Hope and Hell’s Flaw – Shame books 4 and 5


By Lovern Kindzierski, John Bolton & Todd Klein (Renegade Arts Entertainment)

ISBN: 978-1-98782-548-0 (Hope TPB) ISBN: 978-1-98890389-7 (Hell’s Flaw TPB)

Comics are unequivocally a visual medium and that’s never more ably demonstrated than in a seductively bewitching allegorical fable from writer Lovern Kindzierski, painter John Bolton and letterer Todd Klein.

The story began with three Original Graphic Novels released between 2011 and 2013, before the entire epic was housed in its proper setting: a lavish and sublime full-colour hardback tome, liberally garnished with beguiling bonus features and all the usual digital equivalents.

So, if you’re sitting comfortably with all the doors locked and windows covered, let’s begin with a swift reprise…

Once upon a time in Conception a benevolent but homely witch named Mother Virtue spent all her days doing little favours and grand good deeds for the ordinary and unfortunate, and for these kind actions she was beloved by all. Spiritually, she was probably the most perfect woman in the world, but as for her looks…

She lived life well, growing old and content, but one day, after decades of joyous philanthropy, a single selfish thought flashed idly through her mind: a momentary longing for a daughter and wish for it to be true, that she might be a mother in fact as well as name…

The weak moment was instantly exploited by malign Shadow of Ignorance Slur. Through dark magics, he impregnated the champion of Good with a vile seed of evil, bragging to the wise-woman that her wish-made daughter would be a diabolical demon deserving the name Shame

Deeply repenting that selfish whim and dreading horrors yet to come, Mother Virtue transformed her idyllic cottage in the woods into a floral prison; a Cradle reluctantly repurposed to isolate and eventually contain the thing growing in her belly. The miserable matron-to-be also assembled Dryads to care for and guard the baby. Once Virtue finally births Shame, she leaves the devil’s burden to be reared in the mystical compound, where it grows strong and cruel but so very beautiful…

After much concentrated effort, however, minions of Shame’s sire breach Cradle’s green ramparts and school the child in vile necromancy to ensure her dire, sordid inheritance. With malefic potency, Shame refashions her guardians into something more pliable and appropriately monstrous…

As the devil’s daughter physically ripens, Slur himself comes to his evil child and through him Shame learns the terrifying power of sex. With the aid of an infernal incubus which has stolen seed from many men, she quickens a child in her own belly and eventually births a beautiful baby girl.

Into that infant Slur pours Mother Virtue’s soul; gorily ripped from the despondent dotard’s aging carcase at the moment of her granddaughter’s delivery. Even the nunnery Virtue had locked herself within was no proof against the marauding Shadow of Ignorance…

With her despised mother now her own child, securely bound within the floral penitentiary, Shame goes out into the world to make her mark…

Pursuit took up the story sixteen years later. Infant Virtue has grown strong and lovely, despite every effort of malformed, mystically mutated Dryads and Shame’s own diabolical sorcery toiling constantly but to no effect in a campaign of corruption, making every day of her young life a savage test of survival. This daily failure makes Shame – now elevated by her own evil efforts to queen of a mortal kingdom – furious beyond belief.

When not burning witches and wise women who might threaten her absolute domination, or having her armies ravage neighbouring realms, the haughty hell-spawn spies upon her offspring/ancestor with infernal devices, but is always bitterly disappointed and enraged….

Elsewhere, a valiant knight lies dying and mournfully bids his afflicted son Merritt farewell. With his last breaths, the swift-failing father dreads how his foolish, naïve, beloved boy will fare in a world ruled by the Queen who has ended him…

The hopeless dreamer is stubborn above all else and – when Merritt discovers the vegetable hell-mound of Cradle – stories his mother told him long ago run again through his head. Odd, inexplicable yearning compels him to overcome appalling arcane odds and break in. He liberates the beautiful prisoner… although she actually does most of the work…

Freed from Cradle, Virtue’s mystic might blooms. Far away, Shame reels. Slur cares little for his daughter but much for his plans: disclosing Merritt is Destiny’s wild card: a Sword of Fate who could reshape the future of humanity. Of course, that depends on whose side he joins…

The young heroes near the capital but are ambushed. After a tremendous mystic clash, Merritt awakens in a palace with a compelling dark-haired vision ministering to his every need and desire. Meanwhile, far below in a rank, eldritch dungeon, Virtue languishes, patiently adjusting plans…

This eldritch esoterically erotic epic concluded with Redemption as Merritt fell deeper under the sultry sway of the dark queen, devolving into her submissive tool of human subjugation, whilst Virtue languished in fetid squalor, weaving intricate magic with the paltry, debased materials at hand…

In the Queen’s arms, Merritt remains a child shaped by his mother’s bedtime stories. When Virtue contacts him, he readily sneaks down to her cell, dreams of nobility and valiant deeds filling his addled head…

With a final confrontation between mother and daughter imminent, Virtue sends Merritt to Hell on a vital quest to recover the Hope of the World. His triumphant return saves the kingdom and redeems the downcast…

As with all great fairy tales, justice is delivered and the world is set right side up again, with Shame dead, Slur confined to the Pit and pure reborn soul Hope in charge…

But what actually happens on the first day of “Happy Ever After”? The answer comes as the initial trilogy is extended via a second tranche of Original Graphic Novels, with Kindzierski & Bolton picking up their eldritch tapestry again in Hope

The day after Shame’s dismemberment and descent to Hell, chaos and uprising grips the kingdom, forcing Merritt and rebel wisewoman Miss Grace to escort bewildered Hope to safety outside the castle. The war has been won but evil cannot die and the rioting crowds are almost as much a danger as the Queen’s remaining stooges and free-roaming satanic spirits. Moreover, the child’s unschooled mystic force makes her a danger to herself and all around her…

Transporting her to the peaceful countryside fills Merritt with memories of his childhood and reveals what happened to his own mother, subsequently provoking Grace to review her own chequered past. Both have suffered grievously from Shame’s actions, and have no idea that the monster is still active in Hell, manipulating ghosts and demons to effect her return to Earth using the infernal contamination that used to be Cradle…

In the forests, Hope sees visions of forthcoming atrocity, which confirmed by Grace’s scrying, force the caravan to divert towards the once-green hell and meet the threat head on…

To Be Continued…

Fifth volume Hell’s Flaw resumes the epic quest, as Shame marshals her forces to secure the pathway from Hell to the living world, while the wary, weary band of heroes struggles to the verdant hellmouth.

