Reading the Great Graphic Novels 2015 Noms: spooky scary comics

by Tessa

Read about why I’m reviewing these comics here.

I love horror and I love comics. I love it when a book can visually creep me out. There are a good number of horror-y titles on the list this year. This isn’t all of them, but all of these are supernatural in some way.

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Afterlife with Archie: Escape from Riverdale

Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, writer

Francesco Francavilla, illustrator

Archie Comics

Expectation/Anticipation Level: Low. Archie comics aren’t really my bag, but I don’t actively dislike them.

My Reality: I loved this! Francavilla does a more realistic take on Archie and the gang and that somehow makes me take them more seriously as characters. Maybe because I don’t find bulbous hair attractive. Everyone is in deep shadow and the palette is strictly goth. It’s one of those zombie comics where it’s Halloween so the truth takes a bit to sink in, and then it becomes a bit of a claustrophobic survival story (with teen drama), so I’m all over it.

Will Teens Like it?: I bet they totally would. I’d bet at least a dollar.

Is it “great” for teens?: This has the qualities of GGNT greatness: great art, fun story, a bit of depth, something that makes it stand out from its genre or typical audience, and teen appeal.

Art Taste:

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Bad Machinery V.2: The Case of the Good Boy

Bad Machinery V.3: The Case of the Simple Soul.

John Allison, writer & illustrator

Oni Press

Expectation/Anticipation Level: Well, I knew what I was getting into because I’m a regular reader of the webcomics, so… neutral? But wait, high, because I am a fan.

My Reality: Reading these comics collected really brings out how funny and charming they are. One of the best things about Allison’s writing and drawing style is is control over whimsy – it’s always a bit weird and tender instead of being too sweet or, god forbid, wacky. Although the strips are written to be enjoyed thrice a week and thus have punchlines at the end, the story reads as a whole and it is clear that Allison has created these new stories with the collection in mind. The stories always involve creatures or some kind of supernatural occurrence, but with a light touch. The focus is much more on the team of young mystery solvers finding more out about themselves and their town via the mystery than about being terrified or haunted.

Will teens like it?: The books are published in biiiig floppy editions so hopefully teens will pick one up and be sucked in.

Is it “great” for teens?: I think so. I think it’s great for you, too.

Art Taste: If you like this, I highly recommend reading the archives and ongoing comics at Scary Go Round.

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The Graveyard Book, Volume 1

The Graveyard Book, Volume 2

written by Neil Gaiman

adapted by P. Craig Russell

Kevin Nowlan, Scott Hampton, P. Craig Russell, Galen Showman, David LaFuente, Tony Harris, Jill Thompson & Stephen B. Scott, illustrators

HarperCollins

Expectation/Anticipation Level: Medium. I liked the Coraline adaptation. (In fact, I don’t think I’ve read Coraline proper yet).

My Reality: I thought this was really solid. Most of the artists worked in complementary styles, except for changes during parts of the story where the narrative takes a side journey, and the art style changes to reflect that. (And one artist that makes everyone look weirdly Hobbity). The text adaptation retains Gaiman’s narrator and warm tone, and it still feels like a story that’s been told and retold and fished out of the collective unconscious by Gaiman. A storyteller’s story. So that even though it’s about murder and ghosts and goblins, it’s about life and it feels cosy. The only thing I really don’t like is the cover of the second book. Bod looks posed, and that scene doesn’t happen, and also it’s a bit of a spoiler.

Will Teens Like it?: Teens will be into this, especially if they know it’s by the Coraline guy.

Is it “great” for teens?: I think it’s a very successful adaptation and that makes it great for me.

Art Taste: I particularly liked the chapter openers, as seen here:

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Cemetery Girl Book One: The Pretenders.

Charlaine Harris and Christopher Golden, writers

Don Kramer and ??? Rudoni, illustrators

InkLit

Expectation/Anticipation Level: Low, though I did read all of the Sookie Stackhouse novels. I haven’t had much luck finding good comic books that seem to be made just to trade on the name of an author who got famous writing prose books.

My Reality: It was funny to go from one good comic about a boy who lives in a graveyard to a bad comic about a girl who lives in a graveyard. It really brought out the reasons why Cemetery Girl failed so much. Art? Uninspired and unsure about the proportions of its main character. Some of the backgrounds looked like photos with the comic book filter on them. The story moved sloooowly, and was packed with characters who were one note: evil teenagers, folksy cemetery groundskeeper and neighbor, martyred ghost, etc. Calexa is really on top of waking up with no idea who she is and immediately parkouring around the neighborhood performing B & Es in order to get food and clothes, which makes it seem like she’s street smart and practical, but then she witnesses a murder and is handed proof of the murder that she could easily drop off at the police station or give to the groundskeeper or something and she dithers fully half of the book away not doing that because she’s scared that somehow the people who left her in the cemetery will find out. Not fun, not even easy trashy fun.

Will teens like it?: I’m sure there are teens who would like this; I won’t hold it against them.

Is it “great” for teens?: Nope.

Art Taste: I’m going to post 2 images so you can compare how Calexa’s proportions change from page to page.

lying down, looks normal

lying down, looks normal

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Standing up, has lost a couple inches on her legs, also her pants are baggy now.

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Baltimore vol 3: A Passing Stranger and Other Stories.

Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden, writers

Ben Stenbeck, illustrator Dave Stewart,colorist

Dark Horse

Expectation/Anticipation Levels: I think the first volume of this comic was on a previous GGNT list on one of my volunteer years, and I remember liking it.

My Reality: How weird that Christopher Golden was involved in Cemetery Girl and Baltimore: A Passing Stranger and I liked the latter and not the former. Charlaine Harris, the onus falls on you. Anyway. This is a nice little collection of short stories set in the alternate historical timeline of the Lord Baltimore universe, where vampires have laid waste to Europe in WWII. Baltimore is chasing the big baddie vampire and he meets some weird things along the way. These aren’t life changing stories, but they are nice little moody treats of the fantastical. Some alternate histories feel like they’re always poking you in the ribs, saying “See what I DID there??!!?!?!?” and this one does not. The way things are going feels appropriate and believable.

Will Teens Like it? Yes, especially if they like The Walking Dead/Game of Thrones

Is it “great” for teens?: It wouldn’t be on my top ten, but I think it’s a decent book. It’s not written FOR teens, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not appropriate and enjoyable for them.

Art Taste:

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“Think Twice Before Falling Asleep”: Welcome to the Dark House

A Review of Welcome to the Dark House, by Laurie Faria Stolarz

Hyperion (Disney), 2014

Welcome to the Dark House Laurie Faria Stolarz

by REBECCA, August 6, 2014

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For seven horror fans (well, six horror fans and one traumatized girl who’s trying to desensitize herself) this will be the weekend of their lives. After submitting essays about their scariest nightmares, they’ve won an exclusive look at horror director Justin Blake’s new movie and the chance to stay at a bed and breakfast crawling with creepies. But when you hand someone else a guide to your most terrifying nightmares, don’t be surprised when they come true . . . [Come on, that clearly should’ve been a sentence in a blurb about this book; you’re welcome, Hyperion!]

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I’ve been on a total horror/supernatural/mystery kick lately, so I was excited to read Welcome to the Dark House (good title; good cover). I liked the premise a lot: horror fans competing to win an in-the-middle-of-nowhere weekend that’s all about their favorite horror director. It’s got the promise of thrills and chills alongside the possibility for some nerdy meta-horror fandom.

752px-john_henry_fuseli_-_the_nightmareWelcome to the Dark House starts really strong. Ivy Jensen’s nightmare is rooted in reality. Six years ago, her parents were murdered by a serial killer as she slept across the hall. After she called 911, their killer came to her room and spoke to her before police sirens scared him away, leaving her in constant fear that he would reappear and finish the job. Ivy’s fear hasn’t lessened over the years, so, at the end of her rope, she decides that she needs to somehow desensitize herself to it. Imagining that she might do so by learning what so many people seem to love about horror movies, Ivy enters the contest, even though she isn’t sure how she got put on the list to receive its announcement, and when she wins, she decides she will conquer her fears by facing them.

