Tagged: art

Sequart Studies Manga in America

When Manga Came to AmericaSequart Organization is proud to announce the release of When Manga Came to America: Super-Hero Revisionism in Mai, the Psychic Girl, by Julian Darius.

The first manga widely available in English, Mai, the Psychic Girl – written by Kazuya Kudō, with art by Ryoichi Ikegami – offered a near-perfect story for American readers: a realistic super-hero story, in line with revisionist American comics of the time (like Watchmen). In this short book, Dr. Julian Darius explores the impressive comic, its depiction of super-powers, its relationship to revisionism, its depiction of female sexuality, and the various attempts to adapt the story as a motion picture.

The book – Sequart’s first book on manga – runs 80 pages and is available in print (list price $6.99) and on Kindle (list price $4.99). For more information on When Manga Came to America, visit the book’s official page.

Marc Alan Fishman’s Snarky Synopsis: Amazing X-Men Annual #1

Amazing X-Men Annual #1Written by Monty Nero.  Art by Salvador Larroca, Juan Vlasco and Sonia Oback

It’s fitting to me that this week Mike Gold pontificated on how mainstream comics are either targeting either the kiddies or the adulties. OK, technically, he was ranting – rightfully so – that the industry at large is seemingly devoid of wonder. Well, Mr. Gold, Monty Nero got at least half right. Amazing X-Men Annual #1 could only be targeting that sect of fans that exist between youngsters and the snarky old. Here’s a book that sets out to cover the smallest ground possible, tell a quick and potent adventure, and wrap up on a deep character moment.

Of course, what we get is a by the book, seen-it-before plot-by-numbers that leaves one wondering what purpose the book serves in the greater scheme of things. Then again, that may just be my inner-old-guy being a d-bag. So, I’m going to make every attempt now to smile my way through what might have once been an angry review. Chins up kiddos!

Nero’s script revolves around Ororo Monroe, also known as Storm (and several dozen other names, as we learn mid-battle cry!). We find out that during her adolescence, a great sandstorm was ravaging a village. Ororo made way to save T’Challa – the Black Panther – but could do nothing else. Flash forward to the present, where a world-weary survivor of that devastation has recently gained mutant (or mystic?) powers. Meruda, now an angry god of the sand, lays waste to his homeland, whilst stealing away a distant cousin of Storm. Cue the opening titles!

Soon thereafter, the X-men arrive on scene, and what follows is a ton of fighting. For what it’s worth, the battle here is at least meaningful, in so much that our villain has just cause to want to hurt the mohawked veteran of Charles Xavier’s school. And while she faces Meruda, Wolverine, Firestorm, Iceman, and the Beast battle an ancient god – resurrected, and holding the soul of Storm’s brethren in check. All in all, if it were a cartoon, there’s be plenty of punching to enjoy.

Artistically speaking, Salvador Larocca lends his formidable pencils to the cause. As I’d enjoyed much of his run previously on Iron Man, many of the same strengths continue on the page. His meaty figures are always placed dutifully in kinetic panels that keep the eye moving through his pages. Emotions are clear, and easily read. Backgrounds, whether they be ransacked deserts of Africa or high tech cabin shots of the latest X-Jet, are beautifully rendered. Inks and colors only add to the final product. I’m always apt to point out the Photoshoppery in today’s modern comics, but here Larocca and company are doing it right. Special effects like the knockouts on Nightcrawler’s ‘BAMFs’, or the almost painterly treatments on Meruda’s sand-constructs just look cool. Where others are quick to use filters and such to mask issues, Salvador does it right – using the tools of the digital art bin to elevate his work to the quasi-future sci-fi space to add to visual excitement of the comic.

If you’re looking to be sated with pleasantry, well, stop here. Amazing X-Men Annual #1 is good clean honest fun. It’s a one-and-done adventure that is worth a gander perhaps for the pretty art alone. And for fans of Storm, well, you’re getting her in rare form here. So, consider this issue a sunny day, clear of rain by a country mile!

