Sunday, October 31, 2010

Gore Shriek vol. 2, issue 2 (1990) - comic book review

Happy Halloween! (countdown ends!)

Halloween is here! I bet you thought I'd forgot about you, oh gentle blog reader! Not so! In spite of my coffee grinder going on the fritz this morning and nursing a bit of a hang over from haunted housing and horror movie watching last night (and whiskey), I'm still throwing Necrodeath's "Into The Macabre" on my record player, snacking on some fun sized snickers and taking the time out of my Halloween (the most precious day of the year) to wrap up my Halloween horror comic countdown for you, as promised! Never let it be said that the Fright Zone doesn't see it's features through to the boring, long winded end!

The repulsively random Halloween horror comic countdown comes to a head today with another blindly chosen horror comic from my long boxes of terror...
so pour yourself a PBR and tomato juice, light your jack o' lantern, don't forget to don your Silver Shamrock halloween mask (I'm partial to the witch myself), throw some John Carpenter on the ol' turn table and get ready to read (about) some horror comics that are guaranteed by the Fright Zone to scare your socks off come Halloween night!

Delivering a coup d' etat with a Tom Savini zombie head shot of a bang to the countdown, we have the legendary splatterpunk answer to EC comics, FantaCo's ultra-
classic horror anthology Gore Shriek! Spewing forth off the comic racks in the early days of the 80s black and white indy comic boom (before the glut), when talent and quality
still ruled the scene, Gore Shriek shoved aside the mutant animal and ninja babe competition with the fury of an apartment neighbor awoken by the bass from a Nasty Savage thrash beat blaring from my computer room stereo at 3am (trust me, that's pretty furious).While horror fiends now speak about it with the reverence it deserves, back in the late 80s and early 90s it was more than easy to pick up the entire run (Vol 1 started in 86 and ran to 89, while Vol 2 sadly ran for only a year after it's relaunch in 1991) in the four for a dollar bin at any comic convention or local comic shop, which explains why I have multiple copies of several issues, complete with pages/panels missing that were used as artwork for walls/lockers/flyers/comp tapes/
boom boxes etc back in the days before computer scanners when cutting panels and pages from comic books was something I did on a horribly regular basis. I wasn't the only
metal head doing that shit either - the often seen Bruce Spaulding Fuller art to issue one was of course used on the genre defining classic "Flesh Ripping Sonic Torment" demo
from the greatest band to ever come out of Liverpool England (Carcass, duh) as well as thousands of bootleg Carcass shirts and patches seen at every metal fest and metal show on Earth in the past 20 years.

Over the decades since, I've re-read this series more than almost any other comic run (right up there with Marvel's Godzilla, Jack Kirby's Devil Dinosaur and DC/Alan Moore's Swamp Thing), and for good reason - every single freakin' issue is top notch cover to cover splatter-tastic 100% quality. From the AMAZING covers, the great Twilight Zone with gore story telling, the amazing pin ups, and even some text and zine style entries, this comic was equal parts amazing comic art, EC worship, splatterpunk and horror fanboy and just all around one of the best horror comics money could buy!

Sure I could go on and on about my eternal, undying love for this comic, which was a gory stomping ground for one amazing artist and writer after another including the godly likes of
Vince Locke, Bruce Spaulding Fuller, Chas Balun, Steven Bissette, Greg Capullo, and tons more, but, keeping with my self imposed rules I'm going to just focus on the one issue I pulled like a struggling squid from the inky depths of my comic boxes at random to keep this blog entry from tuning into a book - but, as luck would have it, it's the jaw unhingingly amazing Gore Shriek vol 2 #2 from 1990. This is one of my very favorite issues - and with Gore Shriek that is really saying something, since this title is pretty much the Carcass, Repulsion and Rigor Mortis of horror comics (yup, it takes all three of those bands for me to convey how great this book was in metal metaphor).

Featuring eye grabbing cover art with some kind of satanic demon dog complete with a EC-esque terrified woman in the background by series regular Bruce Spaulding Fuller (is there an issue of Gore Shriek that wouldn't make an amazing T-shirt... or poster...or tattoo... or birthday cake...or coke mirror.. or...). After you tear your eyes away from that knock out piece, you're greeted by an ass kicking pin up from late great (and greatly missed) horror artist/writer/icon Chas Balun for "Demon Brand Rum" (I would love to re-work this into a beer label someday if I can talk my wife into brewing the beer for me), that again would make an amazing poster (I'll stop remarking on that at this point in the review, as it's pretty much true of every page in every issue of Gore Shriek). A smiling cartoon-y demon peers at the reader from atop some XXX marked rum barrels as we move on to the table of contents page and ANOTHER great pin up of a creepy as fuck, wide eyed ghoul courtesy of Bruce Spaulding Fuller, using an even heavier version of his super cool style of Bernie Wrightson influneced line art. Fuck yes!