And it pretty much goes downhill from there. Here’s the thing: this isn’t a terrible book. It’s fun and has a few scary moments. But it could have been totally good, so I found myself getting more and more disappointed as it went along. What it suffers from are the same things that make so many horror films throwaways, and it’s frustrating to see, because a novel is the perfect medium (to me) with which to take advantage of everything that’s awesome about horror but also to add in a lot of that to which horror movies aren’t as suited.

Horror Film Problem #1. Welcome to the Dark House doesn’t go in depth enough with character development to make me care about the characters as people to care when they die (that’s not a spoiler if you’ve ever seen a horror movie). The reason that I wasn’t able to care much about the characters is that the book is written from six different perspectives, shifting every chapter. For the first few chapters this worked fine because the characters hadn’t gotten to the bed and breakfast yet. But once they were all together, there was NO REASON for a shifting perspective because . . . they’re all together. So, the shift in perspective seemed arbitrary—why have Garth tell this part of their dinner and Shayla tell this part? No reason. Because they’re all together.

Of course, there would have been a reason if the characters’ POVs deepened our understanding of them and their backstory, or if, as I always hope for in a shifting-POV book, the different characters’ views of events are quite different, revealing internal mysteries and hidden motivations. But that wasn’t the case here. As such, I was constantly having to flip back to the chapter to see whose POV it was from because the voices of the characters are not distinct from one another. This is a huge pet peeve of mine in general: if you’re going to use shifting perspective, your characters’ voices need to be unique enough that there’s never any doubt in my mind who is speaking.

It also turned out to be a problem because (no specific spoilers:) some of the characters die. So . . . it’s kind of awkward. Really, this should have been either in third-person, so we could fully experience things from all characters’ POVs or it should all have been from Ivy’s perspective since she’s established (as any horror aficionado will see) very early on as what Carol Clover calls “the final girl.”

haunted-dark-house_1680x1050_29115Horror Film Problem # 2. Like so many horror films, Welcome to the Dark House starts out as one kind of book and becomes a different kind in the third act. The first act, where our horror fans are arriving at the bed and breakfast and meeting each other, and the second act, when they begin to experience the delights of the horrors that have been planned for them there, feel very much of a piece. This makes up the first half of the book, which was both too long to glean as little depth about/investment in the characters as I did, and also too short to really develop the B&B as a house of horrors. It was, as horror goes, kid stuff.

The one exception to this is Natalie, a character whose nightmare is her own reflection. Her character has some interesting shit going on, which I appreciated, but which merely served to make the rest of the characters feel generic by comparison, unfortunately.

Halfway through the book, it decides it’s not satisfied with the B&B concept and takes the characters to an amusement part where, in order to be shown the new Justin Blake film, they must each face a carnival ride that is their own nightmare. Except there are also a bunch of random other rides that they can go on, so they just hang out for a while, lessening the suspense for no reason. Oh, and they’re locked in. In case that wasn’t obvious.

So, in order to be allowed to see the movie they must each face their nightmare ride, but no one is allowed to go on anyone else’s ride or they forfeit the chance to see the film. No idea why, except that this conceit finally makes it clear which chapter is told from which character’s perspective . . . ?

article-0-1B9A660E000005DC-455_964x633Horror Film Problem #3. Also like so many blah horror movies, Welcome to the Dark House isn’t even satisfied with one shift in frame; it has to add another one. The ending provides an ad hoc explanation of why they’re all actually there, which is thrown away so casually in one sentence that I don’t know why Stolarz even bothered. And, the final nail in the coffin, the book ends with the essays that the characters wrote to win the contest. But, why? Because we already saw what their nightmares were when they lived through them. Like, twenty pages before. (It also serves to remind the reader of a major plot thread that was never tied up . . .)

So, all in all, I think most real horror fans will find Welcome to the Dark House a predictable, unsuspenseful exercise in skimming. However, I would recommend it to folks who aren’t that into horror but are looking for a bit of a scare because it won’t feel as done-to-death for those unfamiliar with the genre, and because it really is only a tip of the hat to horror, so it’s not going to scare the bejeezus out of you.

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Darkhouse An Experiment in Terror Karina Halle

Darkhouse (Experiment in Terror #1), by Karina Halle (2011). Y’all want a real horror novel that is also called Darkhouse? Of course you do! Karina Halle’s Experiment in Terror series is one of my all-time fave horror series. Perry Palomino has always had . . . issues with the supernatural. But when she meets Dex Foray, she’s willing to dive headfirst back into them to be the host of his online ghost hunting show. As the fear factor rises, so does the chemistry!

The Midnight Club Christopher Pike

The Midnight Club, by Christopher Pike (1994). Five terminally ill teens living in Rotterdam House meet (at midnight) to tell stories as a ward against the fear of death; they pledge that the first to die must send a sign to the rest of them . . . from the other side.

procured from: I received an ARC of the book from the publisher (thanks!) in exchange for an honest review. Welcome to the Dark House by Laurie Faria Stolarz is available now.

Summer Reads Pt. 2: Sisters and The Book of Bad Things

by Tessa

It’s part 2 of my “books I’ve read this summer about summer” posts! Today I’m covering 2 dece reads for middle schoolers (and other people who read and like books). Unfortunately, both of them won’t be published until the end of August. Which is a great time to read books about summer in order to hold on to that summer feeling.

[Disclaimer: I’m reviewing Advance Review Copies of these books, so between now and when they’re actually published, things could have changed in the book.]

Sisters

Raina Telgemeier

Graphix, 2014

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Raina Telgemeier is a godsend for realistic comics lovers who want to read stories about the middle school years. This is her follow up to her first book, Smile, which was about her totally falling on her face/mouth and having to deal with the messy dental aftermath of it for a long time, during her most awkward years.

This one’s about her sister. Actually, spoiler alert, it’s still about Raina and her feelings about her sister Amara. The framing is a road trip that she, her mom, her sister, and her little brother take, going from California to Colorado to visit family, and is punctuated by flashbacks that explain more about how the sisters grew to have their tense relationship, and why Raina won’t sit in the front seat of the van.

The flashbacks have a neat yellow filter on the pages, making it clear that the story is in the past. I wish all of the ARC I saw was in color, but that would be crazy expensive and I understand why it switched to black and white, but I’m glad I got a preview of what the coloring will be like (done by Braden Lamb, who does stuff for the Adventure Time comics!). The past sequences, with the filter, look like yellowed color photos, while the present sequences, and the present sequences capture the color of the late 80s, which is when I think this was set (maybe early 90s?), as does the fashion, of course.

Telgemeier’s writing and drawing makes me feel comfortable, like I’m reading a surprisingly interesting (and long) cartoon in a newspaper. Her family stories have the rhythm of a good sitcom, replete with punchlines and realistically wacky situations. I was so happy to slip back into those rhythms that I wasn’t bothered at first by the arc of the story. There is one scene at the end, though, that packed a big emotional punch, and it’s delivered by Amara. That made me realize that I didn’t know much about her. It’s a function of Raina not being allowed/distancing herself from Amara, so she doesn’t know what her sister is like. But it also leaves much of the book’s story obscuring half of what the book is about. It’s Sisters, not Sister, and it would have been a more powerful book for me if the big realization weren’t related to one sister not really being present in the story except as a mystery and antagonist to the other. This misstep in plotting won’t hurt the book with its core audience, though, and there are many solid scenes in there for fans to savor.

 

The Book of Bad Things

Dan Poblocki

Scholastic, 2014

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A colleague of mine brought this back from… BEA? And when I saw that it was middle grade horror and that SLJ compared it to R.L. Stine, Christopher Pike, and John Bellairs, I gladly took it off of her hands.

I’ve never heard of Dan Poblocki before, but he has written a lot of MG horror. Thanks for keeping the torch alight, Dan Poblocki. But you need to work on your tumblr.

The Book of Bad Things is about Cassidy Bean. She’s part of an exchange program in New York City, possibly part of a social work program, that lets her go and live with rich people in upstate New York during the summer. She’s visited one family, the Tremonts, for a couple summers, but this summer she’s arriving late to Whitechapel because the Tremonts took a while to say that Cassidy was welcome to come.

