Friday, July 31, 2015

The Terror in the Woods at Night next to a Lake.

A flow of consciousness ode to horror clichés, unnecessary plot twists, 
and all the Elder Gods and inhuman evils $2.41 plus shipping can buy. 

necro

It was a dark and stormy night except for the pallid full moon shining over the long-closed camp nestled against a beautiful remote lake well known for its highly sought parcels of real-estate. The group of thirteen teens, a mix of strangers and lifelong friends whose backgrounds were, unbeknownst to them, all intertwined, made their way to a secluded sight they learned of from the whispered tales past down from their parents and the help of Google Maps.

They had gathered for a séance to communicate with the spirit of a small child who tragically died after not waiting an hour to go into the water after eating pop rocks and drinking soda. Some say it was murder. Some in the group heard it was the spirit of a local woman falsely accused of witchcraft after successfully cursing a Native American shaman for not keeping his promise to free the spirit of her missing child from the blood demons who dwelt in the hills surrounding the lake. The witch, you see, wants her child back so badly she even today seeks out and steals unsuspecting children regardless if they look nothing like the lost child or not. Or so the legend implies if you read between the lines.

The teens set up their unholy alter following the instructions carefully spelled out in the most evil of all evil books: The Necronomicon. One teen, a pretty and smart girl who was not well liked, had stumbled across the cursed book by accident while searching for songs on Amazon. It cost just enough to get free shipping after she selected the cheapest used paperback she could find from the fourteen different vendors. With this forbidden text whose pages are filed with dripping horrors and forbidden knowledge humanity was not meant to know, the group began their forbidden Black Mass rite after two teens took their nighttime ADHD meds and the rest texted their parents and/or love interests, checked Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and shared links to a new Fail video compilation on YouTube.

They were ready.

They lit their candles, removed their clothes -except for the guys- and called out to the spirits to answer who or what killed the little boy. Wind suddenly blew through the area terrifying the group who wasn't used to how air moves in the mountains. A cry pierced the night! A wail pulled from a pit of suffering in the darkest of blackness (which is called the umbra) Hell could offer. Contact was made! But suddenly (again) one of the teens cried out that they were a descendant of a sibling of a cousin of the little boy here for revenge! Blood demanded blood, she cried! Suddenly (again) another teen called out that they were the descendant of the witch who had remarried a few years later. They too were here for revenge! For blood! Then another! Then another! They all stood in a stupor confused by the thirteen unexpected twists that completely derailed their own carefully planned vengeance.

The girls replaced their clothes in a daze wondering what went wrong and why they had taken their clothes off in the first place. The boys wondered what went wrong causing the girls to put back on their clothes. All thirteen agreed it was getting late and trying to map out why they all sought revenge and against who and why really wasn’t worth it. It was getting late and they were all getting bored. Gathering their candles they said they would totally accept Friend Requests knowing they would not. It was time to go home. Time to leave this haunted place by an otherwise nice lake that saw lots of teens do things like this every summer when they had nothing better to do, or a just day off from the jobs their parents told them they needed.

But…

Hundreds of miles away an old man sat at a table. He was uneasy. Troubled. It felt like his past was kicking up dust obscuring his vision, but the moment quickly passed. It happened every now and again. Summers mostly. All things considered it wasn’t a terrible feeling. It gave him a reason to think and reminisce. Once upon a time he was a lonely, sad little boy with a mean witch of a mother. Then one the summer he decided to fake his own death and run away to join the circus. Life was pretty good after that.

The End.

My Side Good, Your Side Bad bumper sticker

 

msgysb

The political landscape does not grow civility, discourse, originality, or moderation. I know you know this. So, we distilled the essence of politics (as well as most online political exchanges) into six words so you can have fun poking fun at the whole mess. Put it on your vehicle or wall and watch people wonder if you are referring to them. Good times!

Simply click on either image of the bumper sticker and you’ll be whisked away to the magical land of our new Zazzle store. 

msgysb

Monday, July 20, 2015

Consumed by Zombies

The_Walking_Dead_Season_1_Meme_Rick_Hospital_Sign_DeadShed

Zombies have been crazy popular for a while now. If you’re reading this then there’s a very good chance you fall somewhere in the fandom horde. You’re kind of my proof of the first statement. (Thanks for the assist, by the way.) So have you asked yourself why are zombies, the living dead, walkers, shamblers, zed heads, crawlers, G’s, biters, etc. enjoy such popularity?

