comic art style that’s a touch on the cartoony side, but he compliments it here with heavy blacks and dramatic silhouettes.  Grant Bond (Archibald Saves Christmas, Gene Simmons’ House of Horrors) takes on the story of a Halloween trick gone horribly wrong.  A group of kids decide to scare an idiot savant with the local legend of a school bus full of mentally disturbed children that fell to their watery grave in a rock quarry one Halloween night.  It was my favorite segment of the film, and Bond’s pastel-colored visuals give the tale a storybook quality that feels appropriate.

PARANOIAC Review. [Hammer Time!]

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While British studio Hammer Films reinvented the Universal Monsters for a new generation, they also produced a handful of psychological thrillers, encouraged by the box office success of Les Diaboliques and the films of Alfred Hitchcock.  One such film was 1963’s Paranoiac, starring professional drunkard Oliver Reed as Grade-A douchebag Simon Ashby, a reckless, hostile party boy determined to paint his loving sister Eleanor (Janette Scott) as insane.

Money is the motive for Simon’s manipulation.  The Ashby parents are long dead, along with their youngest child Tony, who threw himself off a cliff as a boy when he couldn’t cope his the loss of his parents.  Simon and Eleanor are the only heirs to the Ashby fortune, under the care of their Aunt Harriet (Sheila Burrell), and if Simon can prove that Eleanor is not of sound mind, he becomes sole executor of their estate.  To that end, Simon hires a morally questionable nurse for Eleanor and carries out a simple plan to convince his sister that she might be hallucinating visions of the departed Tony.

Simon’s plan goes completely haywire when Tony actually shows up, alive and well (played with an almost comical stiffness by Alexander Davion).  Suddenly, it’s Eleanor who seems to be the sane one, while Simon quickly unravels, unable to covince himself that this man is the child they once knew.

NORTH 40 Review. Issues #1-3

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Written by Aaron Williams, 2009
Art by Fiona Staples
Wildstorm\DC Comics

Maybe I’m “old school”, but when I buy an issue of a comic book, I want a story with a beginning, middle, and an end (even if the ending is a cliffhanger).  I understand that this isn’t the nature of the industry anymore; everything is driven by trade paperback sales.  Modern comics seem paced exclusively for six-issue collections, and if you happen to catch an individual issue in the middle of a six-issue arc, you’ll often get no explanation for what happened before and absolutely no resolution for anything within the issue itself.  It’s a big part of the reason that I don’t pick up as many comics as I used to.

DC/Wildstorm’s new horror title NORTH 40 is as modern a comic as I’ve ever seen–an interesting first issue kick-off, followed by two issues of glacial pacing and underdeveloped characters and situations.I’m sure that the undercooked aspects of NORTH 40 are intended to create a feeling of mystery and intrigue that keeps you reading on a monthly basis, but, after three issues, writer Aaron Williams doesn’t dispense enough good information to sustain interest, issue to issue.  It’s got to be a tough balancing act.  It’s obvious Williams is playing his cards close to his vest, but because of that, I pretty much have no idea what’s going on in a given issue.  Assuming Williams has some clarity on the way past issue number three, this type of storytelling would work fine in the trade paperback format.  He may be building up to something in the next three issues.  In a monthly format however, it’s lousy.

NORTH 40 is the story of the residents of Lufton, a podunk pitstop along Interstate 40 North, in some unnamed desert state where two of the town’s more “different” kids (a fat guy in a Cthulhu shirt and a snarky goth chick) unleash some not-exactly-explained evil on the town by reading from what appears to be the Necronomicon.  As a result, the town ends up cut-off from the rest of the world, and a good portion of its population transform into paranormally powered monsters.  A couple of the central protagonists are completely unchanged, namely B-movie stock character Sherriff Morgan and the blandly good-natured teen Wyatt Hinkle, but their goal after three issues doesn’t seem to run much deeper than a middling desire to figure out what’s going on.  Most of that investigative action takes a backseat to perfunctory character introductions and their displays of odd powers.

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