Something happened last summer to Cassidy and the Tremont’s son, Joey. They went out to the big house where Ursula Chambers, the town hermit lived. She yelled at them, and then later, Joey’s dog died, and for some reason, those two things became connected for Cassidy and Joey. Cassidy blamed herself for having the idea in the first place, and the summer seemed ruined.

Now she’s back with a new journal: The Book of Bad Things, where she writes down her fears and anxieties. Joey isn’t talking to her, and Ursula is dead. All her belongings are being raided by the townspeople, because Ursula didn’t have a family. Then, the people who took Ursula’s things start seeing her. And they start dying.

What I liked most about this book was that it wasn’t afraid to be scary and gruesome. It makes its characters question the line between reality and what they’ve seen in horror movies that feels more sophisticated to me than most horror setups in books for the younger set. Poblocki plays with the ideas of ghosts, zombies, psychic/emotional manifestations, and curses, and the real life scariness of hoarding, anxiety and hurt friendship. Sure, Cassidy’s narration is a bit stiff at times, but she’s a very serious girl, so it fits her. It also never states what race Cassidy is, so it’s possible to read her as black, which is important for many kids.

As an adult reader, I wasn’t terrified, but I can tell that if I had read this when I was a tween, it would have firmly lodged itself in my psyche.

 

 

 

 

“Don’t Open Your Eyes”: Bird Box Is Horror At Its Best

A review of Bird Box by Josh Malerman

Ecco (HarperCollins), 2014

Bird Box Josh Malerman

by REBECCA, June 4, 2014

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Something out there is making people crazy. When they see it, they lose their minds and kill. Others. Themselves. Everyone. Malorie doesn’t know what’s going on. Then, it’s later and Malorie hasn’t seen the world outside her house in four years. But today. Today she has to risk it. She has to take to the river to try and save herself. Today, she has to open her eyes.

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HOLY SPOOKY ACTION AT A DISTANCE, BATMAN!

Bird Box is told in chapters that alternate between the present, when Malorie and her two children are rowing down the river, trying to find safety, and the past, when a mysterious . . . something . . . has just begun to threaten humanity.

In the past, Malorie and her sister, Shannon, just moved in together and are ready to start a new life when the news begins reporting strange stories of mysterious deaths in St. Petersburg, Yakutsk, Omsk. Then, closer to home, in Alaska. No one knows what the cause is, but people are turning on each other, killing each other and themselves. Little by little, the panic builds. What is it? Is it a disease? An attack? An epidemic? Bit by bit, people become scared even to leave their homes, because it seems like the people affected are those who see . . . something.

Shannon is terrified, but Malorie has other worries. She’s just realized she’s pregnant, and that seems scarier than some vague threat out there. But when Malorie can no longer deny what’s going on, she finds a house with people who are helping each other survive. Together, she, Felix, Jules, Cheryl, and Tom survive. All anyone knows is that the madness can’t get you if you can’t see it. So they block up the windows and seal all the doors. They live off canned goods and develop elaborate systems to get water from the well behind their house without ever opening their eyes. Malorie comes to love and depend on her housemates. But soon she’ll have to give birth. And, slowly, something is creeping closer to threaten the safe house they have made. But is the threat from outside, or from within?

In the present, Malorie lives alone with Boy and Girl, her four-year-olds. There is a fog this morning, and so Malorie decides it’s finally time to go. Under cover of fog, she thinks they can make it to the river, and then, safety? She isn’t sure. All she knows is that she has trained her children from birth to hear with an acuity no children in the before could have. And it’s their ability she will have to rely on as they make the trip down the river. Because they have to do it without ever opening their eyes.

Bird Box is an absolutely beautiful and harrowing horror story. Debut author Josh Malerman (lead singer of The High Strung) has crafted a story that is incredibly creeping and suspenseful (at one point, I found myself standing in my kitchen, reading as my water boiled because I absolutely had to see what happened next, and nearly screamed when my cat brushed up against my leg). It is, for me, the most exciting kind of horror story: one that is all about atmosphere and mystery and dread.

bird box josh malermanAlternating between past and present ups the suspense, but it also instructs the reader that this isn’t a story about what happened next. We begin in the present, so we already know what happened (kind of). It’s about how it happened, and how the characters reacted to it. That is to say, it’s a book that’s as much about ideas and psychology as it is about fear. There are multiple theories about what is going on in the world, and Malerman allows these theories to resonate throughout the book, never giving any definitive answers but always showing us the material consequences. His prose is tight and declarative and perfectly echoes the way Malorie has come to think in this new world.

Because Bird Box is a novel about the threat of the invisible—of that which absolutely can not be looked upon—the characters spend a great deal of time experiencing the world without sight. In the hands of a lesser writer, I think, this could feel like a gimmick. Malerman, though, manages to make the reader feel as claustrophobic, vulnerable, and jumpy as the characters do. The fact that the whole mystery could be revealed merely by removing the blindfold adds a layer of temptation that is titillating.

When I first read the blurb, I was nervous that this would be one of those post-terrible-world-event books where the main character just wanted to make the world safe for her children, or feels hope because she has her children. Bird Box was the opposite. This isn’t a book about the horrors of pregnancy (though that whole giving birth thing is its own scary story). Rather, it’s about the guilt and horror that Malorie feels about raising two children who have never seen the world outside. Who have never seen anyone but her. She has to put their safety above their comfort if they’re all going to survive, and the ways in which she must deny her children their childhood resonate beyond a book of speculative fiction. These are children growing up in a war-torn land who must learn to survive instead of learning to play, and that’s not the stuff of fiction.

bird box josh malermanSome reviewers, I know, are disappointed that more of the questions that Bird Box raises are not answered. For me, the denial of answers to the reader has the powerful effect of making the readers as helpless as the characters. If we could see what they cannot, I think, the reading experience wouldn’t be nearly as potent. More literally, the reader is in Malorie’s position narratively: we look at word after word, waiting for the threat to reveal itself, and once it does we cannot look away. I often found myself covering the recto side of the book so that my eyes couldn’t wander ahead and see something they shouldn’t. The experience of the medium of storytelling itself participating in the creation of fear was extremely disconcerting.

The one weakness of the novel, for me, was the characters. Though we are in Malorie’s head (primarily), she never really came to life for me. I was still desperately rooting for her—because, as I said, the reader is in her position. Still, though, certain moments would have had more resonance if the characters were a bit more fleshed out. Indeed, the character who came to life the most was the scariest! (Which is kind of awesome.) Still, the lack of character development had one positive side effect, which is that it leant a sense of real unease to the house they all share since their relationships feel so tentative and contingent.

Bird Box is a wonderful debut and a truly chilling horror story. I can’t wait to see what’s next for Josh Malerman.

procured from: the library

 

Awesome Horror Comics, Part 2!

The Second Half of a List of My Favorite Creepy Comics

Crawl to Me Orchid Tom Morello

by REBECCA, October 28, 2013

On Wednesday, I posted Part 1 of the Awesome Horror Comics list! Here’s Part 2. It may or may not surprise you to note that there isn’t a single woman, either as writer or illustrator, on either of these lists, even though many of the most famous gothic and horror novels were written by women—Mary Shelley, Shirley Jackson, etc. Do you know of any horror comics written or illustrated by women? I hope so! If so, please tell me in the comments.

Frankenstein: Alive, Alive!11. Frankenstein: Alive, Alive!, by Steve Niles & Bernie Wrightson

“Few works by comic-book artists have earned the universal acclaim and reverence that Bernie Wrightson’s illustrated version of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s Frankenstein was met with upon its original release in 1983. Nearly 30 years later, Wrightson returns to his passion project with a comic series that picks up at the end of the classic novel, hailed as one of the greatest horror stories of all time. Frequent Wrightson collaborator Steve Niles provides the script for this epic, decades in the making. While appearing to be in black and white, each page was scanned in color to mimic as closely as possible the experience of viewing the actual original art, showing off the exquisitely detailed brush work of one of the greatest living artists in comics today.”

Uzumaki by Junji Ito12. Uzumaki, by Junji Ito

“Kurôzu-cho, a small fogbound town on the coast of Japan, is cursed. According to Shuichi Saito, the withdrawn boyfriend of teenager Kirie Goshima, their town is haunted not by a person or being but by a pattern: uzumaki, the spiral, the hypnotic secret shape of the world. It manifests itself in small ways: seashells, ferns, whirlpools in water, whirlwinds in air. And in large ways: the spiral marks on people’s bodies, the insane obsessions of Shuichi’s father, the voice from the cochlea in your inner ear. As the madness spreads, the inhabitants of Kurôzu-cho are pulled ever deeper, as if into a whirlpool from which there is no return . . .”

