I had the pleasure of stopping by Boston Comic Con along with buddy and illustrator Amanda Kahl (and her hubby Derek.) We decided to see what all the fuss was about. The con itself was a bit disappointing. I’m not sure what I hoped for, but with the lack of Marvel, DC, or Image comics, it came across as a very expensive yard sale. The panels were non-existent (I don’t care about celebrity Q&A) and there were quite a few empty tables and vacant booths. With that being said, I did get a chance to talk to some outstanding artists. I think I may have found a candidate for a book cover project I hope to explore in the next year. We bumped into old friends and made a few new ones as we roamed through the artists. Whether it met my expectations or not, it’s always great hanging out with good friends and finding ourselves on crazy adventures. The big question is always, “What’s next???”
Category: Comic Geekery
Contributed by Thomas S. Flowers
Not to be too weird about it, but imagine yourself for just a moment that you’re a twelve-year-old boy. You’re walking through the store and like any boy of pre-teen age back in the early 90s you decide to go check out whatever comics are offered at this very obviously not comic book store in the magazine section while your mom shops for food and other boring stuff like that. As you peruse the offered wares you come across a comic the likes you have never seen before. Its gritty. Slightly graphic. Super dark. And dare we say, demonic.
This was me. Back in 1990-something, 1994 or 1993, I can’t quite remember. What I do remember is how when I first laid eyes on Spawn, I ran and somehow convinced my mom to buy it for me and I took it home and was hooked ever since. Spawn was…different. It wasn’t Marvel or the X-Men, which is what most of my friends were reading at the time. It wasn’t DC, an entirely different circle of friends. In fact, I can’t recall Spawn being popular at all with any of my buddies…I’m sure they read it and maybe even liked it on some level…just not on the same level as me. Spawn spoke to a darker inkling to which I typically wandered. And because it spoke to that dark side, it helped galvanize some of my own creative thoughts and ideas of what could be possible within the realm of storytelling.
The badass covers helped. Those issues, man, from the very beginning are some of the best horror comic art I’ve seen. Todd McFarlane was known even before Spawn as leaning towards the more explicit in his artwork. If I’m remembering this right, there was a certain Spider-Man comic involving Wolverine piercing some bad guys eye with his adamantium claw. Or something like that. Recalling still, McFarlane didn’t care too much for censorship and ran with his own brand to Image Comics, creating Spawn…
…an Marine ex-CIA assassin who gets murdered by his best friend, Chapel, and sent to h-e-double hockey sticks and there recruited by a high-level demon named Malebolgia to join his army in a war against Heaven on the promise of getting to see his wife, Wanda, again. Agreeing to these shady terms, but truthfully…not sure who would turn down getting to leave hell, the demon sends him back to earth…five years later with the worse case of scatter brain and wearing a head to toe superhero costume. And the scars, did I mention the scars? Yup. Spawn aka Al Simmons was burned alive in life and as a kinda really fucked up signing bonus is now horribly disfigured.
The fact that this comic spoke to me at such a young age is disturbing…
In the first issue of Spawn, Al is trying to figure things out. He gets “flashes” of old memory. And as another high-five from Malebolgia, another demon is sent to “guide” Spawn in this new role he’s supposed to play on Earth. The guide is none other than The Violator who takes the form (most of the time) as a short, fat, hellish looking clown. When he’s not Chuckles, he’s this really freaking looking monster with large bulbous eyes and long needle like teeth.
Through these first few comics, it’s really about Spawn remembering who he was and coming to terms that in five years’ time, everyone thinking he’s dead (because he was), including his wife, life goes on. Wanda ended up marrying Al’s other best friend, Terry, and they end up having a daughter together. And soon after, Spawn also begins to realize that he wasn’t just dropped on Earth looking like a walking piece of human toast, he’s got power, real devastating shatter this world kinda power. And that suit of his isn’t some mom’n’pops Halloween get up, it’s a living symbiotic entity with its own set of abilities. But there’s a catch…those powers of his are not limitless. There’s a clock, so to speak. Once he drains all his green glowing goo…boom, back to hell.
This kind of story wasn’t something I was used to reading. As a comic marketed to young adolescent boys, there were layered intricacies. Spawn wasn’t just some Hellspawn with a host of awesome powers, he was also Al, a dead Marine ex-CIA assassin who lost his way but wanted to do the right thing. He loved his wife. He loved his country. But still, he wasn’t your typically “good guy.” Nowadays, the anti-hero is an overhanded trope. Back in the early 1990s, for me at least, it was not. Spawn showed me that characters didn’t have to be 100% good, that not everyone was 100% bad. That there were grey areas amongst the pure goods and evils in the world. Case in point, the story of Billy Kincaid.
As for kid’s comics, this was a dark story…but I wonderfully done one! Billy Kincaid was the son of some senator, an ice-cream truck driver, and a child murderer. His famous line being, “You scream, I scream, we all scream for ice cream.” Pretty creepy, right? Anyways, in issue #5, Spawn pays ole Billy and visit and gives him a taste of his own medicine, hanging him in Detectives Sam and Twitch’s office with popsicles stabbed into his corpse and a note, “BOYS SCREAMED AND GIRLS SCREAMED SO I MADE HIM SCREAM…AND SCREAM…AND SCREAM.”
Yes, this was a kid’s comic, mind you.
And so wonderfully not appropriate. Like any parent back in the 80s and 90s is really going to thumb through the begged comic before buying. My folks were none caring when it came to violent content, it was the graphic sexual content they did not approve. Very puritan, I know. And I’m sure this is how an entire generation had been raised to think subconsciously, that violence is okay, but sex is bad. I’m rambling now, please forgive me. The point being, Spawn did something good by taking out this really horrible person, but he did so in a way that was utterly grotesque. Most hero characters would have simply captured Kinkaid and gift wrapped him perhaps beaten but still breathing for the police to find. Spawn on the other hand…well, he at least gift wrapped Kinkaid, right?
