Categories
Comics

Zombie Date Night #1 – Review: Waking Up the Dead with Style

Zombies are so much fun. Of course, they can be threatening in a constantly tense setting, but there are so many other ways to portray them. While always maintaining some kind of danger, as the lasting impact of a failed encounter with them is still terrifying, you can discover the excitement in the chaos they set off. The first time I realized that was while I watched Dawn of the Dead by George Romero. A movie with a lot of stakes, but that lets you enjoy those little bits of peace inside an 80s mall. The second time I felt that was while reading Zombie Date Night.

From the very first page with our protagonist and his grandmother, you know the creative team created something great. There are few times I laughed out loud so much as I did with Steve Urena’s writing for the grandma. The comic is filled to the brim with colorful and instantly recognizable characters, like a paranoid conspiracy theorist with a chainsaw for leg, put into crazy and over-the-top situations. Fortunately, to accompany such fun characters, we have great art and colors Sergi Doménech and Joshua Jensen respectively. It’s an art style that works very well with the 80s aesthetic the comic is going for, feeling stripped out of a B movie from the same decade.

Another great achievement comes from the lettering by Anthony Rella, who manages to perfectly capture every extravagant and exaggerated action we see. In a story with so much slashing and crashing and biting, the lettering helps make every violent encounter even more distinct and even reminiscent of old pulp comics.

But it’s not all excessive action here. Although it does fill a lot of it. I think it’s very clever how Urena presents the history of this world and the origin of the zombie breakout, leaving some clues in the characters’ dialogue but never giving a concrete answer yet, making the reader as clueless and lost as the people in the story, left only to theorize what might have caused everything. The romance teased by the title is well developed, showing the growing bond between two people that go from being on a date to surviving in a zombie apocalypse, making you wonder how will it be affected by everything else. It doesn’t feel rushed or out of place between all the dismembering. Even when you find the romance aspect of the comic in the most unexpected places possible, it feels like a great idea.

Zombie Date Night understands the fun there is to have in horror and promises to spread it like a disease. If you like the sound of that, I cannot recommend you enough to pick up and support this great comic. 

Categories
Episodes Television

Doom Patrol: Season Three, Ep. 6 ”1917 Patrol” Review

This new episode waits for no one and starts right where we left off the last episode, with Rita stealing Laura’s time machine and going back in time. But while the main focus seems to be with her, this episode manages very well to balance the storylines of everyone in the cast, feeling like a real milestone for everyone. But let’s start with her for simplicity’s sake, shall we?

We see the journey in time and witness the same thing that happened to De Mille, happen to her, as she loses all memory of who she was before that. She gets captured by the Bureau of Normalcy, where she meets with the real Laura De Mille. This confirms that Rita is, in fact, not Laura, as a lot of people theorized. But let’s get back to business, as then she meets with the Sisterhood of Dada: a group of outcasts forced to work for the Bureau, only saved by Laura, a meta-human pretending to be just another fascist scientist.

I’m a big fan of how they’re approaching the Sisterhood. There were tons of ways they could do it, but it seems they’re going for a comic-accurate route where they’re not even villains. In Morrison’s run, the Doom Patrol agree with them and has to question (Just Cliff, actually) why they want and need to see them as villains. The scene where they dance together in the Fog’s mind and when they decide to go against the Bureau’s rule that set them apart like pariahs are some incredible scenes that perfectly encapsulate everything this show is, in my opinion.

While Rita (Or Bendy, as they call her) becomes a member of the Sisterhood and helps develop what they would later be, we’re taken to the future to explore the rest of the cast. At this point, seeing Cliff is more painful than anything else. We see him be irrationally aggressive towards Vic and Laura and get addicted to a browser game, talking with a cam girl and betting. We see him behave in a way close to his personality and do things that would normally make us laugh, and maybe they do this time too, but then you realize that his behavior is just a product of Alzheimer’s taking over him rapidly over time. I have no idea where this will end. We know that he will meet with The Brain, so maybe something will happen there that will cure him, but I have no idea.

On another note, Jane dares to help Kay take control of her body despite the rest of the Underground’s opposition. It’s a heartwarming sequence where we see her experience the real world after 70 years of guarding herself against it, and surprisingly, everything goes great. While seems like there’s gonna be some consequences for Jane, for now, it’s just a gigantic and happy milestone for Kay. Very appreciated between all the depression.

But she’s not the only one who takes a step towards getting better, as both Larry and Vic progress so much in this episode. After talking with his son, Larry is finally able to forgive himself for not being there for his children after his accident, no longer asking for forgiveness on his son’s part, but letting him feel whatever he feels, even if that’s not what he would want.

