Sunday, October 21, 2012

Satan is Alive: a Tribute to Mercyful Fate

Finally sat down with my Satan is Alive playlist and listened/read my way through the book.
It's really pretty damn cool.

Lemme back up. I pre-ordered this mofo via Mark Rudolph's Kickstarter project as soon as I got the link. What a rad idea. Interpret the songs of Mercyful Fate in a comic book format? Fuckin' sign me up already. 

Mark actually hand-delivered the books to Ferndale, although I wasn't in when he stopped by. My first impression was actually, "holy crap, this is physically smaller than I anticipated." I was a bit let down with the small-ish size. I expected something akin to traditional U.S. comic books. This is more like a large postcard. It's a two color litho cover on matte uncoated stock (butcher paper-ish), with a one color text weight inside. Production value is pretty high. Definitely a quality product. 

The book is sandwiched with some forewords and afterwords by a lot of heavy hitters in the metal scene from "E" from Watain to Fenriz to Phil Anselmo. There's a lot of dudes throwing in their 2 cents about what Mercyful Fate means to them. Impressive roster, but nothing all that cool. It's straight. The meat and potatoes is yet to come. 

The book kicks off with the Mad Arab and I really dig the way the artist fills the frame. I don't know who it is because there's no attribution that I can see. No table of contents. If you catch a signature, cool, but if not, it's a bit of a guessing game for each installment. Anyway, whoever this is is one of my favorite contributors. I like the lettering and the frenzy in the art. It's just really well composed. 

Bruno Guerreiro is up next and paints a picture in stark contrast to the opener. His stuff is real cool, but it's more like a series of separate stills, rather than a continuous flow. Oh, before Bruno there's a one page entry by Tom Neely and it's fucking amazing. You'll see. It will be xeroxed and used for flyers from here til eternity. 

Rudoph is up next and pens a great installment, really giving life to a corpse with no soul. Then someone tackles Melissa with a quirky style that's a nice contrast to the slick work before him. It's cool to see so many takes on the same subject. 

Vasilis Lolos comes out of left field with some really angular shit. It's like the prog-rock of comic books. Really cool. Sandman-esque at times. Bizarre, but it keeps you coming back to his stark stylized visions. 

Ed Luce does Black Funeral next. I like how he didn't take it too literally or seriously and was able to just have fun and interpret the lyrics his own way. Hats off for the originality. 

Nick Green's story is a bit of a waste in my opinion. Immature and sort of pointless. But that's alright cuz Tom Neely gets back in the mix with my favorite artwork again. This dude rules. His art's got a painterly depth to it at times. Love it.

ChuckBB of Decibel fame delivers his installment after we get a visit from the Mad Arab again. Chuck's work is big and bold and really fits Evil well. It's just in your face and is a great complement to the song. I love the last frame. Fucking awesome. 

Rudolph pops up again with Satan's Fall and does an excellent job. It's like a freakin music video as you read along. He definitely has a great way of storyboarding a compelling narrative. All the frames fall right into place, you're singing along and reading the just works. He could have done a whole album's worth of illustrations and you wouldn't be bored. Who knows what he has in store based on the success of this one? I'd like to see Misfits Earth A.D. illustrated from beginning to end...Mark?

Tim Sievert's installment is cool. I like his interpretation of the lyrics. Cool depictions. Most artists managed to infuse something original to take the concepts one step away from King Diamond's lyrics. One step beyond, but in a parallel path. So it's all good. 

Mark Thompson is up next and his last panel is like 2001 a Space Odyssey meets Anton LaVey. Sweet!

I'm not a fan of J. Bennett's writing. His story is pretty humorous for once. But again, sort of pointless. I can take it or leave it. 

There's a timeline and then the afterword by Phil Anselmo. All in all a really unique concept that we're lucky saw the light of day. It's a well-executed volume and I hope it's the beginning of something bigger. I'd love to see a series of books in the same vein. 

Pick it up! Ave Satanas!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Conan: Road of Kings

Bugger. The last book that's currently out. I had to pre-order the next one, which comes out in February I think.