Their way is blocked demonic forces too horrible to bear, but Grace has learned to tap Hope’s raw magic to fight them off. Slowly though, she becomes more controlling, her promises to teach the child somehow never materialising, although her need for her as a living battery constantly increases. Eventually, however, during a truly formidable assault, Hope asserts herself to save Merritt and the entire course of the quest changes…

In Hell, Shame’s own cunning endeavours have borne black fruit and she is ready to return…

To Be Concluded…

Epic and fanciful, the fairy tale trappings mask a most mature examination of Good and Evil, and the shimmering photorealistic expressionism of John Bolton’s lush painting transforms the familiar settings of fantasy standards and set-pieces into visions truly bleak and bizarre, perfectly complementing the grim, earthily seedy meta-reality of Kindzierski’s script.

Dark and nasty yet packed with sumptuous seductions of every stripe, the salutary saga of Shame is every adult fantasist’s desire made real and every comic fan’s most fervent anticipation in one irresistible package…

Hope, Hell’s Flaw and Shame: the series conceived and written by Lovern Kindzierski. The story, characters, world and designs are © Lovern Kindzierski, John Bolton and Renegade Arts Canmore Ltd.

Necromantic


By Lovern Kindzierski, David Ross, Geof Isherwood, Chris Chuckry & Taylor Esposito (Renegade Arts Entertainment)
ISBN: 978-1-98890-369-9 (TPB) eISBN: 978-1-98890-373-6

Real and fictionalised espionage tales are equally gripping when done well, and modern drama demands a healthy dose of genre cross-fertilisation. A perfect example catering to modern tastes is this opening salvo from Lovern Kindzierski (author of the Shame trilogies, Underworld, VMT and colourist of most of your favourite US superhero comics) and veteran illustrators David Ross (Star Wars; X-Men; Alpha Flight; Rai) and Geof Isherwood (Suicide Squad; Conan the Barbarian; Silver Surfer; Doctor Strange). In case you’re wondering, the crucial backroom boys here are Chris Chuckry on colours, and Taylor Esposito delivering calligraphic sound, captions and dialogue…

This rowdy, raunchy introductory action-fest reveals a critical turning point in the life of top-gun US Special Forces operative Jesse Harris whose latest successful mission in North Africa is forever blighted in ‘Love’s Labour’s Lost’ after she learns that her beloved Blake Williams has been killed in action.

Harris goes to pieces in ‘Much Ado About Nothing’: not simply from grief and anger, but also because she still sees him. It’s the kind of situation she has secretly endured and ignored since childhood, when she first discovered a facility for seeing and talking to people no one else can see…

Dragged out of shattering despondency by fellow ISA agent Rich Boon, she takes a “soft” mission in Afghanistan, only to find herself dragged to the edge of hell and a bittersweet reunion with Blake. In the course of her duties, she realises the local governor/warlord is a mortal agent of infernal demons pressganging recently deceased human souls into a legion intended to oust the devil, and install a new lord of the Damned. To aid the recruitment program, still-breathing Prince Minyar has bolstered his brutal living forces with rampaging zombies and ruthless killer ghosts only Jesse can perceive…

Facing modern arms and ancient devils revelling in another chance to spill blood, her team are swept away in ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’, but Harris gains valuable intel from the King’s vizier – an enslaved spirit determined to end the horrific recruitment program – and eventually a blessed ally when Blake escapes the Pit to render assistance and battle beside her to deliver earth and the afterlife from ‘The Tempest’

Savage, fast-paced and strictly for adult eyes only, Necromantic is a blockbuster thrill-ride for the action-movie generation and a manic joy for those who still crave their cathartic release in print of digital comics form.
© Lovern Kindzierski and Renegade Arts Canmore Ltd. 2020

Deitch’s Pictorama


By Kim, Simon & Seth Kallen Deitch (Fantagraphics Books)
ISBN: 978-1-560979-52-4 (TPB)

There may be something to this DNA stuff. Eugene Merril “Gene” Deitch (August 8th 1924-April 16th 2020) was a revered, Oscar-winning animator, filmmaker and cartoonist who worked on or created timeless classics like Popeye, Tom & Jerry, Munro, Tom Terrific and Nudnik, whilst his first son Kim has been at the forefront of comics’ avant-garde since the days of the Counter Culture and “underground commix” scene. Kim’s brothers Simon and Seth Kallen have both made their mark in the popular creative arts. Then again, maybe it’s simply growing up exposed to open-minded creativity that makes exemplary artists and artisans…

In this classic collaborative venture the Deitch boys crafted a graphic narrative oddity that is both compelling and utterly captivating. Cunningly combining heavily illustrated prose, comics, calligraphy, illustrative lettering, cartooning and plain old strips, the five tales herein contained blend into a tribute to the versatility of illustrated storytelling in all its variations.

It begins more-or-less traditionally with ‘the Sunshine Girl’: a potent and beguiling paean to bottle caps and the all-consuming collecting bug, promptly followed by intriguing prose-ish fantasy, ‘The Golem’. This salutary account in turn leads into the disturbing ‘Unlikely Hours’, and whimsical shaggy (talking) dog story ‘Children of Aruf’.

Wisely leaving the very best until last, the Picto-fictorial fun concludes with the superbly engaging and informative semi-autobiographical ‘The Cop on the Beat, the Man in the Moon and Me’: a particular treat for anyone interested in the history of comics and popular music.

Naturally I’ve been as vague as I can be, because this is a book that revels and rejoices in storytelling, with half the artistry and all the joy coming from reading it for yourself, so – as long you’re an older reader – you should do just that.
© 2008 Gene, Kim, Seth Kallen and Simon Deitch. All Rights Reserved.