Lastly, there’s Vic. What Lloyd said in the previous episode makes him realize that despite all he has done as Cyborg, he still doesn’t know who he is. Vic decides to go to a clinic that specializes in synthetic skin, and it’s honestly impressive how amazing Joivan is here. He already proved he’s an amazing actor, but the way he successfully conveys the hopefulness intertwined with a bit of fear Vic is feeling in that moment is subtle but impactful. I’m extremely curious to see what’s next in Vic’s life.

This may feel repetitive, but this is, once again, an amazing episode and one of the bests of the show. With every week that passes and the more we see, I’m more convinced this is the best season of Doom Patrol so far.

Categories
Film

The Definitive Ranking of Scooby-Doo Movies Pt. 3

39. Scooby-Doo! Adventures: The Mystery Map

This time it’s not animated or live-action. Now, we have puppets! Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind it. I love the Muppets, Dark Crystal, and more. Puppets are rad, and they look AMAZING here, borrowing the designs from A Pup Named Scooby-Doo when they’re around ten years old. But this is one of the few times that the franchise doesn’t feel aimed at the general public but strictly at kids. That’s not bad, but since I’m not the target audience, it did bore me. But you never know, maybe you’ll like it, as I hear a lot of people did! And if you have a little kid, this will for sure be a great option to introduce them to Scooby.

38. LEGO Scooby-Doo! Blowout Beach Bash

For those who didn’t know: There are LEGO Scooby-Doo movies. Short-films too! This one is the second of the two that are currently out, and…I’m not a big fan. It’s kind of a pirate story, which would be awesome if the characters weren’t so annoying and forgettable. Not a bad option, but definitely not one I would recommend even if you feel like watching a LEGO Scooby-Doo movie.

37. Scooby-Doo! And The Monster Of Mexico

If you’re a fan of cryptids, this movie will probably make you angry. For the second movie with the ‘’What’s New, Scooby-Doo’’ animation style in the franchise, the main monster is meant to be the chupacabra. As you may know, the monster is supposed to look like a demonic lizard/dog, but this movie completely ignores that, turning it into a purple bigfoot. I used to like this one a lot as a kid, but I don’t think it aged well, feeling like a very plain movie in every single aspect.

36. Scooby-Doo! And The Legend Of The Vampire

Is there anything cooler than vampires? I honestly don’t think so. So this movie could be really great…But it isn’t. This is the previous movie to Monster of Mexico, and the animation is just bad. It’s not anyone’s fault, actually. The industry was crossing over from traditional animation to digital, and it took a lot of time to work. But it still doesn’t look good. Especially when you consider that this is the first appearance of the Hex Girls since Witch’s Ghost, a movie that had amazing, very stylish animation. But now, they look plain and boring. It’s not even a design and animation problem only; they get kidnapped and take the role of damsels in distress that are out of the picture for most of the movie. But wait, that’s not even the worst thing this movie did to the Hex Girls, as they decided, for some reason, to whitewash Luna. Truly one disappointment after another.

35. LEGO Scooby-Doo! Haunted Hollywood

The first LEGO Scooby-Doo movie! And it’s pretty cool. The setting makes this movie, as the gang explores a film studio nearing bankruptcy as it’s being haunted by monsters portrayed in the past by Boris Karnak from old classic movies from the studio. It’s not as good-looking as The Lego Movie or The Lego Batman Movie, but it’s still a great setting that feels perfectly fitting for Scooby-Doo, as the show itself was inspired by the monster movies from Universal back in its origins.

34. Aloha, Scooby-Doo!

This is a fun enough movie. But impossible to ignore a lot of things it does wrong. As the title might’ve spoiled, it takes place in Hawaii. It doesn’t paint the islanders in the best way, but I’m not the correct individual to speak about that. Watching it with that in mind, it’s entertaining, while not using the setting as I believe would be best for a Scooby-Doo movie, often taking place in daylight and same as every other movie from this era, very clean. While it has its own atmosphere, there is a level of depth that can be found in both previous and future projects in the franchise that is severely lacking here.

33. Scooby-Doo! Pirates Ahoy!

This is an excellent idea from the start. First, because pirates are the cool version of cowboys. Second, because it takes place on a desolated ship in the middle of the ocean. It’s a gimmick present in quite a few Scooby-Doo movies and shows, but it always works. It’s not very inclined to horror, but it still adds a sense of urgency that makes for a great atmosphere. Also, if pirates are cool, just wait until you see ghost pirates.

32. Chill Out, Scooby-Doo:

Snow stories are a tradition in Scooby-Doo, ever since the first show. As someone who grew up in a very cold city and is very sensitive to heat, they always feel very cozy and made for me, so obviously, there are points added for that alone. But this is still a really fun movie, with a returning character from a previous, something that is unusual since the gang tends to run around the whole wide world on their own, and there’s also a threatening villain despite how obvious it is to the setting.