Still with me? Good. I can’t take it any longer. Nero commits a sin of the industry that nearly pushed me out as a fan not that long ago. His script and plot are so duh-duh simple that I can’t look past it. Annuals in the modern era are usually used for one of very few purposes: to re-establish a baseline for the book, to give a young and upcoming creator a spotlight that doesn’t require a multi-issue arc, or to set the tone for the next arc to come. Here, we get the second. And with it, nails on a chalkboard to me. Nero to his credit, has had several great successes professionally. Here he dips his toe into the X-waters, but does so tepidly. I can’t help but lay a finger of blame less on him than Mike Marts, the editor.

When given essentially a blank slate and a simple goal (pick an X-Man and write an issue that celebrates them as a character), the possibilities are near endless. Nero picks Storm, one of the most powerful, nuanced, and meaty characters on the team – whomever is on the team this week, I suppose. His choice to use a bit of her past to create conflict is even better; it gives credence to the battle as I’d said. But his choice to deliver the story as a literal straight shot is what grinds my gears. When a plot is as simple as this, it’s a veritable invitation to a debutant ball for a writer! Nero could have played with time, with flashback, with sequencing, or even with the psuedo-science of Meruda and Storm’s comparable power sets.

But he delivers none of it. We literally go from the standard cold-open to the X-men reading about the cold-open to them traveling to Africa to fighting to resolution. I’m even apt to note when a book chooses to do things simply with the beats, it can be made up for with style. Nero though, learns the hard way the Achilles heel of all X-books: more members mean less opportunities.

Ultimately, Amazing X-Men Annual #1 is a book only a tweener could enjoy: simple in plot, heavy in action. But as Mike Gold would note: it’s devoid of wonder. Too engrained in familial angst, monologuing, and excuses for quips or violence. Normally I’d take the opportunity to lay waste to the book with a grand trail of snark behind me, perhaps declaring that this book represents all that’s wrong with modern comics (or some such line). But there’s no need: This book is simply a missed opportunity to be great. And that alone is enough shame for one week.

 

REVIEW: True Detective

True DetectiveYears ago, there was a CBS miniseries, Chiefs, based on the Stuart Woods novel and featured a murder mystery that spanned the years, embroiling three different police chiefs. In 1983, it ran for three nights and I was captivated. When HBO debuted True Detective with Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson in January, I was immediately reminded of that event. Here, both men were involved in a 1995 murder and now, 17 years later, they get drawn back to the case.

The excellent serial killer serial ran eight episodes and maintained a nourish mood and style that set it apart from all the other serial killer serials that are currently running or recently ended. On the off-chance you missed it, HBO Home Entertainment is releasing a box set this week and it’s well recommended. A lot of the credit and perhaps the reason I was reminded of the earlier series may be that this too comes from a novelist, Nic Pizzolatto. Marty Hart (Harrelson) and Rust Cohle (McConaughey), members of Louisiana’s Criminal Investigation Division, are interviewed regarding the ’95 case where a woman’s body was found, the corpse artistically arranged. Since they stopped talking in 2002, the men are interviewed separately by detectives Thomas Papania (Tory Kittles) and Maynard Gilbough (Michael Potts) allowing for varying perspectives, points of view and slightly varying details.

Over the course of the episodes, directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga, another reason the series is consistently excellent, we learn about the initial investigation and the two deeply flawed men who were haunted by its gruesomeness. Hart has been cheating on his wife, Maggie (Michelle Monaghan), with court reporter Lisa Tragnetti (Alexandra Daddario), while Cohle is battling a drug dependency and is grieving over his dead daughter. Neither man is a saint and is far from perfect, so when a second body turns up, it makes them question the man they arrested nearly two decades earlier and is still in jail. Of course, stirring up the dark past is never good although it allows the actors a chance to shine time and again.

Pizzolatto and Fukunaga deftly intertwine the two timelines as we see the previous and current investigations unfold, each step rippling across the tortured psyches of the two detectives. And then comes the finale which, like so many before it, infuriated and tantalized its fan base.  We wanted Rust to find the Yellow King but found physics instead, which left many scratching their heads n confusion. There remain threads and questions for season two although some felt more should have been resolved to make the first eight episodes more satisfying.