 

 

DC’s First Issue Specials


By Jack Kirby, Joe Simon & Jerry Grandenetti, Bob Haney & Ramona Fradon, Robert Kanigher & John Rosenberger, Michael Fleischer & Steve Ditko, Mike Grell, Martin Pasko & Walter Simonson, Gerry Conway & Frank Redondo, Mike Vosburg, Denny O’Neil & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1779501776 (HB)

Nobody knows where ideas come from, but at least in comics it’s easy to see how they turn out. Mainstream companies have always favoured try-out vehicles – like Gold Key’s Four Color; Magazine Enterprises’ A-1; DC’s Showcase and The Brave and the Bold; Charlton Bullseye; Marvel Premiere and Marvel Spotlight – and the principle was a sound one, graphically depicted in every first issue. In the late 1950s, editors at National/DC were apparently bombarded with readers’ suggestions for new titles and concepts and the only possible way to feasibly prove which would be popular was to offer test runs and assess the fans reactions. The results kickstarted the Silver Age and introduced dozens of immortal, profitable characters and concepts…

When the comic book revolution seemed to be fading out in the mid-1970s it was revived in part by innovative scheduling and a new awareness of the need to experiment, leading to this sturdy hardback/digital compilation of some genuine hits and near-misses…

Originally printed as 1st Issue Special #1-13, spanning April 1975 to April 1976, it’s supplemented by then-Editor Gerry Conway’s revelatory Introduction ‘If at First You Don’t Succeed’.

Famed for his larger-than-life characters and gigantic, cosmic imaginings, Jack Kirby was an astute, imaginative, spiritual man who had lived through poverty and gangsterism, the Depression, Post-War optimism, Cold War paranoia, political cynicism and the birth and death of peace-seeking counter-cultures. He was open-minded and utterly wedded to the making of comics stories on every imaginable subject. He always believed sequential narrative was worthy of being published as real books beside mankind’s other literary art forms. It’s a genuine shame he didn’t live long enough to see today’s vibrant and vastly varied graphic novel industry.

On ending his third sojourn at the company – just prior to returning to Marvel for 2001: A Space Odyssey/Machine Man, Captain America, Black Panther and more – Kirby unleashed a bunch of new options for DC to expand and capitalise on over the coming decades. Other than Kobra – which was hastily reworked by other hands and given its own series – they all appeared in the new Comics Showcase.

Debuting in the debut 1st Issue Special #1 and inked by D. Bruce Berry, ‘Atlas the Great!’ harks back to the dawn of human civilisation and the blockbusting travails of mankind’s first super-powered champion in a bombastic and tantalizing Sword & Sorcery yarn.

Kirby’s collaborations with fellow industry pioneer Joe Simon always produced dynamite concepts, unforgettable characters, astounding stories and huge sales, no matter what genre avenues they pursued. They blazed trails for so many others to follow; reshaping the nature of American comics with their innovations and sheer quality. Simon & Kirby offered stories shaped by their own sensibilities: always testing fresh ideas and avenues. They chased ideas for comics nobody else ever had before, identifying gaps and probing potential.

Although junior plutocrat Richie Rich had been coining it for Harvey Comics for decades, Simon and old collaborator Jerry Grandenetti looked for drama as well as laughs in the set-up and came up with ‘The Green Team: Boy Millionaires’ for the second 1st Issue.

Here magnate minors The Commodore (shipping), JP Houston (oil) and Cecil Sunbeam (moviemaker) are joined by black shoeshine boy Abdul Smith after a banking error turns the industrious lad into an instant parvenu. Dedicated to adventure and social advancement, the kids then unwisely back ‘The Great American Pleasure Machine’

The first of a string of potential revivals follows as Metamorpho the Element Man returns courtesy of fabled originators Bob Haney & Ramona Fradon. ‘The Freak and the Billion-Dollar Phantom’ sees Rex Mason seeking to thwart the vengeful schemes of a ghost betrayed by America’s Founding Fathers and resolved to destroy Washington DC.

For #4, Robert Kanigher, John Rosenberger & Vince Colletta introduce a truly novel but now unfortunately dated concept in ‘Lady Cop’.

Earnest, well-meaning and immaculately rendered by the criminally-underappreciated Rosenberger, the tale of college student Liza Warner – who survives a serial killer and takes control of her life by becoming a police officer – is rather heavy-handed, but addresses in ‘Poisoned Love’ issues of controlling boyfriends, parental abuse, underage sex and venereal disease with a degree of mature understanding we’d be hard-pressed to see these days. I think she was one of the few characters still dormant since her debut…

Kirby – with Berry – returned in #5 (August 1975) to revise his own Golden Age stalwart safari guide Paul Kirk replaced by a frustrated lawyer. This passing of a torch sees a devout evil-crusher working for an ancient justice-cult retire: beguiling his nephew – Public Defender Mark Shaw – to become the latest super-powered ‘Manhunter’ battling ancient wickedness with alien super-tech…

A rare but welcome digression into comedy manifested as ‘The Dingbats of Danger Street’ disgraced 1st Issue Special #6, with Mike Royer inking a bizarre and hilarious revival of Kirby’s Kid Gang genre starring four multi-racial street urchins united for survival and annoying the heck out of cheesy thugs and surreal super threats like Jumping Jack and The Gasser

Steve Ditko’s startling psychedelic avenger The Creeper debuted in early 1968, parlaying his premier in Showcase #73 into a superb but brief run in Beware the Creeper before being cancelled with the sixth issue (March/April 1969) – by which time Ditko had all but abandoned his creation. It was fun and thrilling and – unlike many series which folded at that troubled time – even provided an actual conclusion, but somehow wasn’t satisfactory or what the public wanted.

This was a time when superheroes went into steep decline, with supernatural and genre material regaining prominence throughout the industry. With Fights ‘n’ Tights comics folding all over, Ditko concentrated again on Charlton’s mystery line, the occasional horror piece for Warren and his own projects…

In the years his own comic was dormant, the Creeper enjoyed numerous guest shots in other comics, which established that the city he prowled was in fact Gotham. When Ditko returned to DC in the mid-1970s, 1st Issue Special snapped him up.

Issue #7 (October 1975) gave the quirky crusader another shot at stardom in ‘Menace of the Human Firefly’ written by Michael Fleisher and inked by Mike Royer. It saw reinstated TV journalist Jack Ryder inspecting the fantastic felons in Gotham Penitentiary just as manic lifer Garfield Lynns breaks jail to resume his interrupted costumed career as the master of lighting effects.

By the time the rogue’s brief but brilliant rampage is over, the Creeper has discovered something extremely disturbing about his own ever-evolving abilities…

The story wasn’t enough to immediately restart the rollercoaster, but a few years later DC instituted a policy of giant-sized anthologies and the extra page counts allowed a number of lesser lights to secure back-up slots and shine again. Written and drawn by Ditko, The Creeper became a regular in World’s Finest Comics

During the troubled 1970s the American comics industry suffered one of the worst of its periodic downturns and publishers desperately cast about for anything to bolster the flagging sales of superhero comics.

