Thursday, 30 November 2017

MANDY: FACE IN THE CURTAIN - REVIEW

TITLE: Mandy: The Monster Hunter – The Face in the Curtain
CREDITS: Written by Matt Warner, Art by Atlantisvampir, Colouring by Capucine Drapala
PUBLISHER: Hellbound Media
FORMAT: American comic sized, square-bound, card cover, full-colour, 59 story pages
PRICE: @£10

REVIEW:
If you've never encountered Mandy before try to imagine the clash of three different horror sub-genres… There's a sprinkling of urban legend, a taste of dark faerie tale and a big helping of kick-ass young female hero (eg. Buffy the Vampire Slayer.) But that's not quite it… There's more to it than that. It taps into the unsettling fantasies of childhood in a way that almost nothing else does. This is the world of monsters in the cracks in the pavement… The creature under the bed… And yes, the face in the curtain. 
 
It isn't completely unique. I have seen this sort of thing done a couple of times before, but it is a road less travelled in horror fiction. As such, Mandy is a series worth treasuring. 
 
Mandy herself is a figure with one foot in reality and is clearly a young woman with a background and real-life (that is revealed here more clearly that has been done before), but is also partly a mythological figure like the tooth fairy or Santa Claus. Children summon her to fight the monsters that their parents can't see and don't believe in by sending her Santa-style letters. 
 
Each of Mandy's adventures is a self-contained mission against a new threat and this makes it very easy to pick up her stories from any point and jump aboard. This is the first time that one of her strips has stretched to this sort of length and is an epic in these terms. She finds herself up against an army of the dark creatures of childhood nightmares banding together in ways that they never have before. And as an extra bonus we even get a flashback to her origin and the mini-adventure that surrounds it. 
 
Matt Warner is an imaginative writer who knows when to shut-up and let the artist tell the story. He taps into the creepy recesses of distant memory for the half-forgotten horror's of the nursery. The Italian artist, Atlantisvampir, is a favourite of mine (having worked with her myself on Reverend Cross 003.) She uses a scratchy, sinister, but charming style on this story. Everything is brought to vivid life by Drapala's vibrant colours. 
 
Read it late at night with the lights turned down. This is similar territory to 'The Babadook', only with a heroine as magical as it's villains.

John A. Short 2017

Monday, 27 November 2017

Thanks to Reading!

Many thanks to everyone who came by the Reading Comic Convention on the weekend of the 25th and 26th of November 2017. Special thanks to all of you who stopped by the Kult Creations table to chat and browse. And big love to all of you who bought something!

Friday, 24 November 2017

READY FOR READING?

Are you ready for reading in Reading? This weekend (the 25th and 26th of November 2017) Kult Creations will have a stall at the Reading Comic-Con! Why not come along and enjoy all the fine geeky attractions if you are in the area. I know you'll fine big comic stars like Lew Stringer there (amongst others!) You'll find me behind the Kult table and you can browse our wares with no pressure to buy. Pop along and say 'Hi!'. More info at: https://www.facebook.com/readingcomiccon/?fref=ts

PS: Many thanks to everyone who came along to the Birmingham MCM Comic Con last weekend! It was great to meet lots of you and answer your questions. Big love to those who bought some of our fine Kult Creation's materials. You are fantastic!

John

Thursday, 16 November 2017

REVEREND CROSS 004!

Issue 004 of REVEREND CROSS is now on sale! All stories are written by John A. Short and artists this issue are Anna Susanne, Richard Pester and Gabrielle Noble. The cover is by Anna Susanne! Click on the promo video above to see more (The icon in the corner can make it full screen.)

 Also now on sale is a pack containing all four issues so far of REVEREND CROSS at a discounted price, so if you haven't met the FIRST FEMALE VICAR ACTION HERO yet you can start at page one!
They are on sale to the right of this page! (If you can't see them right now, you may be looking at this page on a smart phone... Try your PC.) They are also available in digital versions for kindle from our digital store! http://kultdigital.blogspot.com 

KULT CREATIONS at BIRMINGHAM NEC 18th & 19th November 2017!