Alright, alright, sorry. The stories! First up is a top notch adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson's "The Body Snatchers" by another series regular, the super talanted writer and artist Eric Stanway. Of all the stories he did for G.S. I think this is actually my favorite, in part because the classic nature of the story makes it stand out from a lot of the other stuff in the book. The story itself is an old school style horror tale of murder and foul, ghoulish deeds in the night, and the dark, cartoony almost 70s underground comix art that seems to somehow focus every panel around characters scheming or horrified eyes fits the tone of Stevenson's story perfectly. When it finally works up to the monster reveal and then the classic pulp style ending, the panel zooms, the strange smeared ink and cross hatched backgrounds (I think that's how it's done at least) and, like I already mentioned, the characters giant, staring eyes bring the whole thing to a tense finale with a perfect balance of shlocky fun and real, honest to satan dread. Superb!

Next up, a hilarious Chas. Balun pin up ad for an imaginary cannibal/zombie flick "I Bite Your Butt/I Gulp Your Guts" (Gore Shriek, and Mr. Balun especially, were never afraid to
spill into Mad Magazine territory). The book then moves onto a great 3 page text/zine style article written by none other than Fangoria guru Anthony Timpone reminiscing about
how he got started and interested in horror writing (as you may guess, Famous Monsters of Filmland) and moves on to the start of Fangoria and some great stories concerning different
high points working on the classic horror fiend bible. Inclusion of stuff like this, not the kind of thing you would ever see in a horror comic from one of the big two comic companies back then are another part of what made Gore Shriek so special. If you were a horror fanboy in the late 80s, there really was no way you could pass up this book.

Following that, it's back to the comics with an awesome and hilarious 3 pager from Gurchain Singh that features a great Dan O'Bannon-esque zombie with allergys that sneezes itself to pieces. Then, Mr. Singh follows it up with a disturbing tale of demonic madness that is done in an awesome sketchy/cross hatched style that is so different from the previous
story in both tone and art you wouldn't realize it was the same creator if you didn't look at the name in the credits. Like I said, the level of talent that was going on in this books pages was off the charts, and the great pacing and panel layouts of this story really show that off. The page with the long thin panels and the struggling, jumping demon is so fluid it almost
pops off the page like 3-D. The last panel as well (with some obvious Brian Bolland influence) is just some great comic booking, plain and simple.

So most comics would probably call that amount of content good, but Gore Shriek adheres to the Drayton Sawyer work ethic ("Don't skimp on the meat!") and packs in yet ANOTHER amazing pin up of a grotesque "From Beyond" creature lovingly entitled "The Crudeater" that looks like something Rob Bottin would have come up with after dropping some particularly dirty LSD in the F/X shop for "The Thing". The next page features a drool inducing ad for t-shirts from comics and books such as Chas Balun's (godly) zine Deep Red, the NOTLD comic (another great book courtesy of FantaCo and Eric Stanway) and 5 different AMAZING Gore Shriek shirts, three of which my wife taunts me by wearing on a regular basis, as they look much better on her than they would on me (curse my beer gut!). Think there's any chance they still will fill this order if I send it in? (Actually, make sure you stop in to Rotten Cotton's site, they have an officially licensed Gore Shriek comics shirt coming soon featuring the amazing Fuller cover to Vol 2 issue 1).

Is it over? Nope! Like Carrie White's hand bursting from the grave, at the last minute you still get yet another great story on the inside of the back cover (!), the one page Gurchain Singh tale that wraps the book up in style with a big, pretty bow (made of intestines) that gets all court TV with the trial of Dr. Frankenstein. Like I said, Gore Shriek packs a lot of comic goodness into every issue. That 2.50 cover price is a freakin' bargin!

It's a fucking capitol crime that there hasn't been a fancy pants, collected edition of all the Gore Shrieks (especially considering the constant garbage comic books that get released in over sized 50$ hard back editions every week), but until then, you can still find this issue (as well as most of the others) for reasonable prices on ebay or at decent comic stores (sadly, the days of finding back issues at comic cons have gone the way of the sabertooth tiger as long boxes have been replaced with promo booths for shitty big budget movies), and, if you are at all a fan of horror comics, or horror in general, I can't understand what your doing reading this still. Go buy every fucking issue right now ya' simp!

Oh yeah, and Happy Halloween!

now playing -
Repulsion - "Horrified" 180 gram LP
Ennio Morricone - "Il Gatto A Nove Code" OST LP
Carcass - "Symphonies Of Sickness" gatefold LP (Earache)
King Diamond - "Abagail" 180 gram double LP
John Carpenter - "Halloween III" OST LP
Necrodeath - "Into The Macabre" LP


Blogger Dennis Dread said...

Brilliant! Do you prefer methamphetamine in your Slush Puppies?

9:02 PM  

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