By revising their self-imposed industry code of practice (administered by the Comics Code Authority) to allow supernatural and horror comics, publishers tapped into the global revival of interest in spiritualism and the supernatural, and as a by-product opened their doors to Sword-and-Sorcery as a viable genre with Roy Thomas & Barry Windsor-Smith’s take on R. E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian an early exemplar.

DC launched a host of titles into that budding market but although individually interesting nothing stuck until First Issue Special #8.

With The Warlord, popular Legion of Super-Heroes artist Mike Grell launched his pastiche, homage and tribute to Edgar Rice Burroughs’s works (particularly Pellucidar – At the Earth’s Core) which, after a rather shaky start (just like Conan, the series was cancelled early in the run but rapidly reinstated) went on to become for a time DC’s most popular title.

Blending swords, sorcery and super-science with spectacular, visceral derring-do, the lost land of Skartaris is a venue expertly designed for adventure: stuffed with cavemen, warriors, mythical creatures, dinosaurs and scantily-clad hotties. How could it possibly fail?

The magic commences with ‘Land of Fear!’ as in 1969, U2 spy-pilot Colonel Travis Morgan is shot down whilst filming a secret Soviet base. The embattled aviator manages to fly his plane over the North Pole before ditching, expecting to land on frozen Tundra or pack-ice on the right side of the Iron Curtain.

Instead, he finds himself inside the Earth, marooned in a vast, tropical jungle where the sun never sets. The incredible land is populated by creatures from every era of history and many that never made it into the science books. Plunging head-on into the madness, the baffled airman saves an embattled princess from a hungry saurian before both are captured by soldiers. Taken to the city of Thera, Morgan is taught the language by fellow captive Tara and makes an implacable enemy of the court wizard Deimos. After surviving an assassination attempt the pair escape into the eternal noon of the land beneath the Earth.

Within months Morgan had his own-bimonthly title written, pencilled and inked by Grell.

Another delayed reaction revival in #9 saw Golden Age mage ‘dr. fate’ reintroduced and revamped thanks to arch stylists Martin Pasko & Walter Simonson.

A brilliant imagination and, by his own admission, more designer than artist, Simonson broke through in the standard manner in the early 1970s by illustrating short stories for DC’s anthology comics – a valuable and much-missed proving ground for budding talent. Whilst working on Fritz Leiber’s licensed property Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser for the seminal Sword of Sorcery comic-book, he was commissioned by Archie Goodwin to illustrate groundbreaking, award-winning Manhunter feature for Detective Comics and instantly catapulted to the forefront of comics creators.

Here he and Pasko reintegrate the best elements of the Golden Age run as the master of magic battles accursed and murderous Egyptian mummy Khalis, who seeks to turn back time and unmake the world. The tale allowed the artist to stretch himself and explore his increasing fascination with patterns, symbols and especially typography. It’s a cracking good read too, which redefined and repositioned Fate for decades to come.

Simon & Grandenetti, with Creig Flessel, used #10 to unleash ‘The Outsiders’, a band of truly creepy freaks united by Doctor Goodie/Doc Scary to save the ugly, unwanted and persecuted from bigotry and intolerance after which ‘Code Name: Assassin’ sees Conway expand his concept of Good Bad Men (which created The Punisher) as augmented telekinetic Jonathan Drew declares war on crime and death to evil in a tantalising yarn-of-its-time illustrated by Frank Redondo & Al Milgrom. Assassin would eventually resurface as a Superman villain.

Starman is a character and property DC regularly revises, and First Issue Special #12 (March 1976) saw one of the most radical reinterpretations as Conway, Mike Vosburg & Royer introduce Mikaal Tomas: point-man for an imminent alien invasion of Earth. What could possibly make him betray his people, his duty and his true love to abruptly switch sides and fight for humanity?

The last try-out in this run was without doubt the most significant. Not only did the tale lead to an new series, but it also cemented New Genesis, Apokolips and especially ultimate villain Darkseid as pivotal to the further unfolding of the DCU. The characters have never been long absent from the continuity.

When Kirby moved back to DC in 1970, he created one of the most powerful concepts in comics history. His Fourth World inserted a whole new mythology into the existing DC universe and blew the minds of a generation of readers. Starting with Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen, he revived the 1940s kid-team The Newsboy Legion; introduced large-scale cloning in the form of The Project, and hinted the city’s gangsters had otherworldly backers. He then moved on to the Forever People, New Gods and Mister Miracle: an interlinked triptych of projected miniseries forming an epic mosaic.

These titles introduced rival races of gods – dark and light – risen from the ashes of a previous Armageddon to battle forever. And then their conflict spread to Earth…

Kirby’s concepts, as always, fired and inspired his contemporaries and successors. The gods of Apokolips and New Genesis have become a crucial foundation of the DC universe, surviving numerous revisions and retcons periodically bedevilling continuity-hounds.

Many major talents have dabbled with the concept over the years and many titles have come and gone starring Kirby’s creations. It all began with the final 1st Issue Special #13 and ‘Return of the New Gods’.

Almost before the dust had settled from Jack’s departure back to Marvel, his greatest creation was revived. With Conway plotting, Denny O’Neil scripting & Vosburg rendering a resurrection of the uncompleted saga, ‘Lest Night Fall Forever!’sees modern war god Orion battling Apokolyptian enemies on Earth as his wicked sire seeks again the anti-Life Equation. It’s time to assemble a new team and rush to humanity’s aid…

With covers by Kirby, Grandenetti, Fradon, Rosenberger & Dick Giordano, Ditko, Grell, Joe Kubert and Ernie Chan, plus apposite text features from original issues accompanying each tale telling ‘The Story Behind the Story’, this is a true gem for fans that will also impress newbies looking for the odd timeless thrill….
© 1975, 1976, 2020 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

My Pretty Vampire


By Katie Skelly (Fantagraphics Books, Inc.)
ISBN: 978-1-68396-020-1 (HB) 978-1-68396-194-9 (PB)

Illustrator Katie Skelly hails from Brooklyn by way of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania and caught the comics bug early, thanks to her newsstand owner dad. Her Barbarella-inspired series Nurse, Nurse began after graduating from Syracuse University with a BA in Art History and becoming a postgrad at City College of New York.

Thanks to her inquisitive insights, striking art style and potent narrative voice, Skelly has been the subject of many gallery shows and is a star on the global lecture circuit.

My Pretty Vampire was her first graphic novel. Released in 2017 it is a psychedelia-tinged, torrid terror tome – again inspired by Jean-Claude Forrest but also horror-meister director Dario Argento – and followed by Operation Margarine, The Agency and 2020’s historical reappraisal of an infamous murder-pact Maids.