31.  Scooby-Doo! The Mystery Begins

Okay, hear me out. Everyone loves the two live-action movies from 2002 and 2004, obviously. It’s just how things work. But the two movies that came after and premiered only on Cartoon Network are often overlooked, which is understandable, but I think there’s something really enjoyable to hear if you like Scooby-Doo. Indeed, it doesn’t have the budget the theatrically-released movies had, but I think that makes it charming. The old Scooby cartoons looked and were cheap, with stiff animation and a lot of mistakes, but that didn’t make them any less great. This looks like something fans could make, and while that will turn off a lot of people, it gives it a very particular vibe that sets it apart from the rest. Besides, it’s a decent ghost story, and the cast does a good job.

30. Scooby-Doo! Curse Of The Lake Monster

The sequel to Mystery Begins follows the group now united as a real team and acting as Mystery Incorporated, solving mysteries everywhere they go. They take some jobs at Daphne’s uncle’s country club but, of course, are met with a frog monster and a witch. It seems they have stepped up the budget without losing the vibes from the first movie and combining them with a campier story which works really well. It makes one choice I’m a big fan of, and it’s an all-around fun movie to watch if you’re a Scooby fan.

29. Scooby-Doo! And The Goblin King

This could be a serious contender for the best Halloween movie in the franchise. It’s an exciting quest through a supernatural world to save not only the gang itself but quite possibly the entire humanity. There’s goblins (duh), the headless horseman, sentient skeletons, werewolves, witches, fairies, a charismatic pumpkin, and more. The only thing I’m not sold on is the fairies’ design and the fact that Fred, Daphne, and Velma are not very important to the movie. But nothing big, much less something that takes away the fun from the whole spectacle.

28. Scooby-Doo! And The Loch Ness Monster

A great movie for cryptid fans, although I believe everyone had a Loch Ness Monster phase at some point. It’s a pretty cool movie with some twists and turns, funny characters, and it also gets into Daphne’s family tree! The CGI might be a bit dated, but this is still one of the bests movies to come out of the What’s New era, getting into a famous monster once more, this time in a more successful way.

27. Scooby-Doo! And The Samurai Sword

The movies from this era took a turn away from mystery and horror and decided to take it into action and adventure, and there’s probably no better proof than this one. It’s not even much of a mystery, but more of a quest, with ninjas and samurais thrown in. There are tons of sequences where Daphne gets to shine, so I’m very happy with it. But even besides that, it’s a very entertaining and silly movie.

26. Scooby-Doo! In Where’s My Mummy?

I’m not the biggest fan of What’s New, neither the movies nor the show. I grew up with it, but watching it now feels a little…plain. Both in its little dedication to take any risk at all and in its animation. But that doesn’t mean it can’t still be enjoyed and that there are some real gems in it. In my opinion, the best to come out of it is Where’s my Mummy. The title might give away where it’s set, but what really propels this movie is its mystery, which has one of the greatest twists of all the franchise. One that you should truly see for yourself.

25. Scooby-Doo! Camp Scare

The current era of Scooby-Doo shines in what I think the franchise does best: try unexpected and innovative things. With this movie, the creative team wanted to do a Scooby-Doo slasher, and honestly, I dig it. This is easily the most horror-oriented movie since Zombie Island, taking place in a summer camp where the gang work as counselors, very obviously inspired by Friday the 13th. I’m not sure if it’s as much of a horror movie as Zombie Island since that movie completely ditched the Scooby-Doo formula, but the atmosphere is spot-on. If you feel like watching a modern but darker Scoovie, this is the one.

24. Scooby-Doo! Stage Fright

This movie was made for me. It’s a reimagination of The Phantom of the Opera, which as a fan of the Universal Classic Monsters, I love. It’s also made by Mystery Incorporated’s director, the best Scooby-Doo show. But above all, it’s a Daphne-Fred-centric movie, and it’s heartwarming when it comes to them. Although if you’re not a fan of that, it’s not a problem, as it is a really funny movie, with probably the most twists in any piece of Scooby-Doo media, to the point where it’s a little bit ridiculous in a good way.

23. Scooby-Doo! Shaggy’s Showdown

You would maybe expect this one to be lower. I’m not particularly big on westerns, but it’s still a fun and entertaining movie that focuses on Shaggy’s family with a bice mystery. It’s not amazing or anything, but an effective movie that just does what it does well.