Well, at least I can move on to the Criminal anthology, a new Northlanders, and 100 Bullets. I'm not lacking in the comic department. Shit, I've got some catching up to do on the Walking Dead, too. I might even be two TPB's behind at this point.

Road of Kings. Different artist. Very angular. This guy is more exaggerated and more "comic book-y" for lack of a better term. I prefer a bit more realism in their portrayal. This is a little more light-hearted and comedic. The blood is just a pool of red. It's not as visceral as it should be. Conan is a gritty character. He's not fucking Disney-fied.

Thievery. Piracy. Pubs. Sewers. Ale. Wenches. Jewels. Kings and Blood. Another tried and true Conan story. When's the dude ever gonna learn about women? They're always getting him into bloody trouble and it generally has to do with jewelry of some sort of another. Anyway, this is a good sprawling tale that takes Conan all over the place. He's hunted by some crazy Gestapo looking dude and he has a fair amount of encounters with crazy animals and insects along the way to saving a hot princess. Like he's prone to do.

You get used to the art. It's a good book. Story flows well. I'll look forward to re-reading these all over again. Maybe I should read Preacher again next year first, though...or Y the Last Man...Fuck, so many good books, so precious little time. I really need to reboot Walking Dead from the start. For sure.

Conan: Iron Shadows in the Moon

Almost done with the Dark Horse Conan series. Just one more book until volume 12 drops in February.

Iron Shadows in the Moon picks up with a few characters we've encountered in previous books. Story lines weave in and out from volume to volume. It's easier to keep track of when you're reading the books in relatively close succession. The main aspect of this journey is Conan's foray into piracy! The man commands a troop of free lancers on the battlefield one day and a sordid band of pirates the next. From field to sea and back again, Conan doesn't give a fuck. He'll decapitate at the drop of a dime.

This story seem a bit familiar. It doesn't stand out as a true Conan epic to me. Maybe it focuses on the action more than the drama, and I kinda like the dramatic aspects of Conan just as much as the bloodletting. Too much of that gets old. But it still has its twists to keep it interesting. A solid yarn with all the requisite attributes you'd expect.

The final third of the book is an additional story with a different artist. I just do no feel his style. It's sort of sloppy and organic, and demented in a childlike way. Not feeling it. But thankfully he didn't take over the main story. It's fine. Movin' on.

Yeah, another good read from Dark Horse.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Conan: Free Companions

This book is made up of some REH stories as well as some new yarns that are spun to help fill in some gaps. It's all handled equally well and I thoroughly enjoyed this installment in the series.

The book revolves around Conan's acquisition of an army of free lancers, 5000 strong. We see them slay, conquer and slay again, with Conan calling the shots. Conan has the respect and loyalty of Amarlric's army at his disposal. We see the Free Companions come into some trouble, though... Yasmela...I knew she was hot as hell, but didn't expect her to be so fickle when it came to the Cimmerian. Anyway, Yasmela brings trouble and things go south really quickly. It sucks. But I can't divulge more cuz that's what you're supposed to find out when the read the damn thing.

The art and writing hold up. I've complained about the Truman/Griorello team before but once they found their stride things have been solid. We're good now.

Another good one. Fo' sho'.

the Dunwich Horror

Films like this are basically what fuels the creative fire for Electric Wizard. They woudln't exist if it weren't for shitty occult flicks about sex and satan.

This was produced by American International Pictures (AIP). They were known for their biker flicks of the 60s and 70s. They generally dabbled in exploitation pictures. Lowbrow flicks for those of us who like a little lowbrow action from time to time.

This is like an American "Hammer Horror" flick. It really borrows a lot from the Wickerman, even though the story is actually Lovcraftian in origin. The plot revolves around the Necromicon, and a young descendent of Dennis Wheatley who tries to use the book to conjure some demons from another dimension. There's a virgin sacrifice, a frightened town ready to lynch anyone or anything they don't comprehend, and some hot innocent young chicks.

The story is very straightforward. The acting is pretty stiff. It's alright. For what it is, it's really not that bad.

Go watch the Wickerman.

