Papercuts: Marvel’s Chamber of Chills

Papercuts: Chamber of Chills from Marvel Comics

By Ryan “HB” Mount

 

In the late 1960’s and into the 1970’s DC Comics was not the only producer of many horror genre comics.  Marvel seemed to be in an arms race against DC with the amount of horror comics they were producing at the exact same time.

Chamber of Chills was just one of Marvel’s titles and it was published from November 1972 through November 1976 and ran for 25 issues.

Much of these books remain uncollected and unavailable digitally, making the only way to consume these titles is visiting your local comic shops and searching back issue bins or tracking them down online.

Chamber of Chills #1 (Marvel)

This was a heck of a first issue.

First issues are always difficult.  Typically, it is either a cold opening with just enough to grab onto or on the other side of the spectrum, it is an info dump and ruins a series before it event gets started.  Well then, how do you start an anthology series that has no overarching story thread and give readers enough to want to come back for the second issue?  This issue solves that quandary.

It was hand curated by Stan Lee and Roy Thomas in a true collaborative effort.

Out first tale might have been the most straight forward tale of Werewolves with a very specific twist.  The turn was so great, that to this day, I have not seen it been used in any other interpretation of Werewolves.

The second tale was written by Stan Lee himself.  For a man known for his fantastical tale, this was a very dark, reality based commentary on the prison system.  It was the darkest tale of the three.  Stan was certainly playing with his narrative style as most panels were surrounded by dialogue which may have been perceived as over writing but the last panel makes it all come together and deliver a crushing blow.

The final tale was clearly to appease Roy Thomas who spent much of his career introducing sword and sorcery tales into the Marvel Universe.  However, the actual tale was written by Gerry Conway, another great comic writer of the 1970’s.  The story was mainly one of a barbarian, but with modern day consequence.

It is clear that the further most horror anthology series are published, the quality begins to dip and rely more and more on reprints, but this first issue was simply spectacular.

Each tale was very well written and the art complimented it well.  While there was no top notch artists listed on the creation of this book, they all did their best with workman style art that still holds up over time, perhaps more than even those of newer generations.

Ratings: 4.5 out of 5

  

Chamber of Chills #2 and #3 (Marvel)

Issue #2 contained two very different tales of Vampires. One in the Old West and another millions of years into the future.  Hard to image back to back tales featuring similar monsters being compelling, but one was more of a cursed story and the other one felt like the original Alien film, only the aliens were vampires.  The third story was another Roy Thomas influenced tale of sword and sorcery which may not entirely fit the genre, but would certainly appeal to a larger audience.

Issue #3 may have contained less sword and sorcery, but ventured into adventure genre comics with a horror bent for the first tale.  The real gem of this book was “All the Shapes of Fear.”  Written by George Effinger and art by Don Heck, it clearly took place during then present day and had the artwork to match.  However, it was one of those haunting tales with a tale of redemption and if you can find this issue in the wild, might be worth picking up.  It may be one of my favorite anthology style stories featured in any comics.

Ratings: 4 out of 5

Chamber of Chills #4 (Marvel)

The main highlight of this book, was that one story contained very early artwork of comic book legend, Howard Chaykin.  While it was done in a style of that time and looks much different than modern era Chaykin, it still had elements that he uses today.  Each character has his signature strong chins and was already drawing very seductive and sultry women into his work.

If you are a fan of Howard Chaykin, this issue may be worth tracking down just to be able to see his early starting points.  While the overall issue was fine, filled with weird and interesting tales, his artwork began to stand out even back then.

Ratings: 3.5 out of 5

Chamber of Chills #5-#7 (Marvel)

Issue #5 marked the beginning of the reprints for the series.  The issue contained four total stories, with three being new and one tale a reprint of a previous pre-comic code story.  The unfortunate part of the reprint is that there was no credit given to the artist or the writer in the book.  Also, given that it was surrounded by modern storytelling, it really stood out amongst the issue and not necessarily in a good way.

Issue #6 was three more tales, with two new stories at the beginning and the final tale one being a reprint.  This issue overall felt fresher than #5.

Issue #7 was fine, but it already seemed like this was the end, even though there were 18 more issues to be printed, the remarkable care and thought put into issue #1 seemed long gone.

Ratings: 3 out of 5

 

After the publication of #7, #8 began to be all reprints of older materials.  And #7 also happens to be the last issue that was available immediately.  Overall, I think if you are a fan of Marvel from the 1970’s this should be a series you track down.  If you want to see where modern horror anthologies really started to take their shape, I’d also recommend these first 7 issues.