22.  Scooby-Doo! Wrestlemania Mystery

I don’t have a single clue about wrestling, if I’m honest. I don’t plan on knowing more either. But yet, this movie was really enjoyable. Since I’m not a fan of wrestling or the WWE, I was able to explore the excitement for it from the gang’s view, mainly through Scooby and Shaggy, so it’s just like if they were another set of fictional characters to me. And it works surprisingly well. I’m not an automatic fan of Scooby movies that stray away from the horror, and the monster in this is just an animal, which I’m not a fan of either. But it is still a threatening villain that adds some sense of urgency while we get to see the great and silly interactions between the two cast of characters.

21. Scooby-Doo! And The Gourmet Ghost

If it was not evident enough already, I love when we find out about someone from the gang’s family, especially if they’re either a real person or a famous fictitious character. It adds to the wonderfully weird and nonsensical canon that the franchise doesn’t really bother to follow, and I love it. Now the gang is guests on Fred’s uncle’s Inn, where not only us but also Fred finds out that his uncle, Bobby Flay, is a famous chef with his own TV show that he does in that same Inn. Curiously, that’s not where Fred’s family exploration ends, as part of the mystery revolves around Mystery Incorporated trying to clear the name of one of Fred’s ancestors who might’ve been a spy for the British during the civil war, all while the supposed ghost of that ancestor tries to spoil the TV show. Although the premise sounds very weird and unnatural on paper, it works surprisingly well, resulting in a very engaging mystery.

Categories
Film Ranking

The Definitive Ranking of Scooby-Doo Movies Pt. 4

Scooby-Doo is the longest-running TV show of all time (Not counting episode count but years since it first aired), and with that came A LOT of movies. It wasn’t that common at the beginning, it took ten years for the first one to come out, and even then, almost ten years would pass until the next one. But everything changed with the acclaimed Scooby-Doo! On Zombie Island, the movie forever revitalized the franchise and opened new paths for it to take. It also made Warner realize Scooby makes a lot of money. It ignited a movie or even two movies per year, and that’s what we’re here to talk about! I’ve binged every movie (and show) from the franchise, and now I’m here to tell you my ranking, which I’ll be delivering every week until the 29th, so you’re able to decide which one you want to watch, on our sacred day, Halloween!

Disclaimer: I actually like all of those movies even just a tiny bit by the fact that they’re part of the Scooby-Doo franchise. I would rewatch any of them, and just because they’re at the bottom, doesn’t mean they’re joyless. If you love any of the ones I don’t particularly dislike, or you dislike any of the ones that I love, that’s okay!

47. Scooby-Doo! In Arabian Nights

If there is one single piece of Scooby-Doo media that I possibly will never experience again, it’s this one. That’s saying a lot. I’d be open to even revisit all the Scrappy-Doo cartoons. This is an adaptation of One Thousand and One Nights, and it’s more about that than Scooby-Doo. During the first 15 minutes, you see Scooby and Shaggy (No other members from the gang in sight) reaching a palace and getting jobs as food tasters for the prince. In a very predictable turn of events, they eat all the food and are sentenced to death for it. But fortunately, they come to an agreement: if they can tell stories to entertain the prince, he would let them go. This is when the One Thousand and One Nights enters, and it never leaves. We barely see Shaggy and Scooby again, and since it wasn’t what I was looking for, the stories weren’t fun at all to me. The only people I can recommend this to are Scooby completionists like me. Maybe if you’re a fan of One Thousand and One Nights?

46. Daphne & Velma

This movie is one that really could’ve been great. I love Daphne. She’s not only my favorite member of the Scooby gang but one of my three favorite characters of all time. I also must be one of the few people genuinely excited for the upcoming show ‘’Velma’’. But this is just not it, sadly. It’s a pseudo-spy movie with the vibes of a Disney Channel production. It seems like one of those situations where most decisions were taken by studio executives that don’t really know what they’re doing. I’m actually sad for the actresses, especially for Sarah Jeffery, who portrays Daphne. As a fan of the character, I couldn’t imagine anyone other than Sarah Michelle Gellar in the role, but I really liked her casting (Her outfits were cool too!)

45. Scooby-Doo! Return to Zombie Island

Remember what most consider the best Scooby-Doo movie? Not only a great Scooby-Doo movie but just a great movie? Yeah, Zombie Island was pretty cool. This is not. Every choice feels like a hundred steps in the wrong direction. The awesome and threatening designs look boring and generic now. The main plot point that subverted the whole franchise, ‘’Now the monsters are real’’, is not only gone but retconned. The atmosphere that felt stripped out of a horror movie is gone. I’d still watch it because it’s Scooby-Doo, but this is just a disservice to what is probably the most important piece of Scooby-Doo media ever made.