All her works ask uncomfortable questions about the role and permitted position of women in society, as seen through exploitation genres of mass entertainment, and that’s never been more effectively seen than in this “semi-autobiographical” tome (available in present-worthy luxury hardback and accessible eBook formats) recounting the story of Clover, who was a spoiled rich brat until she was turned by a vampire. It did nothing for her disposition and four years later she is a prisoner in a gilded cage, forced to subsist on ox blood as her controlling brother Marcel keeps her “safe”.

Clover has other ideas: most significantly, feeding on what vampires are supposed to…

Finally, she makes her move, escaping up into the grimy sordid world of daylight, downtown sleaze and booze, drugs and debauched walking snacks. Innocently slaughtering her way across town, Clover is pursued by a canny mortal cop, who fixes all of Marcel’s mortal world problems, but his dogged pursuit is methodical and far too slow…

As the naively innocent killer luxuriates in her freedom, the world inexorably closes in and she realises she needs to change…

Amusingly raunchy, stunningly psychedelic and deviously asking very pointed questions about personal liberty and the constricting power of love as a tool of control, My Pretty Vampire is a vivid splash of vibrant, gory fun every contemplative connoisseur of sexual politics and social inequity will adore.
© 2017 Katie Skelly. This edition © 2017 Fantagraphics Books, Inc.

Dash: The Case of the Mysterious Zita Makara


By Dave Ebersole, Delia Gable, Vinnie Rico, Sean Von Gorman, Tana Ford, Josh Lester & various (Northwest Press)
ISBN: 978-1-94-389055-2 (TPB) eISBN 978-1-94-389056-9

The 1930s were a golden age of fantasy fiction, particularly in the genres of pulp adventure, crime stories and supernatural horror. As such it’s a time period accessible to some degree by most modern consumers of escapist entertainment. It was also a time of great hypocrisy, social conservatism – except in the arts and politics – and enforced conformity.

All that gets a great big “So What?” in this deliriously rambunctious melange of mixed media forms wherein writer Dave Ebersole and illustrator Delia Gable finally complete their long-delayed epic tale of boozy, proudly unrepentant queer private eye Dashell Malone, who cautiously negotiates the hostile environment of pre-WWII Los Angeles and outraged former colleagues from the LAPD in search of the mystic horror that destroyed the man he loved…

It all begins in 1940 when exotic and sultry Zita Makara hires him to act as go-between in a shady deal. She is exceptionally unforthcoming with useful details and not a little annoyed at his easy resistance to her charms and attentions… much to the amusement of Dash’s sassy but efficient secretary Cindy Crenshaw

The PI’s attention is further derailed by the return of his lover, shady ne’er-do-well Johnny Plinketts, so when his diligent investigations of Zita take him to a travelling Egyptian antiquities exhibition, Dash is totally unprepared for the appalling consequences. Dash still has friends on the force – such as patrolman Sal McGillicutty – who is there to break the shocking news that “Plink” has been found dead in incredible circumstances. Moreover, he’s not the first. LA has become the hunting grounds for a ghastly beast…

A convenient suspect for bigoted detective Bruno Perez, Dash is eventually released and falls into a depression until Cindy and Sal get him moving on finding the real killer, but before long the trail leads to an ancient Egyptian heretic cursed by the gods and an undying predator active for ages. This terror has been methodically preparing to turn back time and remake the world and Plink was not only his latest meal but also deeply involved in the plot from the start…

As events spiral and supernatural Hell inescapably comes to Earth, Dash is thrust into the role of mystic avenger and saviour of humanity, but it’s a job the grieving shamus neither wants nor feels qualified to handle…

Augmented by an effusive Introduction and appreciation from Steve Orlando, the book also includes a background-packed ‘Interlude’ from Ebersole and artist Vinnie Rico, as well as a trio of brief ‘Further Cases’.

‘The Case of the Man in the Mask’ (art by Sean Von Gorman) sees Dash dismantle a devious blackmail scheme, whilst Rico’s ‘The Case of the Best Friend on the Police Force’ traces the story of LAPD officers Malone and McGillicutty before Cindy’s origins are explored in ‘The Case of the Wisecracking Secretary’ (Rico again). Rounding up the fun is early promotional art, Afterwords and thank-yous, plus a recipe section inviting you to “make the cocktails you just read about” in ‘You Don’t Have to Drink, But If You Do… Drink Well!’

A superbly engaging romp in the manner of The (1999) Mummy whilst tipping its battered, dusty fedora to classics of film noir and latter-day pulp homages like Raiders of the Lost Ark and Hooten and the Lady, this is a splendid excursion categorically proving that not all rugged he-men get the girl in the end…
© 2020 Dave Ebersole. Dash co-created by Dave Ebersole and Delia Gable. All rights reserved.

The Killer Condom and Down to the Bone


By Ralf König: translated by Jim Steakley and Jeff Krell (Northwest Press/Ignite! Entertainment)
ISBN: 978-0-96563-238-6 (Killer Condom PB) 978-0-96563-239-3 (Down to the Bone PB)
Digital editions by Northwest Press – no ISBN

Standard Disclaimer: These comedy stories contain rude words, explicit nudity, depictions of graphic and hilarious sexual situations and normal non-Biblical lifestyles. If any of these are likely to offend, what the hell are you doing here anyway?

I’d like to think that most social problems humanity suffers from can be fixed by a little honesty and a lot of communication – especially when it comes to relationships. Being able to laugh together probably helps too. In regard to sexual politics and freedom it’s an attitude Germany adopted decades ago. As a result, the country has an admirable record of acceptance of the LGBTQIA+ community and a broad penetration (yes, I’m awful! And Not Funny!) of gay comics into the general population.

Undisputed king of home-grown graphic novels is Ralf König, a multi-award-winning cartoonist, filmmaker and advocate with almost fifty titles – such as Suck My Duck; Santa Claus Junior; Prototyp; Archetyp; Antityp and Stehaufmännchen– under his belt.

He was born in August 1960 and came out in 1979, crafting an unceasing parade of incisive and hilarious strips and sagas set in and around the nation’s ever-evolving gay scene. Much to his own surprise, he discovered that his work had vaulted the divide from niche market to become a staple of popular mass market book sales. Many of his works have been rereleased as eBooks from Northwest Press.