 

If you like what you read, make sure to like it and share it.  Follow me on twitter @hebruise and let me know what you liked, what you did not, which horror books you are into and your suggestions to be reviewed!

Papercuts: Horror Classics from DC Comics

Papercuts: Horror Classics from DC Comics

By Ryan “HB” Mount

In the late 1960’s and into the 1970’s DC Comics was producing a large amount of horror based comics, even in the comics code era.  Most famously, they had works like House of Secrets where readers were introduced Swamp-Thing.  While there was the couple of series like House of Mystery that endured, there were a lot more that most current readers may overlook like Tales of the Unexpected and Ghosts.  Also, interesting about of this period, is how few collections were and are available of all these titles.  There were a couple of Showcase Editions of some titles, which were low-cost, newsprint, black and white reprints.  Even now, with digital comics, most of these runs have yet to make it onto the digital platform for current readers to enjoy.

Papercuts has traditionally been focused more on current and ongoing books.  There are many reasons for that.  One, very simply is because they are the easiest books for readers to check out after the reviews have been posted.  So, if you like what is reviewed this week, make sure to visit your local comic shop and go through the back issue and dollar bins and see what haunting surprises wait for you!

The Witching Hour #30 (DC)

Published: April 1972

The Witching Hour ran from 1969 until 1978 and has an incredible run of 85 issues.

After reading this issue, this series was the most inventive book of the books I looked at this week.  Mainly due to the art found throughout the entire book.  While there was still a lot of traditional panel work, there was a lot of panel breaking and bleeding.  There were some pages that did away with traditional grids and put nearly no borders on entire pages.

There are several tales throughout the issue, but the best two are “Night Fright” and “The Box.”  Night Fright is the tale of a young couple and an attacker and due to lack of any supernatural elements, was extremely creepy and believable that could have happened to anyone, especially in that time.  The Box was fantastic because it was a one page story that told a complete story, with a twist ending, and incredibly dark in nature and subtly political in today’s contexts.

If given the chance to read any one of these series, completely though, I would certainly start with this one due to the mixture of natural and supernatural horror and interesting art choices.

Ratings: 4 out of 5

Weird Mystery Tales #14 (DC)

Published: November 1974

Weird Mystery Tales ran from August 1972 until November 1975 and had a moderate run of 24 issues which by today’s standards would be a huge success.

The art again was another simple grid layout and overall the art might not stand out with any unique voices, but these were all professional artists working on each story.  When comparing a horror anthology of today versus this one, I’d say the skill level of the artists working back then on even a lower tier book, far surpasses the horror niche books being put out today by a lot of publishers and even perhaps a higher quality than a lot of Big 2 books on the stands today.  While it is not crisp and as neatly printed as today’s comics, the craft is still great to read.

The title does a great job of letting readers know exactly what is in store.  Each tale is a mystery, some more obvious than others, but all told with the reader asking themselves what is really going on here in terms of the mystery, which is solid story telling.

Ratings: 3 out of 5

Forbidden Tales of Dark Mansion #14 (DC)

Published: October 1972

According to Wikipedia, Forbidden Tales of the Dark Mansion started under the title of The Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love for the first four issues.

The series ran from September 1971 through March 1974, but only produced 15 total issues in three years.

The most notable feature of this book that it features early Howard Chaykin art.  While it is fun to see where he started, this is still a long way from modern Chaykin with his heavy lines and square jaws.

While after the name change, it was said to have been a departure from the romance angle, this book is still a romance book with horror and supernatural elements.  Every story in this book dealt with relationships one way or another and it sets itself apart from the other horror titles.

Ratings: 3.5 out of 5

Secrets of Haunted House #9 (DC)

Published: January 1978

Secrets of Haunted House ran from May 1975 until March 1982 and had a fantastic run of 46 issues, just 4 issues short of what today is the marker for fantastic indie books.

If seeking variety with horror anthologies, this appears to the title to explore a vast variety of subject material.  Everything from ghosts and vampires to androids in the future.  If there was a way to put The Twilight Zone story telling into comics, Secrets of Haunted House, comes the closest.

The art is extremely basic with its simple four to six panel grids on nearly every page.  With such a simple style, this book hopefully leaned on the story telling to keep issue fresh for its long run.  Perhaps that is why the variety of tales in this book was all over the map in subject matter.

Ratings: 3.5 out of 5

 

 

Next time on Paper Cuts:  Horror Classics from the vault of Marvel!

