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Tell Tale ART: Dark Horse Comics Corben & Poe Anthology

Ponder "Spirits of the Dead," Dark Horse's curious volume of forgotten lore

Ponder “Spirits of the Dead,” Dark Horse’s curious volume of forgotten lore


Hell On Wheels…
In October of 1977, just in time for Halloween, record store racks were graced with the amazing cover art of Meatloaf’s Bat Out of Hell album. The vivid, now iconic, scene of a motorcycle rider blasting his way out of the grave was at the time an irresistible lure to purchase the album. To those of us involved in comic fandom the work was instantly recognizable as that of Richard Corben.

Corben emerged from the comix underground in the early 1970’s to contribute work to James Warren’s horror books Creepy, Eerie and Vampirella. He was also a regular in the pages of Heavy Metal Magazine, most notably with the serialized sword and sorcery feature “Den.”

Poe, Poe, Pitiful Me…
With the release of Spirits of the Dead on October 1 Dark Horse Comics will similarly enlist Corben to get the 2014 Halloween season firmly in flight. The hardcover anthology will ensnare the artist’s entire Edgar Allan Poe corpus into one voluminous tome. Dark Horse has in the last two years published several outstanding single story issues of Corben’s Poe adaptations and now pulls them all together with earlier works.

Throughout Spirits of the Dead we are treated to all manner of morbid machinations served up via Corben’s one of a kind style which lends itself so well to the gothic, grisly and gruesome. His penchant for gnarly characterizations inspected in and panel by panel close-ups prove a fitting visual analog for the psychological horror that Poe is noted for.

Presented within the book’s over 200 pages are 14 adaptations in chronological order as written by Poe not illustrated by Corben. We’re offered a mix of the familiar and the less celebrated, ranging from visual tone poems based on “The Sleeper” and “Alone” through mid-book magnum opus, the nearly 50 page “The Fall of the House of Usher,” to end with “The Cask of Amontillado.” Along the way “Masque of the Red Death” and “Murders in the Rue Morgue” are stand out personal favorites. “Masque” for Corben’s imaginative, madly colored, visions of the reveler’s costumes, and “Rue Morgue” for its unfettered depiction of the savage protagonist.
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None of Corben’s Poe pieces are slavish to their source material. The word adaptation should be taken literally, and that’s part of the fun. This is especially true of the artist’s interpolation of the poetic works as Professor M. Thomas Inge (The Incredible Mr. Poe: Comic Book Adaptations of the Works of Edgar Allan Poe) points out in his introduction. Often injected into the stories is narrator, “Mag The Hag.” The hulking hooded and eye patched witch finds rye humor in almost every unpleasant situation and denouement, sometimes as a framing mechanism and others as a participant in the narrative.

SkeletonPete Says…
I suspect I’m not alone in having a Halloween section in my personal library. A nice handful of books that help conjure the season. Ray Bradbury’s The Halloween Tree rightfully tops the list, but there are plenty of others including last year’s The Halloween Legion.

I expect that Spirits of the Dead will find a comfy niche in that group alongside the recently published Poe and the Visual Arts in which author Barbara Cantalupo shows how Poe’s verbiage was influenced by the illustrative arts of his time.

Writers: For an informative treatise on The Philosophy of Composition by Poe himself follow this link to his discourse on the gestation of The Raven.

High Stakes: Van Helsing Joins Diamond Select Monster Series

Diamond Select Toys' Van Helsing action figure prototype as seen at Toy Fair 2014.

Diamond Select Toys’ Van Helsing action figure prototype as seen at Toy Fair 2014.

Van the Man…
Diamond Select Toys is taking the opportunity to expand the monster line with a unique design of their own. DST’s Van Helsing, is an armed-to-the-teeth vision of the vampire hunter with a wizened and battle scarred countenance. With his axe, rifle, pistol and bandolero of wooden spikes he’s clearly a determined and formidable foe for the feral creatures of the night.

With many of us still cringing from the loopy Hugh Jackman misstep of 2004 Van Helsing was a risky choice. Fortunately DST presents him as an effective cross between the grandfatherly character portrayed by Edward Van Sloan in 1931 and Anthony Hopkins’ frenzied doctor of Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula (1992.)

The Van Helsing “Select” version is the most ornate of the three new Wave 5 boxed packages. The base provides a cemetery scene with dual tombstones and vicious vampire bride Mina Harker pouching from her grave.

More Monsters…
I’ve been stalking Diamond Select Toy’s fifth wave of Universal Monsters figures since they first appeared as early prototypes in DST’s Toy Fair Booth back in 2013.

These two newest 7 inch scale action figures present Boris Karloff as The Monster from Son of Frankenstein, and a new version of The Creature From the Black Lagoon. The Jean St. Jean sculpts are created with “super articulation,” giving the models many more poseable points of movement than their previous incarnations.