The two volumes covered here were major sellers all over the world: blending the sordid shock-chic of 1970s American crime films and TV shows like Dirty Harry, The Warriors or Kojak and schlocky Sci Fi-horror (as in Scanners or Critters) with absurdist humour and the delicious notion of New York’s toughest Top Cop being Out, Loud and obnoxiously Proud…

First released in Britain in 1991 and wholly embracing the conceit of being an art house movie, The Killer Condom originally debuted in 1987 as Kondom des Grauens: a whole-hearted genre spoof introducing disgraced and disgraceful New York detective Luigi Macaroni, called on by his reluctant and harassed boss to solve a rash of gory emasculations plaguing the area around the notorious pay-by-the-hour Hotel Quickie.

Brash, gruff and deliberately sleazy, Macaroni is too good a cop to get rid of, despite his brazen attitude, and begins to work just like in every other case his straight colleagues won’t touch. However, as he investigates the brutal street scene he quickly realizes that no human agency is biting the dicks off an escalating stream of unfortunate sinners…

When he picks up a rent boy for a little relief, they too go to the Quickie and soon face terror beyond imagination and every man’s darkest nightmare…

Crafted at a time when HIV/AIDS was ravaging the gay community and scaring the pants off the wider world, this darkly trenchant satire adds a bizarre codicil to the still-ongoing debate about safe sex and condom use, but remains at its core an outrageously funny romp for grown-ups. In 1996, it and sequel Down to the Bone were adapted as a German comedy horror movie, latterly released in America as Killer Condom.
The Killer Condom © 1988 by Editions Kunst der Comics/Ralf König. Revised Edition © 2009, Published by Ignite! Entertainment. All rights reserved.

Down to the Bone emerged in 1990. As Bis Auf die Knochen, it heralded the triumphant return of Detective Inspector Macaroni – an even-more embittered man following his failure to maintain a loving relationship. It’s New Year’s in New York and the city is darker and nastier than ever. In the dead of winter, a fresh horror stalks the streets…

When a man hungry for negotiable affection encounters an oddly familiar “leatherman” hooker, it turns into the last trick of his life. Meanwhile, celebrity restauranteur Joe Baluga meets a similar fate, as does another hapless John triggering another campaign of atrocity in the mouldy, worm-infested Big Apple.

This time, it’s not dicks that are disappearing: now entire bodies are being instantly reduced to bleached skeletons and the Captain needs the department’s top Queer to stop the rot. As the third victim is the wealthy son of an infamous billionaire, and just to be safe, the embattled chief assigns painfully straight whitebread Detective Brian Plumley to assist him – affording Macaroni an irresistible opportunity to play pranks and reaffirm his reputation as a total bastard…

As they trawl the leather bars and other outposts of “the scene” they quickly establish an apparent link to the gay porn industry. But other than providing the inspector with a celebrity hook-up, the investigation stalls until a bizarre find proves that what they’re all hunting is far from human…

From there the pieces swiftly fall into place and the escalating horror leads back to an old case involving carnivorous latex prophylactics. With bodies still dropping, Macaroni and a far-more woke Plumley track down an old mad scientist and his ghastly creation and encounter a deranged fundamentalist determined to enforce Biblical mandates at all costs…

Wry, witty, coarsely hysterical, these books marry the surly, unsavoury thrills of urban cop fiction with a bawdily outrageous whimsy that sadly won’t appeal to everybody, but if you love big raucous ludicrous belly laughs with your thrills and chills, these might well become some of your favourite reads.
Down to the Bone © 1990 by Editions Kunst der Comics/Ralf König. Revised Edition © 2011, and published by Ignite! Entertainment. All rights reserved.

John Constantine, Hellblazer volume 3: The Fear Machine (New Edition)


By Jamie Delano, Richard Piers Rayner, Mike Hoffman, Mark Buckingham, Alfredo Alcala & various (Vertigo/DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-3519-2 (TPB)

You’ve either heard of John Constantine by now or you haven’t, so I’ll be as brief as I can. Created by Alan Moore during the early days of his groundbreaking run on Swamp Thing, John Constantine is a mercurial modern wizard, a dissolute chancer who plays like an addict with magic on his own terms for his own ends. He is not a hero. He is not a nice person. Sometimes though, he’s all there is between us and the void…

Given his own series by popular demand, he premiered in the dying days of Reaganite Atrocity in the US but at the height of Thatcherite Barbarism in England, so as we’re singing the same song now – but with second-rate Britain’s Got Talent cover-artist wannabes as leaders – I thought I’d cover a few old gems that might be regaining relevance in the days ahead…

In 1987 Creative Arts and Liberal attitudes were dirty words in many quarters and the readership of Vertigo was pretty easy to profile. Jamie Delano began the series with relatively safe horror plots, introducing us to Constantine’s unpleasant nature, chequered history and odd acquaintances but even then, discriminating fans were aware of a joyously anti-establishment political line and wildly metaphorical underpinnings.

Skinheads, racism, Darwinian politics, gender fluidity, plague, famine, gruesome supernature and more abound in the dark dystopian present of John Constantine – a world of cutting edge mysticism, Cyber-shamanism and political soul-stealing. In Delano’s world the edges between science and magic aren’t blurred – they simply don’t exist.

Some terrors are eternal and some seem inextricably tied to a specific time and place. The Fear Machine (available in paperback and digital formats and collecting issues #14-22 spanning December 1988-September 1989) is an engrossing extended epic which begins in ‘Touching the Earth’ (by Delano, Richard Piers Rayner & Mark Buckingham) as the wizard goes on the run thanks to the tabloid press pillorying him as a sex-crazed Satanist serial killer.

Forced to flee his London comfort-zone, Constantine is adopted by neo-pagan Travellers and journeys through the heartland of Britain. Apparently, these dangerous non-conformists are responsible for all the ills plaguing society of the 1980s and 1990s, just like fat people, the poor and immigrants are today…

Going native amongst the drop-outs, druggies, bath-dodgers and social misfits, Constantine buddies up with an immensely powerful psychic girl named Mercury and her extremely engaging mum, Marj, but even amidst these freewheeling folks he can feel something nasty and unnatural building. The first inkling occurs in ‘Shepherd’s Warning’when Mercury discovers an ancient stone circle has been fenced off by a quasi-governmental company named Geotroniks. It seems someone is trying to shackle Mother Earth’s circulatory system of Ley lines.