The eps are neatly transferred to the three Blu-ray discs tucked within a nice slipcase. The show’s art direction is well replicated on the packaging giving it the same dank, creepy feel. Visually, the three discs are superb matched with excellent DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. They are accompanied by some very nice bonus features starting with commentaries on episodes four (with Pizzolatto and Burnett) and five (Pizzolatto, Burnett and Executive Producer Scott Stephens). These are interesting (I wish there was one for the finale) although the chatter is not wall to wall as we’ve come to expect these days. HBO’s patented Inside the Episode featurettes are included followed by two deleted scenes from episodes three and eight. There is also “Making True Detective“, a fifteen minute overview which emphasizes the production design; an eight-minute chat with McConaughey and Harrelson; and, a fourteen minute dialogue between Pizzolatto and Burnett. The box set comes complete with a digital copy of the season.

Marc Alan Fishman: “Why Are You Here? No Math!”

That li’l headline quote came courtesy of the fine gentleman who sat across the aisle from me at my orientation survey in art school. The line got him a ton of applause from the student body. It made me sad.

So, why the anecdote today? Well, it’s ‘cause I’ve got math on the brain. Math, not meth. Meth is next week. At the Indy Pop Con last weekend, amidst a crowd that could best be described as ther, and ready to spend absolutely nothing, Unshaven Comics made strides in becoming better friends with another staple to the artist alleyways we’ve been haunting in recent past. Jim McClain and his Solution Squad comic have been making their way from Jim’s middle-school math problem solving class to the hallowed hallways and conventions since April, 2013. As Jim was so nice as to gift us with his extra badge (because the fine folks at Pop Con seemed to misplace the money we so nicely spent on the extra badge for our third member), I returned the favor by staffing his booth during his panel.

It brought me back to the genesis of Unshaven Comics. Our first jaunt into the indie scene was an “Edu-Tainment” piece entitled The March: Crossing Bridges in America. Selling it at our very first Wizard show felt like arm wrestling Superman after having the flu. Trying to sell something rooted in education to an audience hungry for mutants, gore, sex, and zombies makes for a hard sale nearly every time. And as I sat at the Solution Squad booth with passersby glancing long enough to read Math and immediately look elsewhere… it was a veritable time warp to five years ago. That is, until the pitch found my one and only sale for the hour.

A gentleman stopped by the table. With no quizzical look denoting he was lost, I was aghast. “Can I tell you about The Solution Squad?” I beamed. He nodded quickly. I pitched the book – a team action-adventure story that also happens to teach you something by issue’s end – and he plunked down his money without question. “I’m a teacher,” he said with a knowing grin. He went on to tell me that while he himself was a social studies teacher, he recognized that the book would be a great find to bring back to his school. Soon thereafter, Jim returned from his panel reenergized by his attendees, and I took myself back to the land of immortal kung-fu monkeys and zombie cyborg pirates in space.

And here I sit, days later, with math still on my mind. Jim recognizes that he more than almost anyone else in the alley, is at a critical disadvantage in distribution. Indie publishers have a hard enough time selling their wares amidst the competition. Adding in a niche audience of middle-school math students is akin to selling Wolverine to season ticket holders at the opera. But in that fact comes the inspiration and beauty of both Mr. McClain’s mission and the state of our independent scene. The fact that the Solution Squad exists is tribute to the ideology that comics can be a positive tool for education, so much so that Jim himself uses the book – which meets both Indiana state educational standards as well as the nefarious Common Core we all resent on Facebook – to start lessons in his classroom. He recognizes that from his comic he can capture the attention of the ADD-riddled post-millennial generation born into social media and smartphones. Better still, Jim recognizes he (alongside the Reading With Pictures crew) is knocking at the door to a real revolution.

Comics help break down the barriers to entry for students. Perhaps long associated with kitsch more than anything else though, it’s taken decades of amazing works hitting the shelves for the public at large to exit the caves when it comes to adoption and acceptance. But for every “I learned to read with comics!” retort I’d been privy to from the passing trolls at Wal-Mart, so too comes a “Maus and A Contract With God moved me to tears” from synagogue members when I was 13.