As far as Spawn comics go, its hard for me to pick just one that was the best. There were so many back then. Billy Kinkaid was probably the darker one , especially so early in the series. With storytelling like that, it’s no wonder how popular Spawn became. As you no doubt have heard or seen, there was that 1997 movie adaptation of the comic, written and directed by its creator…which goes to show that just because you can make a really badass comic, doesn’t mean you know shit about directing. Sorry. This was a really amazing movie for the first screening on that summer day in 1997, but every day thereafter…ugh.
In that same year, though, there was some grace to be found for Spawn. The HBO animated series took off with a bang, keeping more or less to the original comic story. If you haven’t seen these, you need to. Some are free on YouTube. Every bit like the comic is terms of dark, gritty, and bloody violent with that grey matter intrigue that makes you question what it really means to be good or bad. Which in a nutshell is the entire attraction to the Spawn as a story. Not everyday do you read something about a demon who questions his morality. That in his best moments tries to do some good, but usually makes a mess of things. And in his worst, is usually lethargic, and if not…well…think Billy Kincaid. And the best part? Here I am some twenty-three years later, still gushing over a comic book character. That’s love, baby.
Who doesn’t love a good story? From great works such as, All Quiet on the Western Front and Salem’s Lot, Thomas S. Flowers aspires to create his own fantastic worlds with memorable characters and haunted places. His stories range from Shakespearean gore to classic monsters, historic paranormal thrillers, and haunted soldiers. Residing in the swamps of Houston, Texas, with his wife and daughter, Thomas’s debut novel, Reinheit, was eventually published with Shadow Work Publishing, along with The Incredible Zilch Von Whitstein, Lanmò, The Hobbsburg Horror, and FEAST. His veteran focused paranormal thriller series, The Subdue Series (4 books and counting), filled with werewolves, Frankenstein-inspired monsters, cults, alter-dimensional insects, witches, the undead, and the worst monster of all, PTSD, are published with Limitless Publishing. For more intrigue, be sure to visit www.ThomasSFlowers.com.
Contributed by Steve Beaulieu
Contributed by Kevin “Grivante” Penelerick
I started reading comics around ten years old and had access to a lot of different ones. I started with things like Richie Rich and Archie. From there I graduated into silver age Superman, Spiderman, Captain America and other super-hero titles, but mostly Marvel, oh and the original Star Wars comics series.
My access to so many comics came from the fact that at a young age I helped my grandparents out running their stall at a flea market in Everett, WA. Being the kid, I ran the kids section which included everything from barbie dolls to baseball cards, comics and toys. When it was slow I would sit there and read and I would read everything!
First and foremost I had a huge love for Spiderman. The way he bantered with his villains while fighting and also how he was quiet and kind and just trying to do good in the world. I loved the world of superheroes in general. How they struggled against impossible odds but always overcame them and saved the day. The young boy in me really identified with them.
At some point in my flea market business days I met an older kid by the name of Scott. Scott was the one who introduced me to alternative comics and zombies. It’s there that my particular tastes started to shift. He introduced me to one of the coolest and first zombie comics, Deadworld. Deadworld had incredibly gruesome artwork by Vince Locke and blew my mind that comics weren’t just superheroes in tights or silly kids things.
The story of Deadworld revolved around the outbreak of zombies who were let into our world by a spell book which opened some sort of rift between our world and that of the dead. Amongst them was this badass motorcycle riding zombie named King Zombie, who spent most of the series chasing and trying to destroy our small band of dysfunctional survivors.
From there I fell in love with a whole host of independent comics including the early dark and gritty Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Elfquest, which was where my love of deep fantasy narratives began and later, the comic Poison Elves by the late Drew Hayes.
By the time I discovered Poison Elves I was in my late teens and had graduated from selling comics at the flea market with my grandparents to having my own business online during the early days of the internet. I had a huge love for all things alternative, especially the indy comics market where I learned that you didn’t have to be attached to a big company to create and put your work out there.
The fact that anyone could create something and put it out into the world had a strong impact on my world view and how one could achieve success or at least satisfaction from creating. As I’ve gone through life and headed down the path of being an indie author, seeing the successes of those indy comic creators in my younger days has really inspired me to know that anything is possible.
I’ve wanted to write since I was able to read and when I finally got serious about writing ten years ago, I knew comics would somehow be in my future. When I completed my first zombie story, I wanted to try and make it a comic book. I spent several months learning about scripting for comics and then took the story and broke it down panel by panel. I was excited. I spent several more months interviewing and trying out artists before finally choosing one. Unfortunately, after twelve pages the artist abruptly quit. I debated continuing on, but after hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars to get to that point, I couldn’t imagine starting over. I went back and released the story as a novella and from there began The Zee Brothers series.
I released the twelve pages that were completed as a mini comic, which you can grab for free here. I’ve also recently completed a new mini comic that tells a story from within The Zee Brothers universe, called Zombie Buffet, it can be found on Amazon, Comixology and my own website www.grivantepress.com. It explores one of the characters in my series as well as answers the question, what would happen if a zombie was allowed to eat all it could eat.
I recognize I was supposed to be answering the question of what comic impacted me the most and why would I recommend it, however for me, it was really all of the comics I read as a kid. There are so many great stories contained in them and I read and was influenced by so many it was impossible to really name just one.
You can find more about Kevin “Grivante” Penelerick