Meanwhile elsewhere, people are compelled to kill and mutilate themselves while Geotroniks boffins watch and take notes…

Mercury is abducted when police raid the Travellers’ campsite in ‘Rough Justice’. Imprisoned in a secret complex where the mind’s limits and the Earth’s hidden forces are being radically tested, she witnesses horrors beyond imagining and cutting-edge science. If only the subjects and observing scientists can be persuaded to stop committing suicide…

Mike Hoffman illustrates fourth chapter, ‘Fellow Travellers’ wherein Constantine heads back to London for help in finding Mercury and uncovering Geotroniks’ secrets. He gains one horrific insight when the train he’s on is devastated by a psychic assault which forces the passengers to destroy themselves…

With Buckingham & Alfredo Alcala assuming the art duties, ‘Hate Mail & Love Letters’ begins two months later. Marj and the travellers are hiding in the Scottish Highlands with a fringe group called the Pagan Nation, led by the mysterious Zed – an old friend of the wily trickster. Constantine keeps digging, but across the country, suicide and self-harm are increasing. Society itself seems diseased, but at least the Satanist witch hunt has been forgotten as the bloody pack of Press vultures rage on to their next sanctimonious cause celebre

Touching base with his precious few police contacts and pet journalists, the metropolitan mage soon stumbles into a fresh aspect of mystery when a Masonic hitman begins removing anyone who might further his enquiries in ‘The Broken Man’. Constantine saves journalist Simon Hughes from assassination in a particularly exotic manner guaranteed to divert attention from his politically-damaging investigations, and discovers new clues. It all points the psychic horror and social unrest being orchestrated by reactionary factions of the government employing a sinister and all-pervasive “Old Boy network”…

And somewhere dark and hidden, Mercury’s captors are opening doors to places mortals were never meant to go…

As the Pagan Nation’s priestesses work subtle magics to find the missing girl and save humanity’s soul, a disgusting, conglomerate beast-thing is maturing, made from fear and pain, greed, suffering and deep black despair: provoking a response from and guest-appearance by Morpheus, the Sandman, which prompts Constantine, Hughes and possibly the last decent copper in London to go hunting…

After picking up another recruit in the form of KGB scientist Sergei in ‘Betrayal’, events spiral ever faster as the Freemasons – or at least their “Magi Caecus” elite – are revealed as organisers of the plot to combine Cold War paranormal research, economic imperialism, divisive Thatcherite self-gratification and the Order’s own quasi-mystical arcana to create a situation in which their guiding principles will dominate society and the physical world. It’s nothing more than a greedy, sleazy power-grab using blood and horror to fuel the engines of change…

All pretence of scientific research at Geotroniks is abandoned in ‘The God of All Gods’ as Masonic hitman Mr. Webstergoes off the deep end, ignoring his own Lodge Grandmaster’s orders to abort the project amidst an escalating national atmosphere of mania. He is determined to free the fearful thing they’ve created and unmake the modern world at all costs. Constantine’s allies are all taken and the wizard is left to fight on alone.

Knee deep in intrigue, conspiracy and spilled guts, humanity is doomed unless Constantine’s band of unhappy brothers and a bunch of Highland witch-women can pull the biggest, bloodiest rabbit out of the mother of all hats in spectacular conclusion ‘Balance’

The heady blend of authoritarian intransigence, counterculture optimism, espionage action, murder-mystery, conspiracy theories and ancient sex-magic mix perfectly to create an oppressive tract of inexorable terror and shattered hope before an astounding climax forestalls – if not saves – the day of doom, in this extremely impressive dark chronicle which still resonates with the bleak and cheerless zeitgeist of the time.

This is a superb example of true horror fiction, inextricably linking politics, religion, human nature and sheer bloody-mindedness as root cause of all ills. That our best chance of survival is a truly reprehensible, exploitative monomaniac seems a perfect metaphor for the world we’re locked into…

Clever, subversive and painfully prophetic, even at its most outlandish, this tale jabs at the subconscious with its scratchy edginess and jangles the nerves from beginning to end. An unmissable feast for fear fans, humanists and political mavericks everywhere…
© 1989, 2012 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Apocalypse Cancelled


By Luke Melia, Jamie Norman & Valerie Quatrocchi, Geoff Jones, David Anderson, Mike Smith, Dennis O’Shea, Kat Humphries, Grame Stewart, Dan Wilkinson, Leor King, INKY CONDITIONS & various (Dreamspace Books)
ISBN: 978-1-70859-669-9 (PB)

The following review contains language and expletives used by grown-ups. If you are offended or upset by words, and descriptions of rude stuff, perhaps you will want to give this one a miss.

We’ve all just been through an horrific experience and it’s certainly wedged itself into the global collective unconsciousness on many levels. I’ll wager it has forced many people to reassess the world and their place in it. On that note comes a wickedly mordant, topically charged satirical anthology of comics, prose and poetry from veteran indie author/publisher Luke Melia and his band of literary merry pranksters…

Likely suspects on the next Extinction Event list are limited and we can all cite them thanks to many, many movies and media outlets. The premise of this themed collection is a killer asteroid drawing an unmistakeable, irrevocable bead on the planet. Once it’s spotted, confirmed and made public, humanity reacts pretty much as you’d expect – with a few intriguing exceptions as detailed herein – before the worst thing possible happens: the bloody thing misses Earth and everybody still alive must deal with what they did when they thought the end was literally here…

An enticingly trenchant exploration and assessment of human nature in a shotgun blast of illustrated novellas, vignettes, epigrams and assorted poetic forms, the wild ride opens (and ultimately circularly closes) with ‘Prime Minister’s Speech’by Luke Melia: a rap-style 10 Downing Street press conference very much in the pompously profuse and profligate manner of our current old-school Glorious Leader, but with a hearty dose of biting whimsy salting the pot…

Précising the mindset of the masses as the big rock closes in, ‘Apocalypse Please’ precedes the first of a sequence of Police Memos addressing rapidly-shifting constabulary priorities and a jaunty ‘Limerick’ by Mike Smith, before Melia’s prose novella ‘Did You Have a Nice Weekend?’ hones in on one recurring aspect of the aftermath of Armageddon interruptus.