They aren’t sexy. Outside of fan fiction I don’t want to touch with a rotting ten-foot pole, of course. This is the internet age, after all. Sure, there are a few examples of romantic sexy-time in the genre. Warm Bodies was a notable example. Most of the other zombie films infused with a love-story involved ‘love doomed to fail’ like in Rec 3 or the very enjoyable German film Rammbock: Berlin Undead. Good stuff, yet not exactly the hormone infused material to fuel the hearts of teenaged girls and middle-aged women into parting with their money and panties. Sparkling vampires, anyone?

What about violence? Violence is popular. Word on the street is humans have been practicing it for a long time. There’s something to that idea we’ll swing back around to shortly, but no, it is not the deciding factor to explain the popularity of zombies. If gore alone was the magical ingredient then Hostel or Dead Again would have their own television series and children’s books. Gore is too easy.

Characters then? Strong, smart, likable characters must be a constant in the genre like the Northstar in the Heavens. No. No. And no. Most stories are filled with some or all of the usual suspects: the cop/ military/survivalist type, the thinker/scientist, the teenage lovebirds, the expendable Average Joe or Jane, the person with the “dark secret”, and the main characters that almost never die, or the sexy chick. The later comes packaged for whatever the popular look of the day is. Think of Linnea Quigley as Trash in Return of The Living Dead. She was wearing leg warmers. Still very popular today, said no one ever. Notable exceptions do exist, of course, such as in the writings of Max Brooks. World War Z and Recorded Outbreaks have smart and resourceful characters. I highly recommend the audio book for the all the well-known actors whose talents brought the undead book to life such as: Henry Rollins, Mark Hamill, and Alan Alda. The movie and book have little in common. So disappointing…

So, mulling over the list of attributes of sex, romance, violence, and strong characters that normally translate into popularity we find rare, isolated examples of each but nothing to really nail down why so many people spend so much time watching or playing fictional people fighting to stay un-eaten, un-consumed, and un-overrun by a tireless, mindless, adversary that cannot be reasoned with.

Or have we?

Zombies eat the living. Obvious, I know, but think about it. What if what makes zombies popular is what they do. They eat you alive. I once manage a large, well-stocked, and awesome video store. If you failed to buy a calendar, had no windows, and never left your basement you could tell the changing of the seasons by simply calling us and asking what movies were popular. Anyone who has ever worked in a video store will attest to how the season and holiday equaled the empty spaces on the shelves. Valentine’s Day moved all the Rom Coms. Halloween cleared out Horror. And so forth. But there are two other seasons: school finals and tax season. Months apart on the calendar and often decades distant measured by the age of the participants, both times of the year showed the same spike in rental activity. The college kids rented more Horror with a lean toward zombies just as the 9-5 working adults. This never changed in the seven years I managed at the store. Chatting with both old and young yielded the same feedback. They both felt overwhelming pressure. Forces were bearing down upon them that could not be reasoned with, that were seemingly everywhere, and that little by little consumed their lives, time, and energy. Sound familiar? Zombies are popular because they personify stress. Zombies are mindless, uncaring, unthinking dangers that eat you alive. Alone they can usually be handled with a high degree of success, but they are never truly alone. Think of all the things in your life, big and small, that drain you. Think about the stresses that pull you and take your time and attention, and therefore overwhelm you. Zombies do to the physical form what day to day life can do to us spiritually, emotionally, and financially. Our culture, whether it realizes it or not, is crying out for help because it feels like it is being eaten alive.

At least, that is how I see it.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The End of Days

 

Lo! It is the end of days…

…of our Kickstarter campaign!

29 hours and $124.00 to go. Very exciting. And by exciting I mean "AHHH!"

 

beaker

Sunday, July 12, 2015

The gap is closing!

Thank you to our new pledgers. Three days left in the campaign.

While I continue to beat the drum in the background I want to make sure nods are given to those who have directly and indirectly helped with the campaign. First, our pledgers. Some pledged for a specific piece, some for all, and some just to show support. So to our old and new friends in New York, Vermont, California, Hawaii, The UK, Florida, Louisiana, Maryland, Ohio, and other far flung places I say THANK YOU! I also want to recognize Dostie Bros. Frame Shop, Sequential Tart, and The Comic Depot for their promotional support. The internet is a big place so the more people shouting your name the better. THANK YOU!