Fungus the Bogeyman

I hate kids and I hate it when adults read shit that was meant for kids.

So it's a bit odd for me to write this review. See, I loved being a kid. Don't get me wrong about that. Being a kid had its moments. As a youth I was particularly fond of this book, Fungus the Bogeyman. I poured over every panel on every page in meticulous detail as I absorbed what it meant to live the life of a "bogeyman."

Somehow I saw someone recommending this book in my RSS feed and I knew I had to re-buy the thing. So I did.

Raymond Briggs, the Author, is probably most famous for his Snowman animation. You know the, "I'm flying in the aiiiiiir" thing with the choir of little boys... Anyway, it was massive in Britain. Fungus the Bogeyman is the darker side of Briggs. No little boys in robes flying across rooftops with friendly snowmen here. This is all snot, pus, and gnarly shit that gives you boils on your neck in the middle of the night. It's the life of a bogeyman.

The book is a documentary of a bogeyman named Fungus. It follows him throughout his daily routine of scaring people, tapping on windows, being creepy, giving people pimples, and so forth. But Fungus is having a bit of an existential crisis. He's questioning why. Why does he exist, why is he scaring vicars in the dark, why does he do what he does? Why?

So, Briggs goes in depth explaining everything from bogey anatomy to bogey passtimes to just anything and everything bogey. We follow Fungus, get inside his head, and get a pretty good understanding of what it means to be a bogeyman.

The book employs subtle British wit and humor throughout. As a kid I really liked scrutinizing the panels and squeezing out every last detail I could. The illustrations are great and fit the scummy subject matter to a T.

This books is great for children. It'll have them turning to their dictionaries frequently as they learn new words that their classmates wont encounter for  years. It asks a lot from the reader, but you get a lot in return.

As an adult I definitely enjoyed this. If you're a parent then I'd highly recommend this book for you and your kids. Well, your male kids. I don't think chicks would dig this at all.

Fungus rules. Get this book.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


I watched this with my team at work today.

I like this film. I like the contrast of opinions. Some people think Helvetica started the Vietnam war, others think Helvetica is the only font on earth worth using. Personally, I love Helvetica, but it's by no means the only choice for me. Unlike some of the purists who think type should be invisible, I think type can be expressive. However, I don't go as far as David Carson does. I am not a fan of his work, personally. I think it's dated as hell and incredibly impractical. It's a bit full of itself.

Anyway, Helvetica (the film) documents the origins of the typeface and its use in the last 50 years. It's ubiquitous, of that there is no doubt. Helvetica is amazing for signage. It's not the only choice, but it's a good choice. We get commentary form many big name type designers and designers throughout the course of the film. Everyone has an intense stance, one way or the other. There's not much more to the film. It's just people talking about why they love/hate Helvetica, and what kind of social impact its had on the world. But that's cool. It's well put-together. Has a sort of glitch-pop soundtrack. It's well-edited. I like it. And I think it's accessible to anyone, not just designers. Go add it to your Netflix streaming queue already.

Cave of Forgotten Dreams

Werner Herzog sounds like an evil German speak-n-spell.

Herzog narrates this documentary about the Chauvet Cave in France. The cave houses the oldest known drawings ever recorded by man. Some of these cave paintings are approximately 35,000 years old! The fucked up part is that they look good! It's like the paleolithic Guernica in there. Seriously. Some great drawings of bulls, lions and horses. Good motion, balance, and stylization.

So, it's a cave in France with old paintings. No one's really allowed to see it. Herzog got special privileges to film, so you're lucky to even have the opportunity to see these works of art at all. There are interviews with paleontologists, archeologists, and the occasional perfumer. All of them lend their own perspective on the cave, its art, and the people who made it. They're like Sherlock Holmes, minus the deerstalker hat, as they try to unravel the mystery of the cave by looking at the clues that have accumulated over thousands of years.

I thought the doc was good. But nothing mind-blowing.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Between the Folds


I watched an hour-long PBS documentary today called Between the Folds. It wasn't quite as "riveting" as the Netflix synopsis claimed.