44. Scoob!

This is, first and foremost, a Hannah Barbera movie with the Scooby-Doo title stapled on the front. Scooby-Doo has told a couple of superhero stories in their many encounters with characters like Batman, Flash, Wonder Woman, or HB’s own characters like Blue Falcon. There’s proof that it can work perfectly, but in my opinion, it doesn’t work here. Daphne, Velma, and Fred get sidelined thanks to a forced drama storyline involving Simon Cowell, while Shaggy and Scooby have another forced drama storyline involving Blue Falcon’s son! But let’s not forget the single worst point about this movie. Everything else is subjective, you can love this movie, and that will be okay and valid. But what can not be ignored is the abhorrent treatment of the voice cast, who have given life to the characters for decades, and even from the beginning. They didn’t even know about the existence of the movie and were replaced with a cast of celebrities that I don’t doubt tried to do something great but are simply not voice actors. This movie shouldn’t exist.

43. Scooby-Doo Meets the Boo Brothers

The first movie of the 80s trilogy, which a lot of people grew up on. But if I’m being honest, I don’t think this was a good start. The movie has so many plotlines that simply end up being just random things that happen over and over until the movie’s over. Funny thing is, this is one of the longest Scooby-Doo movies at an hour and 34 minutes.

42. Scooby-Doo and the Ghoul School

This is such an improvement over the previous movie. It actually feels like a movie this time around! The dynamic Shaggy, Scooby, and Scrappy have with the girls at the academy is pretty great, and the girls are iconic in their own right. It’s just a fun movie with a great horror aesthetic for little kids. But still, at some points, it feels so dragged out. The problems with the pacing are a problem in the whole trilogy.

41. Scooby-Doo! and the Reluctant Werewolf

Might be a controversial opinion, but this is the best out of the trilogy for me. Scooby-Doo gets into racing, and despite giving a one-time random girlfriend to Shaggy because heteronormativity, the plot is tidier, more entertaining, werewolf Shaggy is pretty cool, and Dracula is one of the funniest Scooby-Doo side-characters there is just going by how he talks. If you feel like you want to revisit one of these movies or just check out an old Scoovie (get it?), this is the one.

40. Scooby-Doo Goes Hollywood

This is Scooby’s first-ever movie, and it’s a weird one. According to this one’s canon (If you don’t know, continuity in Scooby-Doo is very flexible. Even individual episodes could take place in its own universe), Scooby-Doo and the gang are actors in the show we all love. It also commits the crime of mischaracterizing Shaggy, something quite common and easy thing to do if you’re not extremely familiarized with the character, but this is just on another level. Shaggy is a greedy actor who convinces Scooby to step out of the show to get a more glamorous and luxurious job, splitting up the gang and canceling the show. Most of the movie consists of the failed pitches they present to the CEO of the company, being references to other genres or specific pieces of media. I’d say it’s worth checking out if you’re a Scooby fan. It’s entertaining but not much more than that.

Categories
Film

Scooby-Doo Meets Courage the Cowardly Dog – Review

Before going into the movie, it must be stated that Courage’s creator, John R. Dilworth, didn’t have any knowledge about the movie in question or the utilization of his character, finding out at the same time the public did when the trailer was released. While the creative team’s not at fault, using another artist’s creation without permission is unacceptable, even more, when dealing with a multibillion-dollar company.

Keeping up with the two direct-to-video movies a year module, Mystery Incorporated is back on our screens once again! You could say this one is a particularly special occasion since it’s not only a new Scooby-Doo movie but a crossover with the other easily frightened canine; Courage the Cowardly Dog! His show came to an end almost twenty years ago in 2002, and the last time we saw him was in a CGI special that only aired in Southeast Asia during Halloween of 2014. This movie not only marks the first time we see him since then, but the last time Thea White got to voice Muriel Bagge before her passing on July 30, 2021.

The movie starts as they often do in this era: with the gang at the end of a mystery, about to unmask another monster. However, Shaggy and Scooby decide to take a picture with the criminal, who, in this case, is a crazy clown. With the rest of the gang and the audience confused, the film takes the opportunity to slip in the central theme of the movie, which is courage, and what it means. They are trying, with the help of an app, to stop being terrified by everything. The other team members are very supportive of what they’re both attempting, but Scooby himself interrupts them, dancing uncontrollably and hallucinating, only to run off without warning. With their priorities in mind, the gang gets in the van to go look for Scoob, while Daphne says to the clown she’s sorry to not finish that properly, but there’s a family emergency, leaving him to grab the money and escape.

This is a truly great Scooby-Doo intro. It sets up the theme and conflict of the movie while characterizing our beloved teens (and dog) perfectly; they are not pseudo-mystery cops. They are a family who’s in it for the adventure and mystery.