The Walking Dead13. The Walking Dead, by Robert Kirkman & Tony Moore

“An epidemic of apocalyptic proportions has swept the globe, causing the dead to rise and feed on the living. In a matter of months, society has crumbled: There is no government, no grocery stores, no mail delivery, no cable TV. Rick Grimes finds himself one of the few survivors in this terrifying future. A couple months ago he was a small town cop who had never fired a shot and only ever saw one dead body. Separated from his family, he must now sort through all the death and confusion to try and find his wife and son. In a world ruled by the dead, we are forced to finally begin living.”

Echoes14. Echoes, by Joshu Hale Fialkov & Rahsan Ekedal

“From acclaimed author Joshua Hale Fialkov (Tumor) and rising artist Rahsan Ekedal (Creepy) a disturbing story of murder and mystery wrapped in questions of sanity. Brian Cohn was learning to deal with the schizophrenia inherited from his father. Supportive wife, new baby on the way, drugs to control the voices. But, when on his father’s deathbed he learns that he also inherited the trophies of his father’s career as a serial killer, will his madness send him further down into the crawlspace of his father’s mind?”

The Beast of Chicago by Rick Geary15. The Beast of Chicago: An Account of the Life and Crimes of Herman W. Mudgett, Known to the World As H.H. Holmes, by Rick Geary

“He was the world’s first serial killer and he existed in the late 19th century, operating around the Chicago World’s Fair, building a literal house of horrors, replete with chutes for dead bodies, gas chambers, surgical rooms. He methodically murdered up to 200 people, mostly young women. The infamous H.H. Holmes is the next subject of Geary’s award-winning and increasingly popular series.”

From Hell Alan Moore Eddie Campbell16. From Hell, by Alan Moore & Eddie Campbell

“‘I shall tell you where we are. We’re in the most extreme and utter region of the human mind. A dim, subconscious underworld. A radiant abyss where men meet themselves. Hell, Netley. We’re in Hell.’ Alan Moore turns his ever-incisive eye to the squalid, enigmatic world of Jack the Ripper and the Whitechapel murders of 1888. His Ripper’s brutal activities are the epicentre of a conspiracy involving the very heart of the British Establishment, including the Freemasons and The Royal Family. A popular claim, which is transformed through Moore’s exquisite and thoroughly gripping vision, of the Ripper crimes being the womb from which the 20th century, so enmeshed in the celebrity culture of violence, received its shocking, visceral birth.”

Batman Arkham Asylum17. Batman: Arkham Asylum, by Grant Morrison & Dave McKean

“The inmates of Arkham Asylum have taken over Gotham’s detention center for the criminally insane on April Fool’s Day, demanding Batman in exchange for their hostages. Accepting their demented challenge, Batman is forced to endure the personal hells of the Joker, Scarecrow, Poison Ivy, Two-Face and many other sworn enemies in order to save the innocents and retake the prison. During his run through this absurd gauntlet, the Dark Knight’s must face down both his most dangerous foes and his inner demons. The classic confrontation between the Dark Knight and his archnemeses, this story is well known for its psychological intensity and probing portraits of Batman and the Joker.”

Clive Barker's Hellraiser18. Clive Barker’s Hellraiser, by Clive Barker, Christopher Monfette, Leonardo Manco, & Stephen Thompson

“Clive Barker has ‘touched’ Hellraiser only twice before: once to write The Hellbound Heart, and once more to write and direct the original Hellraiser film. With the Hellraiser ongoing series, witness Barker’s long-awaited return to tell a new chapter in the official continuity — a trajectory that will forever change the Cenobites . . . and Pinhead! So prepare your soul for an epic journey into horror from one of the medium’s greatest voices, and starring one of the medium’s greatest characters, in an unforgettable new chapter of Hellraiser.”

Orchid Tom Morello19. Orchid, by Tom Morello (yes, that Tom Morello), Dan Jackson, & Scott Hepburn

“When the seas rose, genetic codes were smashed. Human settlements are ringed by a dense wilderness from which ferocious new animal species prey on the helpless. The high ground belongs to the rich and powerful that overlook swampland shantytowns from their fortress-like cities. Iron-fisted rule ensures order and allows the wealthy to harvest the poor as slaves. Delve into the first chapter of Orchid, the tale of a teenage prostitute who learns that she is more than the role society has imposed upon her.”

20. Crawl To Me, by Alan Robert

Crawl to MeWire Hangers creator/hard-rock musician, Alan Robert, is back for blood with an all-new horror tale, Crawl to Me, which centers on Ryan as he struggles to protect his family from what appears to be an evil entity living within their basement’s crawl space. It is only after a series of violent events occur that Ryan realizes he must set aside all he believes to be true in order to face his shocking and inevitable reality.”

Happy horror comic reading, folks! Did I miss your favorite? Have you thought of any horror comics written or illustrated by women? Tell me in the comments!

Awesome Horror Comics, Part 1

The First Half of a List of My Favorite Creepy Comics

Batman The Long Halloween The Chuckling Whatsit by Richard Sala

by REBECCA, October 23, 2013

One of the things I love about horror comics is that I have total control over reading them, so I can make them feel more or less scary, unlike when I watch a horror movie, which moves relentlessly forward. With Halloween right around the corner (yay!), here is the first half of a list of my favorite horror comics. There’s a wide range here, from the slightly creepy to the grisly to the existentially horrifying—certainly not all of them are horror in the classic sense. All descriptions are from Goodreads.

Batman The Long Halloween

1. Batman: the Long Halloween, by Jeph Loeb & Tim Sale

“Taking place during Batman’s early days of crime fighting, this new edition of the classic mystery tells the story of a mysterious killer who murders his prey only on holidays. Working with District Attorney Harvey Dent and Lieutenant James Gordon, Batman races against the calendar as he tries to discover who Holiday is before he claims his next victim each month. A mystery that has the reader continually guessing the identity of the killer, this story also ties into the events that transform Harvey Dent into Batman’s deadly enemy, Two-Face.”

30 Days of Night2. 30 Days of Night, by Steve Niles & Ben Templesmith

“In a sleepy, secluded Alaska town called Barrow, the sun sets and doesn’t rise for over thirty consecutive days and nights. From the darkness, across the frozen wasteland, an evil will come that will bring the residents of Barrow to their knees. The only hope for the town is the Sheriff and Deputy, husband and wife who are torn between their own survival and saving the town they love.”

The Chuckling Whatsit by Richard Sala

3. The Chuckling Whatsit, by Richard Sala

“In The Chuckling Whatsit, Sala weaves the gothic cartooning traditions of Edward Gorey and Charles Addams with a densely constructed, melodramatic murder mystery involving astrology, ghouls, academia and outsider art. Part noir, part horror and part comedy, this labyrinthian tale of intrigue follows an unemployed writer named Broom who becomes unwittingly ensnared in a complex plot involving mysterious outsider artist Emile Jarnac, the shadowy machinations of the Ghoul Appreciation Society Headquarters (GASH), and the enigmatic Mr. Ixnay. Sala’s deadpan delivery makes this ingeniously layered narrative a roller-coaster ride of darkly pure comic suspense.”

Hellboy4. Hellboy, by Mike Mignola & John Byrne

“When strangeness threatens to engulf the world, a strange man will come to save it. Sent to investigate a mystery with supernatural overtones, Hellboy discovers the secrets of his own origins, and his link to the Nazi occultists who promised Hitler a final solution in the form of a demonic avatar.”

Johnny the Homicidal Maniac

5. Johnny the Homicidal Maniac, by Jhonen Vasquez

“The series focuses on the 20-something year old anti-hero Johnny C, also known as “NNY” (pronounced ‘knee’). He is a deranged serial killer, mass murderer, and spree killer who interacts with various other characters, generally by murdering them. He elaborately kills anyone who even slightly irritates him, then drains their blood and paints one of the walls in his house with it. Johnny is also willing to murder “innocent” people who, in his twisted mind, deserve their fate for some reason or another. The number of Johnny’s victims is in the dozens, if not hundreds — or perhaps even thousands. Authorities are unable to capture Johnny and seem unaware of his existence, even though his crimes are often witnessed in public and reported by the few who manage to survive.”