Kult Creations will have a table at this weekend's MCM Birmingham Comicon at the NEC! Why not come along and poke John with a stick and make him dance? (Actually, don't do that!) More details at: http://www.mcmcomiccon.com/birmingham/2016/12/21/2017-comic-con-tickets-on-sale-now/

Sunday, 5 November 2017

Jack Kirby's THE DEMON - Reviewed

TITLE: The Demon
CREDITS: Edited, written & pencilled by Jack Kirby, inked by Mike Royer
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
FORMAT: 384 full colour American comic sized pages. Paperback. Square bound.
PRICE: @£15.71 (Amazon)

REVIEW:
Jack Kirby is one of the most famous and well respected names in comics fandom, but to the wider public he is pretty much unknown, but the titles, characters and concepts that he is credited with co-creating are now household names… Captain America, the Fantastic Four, the Incredible Hulk, Ant-Man, SHIELD, Nick Fury, the Uncanny X-men, Iron Man, Marvel's version of the Mighty Thor, the Avengers, Black Panther, Groot from Guardians of the Galaxy… The list goes on-and-on.

In the early 1970s he had left Marvel Comics for their Distinguished Competition due to the former's lack of appreciation of his creative input. Now not just an artist (as he had been mainly up to this point) but a writer too. This was an amazingly creative period for Kirby that coincided with the Comics Code Authority relaxingly their rules about occult concepts in comics. This lead both main American comics companies to launch many horror themed comics. Marvel had 'Tomb of Dracula', 'Ghost Rider', 'Werewolf by Night' and others… While DC had 'Swamp Thing', 'House of Mystery' and Jack Kirby's 'The Demon'!

This new paperback collects all sixteen issues of this 1972-73 comic in full colour. It is perhaps his most accessible solo creation. Besides being set in (Batman's) Gotham City there are no crossovers, guest appearances or references to the wider DC Universe. Everything you could want to know about the Demon and his adventures are contained between these covers.

The comic follows the story of Jason Blood, a knight of Camelot, who Merlin merges with a demon called Etrigan to defend the realm from an attack by the witch Morgaine Le Fay and her forces. Centuries later, in the present-day, Blood is still alive and still able to transform into his demonic form to fight evil. Clearly this owes much to superhero comics and is perhaps closest to Kirby's earlier (co) creation… The Incredible Hulk.

Etrigan himself is a bright yellow-skinned, stocky, horned creature clad in primary red… leaving a very strong superheroic impression on the reader. As with most Kirby works this isn't trying for subtly… It's big and bold and in your face. His blocky, unrealistic art isn't for everyone, but there is no denyingly the power of his images. His costumes and character designs have been incredibly influential both inside and outside comics. (Clearly without Kirby's Demon we would not have gotten Mike Mignola's 'Hellboy'.)

The villains are just as impactful as the main character… With Le Fay and Klarion the Witchboy being everyone's stand-out favourites… Both of which get return appearances in this collection. Le Fay's fantastic costume is a design stand-out in the first two issues.

Coming from an art background rather than a writing one helps Kirby's storytelling. Other comics of the era were still suffering from writers overwriting the dialogue and caption boxes (perhaps in an effort to make their presences felt on the page or steer stories the way they wanted when the artist wasn't giving them what they wanted?) But Kirby keeps the dialogue to a minimum and so 'The Demon' reads as a much more modern comic than it was.

Considering how religious America is (even today) it's a wonder this comic was ever done (but Kirby obviously gave little consideration to the Bible Belt since he'd called one of his other creations 'New Gods'.) This is prime Kirby… Every bit as creative (if not as complex) as his 'Fourth World' titles. Recommended.

Reviewed by John A. Short

Saturday, 21 October 2017

Hookjaw Classic Collection - Reviewed!



