It was way back at the 2014 Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo when we were first introduced to a fine British lad Neil Gibson and his fledgling comic company TPub. Gibson was there to promote volume one of TPubs inaugural graphic novel, Twisted Dark. At the time Gibson described the comic as a psychological thriller which contained horror with dark (at times demented) twists, incorporating every human emotion, illegal activity, and brutal social commentary.
Nine years and twenty-two publications later, including a total of seven volumes of Twisted Dark, Gibson’s original description of TPub’s first offering seems to have transformed into a mission statement. Often exploring the darkest depths of human nature within their storylines, I have devoured each and every TPub comic since the first. But frankly, no matter how intriguing the story, we all know the visuals make or break a comic. TPub also excels on this front by employing incredible artists to augment every frame with rich detail and cinematic viewpoints.
Cover of Hellblazer #1 (January, 1988.). Art by Dave McKean
Everyone has a couple. You know, the movie or movies that serve as your mental comfort food. In the same way that you might long for Mac and Cheese or a PB&J when the world gets on your nerves, I bet you have movies you rewatch for the same reason. When asked, some of my day-job coworkers mentioned When Harry Met Sally, the original Star Wars, and Anchorman as films they put on to lift their spirits.
As you could probably guess, my go-to movies are slightly left of center. My top three in no particular order are Jaws (1975), the first Blade (1998) movie and Constantine (2005). I haven’t looked too closely as to why these stories provide me such a soothing mental distraction, or even what they have in common. But thankfully they are all streaming because I damaged more than one DVD of each taking them with me when I used to travel long stretches for work. I mean, nothing says “sweet home Chicago” like Bruce the shark.
Whereas both Jaws and Blade had more than one sequel, such as they were, Constantine did not. Based on a DC Comics character who first appeared in his own comic Hellblazer in 1988, John Constantine would go on to star in 300 issues, earning him third place in Empire’s 50 Greatest Comic Characters of All Time. So, it was not for lack of source material that we haven’t seen Keanu Reeves reprising his rendition of the cynical, chain-smoking occult detective, until now.
The kinds of stories I wanted to do I had in mind before I created Hellboy. It’s not like I created Hellboy and said, ‘Hey, now what does this guy do?’ I knew the kinds of stories I wanted to do, but just needed a main guy.
Mike Mignola, “The Genesis of Hellboy”. Back Issue! (21)
A half-demon paranormal investigator fighting Nazis is how my friend Evan Dorkin described Mike Mignola’s Hellboy to me nearly twenty years ago. He had been reading the books in preparation to write a story for the Hellboy Weird Tales book. He thought I’d really like Mignola’s work, and gave me the first couple of issues. At that point, for all sorts of reasons, I was pretty much through with comics. Hellboy turned out to be like nothing else I’d read. Now, having just finished reading all four new omnibuses, Seed of Destruction, Strange Places, The Wild Hunt, and Hellboy in Hell, along with two additional short story collections (that’s almost 2,400 pages of supernatural awesomeness), I can safely state that this is my favorite comic and, more importantly, a significant and serious work of weird fiction.
In 1991, Mike Mignola sketched a monster to which he added the name Hellboy because he said it made him laugh. A few years later, he used Hellboy as the jumping-off point for a creator-owned comic to be published by Dark Horse. Initially, he toyed with the idea of something like the old Challengers of the Unknown, a team of paranormal investigators created by Jack Kirby (and maybe Joe Simon or maybe Dave Wood). Eventually, he rejected that in favor of focusing just on Hellboy. After a few preview appearances, Hellboy debuted in his own comic mini-series, Seed of Destruction, in 1994.
All four volumes in Michael Moorcock’s Elric from Titan Comics (2014 – 2022)
There’s been a lot of comic adaptations of Michael Moorcock’s Elric over the years. Perhaps the most famous is the French artist Philippe Druillet’s ambitious rendition of The Eternal Champion, but there have been many others associated with the character, including P. Craig Russell, James Cawthorn, Walter Simonsen, Mike Mignolia, Howard Chaykin, and many more. First Comics had a lengthy association with Moorcock for many years, producing highly regarded adaptations of Elric, Hawkmoon, and others. I think my favorite was Mark Shainblum’s lengthy Chronicles of Corum adaptation.
Titan Comics has had a long partnership with Moorcock, and recently it has released the best Elric adaptation I have ever seen, in any medium. The four volumes, The Ruby Throne, Stormbringer, The White Wolf, and The Dreaming City, are among my favorite comics of any kind in the past few years. Produced by the French team that includes the writer Julien Blondel and several enormously talented artists, including Didier Poli, Julien Telo, Robin Recht, and Jean Bastide, these books belong in every decent library of modern fantasy.
“You’re the second guy I’ve met within hours who seems to think a gat in the hand means a world by the tail.” – Phillip Marlowe in Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep
(Gat — Prohibition Era term for a gun. Shortened version of Gatling Gun)
I have had a Roger Torrey essay in mind for a couple years. And I thought I was going to write it this past weekend, but it didn’t quite work out that way. I’ll still be doing one this summer (he tells himself), using a short story from Black Dog’s excellent collection, Bodyguard. But today is not that day!