But the presentation’s not over, as we then cross over (pun totally intended) to Courage’s home, who’s experiencing the same anomaly as Scooby, coupling that with Eustace’s torments. He runs outside, the sun already set, and finds Scooby. The two communicate in the best way two dogs with speech impediments can, but are suddenly attacked by giant cicadas. Thus, the team-up starts.

What follows is a rollercoaster of out-of-world oddities as the gang resides in the isolated house of Courage, miles away from anything at all and at the mercy of whatever dares attack them. While not nearly playing with horror as something like Zombie Island or even Camp Scare, it’s an interesting atmosphere and nice change of pace after two movies that concentrated more on the action and adventure, parodying Mad Max and telling a medieval story. It’s not an atmosphere that lasts long, but a welcome one, and what’s next is equally exciting, as the oddities continue to come their way, giving place to fun and creative set-pieces with time to shine for both sides of the crossover.

If you’re a fan of either franchise, this is a definite must-watch. It’s one of the best Scooby-Doo crossovers, managing to mix both the Scooby and Courage formula in a great, fun, and entertaining way that is easy to recommend.

Categories
Comics

BoomCrashers! Tales (Boom! Studios Releases for 08/25/2021)

Dark Blood

Flung to another world, she opened her eyes. A dream or a memory projected around her in a circle. She looked from frame to frame, her head on a swivel. Avery, she recognized from her previous time in this dimension, knelt on the ground in a twilight forest. A woman named Emma wore a blue dress, caressing Avery’s face as his eyes adjusted from her ethereal glow. Emma begged Avery not to leave her, but fate twisted their promises. The woman watched the universe burst into flames around them all while Avery dreamt of crash landing from a plane.

Then, the two woke simultaneously. She swan-dove into Avery’s existence again, a feeling akin to parachuting from an aircraft carrier. From behind the corner inside Avery’s house, she heard him. Avery talked with his loving family. His reading-obsessed daughter begged to read an edition of “Astounding Adventures”, and his pregnant, independent wife reminded the two about more pertinent priorities. The woman took out her journal and began writing.

Emilia’s Journal: I am revisiting universes! I’m here in Alabama again, this time watching Avery interact with his family instead of witnessing him experience racially motivated altercations. It’s nice to see he has a family unit. Love and care amid darkness can help propel anyone back into the light. Having someone to return to at the end of the day is an inspiring motivator…one I wish I had back home.

She blinked, and the images in front of her winked out like a star. She found herself now hidden behind a tree beside a dirt-carved road.

Emilia’s Journal: I can’t explain what just happened, but…I seem to have moved slightly forward in time? I was listening to the Aldridge family discuss school and responsibility, and now I see children eagerly chasing their sky-blue painted van. Oh, it’s a bookmobile! They offer free books to the kids here. It brings me so much joy to know they are igniting a love of reading in these children at such a young age. Books have been my companions for as long as I can remember. Hardships in life can be circumvented just for a few hours, lost within the earthy pages of a novel. Could they have any poetry books in there? Any Emily Dickinson? I miss my books, but it feels like I’m living in one as well!

Dark Blood #2 (Written by Layota Morgan, illustrated by Walt Barna, colored by A.H.G and lettered by Andworld Design) / Source: Boom! Studios

Running at implausible speeds, she kept up with the blue van. Avery’s wife dropped him off in town. Everywhere, signs of racial injustice and segregation physically and literally cast a shadowy pall on the well-lit town. Avery’s service as a WWII veteran equated to very little in an era where even separate waiting rooms reduce Avery from a human to a skin color fraught with oppression.

Emilia’s Journal: I’ve been sitting here for hours — or is it days? Time moves strangely here like it’s racing by to show me what is significant. Avery works in a restaurant. His incredible commitment to labor and perfection are overlooked. The customers — all white — find fault with every damn thing he does. They call him a liar, using derogatory tones and words. His manager reminds Avery how lucky he is to merely be employed at the disgusting establishment. My heart ached the last time I was here. Again, I feel repulsed at these men, knowing I can do nothing but wait in the shadows in fear of interrupting the natural cycle of events in this strange time-traveling existence I’m experiencing.

Late that night, three white boys physically assault Avery after closing hours. A stranger, a white man in a bowler hat and round spectacles, berates the boys and aids Avery. The woman perfected the art of soundlessly existing a long time ago. She trailed the two men, curious why the white man bandaged Avery’s wounds and offered sympathy toward Avery’s pain as a Black man.