TITLE: Hookjaw Classic Collection
WRITERS: Pat Mills & Ken Armstrong
ARTISTS: Ramon Sola, Felix Carrion, Juan Arancio, Eric Bradbury & Jim Bleach
PUBLISHER: Titan Comic
FORMAT: Hardback, 29.5cm x 22cm colour + black and white 158 page book
PRICE: UK £29.99 US $34.99 CAN $45.99
AVAILABLE FROM: All good comic shops and book sellers
REVIEW:
Britain's 'Action' comic should not be confused with the American comic of the same name that featured to first appearance of Superman. IPC's 'Action' was a UK anthology comic for boys that first appeared on Valentine's Day 1976. It was part of a new breed of adventure comic which were aiming their stories at a slightly older readership than comics had up to that point… more teenagers than the under tens. The team behind 'Action'… John Wagner, Steve McManus and Pat Mills had just launched 'Battle' for IPC and were about to go onto create the ever popular '2000AD'. 'Action' took the approach of taking ideas from popular (and quite adult) mainstream movies of the day and putting it's own spin on them.
Undoubted star of the comic was 'Hookjaw', heavy influenced by Steven Spielberg's shark thriller 'Jaws' (which had been a hit only a year before.) The difference was that whereas Spielberg's monster Great White had to be dispatched at the end of the feature, 'Hookjaw' was an on-going strip and the killer shark had to survive and thrive. This led to 'Hookjaw' being presented as a kind of shark-hero in the strip (if sharks read comics, 'Hookjaw' would be their 'Superman'!)
This monster shark gets his name from the billhook that is left jutting out from his chin by an encounter with fishermen in the first episode. This spear and the mis-shappen fin on his back keep him distinctive from any other sharks featured in the strip.
Although the strip presents us with many villainous humans for Hookjaw to chow-down on, the star of the strip doesn't restrict his diet to only the black hats… He gets to eat heroes, villains and the innocent along the way. He is a sort of Jason Voorhees or Michael Myers of the deep. Stalking, killing and eating his way through the oceans of the world. And like those horror movie bogeyman he is just as unstoppable. Shot, stabbed, impaled, run-down, bombed… even hauled ashore… nothing seems to kill him or even slow him down.
Where Spielberg's film had been a thriller, 'Hookjaw' was a horror movie in serialised comic strip form. Each weekly episode features him killing someone in new and graphic ways. Often in 'Action's colour middle pages the waters and the pages run literal red. People are bitten in two… Legs, arms heads go missing… or even worse… float free from the beast's jaws. There is a gleeful humour to all this gore in much the same way '2000AD' and many strips by Garth Ennis capitalise on. It's so over-the-top that it can't possibly be taken seriously.
Much has been made of 'Hookjaw's environmental agenda, but I think this is stretching a point really. It's true the first strip does feature a villainous oil rig owner who cares nothing for how much he pollutes, but this is more by way of giving us a bad guy to jeer at. By the second adventure the green agenda is much less clear, by the third story it has disappeared completely and the villains are merely robbers.
These strips were written in the mid-seventies and as such they are a product of their time. With that in mind I must call out the rather embarrassing racism in the second adventure. Set on a Caribbean island with some black characters who are not just disparaged by the villains (which would have been fair-enough social commentary), but are presented in an unflattering light by the writer. They speak in poor English, they refer to white people as 'Masa' (master) and worst of all are continually (and without correction at any point) referred to as 'natives'. Black people are no more native to the Caribbean than the white people! In defence of the writer of these episodes, this is all done out of ignorance rather than hate. Still, if I had been Pat Mills writing his new introduction for this book, I would have wanted to put this all into some sort of context and perhaps make my apologies for it (but he doesn't mention it.)
Anyway it all came crashing down for 'Action' when the newspapers started campaigns against it. The 23rd October 1976 edition was printed… but never made it to the newsagents. Most of the print run was pulped and if you have a copy of it, it fetches very high prices today. When the comic returned on 4th December 1976 it had been gutted as effectively as one of Hookjaw's victims. The violence, gore and anti-establishment style of the comic had been totally removed. The killer shark was now only allowed to kill bad guys and then only out-of-shot. The fun had gone out of it too and within a year 'Action' was merged with 'Battle' and 'Hookjaw' was gone completely.
There are a couple of misleading blurbs on this book, which I must make potential buyers aware of. Firstly, the cover reads 'The complete original series!' This is not true. Of the original run this book only reprints the first three 'Hookjaw' serials (along with a strip from the 1976 'Action Summer Special' and one from the 1977 'Action Annual'.) The regular strips in this volume end with the 4th December episode, but the strip continued on for another year (admittedly with Hookjaw only bloodlessly eating people behind rocks!)
Also this book declares several times that the 'Lost Pages' were 'Not previously published'. These are the uncensored pages which featured in the banned issue and those that were intended to follow it. Great though it is to have these revealing pages included in the book, most of them have indeed seen print before in Martin Barker's 'Action: The Story of a Violent Comic' from this very same publisher. A better way of putting it would have been to say that these pages were 'Not originally published'. Still, there is a least one page I hadn't seen before.
I would recommend 'Hookjaw Classic Collection' with some reservations. This is a fantastic look at a crazy time in British comic history and the stories are so over-the-top as to be laugh-out-load funny… But if the dated racism in it will up-set you… This is best avoided.

Reviewed by John A. Short