Saturday, October 31, 2009

The scariest comic I ever read

I'm not sure exactly how old I was when I first read What If? v2 #30; I don't believe I bought it new, so I must have been older than nine, but I also don't think it was long after it came out, so I'll ballpark myself around eleven.

As you can see from the cover, it was "two feature length thrillers" asking the question "What if the Fantastic Four's second child had lived?" Comic Vine has Jim Valentino listed as the book's writer and (ironically) current FF artist Dale Eaglesham as penciler, but I'm not sure if they did both stories or, if not, which one they were responsible for. I'm not concerned with the second story for the purposes of this post, as it was a fairly pedestrian yarn about Reed and Sue Richards' daughter becoming some sort of global messiah, but the book's first "thriller" scared the living heck out of me.

The premise of the story, as implied by the question/title, was presenting one possible scenario had the second child of Mister Fantastic and the Invisible Woman lived. See, while today any FF fan worth their salt knows that Reed and Sue do have two children, Franklin and Valeria, back in 1991, Franklin was the only child of Marvel's First Family, as a second had been lost in childbirth during John Byrne's run on the book due to the mother's exposure to radiation in the Negative Zone (I believe).

Here, with the help of Doctor Octopus, Reed is able to save the baby, a girl, but Sue dies in the process.

The story is told from Franklin's point of view, and right off the bat Valentino (or whoever wrote this) provides an emotionally gut-wrenching account of a little boy losing his mother and having to accept that the person who ostensibly killed her is now a member of his family. That's not even the makings of a horror movie, that's a real-life tragedy that was certainly not typically dealt with in all-ages super hero comics during the 90's, not something I had ever really thought about at my tender age, and a subject I at least remember the creative team handling with impressive care and craft.

However from there creepier elements beyond the norm do begin cropping up as members of the Fantastic Four as well as friends like Alicia Masters are becoming weak and dying and nobody can figure out an explanation why. Franklin is the only one convinced his younger sister has something to do with it, but his father refuses to believe him and his uncles and their super friends humor him but try to explain to him it's only natural to feel threatened by a new sibling (which it is).

There's really no on-panel action or violence for the first two thirds of the story, just personal dynamic drama about your family being thrown into tumult and nobody believing you; it felt more like "Child's Play" or any other thriller designed to terrify kids specifically because it focuses in on your helplessness to save the people you love because you can't get anybody to listen to you.

Again, I can't say for sure that Dale Eaglesham was the artist on this story, but if he was, even at what would have been a formative stage in his career, he was doing some impressive work, as his visuals were a huge part of what made this story so dang eerie. I vividly recall a panel of Franklin walking by the room of an emaciated Johnny Storm who was half-conscious and mumbling as one of the scariest images my young mind had ever processed. This was the Human Torch, a cocky, young character full of life sapped of all that and there wasn't even a bad guy to throw blame to; gripping stuff when you're eleven (or twenty-seven).

Reed basically locks himself in his lab and becomes obsessed with figuring out what had happened to his family at the expense of paying any attention his son, who insisted his sister was to blame, a claim Mister Fantastic refused to hear. This worked because it was a pretty logical extension of Reed's character (how many times has he locked himself in a lab and ignored his family over the years?) and made the next bit even more shocking but weighty when he hauled off and slapped Franklin for daring to hurl these accusations.

Obviously this story played on some pretty realistic fears most kids have: your younger sibling trying to steal your family from you (literally in this case), nobody listening to you, and even a parent who is supposed to be protecting you turning against you in the cruelest of ways. This wasn't alien invaders or monsters from another dimension, it was real stuff that some kids are unfortunate enough to face jacked up with sci fi trappings.

The climax of the story is almost predictable, but no less horrifying, as the youngest Richards does indeed turn out to be a parasitic Negative Zone monster with emotion-altering abilities who turns into a giant green creature after Franklin recruits Doctor Doom of all people as his savior while his father curses at him to his last breath. The beast ends up tearing through both Reed and Doom and trying to come at Franklin, who is able to activate a switch and send her back to where she came from. The story ends with Franklin cradling his dead father's head and wishing somebody would have listened to him.

It was a horror movie in comic book form done to great effect and pulled off with maximum psychological effect. It terrified me so much I gave the comic to my mom and had her hide it from me, never wanting to see it again. I believe when I was in college we were cleaning some area of the house and I found it; I read it again, all my childhood emotions came rushing back, and I threw it out post haste.

It was the scariest comic I ever read.