Gentlemen like Jim McClain recognize this fact and makes strides from the trenches to locate those educators roaming the convention floor in hopes of snagging his clientele from the bottom up. All while targeting administrative contacts with partnerships for webcomic distribution and shared lesson plans for a top-down approach. In other words, leave it to a teacher to school a guy like me in proper networking and audience building.

Beyond the semantics though, the fact that our indie scene, complete with digital distribution channels and our one-off printing models build to the greater good. Never before in our industry was it so easy for a person with a plan (and a ton of work) to transition to a person with a product. With each passing year, our economy and market will continue to divide and shrink. While great denominators like blockbuster movies and professional sports will still dominate the consumers’ GDP… niche market leaders will find viable business in wholly segmented markets. In layman’s terms: there’s an audience for literally everything being made today – it’s just a matter of finding it. In the mean time, it’s all about rolling up those sleeves, and sinking money, time, and love into being that lone math teacher next to the anime-sexpot-hack-gore print seller.

Sure Unshaven Comics may leave a convention loads lighter than Jim perhaps… but we know that at the end of the day The Samurnauts will linger as a passing love; the Solution Squad may lead the next generation to solve the great equations of life itself.

And that kiddos… is one lesson that adds up to me.

For more information on the Solution Squad, including purchase information for classrooms, simply visit www.solutionsquad.net.

 

Marc Alan Fishman’s Snarky Synopsis: C.O.W.L. #1

cowlWritten by Kyle Higgens and Alex Siegel, Art by Rod Reis

Glazing over the racks this week, a single book sparked a twinkle in my eye. A bold and graphic cover, with a simple acronym placed  – C.O.W.L. – and it beckoned to me. A closer inspection… Chicago Organized Workers League. A glance inside: A mashup of Mad Men-esque style, combined with capes and my hometown? Sure, Astro City and other books have played plenty in the space. But none that were specific to Chicago. None that name drops streets like Ogden and Wacker and dumps an actual map in its inside cover. Call me soft (and pull back a stump!), but I couldn’t resist. Glad I took the chance, the book is tip-top.

Kyle Higgens and Alex Siegel certainly know their way around pacing. The book itself starts with a beautiful cold open action sequence. A soviet spy/super villain takes a team of heroes along for a ride as he makes way to escape from a botched assassination of a local Alderman. No better way to show case powers these days then the super villain on the run schtick. We meet Blaze, Radia, Arclight, and Recon of the Tactical Division – the SWAT team, if you will. After that, the rest of the book deals mostly with the Investigation and Patrol Division, which have less fancy code names. Higgens and Siegel crib style heavily from Top Ten; but skew less towards the fantastic and astonishing in lieu of gritty realism. The powers are more or less ordinary, it’s really a substance over style in the final presentation. In lesser terms, the writing duo delivers Law & Order by way of X-Men First Class, kept tightly packaged in a single city. It’s slick – but breathes easier because there’s little push to make the scope to wide-lensed after the initial salvo.

If there’s any bones to pick with the script, then they come solely entrenched in the Bechdel Test. The lone lady between the pages barely registers as more than a Sue Storm stand-in. Funny enough too, that she’s marginalized in her single scene moment with the COWL captain. I’ll note. though, that this is clearly a tongue-in-cheek moment. I’ll safely pray is just a set-up for a bigger and smarter payoff in the future.

Normally I’d have more running commentary about the script and dialogue. Frankly, there’s little else to say. But I can attest that the art chores by Rod Reis are plenty worthy of my prose. The presented style is a schizophrenic post-modern Marvel. Part Rotoscoped photos, part digital painting, part scratchboard scrawl, all daringly idiosyncratic. Reis channels Bill Sienkiewicz, Brett Weldele, and Brent Anderson amidst his own unique flashes. At its best the book is a chic and deconstruction of kinetic form and deciphered emotions. In lesser spots, it’s a slap-dashed race to the next panel. As a digital artist myself, it’s hard not to see the easy roads taken in certain shots, but Reis is clever when he hides his tracks. By integrating characters into a Rotoscoped background, and literally smudging them together, he creates a look we’ve seen before, but smartly never in this era.