Calvin and Hobbes rivals Fox Trot for my all-time favorite comic strip. Bloom County barely holds off Dilbert for the third spot. Of course, the magic of C&H captivated millions over the years, and still does.
I have all of the non-repeating collections. Having bought them as they came out, I didn’t get that massive hardback collection. I even have the one from the exhibit here at Ohio State in Columbus, OH back in 1995. I didn’t see that one, unfortunately.
Calvin is a six-year old kid, and he has a stuffed tiger named Hobbes. Hobbes is alive when it’s just Calvin around. He’s a normal stuffed animal when someone else is (I only noticed one panel with an animated Hobbes, and someone else there…). Calvin is constantly getting into trouble with Hobbes.
There were some recurring characters, like Spaceman Spiff. There were two or three series’ with Calvin imagining himself as the classic hardboiled private eye, ala Sam Spade. He is Tracer Bullet. …
This might be the best news I’ve heard since Michael Bay dropped his idea to remake The Birds.
If you’re not already familiar with The Oatmeal, it’s a webcomic and humor site created in 2009 by cartoonist Matthew Inman. Inman posts original comics, quizzes, and occasional articles, most of which make me laugh outload, and occasionally snort my beverage out my nostrils. As someone who deliberately and desperately avoided parenthood, one of my all-time favorites is Having a Baby vs. Having a Cat which contains the immortal line, “Babies come shrieking into this world as selfish, amniotic, jam-covered goblins; whereas cats come into this world as kittens, which are independent, adorable, and not at all goblin-like.”
But Inman has also produced a series of related books and games, one of which is a card game called Exploding Kittens. Originally proposed as a Kickstarter project seeking $10,000 in crowdfunding, it exceeded the goal in eight minutes, and on January 27, 2015, seven days after opening, it passed 103,000 backers setting the record for the most backers in Kickstarter history. When the Exploding Kittens campaign closed on February 19, 2015, it had $8,782,571 in pledges, contributed by 219,382 backers.
Vampires #1, and variant cover. Coming from Asylum Press on June 29th.
When I was around 8 years old, I often used to sleep over at my friend Kris’ house. Kris’ brother Charles (“call me Chuck”) was six years older than us, and at 14, was already the king of contraband. Though most of the items he dealt in where of no interest to me (back issues of Playboy, old and likely very skunked cans of beer, etc.) the one thing which he always had in copious quantities was horror comics. For a teenaged boy, this was not contraband at all, but a staple of daily life.
But for an 8-year-old girl from a very conservative family, Marvel’s Strange Tales, or DC’s House of Mystery, were akin to full blown Satan worship, and were definitely not an acceptable way to spend one’s allowance. With this in mind, Chuck was all too happy to slip me several issues at a time, to read during my visits once Kris fell asleep in front of the television. In Chuck’s mind, providing me in particular with horror comics, was still an act of rebellion on his part.
Today we corner John C. Hocking whose Conan pastiche we reviewed a few months ago.
John C. Hocking is an American fantasy writer who is the author of two well-acclaimed Conan novels and has also won the 2009 Harper’s Pen Award for Sword and Sorcery fiction for his story, “The Face In The Sea”. He lives in Michigan with his wife, son, and an alarming quantity of books. He is a nigh-obsessed reader and writer of lurid pulp fiction, the author of Conan and the Emerald Lotus, the “Black Starlight” Conan serial, and their time-lost companion, Conan and the Living Plague, and an obedient thrall of Tales From the Magician’s Skull.
For clarity, we’ll actually corner him twice. Firstly, here on Black Gate, we’ll cover his weird, pulpy muses & Conan pastiche; secondly, in a companion interview, we’ll cover his King’s Blade and Archivist series on the Tale from the Magician’s Skull Blog.
One Black Gate series which I have started, but is still for somewhere down the line, is a look at the first dozen-or-so issues of Roy Thomas’ Conan the Barbarian comic. And even before running that series, I’ll write one for the second dozen-ish, so I can tie together the various overlaps. This was prompted by a combination of the over-sized Marvel hardback Omnibuses, and Roy Thomas’ TERRIFIC (now) three-volume memoir about the series from Pulp Hero Press.
I never read the series, growing up. I bought some of the Dark Horse collections, which I liked. And when Marvel reacquired the rights and put out that first door-stopper compendium, I bought it. And I liked it enough to get the next three. I was buying them in conjunction with Roy Thomas’ Barbarian Life. The first Thomas volume covered the genesis of the comic, and the first fifty-one issues – which happened to be the same ones included in the first Omnibus.
Thomas helmed the series for 115 issues – which is how many are covered by the first four Omnibuses (both series’ talk about other issues as well). So, Thomas’ three books complement the Omnibuses perfectly. I read a story, and then I read Thomas’ insights. Along with the relevant commentary in the Omnibus itself. It’s a real Conan treat!
Thomas would write do other color Conans for Marvel. And he would also contribute to Dark Horse while they had the rights. But it’s that first run, when he was Stan Lee’s right hand, and he made Conan a best-selling property for Marvel, which fans revere.