”Man-Gull” is the greatest comic I’ve heard of this year

A big thanks to Cartoonist Kayfabe for pointing out the glory that is Man-Gull.

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This should explain more.

Man-Gull is published by Stock Pile Comics, and is the vision of creator Rian Millar. Here’s the synopsis…

Normally, a double dismembering would draw the attention of every law officer in the small town of Pleasant Point. However, with a string of serial kidnappings keeping the majority of the police force busy, the weight of this bizarre case falls solely upon the shoulders of Detective Nick Obecks.

Who is behind the disappearances of multiple young women? What would compel someone to cut off both of poor John Moxon’s arms? And where is Nick going to sleep now that his girlfriend has kicked him out?

I NEED to read this, but seeing as shipping comics from the US is exceptionally expensive for single issues so I’m putting out a word as to how many people I know who want one of these beautiful gems before getting a load over.  Til then I await the glory of the Man Gull!

Happy birthday Cartoonist Kayfabe

Comics in the media is a minefield. Comics on YouTube is slightly betteronce one wades through the endless ‘geek’ sites featuring a host desperate to be seen by a major channel, or endless lists of comics, or videos like ‘Why XXXX is REALLY bad!!!’.Sure, there’s some good sites out there (and more of them another time) but comics are mainly served badly by YouTube. Stuff like What Culture does fuck all for the medium, nor do I think those involved with channels like that care about comics.

Then a year ago came along Cartoonist Kayfabe featuring cartoonists Jim Rugg and Ed Piskor. Their first video was about Wizard #1

From these beginnings, the channel has grown into the best comics channel out there anywhere on the internet. A big part of that is down to Piskor and Rugg’s complete enthusiasm and love for the medium of comics, and no, not just the usual suspects but things like early Image and 80’s black and white independents, including from the likes of Aircel.

Because the pair love comics, and because they’re coming to comics from a different perspective, even an auld hand like myself is learning things about how comics are created, marketed, sold and with things like their history of Wizard, I learned a few things about a time in comics which history does badly, and that my brain cells have lost memories of.

In short, if you have a genuine love of comics then you should be watching this channel which you can find here. Go over there now and join in their first birthday celebrations!

My top ten horror comics: 1: EC Comics

Every single horror comic produced today in the West owes something to the horror comics produced by EC Comics. In fact, EC’s influence is such that if you’ve seen a zombie film, or something written by Stephen King, or made by George Romero, or influenced in any way by these people (which is pretty much everything in horror these days) then you’ve been touched by EC.

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Springing out of their crime comics, EC found that kids in the 1950s loved grisly, gory, wonderful horror stories drawn by some of the greatest ever artists to draw comics then and now.

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Many of the stories were actually pretty routine sting in the tale stories, but some were extraordinary such as the adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s The Small Assassin, which is still chilling and horrific 70 years after it was first published.

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Or the gloriously gory end to Foul Play

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Sadly this run of fun and games didn’t last long in the censorious days of 50s America, and soon the authorities cracked down on horror comics, and in doing so held back American comics for 40 years.

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But those few years pumping out horror, fear, crime, gore and terror hit a mark that horror comics have tried to better for decades, and on the whole, failed to his the same standards. These comics are truly golden and will forever be the best horror comics you’ll come across.

My top ten horror comics: 2 : Swamp Thing

Swamp Thing is DC’s version of a mud-monster archetype that goes back decades in comics, and even further, but it is by far the best known as well as being host to at least three classic runs. The first by creators Len Wein and Berni Wrightson.

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Wein and Wrightson’s run is full of Gothic angst as Swamp Thing tries to regain some measure of his lost humanity while fighting other monsters, not to mention Batman. In that story is writer Len Wein’s favourite ever panel of Batman and he’s not wrong in how bloody great it is.

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Wein and Wrightson’s run is lovely old-school horror but it was short-lived, and followed on was a run memorable only for some nice Nestor Redondo art but nothing else. Swampy was a character who drifted for nearly a decade before a writer by the name of Alan Moore was assigned the book when it was one of DC’s worst-selling titles. Moore, along with Steve Bissette, John Totleben and Rick Veitch redefined the horror comic from issue 20 of Saga of the Swamp Thing to an extent where its influence hangs over comics today. Current best-seller The Immortal Hulk owes a lot to this title, and Moore’s approach in particular.

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Moore was less influenced by horror comics of the past, and instead took a literary approach assuming the reader could, well, read, and wasn’t an idiot. Very quickly the title crawled from the swamp of near cancellation to being one of the flagships of how DC reinvented themselves in the mid-80’s by producing a critical and commercial success.