It’s interesting to me how much I accept Reis’ styling here, over what might be considered a more technically proficient house style book from Marvel or DC. It sets in motion an opinion that has been evolving in my taste over the last year or so. The current trend at the big two – DC more so than Marvel by a magnitude of ten at least – is proportional, slick, and Photoshopped to a squeaky-clean finish worthy of Oxy-Clean. Reis and C.O.W.L. spit in the faces of Superman and his Pine-Sol brethren. Of course when you look at the comparison of artists in the aforementioned paragraph above, it should come as no surprise. But I digress. The fact is that modern technology can quickly suck the life out of a comic book, as talents artists see their pages merely as means to an end. It’s when boundaries are stylistically pushed that the medium shows why it’s still so unique and viable in the marketplace.

When companies choose to churn out the capes and cowls (no pun needed here), and don’t challenge their art teams, we lose. The biggest gripe that carries itself to art critics of our precious comics being ‘kitsch’ come largely due less to the by-the-numbers stories, and more towards the simple, repeated, and dull art. When one can’t tell a Superman comic from an X-Men book, it’s less because of the tight-knit, overly complicated costuming and more because the big-muscled, pin-up, repeats that coat the pages.

However, with Marvel’s recent efforts like She-Hulk, Rocket Raccoon, and Ghost Rider I can see the tides changing. To bring it back to “C.O.W.L.”, Rod Reis proves that when the art takes a chance to add layers of complexity to the script… the book itself becomes infinitely more interesting. Had this book been phoned in by any number of overseas half-price pencilers, inked by a team of cut-rate work-for-hires, and then colored by a finishing service, I doubt I’d be as chipper as I’ve been. Digression over.

Kyle Higgens, Alex Siegel and Rod Reis have captivated me. Sure, I was an easy sell given the real estate buried in the pulp. But beyond the cheap pop of recognizing my hometown, came a stylistic experiment that built up a simply police procedural into a universe building Mad Men with a set of super powers. It’s why Image continues to stand tall with a catalogue of boundary-pushing sequential fiction. Color me happy kiddos, and do yourself a favor and give a gander to the gams on this hot little number.

Review: Marc Alan Fishman’s Snarky Synopsis – Ultimate FF #2

Written by Joshua Hale Fialkov. Art by Tom Grummett, Mario Guevara, Juan Vlaskco, Scott Hanna, Mark Pennington, Jay Leisten and Rachelle Rosenberg.

Ultimate FFOnce I adopted Eric Larsen’s creed of “all issues are jumping-on issues” I’d like to say I’ve become a better comic reader because of it. Using that motto has removed the excuse “… maybe it’s better if I’d read the backstory” from my fallback position when an issue is subpar. In its place comes the knowledge that a comic can be judged devoid of context. The dialogue can be snappy without previous knowledge of what came before the page you’ve read. More to the point: jump into Silence of the Lambs 45 minutes in and it’s still a great movie. I say all of this because I need you all to understand: Ultimate FF #2 is an absolute top-to-bottom atrocity. No context needed.

Let’s start with the script / plot / words on the page. Joshua Hale Fialkov generally grasps the beats and characterizations of his Future Foundation. Beyond that grasp though, is a mishmash of simplistic and idiotic dialogue awash in a plot dug out of a half-read Dungeons and Dragons campaign, topped liberally with incoherent action sequences to pad things out. The plot as it were: Sue Storm’s FF field team investigates the disappearance of some 130 wealthy Atlanteans. They arrive, things get weird, and then there’s fighting. Tah Dah!

I understand that it’s hard to effectively move a complex plot in only 20 pages or so, but then I think of all the other amazing comic books I’ve read – one shots, parts of a whole, or otherwise – and I come to the bitter conclusion that the modern trope to write for the trade is merely an excuse. I like to equate a single issue of a comic to a single episode of a cartoon. If Ultimate FF #2 were on TV, it’d be akin to one of those 12-minute shorts they traipse out during Adult Swim. It’s short, it’s shallow, and its attempts to ride on more style than substance falls on deaf ears.

All this, and the big ending is a tongue-in-cheek nod to issue three’s impending catfight. Yawn.