When the event fizzles, go-getting businessman Tony Clarke reassembles the remains of his crack team to capitalise on the reconstruction of society. Sadly, the uncontrolled, panicked personal excesses of those presumed end days may have resulted in words and actions that not everyone in the office can forgive or forget…

Melia’s vignette ‘Running Out of Tomorrows’ proves not everyone knows how to let go, before Smith’s epigrammatic treatise on ‘Terry’s Best Friend’ segues into Jamie Norman & Valerie Quatrocchi’s comic strip ‘Little Rock’ wherein man and beast each find a new way to wait for death. A police report on Cannibalism is balanced by ‘FUCK!’ (Leor King) as a cult leader is lost for words – or deeds – after which ‘Once Upon an Apocalypse’ by Geoff Jones shares one last grim bedtime tale between a father and his little princess…

More Melia moments follow as ‘The Conspiracy Wolf’ outlines a dedicated doomsday fantabulist’s dilemma and dysmorphic delusional ‘Eleanor’ finds an identity at last, whilst David Anderson & Melia explore a gamer’s solution in ‘Apocalypse Online’.

The pressing business of finishing a binge watch marathon occupies Dan Wilkinson in ‘En Route’ whilst Melia’s ‘First Day of School’ eases us into his examination of faith under inexorable pressure in Nun’s tale ‘Dear Lord’

The crime of Murder is reassessed in a police report as ‘A Big Change’ (by INKY CONDITIONS/Stevie Mitchell) offers cartoon commentary before ‘Louise’s Crater’ (Smith) sees possible spectral intervention for a single dad and his traumatised son when the end of days results in enforced separation due to a swift uptick of sales and compulsory overtime in underground bomb shelters…

A brace of Melia shorts opens with a bungee jumper in ‘Saving Grace’ and asks the space rock what it wants in ‘Journey’, before ‘Shuttle’ (Dennis O’Shea & Melia) observes how Earth’s latest astronauts handle the crisis, after which Benjamin Parkin’s ‘HIM’ homes in on a serial killer’s liberated spouse and Melia’s ‘Salvation Day’ takes us into the future when the crisis has been at last reduced to just another bank holiday.

Visually explicit, Melia & Anderson’s ‘We’re All Fucked!’ explores the plebian side of orgiastic release, after which a police report on Uncategorised Offences and Anderson’s ‘Bedside’ vigil lead to a delightfully different take from Kat Humphries as a string of loners bond over animal care in prose homily ‘Cat Lovers Wanted’

For ‘Bumping into People at Orgies’ Melia dryly dissects the morning after the night before, and Smith addresses passion and paranoia in ‘It’s Outside’ before O’Shea dabbles with just desserts – and entrees – in a tale of bullying entitled ‘Howard the Coward’.

Domestics reports get a police revision and Melia recounts the fate of ‘Yappy’ before Grame Stewart gets extremely down and dirty in a tale of ‘Dark Desires’ fulfilled, after which Melia’s ‘Freed’ addresses a new self-help system and Norman reveals the contributions of veteran nonconformist power engineer ‘Big Rock’. A mini masterpiece of character writing from Melia offers a tantalising counterpoint to liberated madness in ‘Business as Usual’ with data entry clerk Melvin Toddliving his perfect life as society crumbles. It’s not what you think…

Optimism in O’Shea’s ‘World Piece’ is countered by dark malice in Ryan Howe’s ‘Repent’ before ‘Bunker’ by O’Shea & Melia takes us into the future to reveal what today’s survivalist nuts did when the crash came, before a police report on Public Order and wry comic strip ‘Samson’ (Melia & Bobby Peñafiel) lead to a psychological aberration back at work in Melia’s ‘Cinnamon Glaze’. The entire calamity confection then concludes with the aforementioned redux performance of ‘Prime Minister’s Speech Part 2’, capping the madness with more – and better – of the same…

Perhaps best summed up by exalted prophet “Boring” Bob Grover of The Piranhas “The whole thing’s daft, I don’t know why. You have to laugh or else you’d cry”…

Conversely, you can simply read this and make up your mind in the comfort of your own retreat from reality…
All right reserved. Each piece © 2021 the relevant author.

The Hidden


By Richard Sala (Fantagraphics Books)
ISBN: 978-1-60699-385-6 (HB)

One of the cruellest side-effects of the current pandemic is its power to cut you down emotionally and fill you with guilt over things you have no power to control. Prime offender for me is finding out people I like admire or just simply know have gone, and I’m probably the last to know. Just like this guy…

Richard Sala was a lauded and brilliantly gifted exponent and creator of comics who deftly blended beloved pop culture artefacts and conventions – particularly cheesy comics and old horror films – with a hypnotically effective ability to tell a graphic tale.

A child who endured sustained paternal abuse, Sala grew up in Chicago and Arizona. Retreating into childish bastions of entertainment he eventually escaped family traumas and as an adult earned a Masters Degree in Fine Arts. He became an illustrator after rediscovering the youthful love of comic books and schlock films that had brightened his youth.

His metafictional, self-published Night Drive in 1984 led to appearances in legendary 1980s anthologies Raw, Blab! and Prime Cuts and animated adaptations of the series were produced for Liquid Television.

His work remains welcomingly atmospheric, dryly ironic, wittily quirky and mordantly funny; indulgently celebrating childhood terrors, gangsters, bizarre events, monsters and manic mysteries, with girl sleuth Judy Drood and the glorious trenchant storybook investigator Peculia the most well-known characters in his gratifyingly large back catalogue.

Sala’s art is a joltingly jolly – if macabre – joy to behold and has also shone on many out-industry projects such as his work with Lemony Snickett, The Residents and even Jack Kerouac; illustrating the author’s outrageous Doctor Sax and The Great World Snake.

One of my personal favourites is The Hidden which revels in the seamy, scary underbelly of un-life: an enigmatic quest tale following a few “lucky” survivors who wake up one morning to discover civilisation has succumbed to an inexplicable global Armageddon. The world is now a place of primitive terror, with no power, practically no people and ravening monsters roaming everywhere.

Trapped on in the fog on a mountain, Colleen and Tom emerge into the world of death and destruction before promptly fleeing back to the wilderness. As they run, they encounter an amnesiac bum, who uncomprehendingly leads them to other young survivors – each with their own tale of terror – and together they seek a place of sanctuary in the desert and the shocking true secret of the disaster…

Clever, compelling and staggeringly engaging, this fabulous full-colour hardback (also available in digital formats) is a perfect introduction to Sala’s world: a sublimely nostalgic escape hatch back to those days when unruly children scared themselves silly under the bedcovers at night. It is an ideal gift for the big kid in your life – whether he/she/they are just you, imaginary or even relatively real…
© 2011 Richard Sala. All rights reserved.