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/97486.The_Crow6. The Crow, by James O’Barr

“Murdered along with his fiancee on Halloween eve by a vicious street gang, Eric Draven returns from the dead and led by a crow, seeks vengeance on the killers who killed him and raped and then killed his beloved Shelly.”

Rachel Rising by Terry Moore7. Rachel Rising, by Terry Moore

“Rachel wakes up at sunrise on a shallow grave in the woods and discovers the freshly murdered body in the dirt is her own. With events of the previous night a blur, Rachel seeks out her boyfriend Phillip. But Phillip has a new girl now and Rachel is beginning to suspect she rose from the grave for a reason . . . revenge!”

Cinema Panopticum by Thomas Ott

 

8. Cinema Panopticum, by Thomas Ott

“T. Ott plunges into the darkness with five new graphic horror novelettes: “The Prophet,” “The Wonder Pill,” “La Lucha,” “The Hotel,” and the title story, each executed in his hallucinatory and hyper-detailed scratchboard style. The first story in the book introduces the other four: A little girl visits an amusement park. She looks fascinated, but finds everything too expensive. Finally, behind the rollercoaster she eyeballs a small booth with “CINEMA PANOPTICUM” written on it. Inside there are boxes with screens. Every box contains a movie; the title of each appears on each screen. Each costs only a dime, so the price is right for the little girl. She puts her money in the first box: “The Prophet” begins. In the film, a vagrant foresees the end of the world and tries to warn people, but nobody believes him. They will soon enough.”

Harvest9. Harvest, by A.J. Lieberman & Colin Lorimer

“Livers, kidneys, and rogue medical teams, oh my! Welcome to Dr. Benjamin Dane’s nightmare! His only way out? Bring down the man who set him up for murder by reclaiming organs already placed in some very powerful people. The only people Dane can count on are an ex-Yakuza assassin and a six-year-old drug fiend. If Dexter, ER, and 100 Bullets had a three-way and that mind-blowing tryst somehow resulted in a child, that kid would read Harvest!”

Locke & Key

 

10. Locke & Key, by Joe Hill & Gabriel Rodríguez

“Locke & Key tells of Keyhouse, an unlikely New England mansion, with fantastic doors that transform all who dare to walk through them . . . and home to a hate-filled and relentless creature that will not rest until it forces open the most terrible door of them all . . .”

 

Stay tuned for Part 2 of Awesome Horror Comics!

October Is Horror Movie Month!

Here Are 5 Young Adult Horror Movies To Get Us Excited For HalloweenCarrie

by REBECCA, October 8, 2013

Like so many fans of horror fiction, October is always a treat because it’s a constant rollout of horror movies. Usually this consists of 90% garbage, but there are always a few I get excited about. Horror movies have long been the province of young adults, whether it’s the teens being picked off one by one in Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street, the terrifying children of The Exorcist, The Omen, and Let the Right One In, the gangs of scary teenagers in Near Dark and The Lost Boys, or the teens just trying to survive evil in the form of authority figures in Suspiria and The FacultyBecause of their scare-factor, however, these horror movies would rarely be considered Young Adult movies. This October, though, there are five horror movies that seem much more in YA territory!

1. Carrie, starring Chloë Moretz and Julianne Moore; directed by Kimberly Peirce

CarrieA remake of Brian De Palma’s 1976 adaptation of Stephen King’s novelCarrie is the story of a shy girl raised by a hyper-religious mother who is tormented by her peers at school and gets revenge on them by using her telekinetic abilities to kill them at the prom. I liked Moretz in the American remake of Let the Right One In and can really see her as Carrie. Carrie‘s theme of bullying will, I think, resonate even more strongly with audiences of today than it did in the seventies. Bonus: October is national anti-bullying month, which I’m sure is the distributors’ reason for releasing it then. EDIT: Also, check out this amazing publicity stunt in which a special effects-rigged coffee shop freaks customers out by making them think a girl goes all Carrie on someone after he spills her coffee!

Carrie opens October 18th.

2. I Will Follow You Into the Dark, starring Mischa Barton and Ryan Eggold; written and directed by Mark Edwin Robinson

I Will Follow You Into The DarkNamed after a Death Cab For Cutie song, I Will Follow You Into the Dark finds Sophie (Barton) suffering from depression after the deaths of her parents. Then she meets Adam (Eggold), the only one who gets through to her. But when Adam disappears, Sophie tries to find him, ending up at a mysterious apartment building and crossing the threshold into the realm of the dead. This mixture of horror and romance seems sure to resonate with a young adult audience.

I Will Follow You Into the Dark opens October 11th.

3. Haunt, starring Harrison Gilbertson and Liana Liberato; written by Andrew Barrer and directed by Mac Carter

HauntIntroverted teen Ethan (Gilbertson) moves into a new house and becomes friends with the girl next door (Liberato), then romantically involved. As they explore their new relationship they also explore Ethan’s family’s house, which is haunted, and discover an alternate (and terrifying!) dimension. I haven’t heard anything about this movie, nor have I heard of these two lead actors, but I’m excited for a non-remake horror movie—also the tag line is terrifying: “The Feeding Never Ends.” What?! Haunt actually sounds a bit like I Will Follow You Into the Dark in its mix of romance and horror and it’s portal-to-another-realmness.

Haunt opens October 11th.

4. Toad Road, written and directed by Jason Banker

Toad RoadWriter/director Jason Banker describes Toad Road as “something like Kids meets The Blair Witch Project.” Banker cast Toad Road by finding a teen who friended VICE magazine on MySpace and looking at his top friends (weird) and filmed it in his home town of York, Pennsylvania. He used their real lives, kind of, and built the story around them—about 70% of the film is documentary, in that it’s these people actually interacting. Banker had them use real drugs before shooting (also weird) and, in a grisly twist, Sara Anne Jones, the lead, died of a drug overdose just after Toad Road‘s premiere. I’m very curious about this movie and I could see it having real cult appeal. Here’s hoping it’s more Kids and less The Blair Witch Project.

Toad Road opens October 25th.

5. Grand Piano, starring Elijah Wood and John Cusack; written by Damien Chazelle and directed by Eugenia Mira

Grand PianoOk, so this one is a cheat because it’s opening in Spain, but I had to include it because it looks so freaking awesome. Tom Selznick (Wood) is a pianist who hasn’t played in five years after he choked during a performance of his mentor’s work. This is his comeback performance and he finds a note on his piano that tells him if he plays even one wrong note then he and his wife will be killed. Dude, it’s like Speed on classical music. Tom puts in an earpiece so he can hear orders from the man who is threatening him (Cusack) and has to play for his life. I’m sorry to tease you with this since I’m not sure when it’s releasing in the U.S., but this is exactly the movie I want to see on Halloween. I’ll report back when I hear it’s opening here. UPDATEGrand Piano is opening in the U.S. on March 7th!

People, when I paused in writing this post on HORROR to check that my formatting looked right, guess what the word count was at? Guess. Come on, guess! Yep, that’s right:

DEVIL!

Best Scary Stories to Read at Sleepovers

Friends, it’s HALLOWEEN, the best holiday in October! You know how we celebrate Halloween here at Crunchings and Munchings? We have creepy sleepovers where we read scary stories; then in the morning, we have Halloween brunch where we make elaborate Martha Stewart Haunted House Cake and watch movies like The Craft  and Hocus Pocus!

Martha Stewart Haunted House Cake

Cake made in an overnight frenzy by Rebecca and S. Dubs!