While I admit that I’ve not dabbled in the Ultimate universe for years, the tenants and tent-poles that make up the characters must hold true. And Fialkov seems to want only to revel in them without any further exploration. Akin perhaps to the remake of Ocean’s Eleven remake, sans the Julia Roberts subplot. FF here is just Stalwart Sue, Angry Douche Doom, Generic Black Guy Falcon, and Rich Douche Iron Man on a tepid adventure to fight the multiverse, or the garbage therein. That caveat I can buy – it gives us a good excuse as any for this rag tag team of type A’s (minus Falcon, of course) to get into nasty spills. But unlike Matt Fraction’s whimsical Defenders or terse and tepid Others (where that tepidness was a perfect foil), this team is a collection of islands that only know the melody amongst one another. And when the first big reveal gives us Namor, we simply add another tool to the chest. Emphasis on tool.

Artistically, I’m nearly at a loss for words. If you count my accurate list above, you will see that it took seven people to put together twenty pages of loose, scrappy, crappy art. At first, I was almost won over: the delicate inking and detailed underwater environmental renderings were certainly an antithesis to today’s modern photoshoppery. But the devil is in the details, and here Tom Grummett and Mario Guevara fail to deliver on their initial pages’ promise. Figures are jerked and crammed into panels without care or cause. And the litany of inkers scrawl excessive lines throughout, causing tons of unnecessary visual confusion. From Namor’s oddly shaped five-finger forehead and Doom’s spastic cape, to Falcon’s always-hash-shaded-muscles, there’s nary a page that doesn’t contain an obvious rush or flub. And given that over half a dozen people touched this issue? I’m aghast with curiosity as to how this passed mustard with anyone calling themselves an editor. All this, and I haven’t even talked about the colorist!

Long considered the unsung hero of the medium, here Rachelle Rosenberg barely decided to show up. The book itself is a constant juxtaposition of old-school simplistic flat art, layered over generic paper texture, all adding to the facade of an older book. But these tricks belie the truth that this is an ugly ass book and the color choices do nothing to elevate that fact.

While there’s a masochistic part of me that enjoys that no added glows, knockouts, or filtering try to hide the scrawl and plunder, even the most basic color choices here – on model or not – are unflattering and unsettling. And to the person that picked a lime green logo over a purple, blue, and sky blue palate for the team? I implore you to go back to Parsons, and retake fashion design, and color theory.

Perhaps I’ve been too mean, too hard and harsh to poor Joshua Hale Fialkov and company. Or perhaps, I’m apt now to cast a pall on those waste opportunity with the biggest and arguably best comic book publisher in print today. These are revisions of classic characters, in an all but open world, ready for modern spins and serious explorations. In the wake of that opportunity sits this muddled mess of in-fighting, back-biting, and herky-jerky art. Ultimate FF #2 spends too much time trying to be witty and gritty, instead of layering nuance, complexity, and exploration that should be the foundation of the book.

Erik Larsen is right: every comic is a jumping on point… and as such, I suggest those interested in this new iteration of the Future Foundation jump elsewhere.

 

Comic Art Negatives: Now With More Negativity
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Comic Art Negatives: Now With More Negativity

As a production person– and possibly the youngest person in comics production today who still worked in analog before digital– I found Colleen Doran’s discussion of reprinting A Distant Soil fascinating.
About Marvel Comics Original Artwork in the 1960s
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About Marvel Comics Original Artwork in the 1960s

For your perusal:

Ed Catto: Yoe’s Haunted Pop Culture

Every two months, I’m not ashamed to admit that IDW supplies one of the guiltiest pleasures in my stack of new comics. Craig Yoe’s Haunted Horror is a ghastly anthology of the horror stories from comics’ Golden Age. But beware: these aren’t those hackneyed horror stories you’ve read so often before. Each issue is a collection of seldom reprinted tales – filled with shock endings, grisly artwork and politically incorrect morality plays well calculated to make you recoil in shock, disgust and horror.

I caught up with the head horror-meister, Craig Yoe. As a fan who’s fascinated by this unique series, I wanted to better understand what sort of sick mind could be behind it all. It doesn’t take long before you realize that Craig mixes his love for the genre with a deep appreciation of the talented-yet-underrated artists who originally produced these stories, and then mixes it all up in a cauldron of mischief.