Go here for our link >>>> Kickstarter <<<<

Scenes2

Scenes3

AtoZombie2

Sunday, July 5, 2015

A Retinue of Reviews

The Haunting House was the first book Mark and I cobbled together. It was a one-shot piece done entirely on scratchboard (cool) that thematically was written to spur readers to think about oddities that a “haunted house” implies about the way reality seems to work. Practically speaking it was written so Mark and I met a horrible demise at the hands of supernatural entities. The Hungry Portraits were my favorite. I was eaten alive. Heh.

Haunting House has been reviewed a few times over the years so I thought I would gather the reviews I am aware of for a comparison, of sorts. Always interesting to see what I put into a story and what the reader takes out. If I find more I will add them. I know there are more out there. Let’s start

Sequential Tart: reviewer Anisa Brophy

The Haunting House is a black-and-white story about two developers exploring an old house that's rumored to be haunted before they level it. The previous owners, newlyweds, died soon after moving into it 40 years ago. The wife was accidentally burned alive before the husband hanged himself in his grief.
During their musings of the house's history, the question comes up of what happens to a haunted house after its destroyed. Where do the ghosts go? Do they stay at the site, or do they move on into the afterlife? Are they really attached to the place, or the event?
Author Sam Girdich, a history and philosophy buff, uses Nietzsche's theory of The Void to try and answer this question. "If you think yourself powerless, you avoid them because they are filled with evil and harm. If you think yourself able to act upon the world, they are no big thing."
However, both men quickly learn first-hand what happens to the ghosts as they get chased throughout the house by ghostly portraits, detached fingers, and incredibly freakish ghouls that inhabit the house.
Now for the fun part: Why I'm giving a good review of this book. First off, I come across very few comics that actually cite Nietzsche as a reference, or attempt to delve in the philosophy. It's refreshing to read an academic, as well as entertaining, book.
Secondly, the art is astounding for a story like this. The heavy, almost gritty lines artist Mark Gonyea uses in his technique reminds me of a gothic Clerks: The Animated Series. That's a good thing, trust me. The ways the characters and the scenery are drawn are neither overly complex, yet the scratchy lines and specks of ink perfectly make the atmosphere of this story.
There are a few downsides, though. The entire story is only 18-pages long, when it could easily be a 26-page story. When Girdich explains Nietzsche's theory of The Void, he doesn't fully explain it and clearly relate it to the context of the story. He could have spent a lot more time explaining the theory for those of us who didn't manage to get an A in philosophy in school. At least he gives us enough to understand the jist of it.
My other issue is the main question of the story, "What happens to ghosts after the building is destroyed?" and such is never really answered. Don't get me wrong, the chase sequence at the end of the book is really interesting, but there is no "after" addressed. No resolution to the "what-ifs" the book poses.
It's very open ended, which could be a good thing. Personally, I would love to see a second issue continuing this story, possibly wrapping up the "what-ifs" or even having a mini-series addressing the issue.
Girdich's ability to tell dark, thought-provoking stories matches incredibly well with Gonyea's equally noir art. This creative combo shouldn't waste any opportunities to do more projects like this together.

Sequential Tart: reviewer Rebecca Buchanan

The house is more than a century old. Locals have avoided it for decades. Now it is about to be torn down, a victim of urban development. But, before that happens, two friends decide to break into the house, take a few pictures for posterity, and ponder what exactly it means for a house to be "haunted." Can a place be evil? Does a traumatic event make things "stick" to a house? Do only the powerless and weak fear ghosts? Unfortunately, these two friends are about to find out just how powerless and weak they truly are in the face of something they cannot define or understand ....

I picked up The Haunting House at SDCC. The guys at the table were nice and it sounded like a fun, creepy story. Well, it is definitely that. Two smart guys who think they are smarter and better and stronger than the ignorant locals come to a very bad end. Hubris will get you every time. Consider this a cautionary tale.

I really like the artwork, too. It reminds me of woodblock prints; thick lines and solid areas of black give it that antique look.