We don’t know about the sleepovers that you attended in your youth, but ours often involved scary storytelling—more like urban legend-remembering—and they never went well. Sure, as tweens we weren’t that concerned with having a well-crafted plot arc in our stories, but it does help to bring about chills and frissons of terror. Maybe you’d like to put together your own super-scary Halloween Sleepover? Or perhaps you’d like to come to ours? You can really never be too old, we assure you. If so, here are some of our favorite scary stories to ensure you never get to sleep. But don’t worry, if you can make it through the stories, you get the cake!

compiled by Rebecca & Tessa

TESSA’S PICKS

#1: TAILYPO

Found in the Robert D. San Souci collection Short & Shivery: Thirty Chilling Tales and illustrated by Katherine Coville, this illustration and accompanying story haunted my sister and I for years and years. It’s only repeated exposure therapy and the wisdom of old age that allow me to look at it now. I scanned it so that all of you dear readers could understand.

Imagine a voice whispering through your walls, all night, after you chopped off and ate a snake-like tail that was conveniently sticking through a crack in your log cabin. The voice wants its tail back (or its “tailypo”, who am I to question the dialect of chimeras in the deep fictional wilderness). You can’t give it its tail back, you ate the tail! You know it. It knows it. You try to ignore it and go to bed, hoping for the sunrise. Instead you wake up to those GLOBES OF HORROR at the bottom of your bed.

The tailypo is being returned, doesn’t matter if it’s half digested.

lucy clifford new mother

#2 THE NEW MOTHER

You may know this story from its effective adaptation in Alvin Schwartz’s More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark under the title “The Drum”. It was originally published (in English, I have a vague recollection of my roommate telling me that there is a Russian version of it, but that’s hearsay) by Lucy Clifford in her Anyhow Stories, Moral and Otherwise from 1882. (It’s free as an ebook on Google, so click click).

“The New Mother” is about two impressionable and unfortunately named children, Turkey and Blue-Eyes (Turkey is a fine name for a cat, but I draw the line at children.) Their goodness is tested by a girl they meet at the edge of town, who says she has such a thing as a pear-drum, with little people who dance inside of it. But she can’t show it to T & B-E unless they go home and behave as badly as they possibly can. No, they don’t understand, she tells them, you have to be positively evil.

The more they misbehave, the more their mother gets upset. Not just frustration upset, but really upset. Something really bad will happen if they continue their Pear-drum Campaign of Badness, she says. She will be replaced. With a new mother. One with glass eyes and wooden tail.

I think we all can see where this is going. Urgh, the feeling of consequence: your mother is really gone. You are alone, and here comes this new . . . not-quite human thing up the walk, to live with you.

#3 THE BOOGEYMAN

I just re-read this Stephen King short story, from the Night Shift collection, in order to re-assess it as an adult. Although my faster reading speed makes the story unfold more quickly and robs it of a little of of its power, it was so scary to me as a tween that I’m still a little afraid of closets. I spent many a night awake, sweating under an unnecessary bedspread, with my eyes averted but whole body attuned to whether or not the closet door. Might. Be. Opening.

I mean, let’s overlook the fact that Mr. King used “The Boogeyman” partially as a chance to do a character study of a guy who was bumbling and misogynistic and racist, and focus on some of the excellent, teasing descriptions:

“Last year wasn’t so good. Something about the house changed. I started keeping my boots in the hall because I didn’t like to open the closet door anymore. I kept thinking: Well, what if it’s in there? All crouched down and ready to spring the second I open the door? And I’d started thinking I could hear squishy noises, as if something black and green and wet was moving around in there just a little.”

Also: slithering.

#4 HAROLD

“Harold” is from Scary Stories 3: More Tales to Chill Your Bones, collected by Alvin Schwartz, illustrated by Stephen Gammell 4EVA, no offense, Brett Helquist. Someone read it aloud at a scary story share a couple of years ago and it still made me want to physically run from the room. As if Harold were in a corner of it . . . and he suddenly grunted.

Again with the theme of something not human interacting with an uncanny intelligence with humans. It freaks me out.

“Harold” is also acting as a stand-in for all the Schwartz collections. They reign supreme!

#5 MONSTER

Kelly Link has a story called “Monster” and illustrated by Shelley Dick in this book called Noisy Outlaws, Unfriendly Blobs, and some other things that aren’t as scary, maybe, depending on how you feel about Lost Lands, Stray Cellphones, Creatures from the Sky, Parents who Disappear in Peru, a Man Named Lars Far, and one other story we couldn’t quite finish, So Maybe You Could Help Us Out.

Firstly, Kelly Link is a modern short story genius. I urge you to click on that link above where her name is and download Magic for Beginners from her site, if you haven’t read it yet. So this story is fun to read aloud. It’s about kids at camp, and about the monster that they meet in the woods. The monster is startling. The kids are funny. Kelly Link perfectly describes the cabinthink of a camp group, the finality of gossip, the way things instantaneously become The Way Things Are.

“‘There wasn’t any monster,’ Bryan Jones said, ‘and anyway if there was a monster, I bet it ran away when it saw Bungalow 4.’ Everybody nodded. What Bryan Jones said made sense. Everybody knew that the kids in Bungalow 4 were so mean that they had made their counselor cry like a girl. The Bungalow 4 counselor was a twenty-year-old college student named Eric who had terrible acne and wrote poems about the local girls who worked in the kitchen and how their breasts looked lonely but aslo beautiful, like melted ice cream.”

HONORABLE MENTIONS:

“Siren Song” from Ghostly Companions: A Feast of Chilling Tales by Vivien Alcock
: a boy gets a tape recorder for his birthday and through his taped diary entries we hear him discover children singing in the yard at night, their songs asking him to come out to play (hoooo, hoooo!)

“The Snipe Hunt” from Still More Tales for the Midnight Hour: 13 Stories of Horror by J.B. Stamper.
: a group of campers is sent on a wild goose chase (aka a snipe hunt). But one catches a snipe.

Now, on to Rebecca’s picks!

All My Best, Scary Tessa

REBECCA’S PICKS

Holy monkey brains, Tessa, I couldn’t agree with your picks more! Kelly Link is totally a short-story-genius, and I heard her read a few months ago and it was chilling and detached-sounding. The Scary Stories books (and especially the amazing illustrations) haunted my childhood too. The line “people can lick to” is one of the all-time scariest. So, I just got back from a week in New Orleans with C&M guest writer S. Dubs, who lives there. It really got my Halloween juices flowing. I’m not saying that we jumped the fence at Lafayette Cemetery #1 at midnight to light a candle on the Mayfair Witches’ grave, but I’m not saying that we didn’t.

So, without further law-breaking, here are my picks.

Clive Barker Books of Blood

#1. IN THE HILLS, THE CITIES, by Clive Barker

“In the Hills, the Cities,” is in Clive Barker’s collection Books of Blood, volume 1 (1984) and it’s one of my favorite short stories. It’s more creepy-bizarre-cool than it is scary, which would make it a nice breather for our so-far-totally-terrifying sleepover. Mick and his lover, Judd, are on vacation in Yugoslavia, looking for an historic church in the middle of nowhere, and realizing that their politics are . . . incompatible. They decide to drive down the valley of the Ibar and go see the hills. Duhn duhn duhn! Never have hills been so ominous! Well, I guess in The Hills Have Eyes, but this is quite different fare. Judd and Mick stumble upon a ritual contest between the cities of Popolac and Podujevo:

“Every single citizen, however young or infirm . . . all made their way up from their proud city to the stamping ground. It was the law that they should attend: but it needed no enforcing. No citizen of either city would have missed the chance to see that sight—to experience the thrill of that contest. The confrontation had to be total, city against city. This was the way it had always been. . . . Tens of thousands of hearts beat faster. Tens of thousands of bodies stretched and strained and sweated as the twin cities took their positions” (144-5).

Pretty Hate Machine Nine Inch NailsFor any Nine Inch Nails fans in the room, you might know “In the Hills, the Cities” for another reason: Trent Reznor borrowed one of Barker’s lines from this story for the song “Sin”: “I told you, I don’t want to see another church; the smell of the places makes me sick. Stale incense, old sweat and lies” (137). Also, though it’s not sleepover-length, you should totally read The Hellbound Heart (what the Hellraiser films are based on) by Barker, too.