Friday, October 30, 2009

28 Comics I Love

The Amazing Screw-On Head by Mike Mignola

Batman...Jesus, too much to say in a post like this, so I'ma just say "Batman" as a title and leave it for later.

Blue Monday by Chynna Clugston

Bone by Jeff Smith

Deadenders by Ed Brubaker & Warren Pleece

Epileptic by David B.

Fun Home by Alison Bechdel

Green Lantern by Ron Marz, Darryl Banks, et al.

Good-Bye, Chunky Rice by Craig Thompson

Grickle by Graham Annable

Impulse by Mark Waid, Humberto Ramos & Wayne Faucher

JLA by Grant Morrison, Howard Porter & John Dell

King of Persia by Walt Holcombe

Madman by Mike & Laura Allred

The New Gods by Jack Kirby

Palooka-ville by Seth

Pappercutter edited by Greg Means

The Paul Series by Michel Rabagliati

Robin by Chuck Dixon, Tom Grummett et al.

The Rocketeer by Dave Stevens

Scott Pilgrim By Bryan Lee O'Malley

Scud: The Disposable Assassin by Rob Schrab

The Shadow by Howard Chaykin, Andy Helfer, Bill Sienkiewicz & Kyle Baker

Sidekicks by J. Torres & Takeshi Miyazawa

Skeleton Key by Andi Watson

Spider-Man 2099 by Peter David, Rick Leonardi, Andrew Wildman, et al.

Starman by James Robinson, Tony Harris, Wade Von Grawbadger, Peter Snejbjerg, et al.

Teenagers From Mars By Rick Spears & Rob G

[NOTE: I should have had this up last week to follow the example set by the much harder working Ben in his whole series which you should go back and re-check out, but it was a weird thing to do. At first I felt like I couldn't find enough comics that I felt as strongly about as the ones I love most on this list...then I found I had way, way too many fucking comics and had to cut way down. I hope no one takes this as a best of all time list (as if anyone really gives a shit what my best of all time would look like) and more as a snapshot of why I'm so juvenile at this age. - KP]

Thursday, October 29, 2009


Hey y'all, very sorry for the infrequency/relative lameness of this week's posting, but apparently getting married takes a lot out of you (and your friends). Besides that, I was also out late last night at MarvelFest and am freaking exhausted.

I swear I'm gonna get some sleep this weekend and return to the irreverent discourse on comics, movies and Subway that you live to consume. Until then, here's a medley of covers from random stuff I bought in the 90's!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Pimping My Stuff: Marvel Holiday Spectacular

Remember that Christmas-themed Werewolf By Night story I did about a year ago with the lovely and talented Stephanie Buscema for the Marvel Digital Holiday Special? Most consider it the greatest Christmas-themed Werewolf By Night story of all time, so I'd imagine you do.

Welllll...I was reading the Marvel solicits for October a few months back and imagine my surprise at reading that the Marvel Holiday Spectacular would feature a story starring none other than Jack Russell himself--Werewolf By Night! At first I was outraged that somebody was moving in on my turf, then quickly realized nobody else would ever write Werewolf By Night into a holiday special, so it was more likely my piece reprinted.

I was right.

That's right, friends: my print debut as a Marvel Comics writer is in stores now! Behind a beautiful Ed McGuinness-drawn cover with Santa Hulks is page upon page of goodness featuring not only my work, but also that of my buddies Ryan Penagos, Juan Doe, Jim McCann, Todd Nauck and others. It's a $10 squarebound monster of a magazine, but aside from what I just mentioned, it's also got classic X-Men and Spider-Man holiday stories, Deadpool's gift-giving guide, an extensive profile of Santa Claus in the Marvel Universe (with art by Art Adams!) and much, much more.

So head on down to your local comic book shop and ask for the Marvel Holiday Spectacular by name!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Linko! XXVII

We were slightly delayed this week by affairs of state, including Ben and Megan's super awesome wedding, but that means Linko! is again going to be jam-packed this week (though Friday's may end up sucking for it). I'm constantly wondering how many of you actually read through this whole thing. I read through most of the link blogs I read, usually to my detriment. Anyway, I also did a poor job of remember where I found what this time out. Forgive me...

* Link #1 from (Ryan's Tumblr): Again, we get an example of the weird wonder that is He-Man character design. See the above piece super big and buy a print at artist Christopher Lee's site.

* Link #2: Ghostbusters is widely argued by nerds to be the greatest movie about New York City ever made, so looking over this Scouting NY post about how all the locations for the film have changed in the past 20+ years is more interesting than I think that kind of thing would usually be.