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This run is simply the best horror comics produced by either Marvel or DC. Moore also slips in and out of horror genres so one issue would be a monster of the week, followed by a sort of slasher story, then a werewolf story and then something entirely from leftfield.

SOTSTv2 p110-150By the end of the run, it was hard to imagine how to follow it but writer/artist Rick Veitch took over the chores, and did so well until DC pulled his run over a story where a lost in time Swamp Thing would meet Jesus Christ.

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But we were left with nearly 80 issues of classic stories, with Moore and company’s run being near perfection, and Veitch’s being high-quality work throughout. Sadly since then, Swamp Thing as a character hasn’t been served well (though Mark Millar’s run does deserve a mention for trying) which is a shame as there’s still potential there but to be honest how can you really follow what Moore, Veitch, Bissette and Totleben did?

My top ten horror comics: 3 : The works of Junji Ito

There are few artists whose entire body of work is troubling. H.R Giger is one, Junji Ito is another.

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I’m a latecomer to Ito’s work as I find wading through the masses of manga chaff tiresome, but I had a reaction to Ito’s work that I’ve not had in years. Yes, there’s extreme gore in there but his work uses and reshapes human bodies in twisted, bizarre ways with almost Lovecraftian stories and ideas that weld together Western and Eastern horror in a package that works amazingly well. The best example of this is his adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, which is a fascinating read not only because it’s accurate, but because this is the original story of body horror being adapted by a 21st century master of the genre.

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As for his work, Uzumaki, to think a creator could make a horror story based round the spiral seems laughable til you read it…

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There’s also a film version of it that I must track down, as well as an adaptation by Adult Swim.

I’ve barely touched his work but the sheer amount of quality I encounter with each new book is remarkable as Ito is simply a twisted genius and I look forward to discovering more and more of his work.

My top ten horror comics:4:The Spectre by Michael Fleisher and Jim Aparo

How can a comic be exceptionally violent, brutal and grotesque in ways that 40 years later still horrify but manage to, just, stay within the limits of the Comics Code in the 1970’s? A lot of comics tried but in 1974 in Adventure Comics #431 showed how it could be done.

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Adventure Comics was at the time one of DC Comics longest running titles, but at this time it was a fading title used mainly for trying out new characters or somewhere to dump Aquaman in. With issue 474, editor Joe Orlando assigned writer Michael Fleisher and artist Jim Aparo revamped the Golden Age hero, The Spectre, for a run that became instantly controversial. Reason being is that Fleisher couldn’t show actual people being dismembered or tortured, so he’d have the Spectre (an all-powerful supernatural being) turn people into wax, or wood, or when that wheeze ran out artist Jim Aparo would push the Comics Code as far as it could have went in 1974.

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Sadly the controversy meant the story was curtailed as the story neared the end after ten issues though in 1988, Fleisher and Aparo were invited to complete the story in the Wrath of the Spectre mini-series.

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By 1988 the sort of viciousness displayed in the 70’s run was still horrific, but the ending lost some of its impact have a decade and a half between both parts of the story. That said, it is still a classic and a bridge between the horror of the 50’s with EC and what Alan Moore would later introduce with Swamp Thing in the 80s. Trade paperbacks are easily found so go get a copy for a bit of horror comic history.

My top ten horror comics:5: Yummy Fur

Chester Brown is not a comic creator to get on too many vapid ‘best of’ lists on YouTube channels obsessed with superheroes, but he’s not only a bloody genius, but his work is among the most challenging you’ll read in the medium today. His comic, Yummy Fur, started as a surreal work of horror along the lines of David Lynch, especially Eraserhead.

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His story, Ed the Happy Clown, is a work of such demented genius that the story deserves to go into as clean as possible, but be warned, this is not an easy read. It will however be worth it as you’re caught between horror/comedy/revulsion.

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It’s also worth pointing out that each edition of the collected Ed the Happy Clown has been revised in some way by Brown, so each edition comes at you in a slightly new way, but the original edit as it were are in those early issues of Yummy Fur.

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Brown’s latter works leap between autobiographical work that is often challenging and leftfield work such as his adaptations of the Gospels. His book, Paying For It is the sort of work that other creators would find hard to put to paper but he does, and the challenging questions it raises will be argued about for years. For me though, the story of a happy clown and the things he encounters will forever live with me because of the images and ideas Brown uses. It’s a work that needs to be read.