Shirley Jackson the Lottery

#2. THE LOTTERY, by Shirley Jackson

I think “In the Hills, the Cities” would segue really well into another of my faves: Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” (1948). I sort of feel like anyone who has never read “The Lottery” should just stop reading this post right now and go read it—I envy you getting to experience it for the first time. It is one of the most subtle and masterful We Have Always Lived in the Castle Shirley Jacksonexamples of evoking terror from otherwise banal pastoral moments. Originally published in The New Yorker on June 26th, the story takes place on June 27th, as if with creepy prescience, and upon publication it received more hate mail than any New Yorker story in history (the mark of a winner, Shirley!). She lived in Bennington, Vermont for a time while her husband taught at Bennington College, and she reportedly was inspired to write “The Lottery” because she was thinking about the sinister underbelly of the idyllic small town.

Actually, I am of the opinion that everything Shirley Jackson touched turned to gold. Also check out The Haunting of Hill House (1959) and We Have Always Lived in the Castle (1962). Make sure not to miss this amazing cover by Thomas Ott, one of my favorite graphic artists!

Looking for Jake and other Stories China Miéville

#3. LOOKING FOR JAKE & FOUNDATION, by China Miéville

China Miéville is one of my favorite authors, and his short story collection Looking For Jake is a total treat. They’re all great, but the first two, “Looking For Jake” and “Foundation” are great to read out loud. Both are gorgeously textured stories of shifting, roiling, disappearing urban landscapes. In “Looking For Jake,” an unnamed narrator writes to Jake:

“It’s dark out here on the roof. It’s been dark for some time. But I can see enough to write, from deflected streetlamps and maybe from the moon, too. The air is buffeted more and more by the passage of those hungry, unseen things, but I’m not afraid. I can hear them fighting and nesting and courting in the Gaumont’s tower, jutting over my neighbours’ houses and shops. A little while ago there was a dry sputter and crack, and a constant low buzz now underpins the night sounds. I am attuned to that sound. The murmur of neon. The Gaumont State is blaring its message to me across the short, deserted distance of pavement” (13).

And in “Foundation,” a man speaks to buildings whose foundations are

“a stock of dead men. An underpinning, a structure of entangled bodies and their parts, pushed tight, packed together and become architecture, their bones broken to make them fit, wedged in contorted repose, burnt skins and the tatters of their clothes pressed as if against glass at the limits of their cut, running below the building’s walls, six feet deep below the ground, a perfect runnel full of humans poured like concrete and bracing the stays of the walls” (27).

Angela Carter The Bloody Chamber

#4. THE BLOODY CHAMBER, by Angela Carter

First published in a collection of the same name in 1979, “The Bloody Chamber” is a retelling of the Bluebeard tale. In Carter’s version, the girl who marries the Marquis (the Bluebeard character) is a pianist, and a blind piano tuner hears her playing and falls in love with her music. When the Marquis returns to find that his young bride has looked in the forbidden room and found his victims, her mother saves her. Long live moms! Badass. My absolute favorite Carter is Nights at the Circus (1984), which is too long to read at a sleepover, but which (along with Katherine Dunn’s Geek Love) so set the genre of weird-circus fiction for me that I’ve never been able to look at a circus book and not wish I were reading Carter. Also, I like to tell myself that Christina Aguilera’s video for “Hurt” is inspired by Nights at the Circus. God, I love that song.

#5. WHERE ARE YOU GOING, WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN, by Joyce Carol Oates

“Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been” (1966) is inspired by three real-life murders that took place in Tucson that same year. 15-year-old Connie gets picked up by a drifter who first acts charming, but then begins to threaten her family while getting her to do things for him as he describes to her exactly what is happening to her parents and neighbors . . . It’s creepy, with an inconclusive conclusion, and Oates signature insidious eerieness. For an extended creepfest, check out Oates’ Zombie (1995), told from the perspective of a Jeffrey Dahmer-esque serial killer.

My buddy Edgar Allan Poe

OTHER STANDBYS

There are certain people that I didn’t want to list above because, heck, I wouldn’t know which of their stories to pick. Edgar Allan Poe is a classic for a reason—one of my all-time favorite short story writers, and you really could add almost any of his stories to our sleepover. A few personal favorites = “The Masque of the Red Death,” “The Tell-Tale Heart,” “The Purloined Letter,” and “The Pit and the Pendulum.” As for H.P. Lovecraft, another classic, well, he was a racist, intolerant little shit, but some of his ideas are amazing. I actually don’t think they would read out loud that well, and many of them are pretty long, but dang are they bizarre, so go read them quietly in a cemetery or something.

Another standby for me is Harlan Ellison, who wrote so many kinds of messed up shit I wouldn’t even know where to begin. “I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream” is great, and “Midnight In the Sunken Cathedral” is one of my faves. Check it out if you like underwatery things:

“He marveled that, if he were indeed somewhere beneath the Bermuda Triangle, in some impossible sub-oceanic world that could exist in defiance of the rigors of physics and plate tectonics and magma certainties, then this subterranean edifice was certainly the most colossal structure ever built on the planet. A holy sunken cathedral built by gods” (Slippage, 356).

Roald Dahl! Holy childhood terrors, Batman. There is just something about this man’s imagination that got me all my soft, squidgy parts. The Witches is absolutely terrifying, but in terms of short stories, I’d have to nominate “Lamb to the Slaughter,” “The Landlady,” and “Royal Jelly.”

So, Halloweeners, what are you bringing to read to the sleepover?! Tell us in the comments.

Slinging Lattes On Demon Wings

A Review of On Demon Wings: Experiment in Terror #5 by Karina Halle

Metal Blonde Books, 2012

By REBECCA, October 22, 2012

On Demon Wings Experiment in Terror Karina Halle

NOTE: On Demon Wings is the 5th book in the Experiment in Terror Series and this review contains spoilers for previous books in the series. If you haven’t already done so, check out my reviews of Darkhouse, Red FoxDead Sky Morning, and Lying Season before reading.

characters

Perry Palomino: A kick-ass (no, really, she knows martial arts) lady with a lonely heart and a yen for adventure

Ada Palomino: Perry’s fashionista little sister who quickly becomes MVP

Maximus: An old friend of Dex’s who sweeps in claiming some ghost-y know-how

Dex Foray: Mustachioed ghost hunter and all-around delightfully infuriating enigma

the hook

How can you escape the things that haunt you . . . if they’re inside you to begin with BWAH HA HAH!?!

worldview

Aaaaaaah! In On Demon Wings, Karina Halle’s fifth chilling installment of the Experiment in Terror series, fear moves from the outside in. In the first three books, Dex and Perry were filming episodes of their web ghost hunting show and were plagued by various ghosts, spirits, and unsavory beasties. In the fourth book, The Lying Season, shit got really personal, and ghosts from Dex’s past (and a girlfriend from his present) wreaked havoc on Dex and Perry’s fledgling relationship.

Cthulhu latte!

Cthulhu latte!

Now, several months after fleeing Seattle and strife with Dex, Perry has given up ghost hunting and taken a job at a coffee shop, trying to make normal (read: non-haunted) friends, hanging out with her sister, and whipping milk into a variety of concoctions for exacting customers. She’s messed up by the whole ordeal in Seattle, but she’s trying her damnedest to pick up the pieces. But, as always happens when we’re trying to scrape together the fragments of our shattered psyches, Perry begins feeling extremely ill, and seeing things, like girls at concerts with shark smiles.

Into this mess walks our good friend, Maximus, from Red Fox, Dex’s college buddy and former bandmate who took quite a shine to Perry. He’s just moved to Portland and wants to convince Perry to return to the show, with him instead of with Dex. Perry begins to feel worse and worse,  she is convinced that her house is haunted, and whatever is there is slowly driving her crazy.

what were this book’s expectations? did it live up to them?

On Demon Wings is the best kind of horror story: one where both the characters and the reader are, for most of the book, unsure whether the supernatural occurrences are real or not. But it’s with On Demon Wings that readers can be sure of one thing—that the Experiment in Terror series is one of most unique, spooky, and entertaining rides out there. Where The Lying Season shifted the plot arc that the first three books used, On Demon Wings breaks from it completely, and it is a perfectly calculated move. Instead of the controlled chaos we found in the first three books, and the high-energy, romantic chaos in book four, book five is mired deep in Perry’s psyche. Here is a dark, crawling pit of despair and fear into which Perry has fallen and she can’t get up.