Craig explained it all started with the Dick Briefer’s Frankenstein hardcover collection that he developed for IDW Publishing. “That was the first one out of the tomb”, said Yoe. But it was as much about the stories as it was about the creators, and that’s why it made sense to start with that particular volume. “Briefer was able to mix a touch of horror into his humor, and humor into his horror.”

That was followed by two more collections: Bob Powell’s Terror and Zombie. And as he’s recounting the history, Craig can’t help and pause to muse about Bob Powell. He was an “amazing artist,” Craig reiterates.

Soon there was a notion of turning these creepy collections into an ongoing comic series. Craig first recollects that it was IDW Publisher Ted Adams who first came up with the idea. “Wait, wait – was it a good idea? Maybe it was mine,” Yoe joked. “I view comics as an endangered species,” said Yoe. “And I hope it never goes away. It’s the perfect package: it’s not too big, you can fold it up in your back pocket, you can hide it under your mattress and it won’t make a big lump there so you can hide it from Mom. And then you can read it under the covers.” Clearly Yoe is a supporter of traditional comics. “A comic is a wonderful thing,” he declares with conviction.

He also compares comics to a 45 RPM record: short and complete. On the other hand, the older comics he loves so much usually offered a number of complete stories in each issue.

Each issue of Haunted Horror is 44 full-color pages for just $3.99. And Yoe ensures that each issue offers a variety of stories, with a variety of artists –many of them unknown greats to today’s readers. Clearly, Craig is more reader than a collector, and creates this labor of love for other readers. “I’m not the type to put my comics in tombs of plastic,” he boasts.

In fact, Yoe often tries to showcase the work of “lesser known but brilliant” artists. And then he and his cadre of experts play “comic art detective” to diligently ascertain the correct artwork credits.

Is there a rhyme or reason to the stories that actually get selected for print? Yoe explained that longtime fan Jeff Gelb ‘cracked the code,’ and told Craig that he figured out Yoe’s strategies for choosing which tales are included. “It’s either tales with strong art providing a visual blast, or jaw-dropping stories.”

Still there have been some surprises for even a comic book horror expert, like Yoe. So often in these vintage stories, especially in the EC comics, the last panel would provide a shocking surprise. In fact, many fans would regularly get in a habit, when turning to the last page, of covering the final panel with their hand, lest their eye be drawn to the grisly surprise.

However, in the Jay Disbrow story in the first issue, this innovative artist had such an impactful, wide-screen style image, that he drew that last panel full page and sideways. “It blew my mind,” recalls Yoe.

I did ask Yoe if he ever found any the content he found too grisly or gross or in bad taste. “My moral compass broke years ago and I never replaced it,” he shrugged.

Yoe is also very particular in choosing covers. “The more simply designed covers seem to work the work the best”, said Yoe. “There’s no spinner rack these days, so the covers have to work at a very small scale – in Diamond’s Previews or online. You have to have a strong and immediate image, a force, that really reaches out and grabs you.”

The cover to the latest issue, Haunted Horror #10, really stands out. It features a lurid face, perhaps a ghoul or a mandrill, framed by an evil candle (the candlestick holder even says “evil”) and colorful winged creatures flittering about. “I was intrigued by this bizarre poster like cover by Golden Age great L.B. Cole.” Craig explained that he had many conversations after the artist’s comic book career. “Cole brought a graphic design sensibility to the design and color of his covers, in addition to his draftsmanship. He wanted to make his covers stand out on the crowded newsstand –and they did!”

In fact, Yoe is always looking to make each issue of Haunted Horror standout. He selects the stories to print not only from his personal collection, and those of his friends.

But in the great tradition of comic (and TV) horror hosts, Craig Yoe transforms into the creepy Warlock the Forelock in the pages of these comics to introduce the stories. And he doesn’t do it alone. Haunted Horror is actually the brainchild of several creepy editors, who fans know by their horror host alter egos: Madame Clizia and Mr. Kraswell. Yoe is so very appreciative for the help of his co-conspirators and friends in this mad venture. “I’m grateful for the kindness of my friends.” And that’s not so horrible, is it?