 

If you like what you read, make sure to like it and share it.  Follow me on twitter @hebruise and let me know what you liked, what you did not, which horror books you are into and your suggestions to be reviewed!

Underworld: A Love Letter

This post contains a ton of spoilers about the Underworld series. You’ve been warned.

You know what I love about the Underworld series? Pretty much everything.

It starts off as a solid vampire/werewolf (or lycan, in the parlance of the movie) action-horror series, taking story cues from Romeo and Juliet and visual cues from The Matrix. The first movie is a fun action movie with monsters that takes itself entirely too seriously. I will fight anyone who says otherwise.

They get into some of the mythology and history behind the centuries-old vampire/lycan war in the first movie, but they really delve into the insanity in Evolution. From the first movie, we learn that Michael – Selene’s arm candy and direct descendent of Alexander Corvinus, the king of the monsters – is the first ever vampire/lycan hybrid and we are straight up told that no one really knows what his powers are. They could be limitless. Or they could not be. Who knows? *vampire shrug*

Selene also gets some of Alexander Corvinus’ sweet, sweet monster-king blood. That blood also has undefined powers.

These two things together really form the crux of the insanity the series embraces. Having two sets of undefined powers gives the writers carte blanche to make them up on the spot. Can Selene’s blood give her a lot of sweet fighting moves? Sure! Does it allow her to stand in the sunlight? You bet! Can it bring vampires back from the dead? I guess. Does it make her a really good baseball player? Never fully explored, but, if I were a betting man, I’d say she and Michael would kill Mike Dexter and his stupid Twilight vampire team.
What about Michael? Can he survive a punch that leaves a manhole cover sized hole in his chest? You bet your sweet bippy he can. Does it make him an accomplished chef? Maybe.

Throughout all of this we get a lot of history of how vampires and lycans came into existence and how they’ve changed, and why the war started and all that fun stuff. Apparently I’m a sucker for a convoluted history of monsters in my action-horror.

They double-down on that history in the third movie, Rise of the Lycans. We actually get to see why the war was ignited. Of course, it was over a love torn apart by a father who hated love and thought that cross-species breeding was an abomination. And also sunlight. And he also probably hated the insanely-dangerous cliff-sex that his daughter was having with a filthy (but also kind of handsome) lycan, but we never got his specific views on that.
I feel like they could have added a few minutes into the movie for him to talk about that, but that’s probably just me. “Before I open this roof hatch through a series of levers and let the sunlight in to kill you, my daughter, I want to bring up the cliff-loving you engaged in with this animal who is currently in human form and has a nice set of abs.”
On second thought, maybe it was good they left that part out.

Then we jump forward to Awakening. It takes place 6 months after the events of Evolution and humans have discovered the existence of vampires and lycans. So, in true human form, they decide to hunt them down and kill them. Selene and Michael decide to run away together in a boat, but are hit with a cryo-bomb which freezes them in time. Apparently the magic blood doesn’t defend against being frozen in time. So there are limits to their powers, I guess.

In a fun little twist, Scott Speedman declined to reprise his role at Michael, so they cast an actor who kinda/sorta/maybe looks like Speedman if it’s dark and you squint and his face is always moving.

Anyway, Selene wakes up 12 years later and finds out she’s being kept in a lab run by lycans and one of them kind of looks like a knockoff Chris Martin (fun fact: that guy is in a show called Lost Girl and it’s awful. He’s fine in it, I guess).

Michael is still frozen, but they have a hybrid child together (Eve) somehow, and the lycans are after her blood because it’s SUPER magic and protects them against silver and probably other stuff. You wouldn’t even believe how magic her blood is, you guys. She’s the first pure-born hybrid which means that her powers are really limitless. Like, for real this time. She probably can’t be frozen in time like her dumb parents.

The science-loving lycans are all wiped out (NERRRRRRRRRRDS!) and Michael escaped from his frozen container thing but now he’s on the run. Or he escaped in a helicopter. Or he was kidnapped by a lycan who looks like Tommy Wiseau and drained of his blood, and now Wiseau is shooting up the blood like it’s heroin and is getting all kinds of powers from it.

It’s the last one. Michael is dead now. His powers are limitless, but apparently you can just hang him upside down and slit his throat and he’s done.