Perry Palomino has fallen and she can't get up

Halle has taken her recipe of sexual tension + terror, added a heaping cup of heartbreak, a sprinkle of neuroses, and stirred it to a boil. In Dex’s absence, Maximus is the perfect leading man: comforting and take-charge (in a Southern kind of way), Maximus takes the pressure off Perry and worms his way into her confidence. It was sad to have an Experiment in Terror book where Dex was mostly absent, but it was a much-needed absence. In addition to feeling realistic in the scope of the series (which is gloriously long enough to leave room for a little leavening), Dex’s absence makes the reader feel as abandoned and at sea as Perry does, heightening the relief we feel when he arrives late in the book.

Practical Magic Alice HoffmanThe pleasantest surprise of On Demon Wings is that Ada finally gets a chance to live up to the promises of awesomeness the first four books made on her behalf. Even as their parents think that Perry is cracking up and Maximus proves that sometimes tall, handsome, Southern redheads aren’t all that they seem, Ada keeps a level head and refuses to give up on Perry. I love a good sisters-battling-evil-book, and Ada totally pulls her weight and looks out for Perry. Sisters!

Don’t worry your pretty little heads, though, Dex isn’t gone from On Demon Wings completely. He shows up, as Dex is wont to do, at a dramatic moment and, well, makes it more dramatic. And, of course, it ends on what we in the business would call a cliffhanger. Pfew, Perry really needs a vacation.

Old Blood Experiment in Terror Karina HalleSo, now you’re all caught up with the main books in the series. The sixth Experiment in Terror book—Into the Hollow—will be released this year (publication has been pushed back a bit). You can check out the cover reveal for Into the Hollow HERE. But, lest you fall over the cliff before it’s released, you should also check out Old Blood (EIT 5.5), the novella about Pippa, the “crazy clown lady,” and The Dex-Files (EIT 5.7), a novel composed of scenes from the series told from Dex’s perspective.

What has been your favorite Experiment in Terror book so far?

Cover Reveal! Karina Halle’s Into The Hollow: Experiment in Terror #6

BONUS: Review of Lying Season: EIT #4

By REBECCA, August 31, 2012

If you read Crunchings & Munchings regularly, you know that I love Karina Halle’s Experiment in Terror series. It is my sublimest delight, then, to reveal to you the brand spanking new cover of the newest Experiment in Terror novel, number 6: Into the Hollow! Check out this totally gorgeous creepfest:

Into the Hollow Experiment in Terror 6 Karina Halle Cover Reveal

Here’s the deal:

“Perry Palomino has fought her demons—and won—but the battle is far from over. She’s now left broken and on her own, leaving behind her life and family in Portland to focus on giving Dex Foray—and the Experiment in Terror show—a second chance. But their past mistakes continue to tease and test their relationship, as does the wild and desolate terrain of the Canadian Rockies. The snow-covered peaks and ravenous forests hide an urban legend too unbelievably frightening to be true and the only way the duo has a chance of surviving is if Perry can let in the very man who sent her to hell and back.” (from Goodreads)

Gaaahh! First of all, few things strike terror into my heart like a quaint log cabin isolated enough so that no one could hear me scream when one of those über pointy icicles just happened to break off and lodge itself in my throat, melting to leave no evidence behind even when I’m found at the first thaw by an adorably-in-love couple who have rented the cabin for a romantic getaway. Maybe they’ll name their firstborn after me and I won’t be entirely forgotten out there in the cold.

Anyhoo, this is a gorgeous cover (by Najila Qamber)—no surprise, since the entire series’ covers have been awesome: one striking image with a supersaturated color. I especially like the sky in this one. That demented green is so much creepier than the blue tinge that snow sometimes gets . . . God, I am freaking myself out.

Expected Publication: October 23rd (by Metal Blonde Books), right in time for Halloween, y’all!

The Experiment in Terror Series, Karina Halle

Want to catch up? Lucky you: I’ve reviewed Experiment in Terror 1-3

here,                                             here,                                              and here!

Darkhouse Experiment in Terror 1 Karina Halle  Red Fox Experiment in Terror 2 Karina Halle  Dead Sky Morning Experiment in Terror 3 Karina Halle

And now, here is a very brief review of Experiment In Terror #4, Lying Season. It’s very brief because the meat of the book’s drama is interpersonal and I would really be ruining it for you if I give any of that drama away. But I promise: it is très, très, dramatic.

Lying Season Experiment In Terror 4 Karina Halle

characters

Perry Palomino: A kick-ass (no, really, she knows martial arts) lady with a lonely heart and a yen for adventure

Dex Foray: Mustachioed ghost hunter and all-around delightfully infuriating enigma

Jennifer: Wine Babe (yes, that’s a thing), Dex’s girlfriend, and all-around overly attractive person

Rebecca: Jennifer’s fellow Wine Babe, equally overly attractive, but also an overly-awesome friend to Dex and new friend to Perry

Assorted ghosts, animals, and other wee beasties

the hook

“Ama­teur ghost-hunter Perry Palomino has bat­tled ghosts, fought off skin­walk­ers and skirted the fine line between life and death. But can she sur­vive bunk­ing down in Seat­tle for a week with her partner (and man she secretly loves) Dex and his perfect girl­friend, Jennifer? And can she do so while being tor­mented by a mali­cious spirit from Dex’s increas­ingly shady past? With love and life in the bal­ance, Perry must dis­cover the truth among the lies or risk los­ing every­thing she’s ever cared about.” (from Goodreads)

everything

Darkhouse Experiment in Terror 1 Karina HalleLying Season has a different form than any of the previous three experiments in terror because rather than Perry and Dex alone together in an intense ghost-hunting experience away from either of their daily lives, here they face the complete and total horror of trying to coexist in the space of Dex’s daily life, girlfriend, dog, and all. (And, again, I’m not going to give anything away, here, because much of the delight of Lying Season is watching the interpersonal drama unfold.)

So, Perry is staying in Dex and Jennifer’s apartment in Seattle so that she and Dex can film an episode in Riverside Mental Hospital and Perry can meet the whole Shownet team (the company that runs their show, as well as several others, including Wine Babes, the show that Jennifer and Rebecca host) at the annual Christmas party. Allow me to summarize: Sexual tension + mental hospitals + ghosts of days past + antipsychotics = well, Christmas, I guess, but also . . . TROUBLE. Trouble for Perry’s heart and trouble for Dex’s sanity, not to mention major, major trouble for everyone’s relationships. Oh, and did I mention the complete sizzle that seems to pass between Perry and Dex any time they’re near enough for energy to arc? Well, it’s pretty clear to anyone in proximity, including Jennifer.

Dead Sky Morning Experiment in Terror 3 Karina HalleAfter incidents at Riverside Mental Hospital suggest to Perry that perhaps Dex’s ability to sense ghosts is closer to her own than he has ever let on, she undertakes an experiment of her own . . . an experiment that causes more terror than any she and Dex have undergone so far. Did that sound cryptic and like it might reference Perry and Dex’s ever-intensifying relationship as well as the spirit world? Well, it is and it does and if you’re not reading Halle’s Experiment in Terror series yet for any reason other than you don’t think you could possibly stand how awesomescary they are then I doubt your sanity.

Have you read all five Experiment in Terror books and are wondering if there is anything to tide you over for the next weeks until Into the Hollow comes out? Well, you are in luck again! You should clearly go read the following:

The Benson Experiment in Terror 2.5 Karina HalleThe Benson a novella that is Experiment in Terror 2.5, between Darkhouse and Red Fox. You can download it for free here.

Old Blood Experiment in Terror 5.5 Karina HalleOld Blood: Experiment in Terror 5.5, which tells the story of Pippa (aka The Creepy Clown Lady) that she begins to communicate to Perry in Lying Season.

The Dex-Files Experiment in Terror 5.7 Karina HalleThe Dex-Files: Experiment in Terror 5.7. This is a companion novel to the series, composed of re-tellings of scenes from the other books, but told from Dex’s perspective. (Note: this means that here be spoilers for the other books in the series, so be warned.) I love how Dex’s profile-silhouette is kind of Sherlock Holmsian.

Can’t wait for Into the Hollow! Check back soon for the review of the fifth Experiment in Terror novel, On Demon Wings. Stay alive, friends. It’s scary out there.

Experiment in Terror Supernatural Sam

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