Signal Bleed by Josh Bell (film and TV critic blog)

The Haunting House (Sam Girdich/Mark Gonyea, Strongarm Labs) Strongarm had a bunch of different books at their booth, and I asked Girdich to recommend one for me. Based on what I said I was interested in, he suggested this brief one-shot about a pair of friends investigating a haunted house. It proceeds along the lines of pretty much every haunted-house story ever, and the dialogue is a little heavy with exposition and philosophical musings. Gonyea's art, done entirely in scratchboard, has a nice creepy feel, though, and reminded me a little of the simple illustrations you might find in a children's book of ghost stories. This is a bit too intense for children, making it sort of balanced in an awkward place, but it's an interesting little experiment.

Beauty and the Beastmaster

This is a piece I wrote a few years back for Geek Speak Magazine. A very cool site, if I may say so. Check them out. I left in the editor’s notations in the piece and their ending tagline. The photos in the post are from a quick image search and mostly IMDB.



A few years back my comic collaborator Mark Gonyea and I exhibited at Wizard World Chicago. The Con was going well. The only black mark on the event was the stranglehold Coke held on the venue and our hotel’s vending machines. (I’m a Mountain Dew guy, by nature, and was more than willing to endure a four-mile round trip walk to the nearest retail temple that stocked my divine Ambrosia.) We arrived early on the final day of the show to walk amongst the exhibitors and make last minute purchase decisions. As it was early, I hopped in line to buy a coffee. I noted with fatigue-blunted senses a tall, blonde man in front of me in line. There was nothing outstanding about him, save instantly my brain told me I knew him. I asked my brain how it made this leap without seeing the man’s face. It replied it was working on it and hinted the coffee might help its efforts. The line advanced with mechanical precision and soon the tall man faced the coffee hawker.

“May I get two cups of coffee, please?” he asked in a pleasant tone.

His voice was familiar, too. It was too soon in the day for mysteries, so before my brain could cross-reference his voice I leaned over with the subtlety of a colonoscopy and looked him in the face.

Holy Crap! It’s Marc Singer!

Holy Crap! It’s still Marc Singer!

He looked at me, smiled, and reached for the first of the two cups of his order. Think fast!

“Mr. Singer, I have enjoyed your work for a long time. May I please buy your coffee?” I blurted.

Marc looked surprised for a moment before replying, “Really? Thanks!” [Marc Singer is the star of cult 1982 sword-and-sorcery epic The Beastmaster and its sequels, and he also starred as Mike Donovan in the original V - Ed.]


Before I could think of another point of banter, Marc started making small talk at a furious pace. He invited Mark and I back to his table in the autograph area to continue our chat and grant us a couple of free autographs to say thanks for the coffee. When we approached our destination he called down the line of tables to an attractive woman who was setting up for the day.

“Here’s your coffee, Erin.”


Neat! It’s Erin Gray!

Neat! It’s still Erin Gray!
 [Erin Gray starred as Colonel Deering in the 1979-81 TV series Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. - Ed.]
She casually walked over and took her coffee with a smile to us all.

“Erin,” said Marc. “These are my friends. Take care of them.”
She motioned for Mark and I to follow her back to her table, which we did like puppy dogs. She asked which photos we would like. We picked one out each and she signed them.

“That’ll be $20,” Erin said without an ounce of humor.

Somehow Marc’s words translated in Erin’s mind to, “Hot dog, my first sale of the day! I eat tonight!” What could we do? Without missing a beat we reached into our pockets, handed her our money -- that was $20 each, by the way -- and then thanked her with a smile for taking it. All the while she sipped on her hot, fresh, free coffee.

Mark and I walked back to Marc’s table and finished our conversation. It was very enjoyable. In fact, we chatted so long about comics, movies, art, writing, raising kids, and pop culture that we were twenty minutes late getting back to our table after the doors opened! We thanked Marc for his time and he did likewise to us. I don’t begrudge Erin Gray... much. She did take me by surprise, though. All I’ll say is that of the two autographs birthed by that encounter, only one hangs on my wall.
Beastmaster 1 Erin Gray 0

Sam Girdich is a writer of kick-ass comic books. Visit him, and artist Mark Gonyea, at their website StrongArmLabs.com.

Kickstarter Update

Hello everyone! Kickstarter update. It is 2/3’s over, 1/3 funded, and the final ten days are here. I believe in the quality and uniqueness of the work Mark and I put together so I am asking anyone wo has been on the fence or waiting until last the few days (which I know there are a few!) to pull the trigger and pledge or share our link. 

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1339844610/strongarm-labs-scenes

To all those we have heard from and have shown their support I give a hearty THANK YOU. You’re part of the reason we keep creating.