Emilia’s Journal: I don’t trust this guy…he appeared out of nowhere. Usually, men like this have a god complex or some sort of white savior ulterior motive. Now he’s telling Avery about his services at his clinic outside of town. He wants Avery to return if the pain ensues, almost aggressively demanding rather than suggesting the statement. I don’t trust anyone, but especially not white men with medical leeway.

She felt time bypassing. Careened forward a week into this universe’s future, she peered into a room in her line of sight.

Emilia: Woah, did I just skip more days again? There’s Avery with…that man! The doctor! Wait, what is this?

Dark Blood #2 (Written by Layota Morgan, illustrated by Walt Barna, colored by A.H.G and lettered by Andworld Design) / Source: Boom! Studios

Next to her, she found a book laying on the ground. It was not a book from the Aldridge bookmobile but a novel she had never seen before. The title, glowing dark red against a black background, said “Medical Apartheid.”

Emilia: What is this? Is this a clue? I can’t see enough to read!

She fumbled with her journal pen, hoping the words written under the desolate shadows transferred legibly onto the page.

Emilia’s Journal: Time is too chaotic here. Unpredictability terrifies me. These time jumps are throwing wrenches in my ability to cope with this situation. On top of everything, I found this eerie book about apartheid, and…the title looks like dark blood. I know it has some meaning or a code locked inside, but it’s far too dark in here to see any words. I’m now at the doctor’s clinic. Avery is laying on a table, backside up. He had talked about intense back pains before to his wife, I think…my memories are murky here. God no, he’s letting that doctor administer a shot right into his back! The doctor said this shot was like a magic bullet. I don’t think this is the type of magic that will help alleviate Avery’s pain, though! Damn this world for making me watch people suffer!

Sorrow weighing on her chest, she closed her eyes — or something closed her eyes for her — and blacked out. She clutched both the journal and medical research book she discovered close to her chest before slipping back into the great unknown. 

Good Luck

Martin scratched his head. He thought he recognized this place. The brick walls, the newspaper stand lying nearby…yes, this was the same location he had fallen asleep once before. He got up, his back smarting from lying against the wall.

Martin’s journal: I’m back. The place with the kids in those astronaut suits. I’m a bit scared to check, to see what happened to them. But I suppose I should.

Martin glanced around the corner. There was an impact crater where the explosion of energy had happened the last time he had been here. Otherwise, there was nobody around. He tentatively called out, “Hello?”

Good Luck #3 (Written by Matthew Erman, illustrated by Stefano Simeone, and lettered by Mike Fiorentino) / Source: Boom! Studios

Martin’s journal: They’re gone. Place is empty. Looks like it’s been a while.

“Oh hey,” came a voice from above him. Looking up, Martin spotted a figure in yellow with long blond hair staring down. “Didn’t expect to see you here.”

Martin blinked. “Are you… the one who wrote in my journal?”

The figure chuckled. “Oh, no. To be frank, I don’t know who you are or how you got here. I’m just here waiting for the kids to come back.”

“Oh, you know them?” Martin asked, raising his pen to write.

“Not really, but I’m going to get to know one of them pretty well soon,” the figure said, taking a step through the air. “I’m Ursa Major, you see, and he’s Ursa Minor. Or, well, he will be.”

Martin’s journal: Found somebody here, saying they’re Ursa Major. Maybe they’re connected to the giant I saw last time? Still unsure what’s going on.

“You writing about me?” the figure asked, peering down onto Martin’s journal. “Not going to report to the Secretary of Luck, are you?”

Martin laughed. “Honestly, I have no clue who that is.”

“Alright, I believe you. Anyways, I must be going. Kids are set to emerge from their new lives in a minute. See you.” The figure floated away, leaving Martin starting after him. Martin laid back down, sighing. Looking up into the sky, he found the constellation Ursa Major in the skies. It looked beautiful, twinkling up in the skies, the Big Dipper and its surrounding stars.

Good Luck #3 (Written by Matthew Erman, illustrated by Stefano Simeone, and lettered by Mike Fiorentino) / Source: Boom! Studios

Martin’s journal: How can a person be a constellation? I don’t quite get it. You know, this world’s actually kind of nice. Nobody trying to actively kill me or anybody else, just the buildings. That guy was actually pretty nice, too. Anyways, I can kind of see how Ursa Major fits that being and this world. The stars are pretty nice here. They feel like… more than the stars that I’m used to. Though I can’t even remember those ones, I admit. At least the constellations here are the same.

Staring up at the stars, Martin reached into his pocket. Feeling around, he found a tiny version of the constellation. Pulling it out, he stared at it for a bit, before stuffing it back into his pocket. Across the street, he saw a flash of yellow light as four figures emerged from the air.

Martin’s journal: Looks like the kids are back now, and they’re safe. Guess Ursa Major slipped me that constellation, huh? It’ll be nice to have, in any case.