DST has announced these items in blister-carded Toys “R” Us Exclusive configurations (already on the shelves) as well as “Select” boxes, available shortly in comic book shops, or for pre-order. The “Select” versions add extraordinarily detailed bases and props.

Inspector Krogh "lends a hand (and arm) to Karloff's "Son of Frankenstein" TRU Exclusive. Image Courtesy of Diamond Select Toys.

Inspector Krogh “lends a hand (and arm) to Karloff’s “Son of Frankenstein” TRU Exclusive. Image Courtesy of Diamond Select Toys.


The Monster is portrayed with a slightly more gaunt look than Karloff lensed in the original 1939 film. He is clothed in his signature “Son of” wooly vest, a look that will forever remind me of Sonny Bono’s preferred garb in the 1960’s. In addition to more articulation The Creature update trumps its Wave 1 predecessor with, to my eye, a sculpt more accurate to its film appearance and a glossier aquatic paint finish.

“Armed” and Dangerous…
The “Select” Son of Frankenstein comes with an awesome Kenneth Strickfaden inspired piece of electrical laboratory gear that will remind old school collector’s like myself of the similar rig that was part of Aurora’s classic Bride of Frankenstein tableau. No Son of Frankenstein collectible would be complete without the wooden arm of Lionel Atwill’s Inspector Krogh for the monster to swing around. For me it’s a must have, and I’m glad to report it comes in both packaging configurations, so you won’t be torn (hee, hee.)

SkeletonPete Says…
While I’m happy to learn that Diamond Select will continue to offer Universal Monster figures in another wave next year, I also applaud the initiative to bring some of their own creative juice to the monster mix.

The Aurora Plastic Model Company did this quite effectively in late 1960’s. Their Forgotten Prisoner of Castle Mare, The Witch, and The Guillotine models were equally cherished by collectors. In fact they are the only intact original Aurora models I still have. The others succumbed to an ill advised tangle with a barrage of firecrackers one fateful Independence day.

Terror Forming: Dark Horse Comics “Prometheus” #1 Sells Out

Dark Horse Comic's "Fire and Stone" books will present a massive Alien and Predator universe excursion.

Dark Horse Comic’s “Fire and Stone” books will present a massive Alien and Predator universe excursion.


Oops, You Blinked…
Congratulations to the Dark Horse Comics team whose inaugural issue of Fire and Stone: Prometheus sold out in the wink of an eye. It’s an exceptional start to a series that promises to eclipse even Dark Horse’s long running Stars Wars books. The F&S series represents a massive franchise culling, century hopping, set of tales which are bound to keep followers of the Alien and Predator mythos enthralled and fandom discussion boards thriving.

Four By Four Plus One…
They’ll be four issues in each Fire and Stone series, Prometheus, Aliens, Predator, and Aliens Vs. Predators (AVP,) with a final standalone story produced to pull the whole shebang together. I think it’s easy to predict the final works being offered in one nifty Dark Horse hard cover edition down the road.

(Xeno) More 4 U…
Be forewarned the first issue of Fire and Stone: Aliens, arriving on September 24th, is likely to disappear into space just as fast and no one will hear you scream. The first issue features xenomorphs up the wazoo in a tale hinted at in the first issue of F&S:Prometheus. The second printing of Prometheus #1 is expected on October 8, 2014, the same day that Aliens Vs Predators: Fire and Stone #1 drops.

Fire and Stone: Aliens #1 variant cover art by Fiona Staples.

Fire and Stone: Aliens #1 variant cover art by Fiona Staples.

Fiona Staples’ Website

E. M. Gist's cover for Fire and Stone: AVP #1

E. M. Gist’s cover for Fire and Stone: AVP #1

E. M. Gist’s Website

Book of the Dead: Mezco’s LIving Dead Doll Art Book

Mezco Publications "Art of the Living Dead"

Mezco Publications “Art of the Living Dead”

Party Doll…
As noted in previous features, 2014 marks the Sweet Sixteenth year Mezco ToyzLiving Dead Dolls have graced the planet. The continuing collection of creepy creations was conceived by Ed Long, Damian Glonek, and Mez Markowitz, who have thus far unleashed 28 multiple doll series encompassing every hobgoblin imaginable. The company has conjured up several interesting ways to pay tribute to the monstrous muñecas this year, including a “time capsule coffin” event, and the LDD party continues with the publication of The Art of Living Dead Dolls.

Over the years Mezco’s putrid progeny have found a home in the hearts of many talented artists and the new book showcases their LDD inspired works. An impressive list of over 100 artists share their unique views of the LDD universe across the book’s 80 pages. The wide array of styles and varied media (oils, gouache and acrylics, to pen and ink, screen print, and digital) produce a visually arresting experience for the reader.