That brings up an odd thing in these movies. Vampires and lycans are immortal creatures. They go to great lengths throughout the course of the series to highlight the ways they can be killed. The lycans developed special UV rounds that burn up vampires from the inside out. The vampires countered with bullets filled with liquid silver so the lycans can’t just dig out the bullets. The lycans do everything they can to harvest the blood of Michael and Eve to make themselves impervious to silver. Yet, despite all that, vampires and lycans alike are killed by something as simple as a broken neck or strangulation by way of metal wire. Human food is toxic and will totally kill them. Regular bullets don’t kill them, but it can cause enough blood loss to kill them. So, basically like humans, except a nice steak would explode their stomach or something. Even Alexander Corvinus – the father of all vampires and lycans – is killed by blood loss. I mean, technically he’s killed by a massive explosion, but he was dying when he exploded the ship he was on.

As near as I can tell, the sole benefit you get from being a vampire or lycan – besides super cool titles like “Death Dealer” – is that you can live a long time if you’re super careful. It seems that most things that would kill a normal person would also kill a vampire or lycan. What’s the point of silver bullets? Just cut their brakes and they’ll die in a car crash.

Now, for the latest entry in the series: Blood Wars. It’s the weakest in the series and also the dumbest but also still awesome. It still takes itself entirely too seriously and it pretty much forces everyone to have an intimate knowledge of the rest of the series to understand everything that is happening. I had no trouble following along, but I can guarantee you that very few people have seen this series as many times as my wife and I have.

As I talked about above, the lycans have killed Michael and now they’re looking for Eve’s blood for reasons. Selene does not know where Eve is, so she is off on her own, engaging in some sweet lycan-killing, but also being hunted by both vampires and lycans. Eventually we discover that there is a hippie vampire coven on the top of a snowy mountain and they know how to transport themselves over short distances and also maybe know where Eve is or something. It’s confusing. There’s also a sexy evil vampire who answered a casting call that asked for, “Just kind of be like Eva Green, ya know?” Anyway, she nailed it.

The Nordic vampires have white hair and hate violence and swear that lycans will never breach their walls because it’s too cold, but then lycans totally breach their walls and kill a lot of vampires. So many vampires.

There’s another showdown and the vampires prevail. Selene accidentally gets some of Wiseau’s blood on her lip and she sees that Michael was killed and then she drinks her own blood to bring back her memories of Michael and Eve and then she pulls out Wiseau’s spine and I was so excited I screamed in the theater.

Now Selene is a vampire elder even though they all hated her 30 minutes ago. The end.


I’ll be honest with you: I don’t know why you read this far. I have no idea what this post is supposed to accomplish. These movies have gotten steadily more ridiculous with each installment, yet they take themselves so seriously I can’t help but smile when I watch them. The black leather, industrial soundtrack and stony faces feel a little out of place in 2017, but I can’t imagine watching an Underworld movie with jokes and bright colors. Just keep it rolling, man.

If there ends up being another installment in this series, here are four things I can guarantee you:
1. I will rewatch all the previous movies again before it comes out.
2. It will be terrible.
3. I will be in the theater opening night.
4. I will love it.

Anyway, if you ever have any highly specific Underworld questions, you know who to ask.

31 Days of Horror Day 20: Dracula 3D

Dracula 3D - Cover

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!
Just kidding.
Don’t watch this movie.
It caused Dusty to question his sanity.
It cause Shawn to refer to Dario Argento as “Nature’s Greatest Monster”.
(You should read both of those articles.  Shawn’s is a great rundown of why he doesn’t like Argento, and mine is still one of my favorite things I’ve ever written.)

My real pick will be coming later today.  But let this post be a reminder: don’t watch Argento’s Dracula 3D.  You’re better than that.  We all are.
(But, if you’re looking for a film to make fun of while being drunk with friends, you could do a whole lot worse than this.)

The Strain S1E13, “The Master”

Strain Poster 2

We find ourselves at the end of the season.  It took 13 episodes, but I’m now finally coming around to the sight of Corey Stoll with hair.

This season showed us a show with promise, but was ultimately unfulfilling.  It had some flashes of greatness, but mostly it was maddeningly inconsistent.  It went to the school of building drama by having characters make the worst decision at the worst moment.  So, basically, I’m all warmed up for the start of The Walking Dead.

I love the mythology behind the vampires, but they didn’t get into it too much in this season.  I guess we’ll have to hang on the promise of more of that in the second season.  I really liked Fet, but I could have done without every other character.

Let’s talk about this episode in particular.