* The idea that a Colonel Sanders look alike got a tour of strictly forbidden parts of the United Nations would be funny enough, but this paragraph makes it even funnier:
Montas warned the UN could take legal action against the company, whose letter, signed by KFC president Roger Eaton, asked that the secretary general register the "Grilled Nation" of grilled chicken eaters as the 193rd UN member state.
And really I think that's why the U.N. seems so mad about this, because honestly? People get into restricted access areas of that building all the time. Hell, even I've been in restricted access areas of that building thanks to my U.N. connections (yup, I have 'em!). Though does anyone else find KFC's turning their founder into a goofy mascot a little disturbing? I've been thinking that since about ten years ago when a cartoon Colonel mascot was first used to hock Pokemon toys (wait for it). (Via)

* Best non-Stephen Shamus youtube video to come out of last week's Big Apple Con? Iceman and Deathstroke freestyle rap. (Thanks, Jill)

* This article about how thin the Secret Service has been stretched and whether or not they can properly serve all their stated rolls is both fascinating and frightening to me.

* This Pop Candy list of Top 5 Songs to listen to after being dumped was re-link worthy based on two Chris Bell appearances alone.

* Unsung Comic Book Hilarity Link: Man, there are dudes and ladies out there who are into comics and writing funny stuff about comics that work outside of comics, and some days I feel like us hardcore nerds are missing out too often. Example, you say? How about this piece from Cracked entitled If Aquaman Comics Knew How Much Aquaman Sucked? It's a good photoshop waste of 15 minutes by someone called "seanbaby" who has his own site that I never see linked to anywhere. Maybe it's just me who's missing out.


* I really should have read more Ted McKeever comics by now, as this Bookslut piece so ably proves.

* Does anyone else giggle when they hear the phrase "Starring Heather Graham as The Public Option"?

* Hey! I never talk to my friend Laura Gutierrez anymore because I'm a bad friend and lazy to boot, but it's cool when she posts videos about her awesome job in wilderness science on Facebook, you know?

* A Harlan Ellison review of Slaughterhouse Five from when the book first came out. It kills me how he uses words like "fecund."

* I've never heard of most of the social networking programs in this list of Social Media to help your small business the great Joel Rash posted, but some of them sound kind of useful.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Art Attack: Groomsmen gifts by Todd Nauck

I'm back! It was an absolutely incredible weekend experience where I got to see my friends and family, eat great food, smoke cigars, belt out hair metal tunes, party like a rock star--and oh yeah, get married! Megan Morse (not to be confused with Megan Morse) and I are blissfully happy and enjoying our one day off before it's back to the work grind (Honeymoon coming in 2010), but I had to duck away from my lovely bride quickly to write this post, which I've literally been holding back on for weeks.

For my elite team of groomsmen, I was fortunate enough to have Megan's brother, Chris, my buddy since childhood, Matt Corley, my college pal, Jordan Geary, and of course our own Rickey Purdin. They did a fantastic job keeping me cool, running the show (with help from elite ushers Taylor Cunningham, T.J. Dietsch, Dan Hartnett and Alex Verdaguer) and dealing with a limo driver who told them stories about whorehouses in Thailand and openly admitted to driving drunk and destroying private property in the process.

As groomsmen gifts, I wanted to do something special that not everybody could necessarily make happen. I figured given my occupation, it would be neat to contact a comic artist friend and see if they'd be able to mock up some super hero identities and sketches for my boys.

From the start, my amigo Todd Nauck was the perfect and only choice for this gig in my mind and I was just hoping he'd have the time, as he's currently hard at work on Spider-Man: The Clone Saga. Still, besides just being an awesome guy, Todd did an amazing job on a piece for me and Megan a few years back depicting us as Superboy and Wonder Girl as well as a wedding present for my friend Tim with him and his bride as Lex Luthor and Mercy Graves, so I know how great he is at capturing the look of folks, plus he's an incredible costume designer, as clearly evident in his Wildguard series.

I gave Todd a call and he said he'd love to do it but had to think about it, given his workload, which I completely understood.

About a day later, he e-mailed me his concept sketches--the guy is nuts and I love him.

All I gave Todd to go on was a few pics of each guys plus snippets about their occupations and personalities (Chris likes to play poker, Jordan loves Transformers, Matt's a political blogger and Rickey obviously works at DC); from that he was able to create magic.

Enough yakking from me--here are reference shots of each dude, then the penciles and inked versions of their gifts. Hope you enjoy them as much as I did (and as much as the guys did). Thanks again, Todd!

MATT (pictured with my sister)