There’s plenty here to peruse and enjoy. I’m currently enamored with Louis Russomanno’s graveyard as schoolyard scene, Emily Yoshizawa’s LDD populated doll house, Becky Bray’s “Rain,” and Chris Garafalo’s Calavera print.

Mezco's Mez, Damian and Ed received Living Dead Doll World Record Award at NY Toy Fair 2014.

Mezco’s Mez, Damian and Ed received Living Dead Doll World Record Award at NY Toy Fair 2014.


Chop Shop…
Also featured are photos from the Mezco’s 2006 Living Dead Dolls Art Show, in which participants transformed the dolls into their own hellish visions. There are lots of striking manipulations (mutilations?) including Damien, Mez and Ed’s own iconoclastic dioramas, but it was Randy Falk’s King Diamond LDD remake that made me laugh out loud.

The softbound first edition has an embossed cover which adds a nice touch of depth to Joshua Hoffine’s backwoods at witching hour tableau. The interior color is vibrant and saturated and art reproduction is ace. The book’s foreword is fittingly offered by artist Basil Gogos whose cover paintings for the original Famous Monsters of Filmland magazines virtually invented the modern monster art field.

Living Dead Dolls Series 28, all dressed up and ready to party.

Living Dead Dolls Series 28, all dressed up and ready to party.


Fan Dance…
In my experience fans are always in the forefront of Mezco’s doings and they aren’t left out here. Rounding out the book is a full section of art from fans of all ages, as well as a tattoo chapter chronicling the body art of those who have dedicated a stretch of their own flesh to the Living Dead Doll phenomenon.

Mezco will further furnish fans with an exceptional opportunity built around the 2014 NYCC Superweek. On October 10th @ 8PM they will invade their favorite haunt, Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Odditorium, for a signing by the LDD team and select artists represented in the book.

Limited Edition Ripley's Collector Coins ensure your entry into the Superweek Book Signing

Limited Edition Ripley’s Collector Coins ensure your entry into the Superweek Book Signing


Event Details…
Mezco says, “One of the Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Times Square Odditorium rooms will be sealed off and transformed into a haven for Living Dead Dolls fans. On display will be an assortment of rare and one of a kind Living Dead Dolls artifacts direct from the Mezco archives. Many of these items have never been seen by the public, and a select number of them will be available for purchase, including hand painted prototypes, and concept art.

The first 200 attendees will each receive a free Living Dead Doll themed goodie bag plus a chance to win a test shot set of Living Dead Dolls Series 28 dolls. Test shot sets are seldom released to the public, making this a rare chance for a fan to acquire one of the most sought after collectibles in the Living Dead Dolls universe.

Each of the 200 goodie bags will contain a set of special limited edition art prints available only at the event along with carefully curated selection of other Mezco and Living Dead Doll themed items.”

Be Aware…
You’ll have to show the secret sign of three Ripley’s Collector Coins for free entry – be sure to check out the details at the Ripley’s website.

Deus Ex Machina: Dark Horse’s Prometheus Series Premieres

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September 10th will see the release of Fire and Stone, issue #1 in Dark Horse Comics’ new Prometheus tie-in series. As you know the Ridley Scott film of 2012 presented a kinda-sorta prequel to the classic Alien franchise and garnered both kudos and bewildered shrugs from a fairly divided fandom audience.

Scott promises more to come on screen about the role of “the engineers” in our earthly genesis. In fact he just announced the completion of the screenplay for Prometheus 2: Paradise, as well as his long awaited Blade Runner sequel and a film called The Martian.

Artist Paul Pope's Cover Variant for Prometheus: Fire and Stone from Dark Horse Comics

Artist Paul Pope’s Cover Variant for Prometheus: Fire and Stone from Dark Horse Comics


Prometheus 2 is slated to appear sometime in 2016, a year later than originally announced. In the meantime, this 4 book series relates the mission of a deep space salvage team on LV-223 approximately 125 years after the events in the film. We’re introduced to the crew via character Clara Atkinson’s documentary film in progress. Paul Tobin’s script sets-up plenty of personal intrigue and – as you’ve already guessed – there is way more than a routine salvage job waiting.

The interior art by Juan Ferreyra is tight with lots of detail and he gets to add some creepy creatures to the Alien pantheon, as the crew investigates the evolving flora and fauna of LV-223.

Juan Ferrerya's interior art gives a cinematic feel to the panels.

Juan Ferrerya’s interior art gives a cinematic feel to the panels.


SkeletonPete Says…
Prometheus: Fire and Stone #1 is a sure thumbs up from me, and a total score for fans of the Alien mythos. I personally like the prospects of this series better than the film it references. ‘nuff said.