Basically, the documentary as an artistic statement didn't have a whole lot of merit. You could have edited this down to a half hour and it would have been just fine. It simply follows a few different origami experts and reveals their passion for folding paper. There's no glue holding it together or anything extraordinary about the film. It just is.

The people documented are an interesting bunch, though. And by interesting, I mean incredibly nerdy. Math geeks. Geniuses. Art fags. French art fags! One guy is making his own paper and says, "boy, I just can't wait to fold this!" His enthusiasm for paper-folding borders on the perverse.

A lot of what they do IS incredible. It IS impressive. It IS very artistic and emotive. The topic is great, it's just that the Director isn't as good as making films as the art fags are at folding paper.

I wouldn't watch it. But don't hold your breath for the next, great, origami documentary to come along...for I fear you might turn blue in the process. If you must know about the geometry and art behind origami, this is probably your only choice.

Isaac's Storm

Even the books I read are documentaries.

This is the fourth book by Erik Larson that I've devoured. I read it this weekend. Couldn't really put it down. The cold weather made for a good excuse to sit on the couch with book in hand and hot cider close by.

As with Thunderstruck, the Devil in the White City and In the Garden of Beasts, this book is based on historical fact. Larson deftly weaves the facts into a riveting story that unfolds hook by hook. His books are often difficult to put down. He puts a ridiculous amount of effort into research and it pays off in spades. His novels are part history lesson and part thriller. 100% addictive and informative.

Isaac's Storm is about an insane hurricane that hits Galveston, Texas, in 1900. It's the "Katrina" of its day...only I believe even more deadly and devastating, if you can imagine.

The protagonist is a meteorologist, and the story follows his involvement before, during and a little bit after the storm. Other Galveston citizens' stories are woven into the narrative, too. It's pretty heavy on the meteorological talk, but not to the point of distraction. It's simply part of what you're getting yourself into when you read the book.

Once you've read one Larson book, you don't need much persuasion to read another. I'd suggest you didn't read In the Garden of Beasts as your first exposure to him, though. The Devil in the White City is his fucking masterpiece, followed by Thunderstruck, Isaac's Storm and In the Garden of Beasts. I'll buy whatever he puts out next without question.

This was great. You should definitely read it!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Conan: Black Colossus

A return to form.

Giorello and Truman finally find their groove. This book reads better than their previous efforts. The writing is just smoother. Less stilted. The illustration is brighter, bolder and sharper. Both seem more effortless and comfortable than previous outings.

Conan is growing up. Conan's becoming a wise man. Conan's travels are really shaping him up to be a more mature leader.

Black Colossus sees Conan meet his hottest squeeze yet...Princess Yasmela. Conan had it good, man. Conan had it good...

Anyway, the book has a lot of set-up. Almost cinematic in scope. There's a gnarly evil wizard, a hot voluptuous princess who needs saving, and many heads to be decapitated. It's a classic Conan yarn.

I believe the following book continues in the Yasmela/Conan relationship, so let's see where that takes our Cimmerian hero next...


Not a predictable one to dredge up, but that's how I roll.

I wanted to revisit Ronin for its car chases. The '98 flick has become lore amongst young car enthusiasts for its notable chase scenes through the picturesque French landscape. Audis, Benzes and Peugeots carve up the mountain passes and blaze through the narrow French city streets. The scale of the chases is pretty impressive. So many bloody extras. So many narrow escapes involving pinpoint accurate driving by many-a-stuntman. Definitely cool, but no Death Proof.

It's a modernized Italian Job, so to speak. A heist caper set to a gorgeous European backdrop. The wardrobe is excellent. I don't know what it is, but I just really like the styling. Sort of throwback, but in more of a timeless manner rather than an all out pastiche.

It's a good flick, but there's something about it that could have been better. I don't know what it is but somehow it seems a bit cliché or mediocre at times. But never veers off too bad, it's just not A-grade from start to finish. A valiant effort. Close but no cigar. The Italian Job (original, obviously) is better.

If you want car chases watch Death Proof, if you want a Euro heist watch the Italian Job, if you want DeNiro doing a little of both then watch Ronin.