Hates:

1. Why is Palmer so eager to be turned into a vampire?  Isn’t being healed of his thousands of ailments good enough?  Has he seen the vampires?  With the exception of Eichorst, they’re all unthinking monsters.  Why would you want to be that?
I could go my whole life without hearing the phrase, “The Master gave you the white, but not the worm,” again.  Although it is nice to have a name for some Strain-centric erotic-fiction already in place.

2. Zach asking Eph when they can go home.  Eph’s face was as perplexed as mine.  “We can’t go back.”  They have tried to portray Zach as a composed, intelligent kid, but they have no problem turning up the ignorance when they need to.  “Quick.  Let’s have the kid say something that will pull at the heartstrings or whatever.”  Poor writing.

3. Gus’ insistence on acting tough and trying to punch vampires.  It never ends well for you.  Just stop.

4. The plan of heading out in sunlight to battle vampires is smart.  The plan of then traveling by sewers and secret tunnels is not.  That completely negates your advantage.

5. Zach playing a game of Plants vs. Zombies as a way to kill time.  That’s the wrong game, kid.  You should be playing Infect Them All.  That would help your preparation.

6. While I liked Fet using dynamite to make “munchers go boom-boom”, it doesn’t seem like the smartest idea to blow up a bunch of creatures with infectious blood.  All season they’ve made a point to say, “Just one worm will infect you.”  It’s how Jim died (well, technically a bullet to the brain is how Jim died, but you get my meaning).  Yet they have no issue blowing up a bunch of vampires in a confined space, or slicing-and-dicing countless vampires in closed quarters without any kind of protection.  The blood is only as infectious as the writers need it to be in that particular scene.

7. The Master – assumed to be the smartest of the vampires – knew Eph & company were coming, yet he decided to keep himself in a room filled with windows in the daylight.  Why not move to somewhere no sunlight could possibly get into?

8. The attack on The Master seemed to work fine.  They got him out in the sun, where he was clearly in pain, then Setrakian stood over his body for a while and talked instead of slashing at him.
After The Master made his escape, Eph said, “If sunlight doesn’t kill him, what does?”  Were you not paying attention?  Sunlight was doing fine.  Another minute and he likely would have been dead.  Or perhaps an assault with weapons while he was writhing in sunlight would have finished the job.  You stared at him instead of attacking him and you wonder why your attack didn’t succeed.

9. Zach.  Stupid, stupid Zach.  He faked an asthma attack just to get back to his old house.  It was dark, the city was crawling with vampires, and they had just survived a siege on Setrakian’s pawn shop the day before.  The smart move was to stay away from anywhere the vampires would think to look for them.  Instead, he really needed to see some pictures, so he lied to get back to his house.  Again, smart when they want him to be, stupid when they need him to be.  Zach is the worst.

10. The voiceover at the end annoyed me to no end.  Not a good way to end a season.

Loves:

1. The idea of using hordes of vampires as security.  Sometimes I wish I was The Master, because that sounds like an amazing use of resources.  “I’m going to turn all of you into vampires, but then some of you will just stand in my general vicinity during the day and be willing to die for little to no reason at all.  Cool?”

2. Fet talking about Eph and Setrakian: “You two are falling in love.  It’s a beautiful thing.”  Kevin Durand’s Fet was absolutely the best part of this season.

3. Speaking of Fet, I loved him opening up the sewer cap to flood the tunnel with daylight to stop more vampires from filling the theater before they could get there.  Really smart.

4. Nora finally throwing down on Eph in regards to Zach.  It’s a new world, man.  No time to coddle your kid.  If you want to protect him, give him a sword and keep him at your side.

5. Eldritch Palmer throwing that woman over the ledge.  I laughed pretty hard.

6. The glowing eyes of the vampires in the club.  I don’t remember seeing that before this episode, but it was a great visual.
I think I really liked the scene where the vampires all backed out, but I’m torn.  On the one hand, it looked cool.  On the other hand, I don’t understand why the humans stopped their killing.  The vampires are vulnerable and not in the fight.  Why not try to take out as many as you can while their guard is down?

7. I’m a big fan of Quinlan the vampire hunter, and I like that we saw The Ancients towards the end of this episode.  Delving deeper into that side of things should help make the second season more interesting than the first.  I say that it should, but I don’t have a ton of faith that it will.

Final thoughts: Not a great end to the season, but it wasn’t a great season, so I suppose it was fitting.  I had high hopes for this series, but those expectations have been lowered greatly.  It wasn’t terrible, but it was remarkably inconsistent.

Make sure you read CC’s take on this.  She’s better than me.

Also read LC Fremont’s take.  She’s one of the best writers I know.