Tucking the journal away, he fell asleep once again.

Something is Killing the Children

A new universe shaped itself around her, slowly coming into sharpened focus. She saw two identical boys with red-tinged hair terrorizing a young man in bed with a knife until he cried. Before she could assess the scene, a person intervened. Cecilia’s hazardous crimson-colored eyes bore into the assailants. She assuaged the situation using only carefully strict commands, words flying like knives into the boys’ ears through the white bandana draped over her mouth.

The world spun on its axis, flipping her into another scene. Instantaneously, she recalled the lightless barn room. She was a penumbra in the room hosting a monstrous leviathan, a shadow surrounding a cataclysmic evil in the rooms’ core. Fingers flexing, the woman wrote, although the pages were captured by the darkness.

Emilia’s Journal: Erica’s world is teeming with monsters, both human and supernatural. I’m inside with her this time. I might as well be a participant in the evil the adults have thrust this little girl into. She talks to her purple stuffed octopus, Octo, as if he is real. I know Octo is more than a toy — he is a harbinger of the greatest terrors Erica has ever endured. She talks about a day in the past. Her entire family was slaughtered by the creature now inhabiting Octo, the toy. Death and destruction follow all these people I visit bouncing from realities. Death follows me in ways I never wanted to think about after…maybe seeing how others handle the aftermath of loss and grief is on purpose? Can I learn how to handle my own turbulent grasp on life after my dad’s passing?

Erica screamed at Octo. The monster killed her mother, her father, and her sister. Blood spilling out of their bodies and leeching happiness from her soul. Angered, Erica reminds the monster of his own slaying. She retrieved a knife. Instead of fleeing, she used her outpouring sorrow and misery to thrust her into the belly of the beast.

Something is Killing the Children #19 (Written by James Tynion IV, illustrated by Werther Dell’Edera, colored by Miquel Muerto, and lettered by Andworld Design) / Source: Boom! Studios

Emilia’s Journal: Wow, Erica isn’t a timid little girl at all. She is strong, stronger than I’ve ever been. Not once does she back down from this looming creature in front of her. She shouts, the memory expunged from her mind onto the surface of this untamed reality. Her arms make a stabbing motion as she relays the simple facts: She killed the monster, and the monster did not kill her.

Faltering, Erica stepped back for a moment. Memories can be redistributed, temporary pieces of information reformed into an amalgam of objectivity by their narrator. The woman retreated further away from the confused young girl. Then, a nascent silhouette flickered into view. She gripped her eyes, forcing them to adjust to the weighted blackness. If anything was real, it was the person sitting only footsteps away from her. Another human. Another traveler. She never talked to people. Somehow, the compulsion to speak outweighed her social anxiety. Another person meant she was not alone any longer.

Emilia: You…you’re real.

Aimée rubbed their eyes as their body automatically sat in a position appropriate for running away as easily as possible if needed. Their eyes explored the room with weariness, but all of their muscles tightened when they realized they had obliviously skipped the person just in front of them. After crawling in urgency a few meters back, it came to their attention that Emilia wasn’t trying to do anything. She was excited, even. Should Aimée run, or was this truly the first person they ever met with who they could properly interact with? However, time for questioning was short, as every ounce of focus was directed at their hands. Specifically, the journal they were holding. Now, it was no longer a matter of some docile person finding out about them. She was the person they were looking for.

Aimée: Holy…It’s you! I can’t believe it worked. It’s so…Here, look!

Aimée took their journal out of their pocket and flowed all the pages before Emilia’s eyes.

Aimée: Who are you? Do you have any idea what is happening to us? Are you taking any part in it?

Timidly, Emilia pushed her own journal forward.

Something is Killing the Children #19 (Written by James Tynion IV, illustrated by Werther Dell’Edera, colored by Miquel Muerto, and lettered by Andworld Design) / Source: Boom! Studios

Emilia: I don’t know what’s happening, but…I’ve been writing it all down. Something said to write it all, so here it is. Every event and every person I’ve been watching is all documented inside. Have you been…here before?

She gestured to them in the dark. Beside them, Erica verbally tussled about altered memories with a glowing, enormous yellow sequid creature dwarfing all the humans in the room. To the left of Aimée, Emilia sees the faint outline of an object.

Aimée: Nothing I can recognize here, so I guess not. But I’ve been to other places, and the only thing they had in common was how fucked up they were. I managed to stay out of harm’s way though so that’s been nice…So, what’s her deal?

Aimée said as she nodded in direction to the sleeping girl. If it weren’t for the fact that she was talking, Aimée would’ve thought Erica was only a corpse. The whole imagery found in that room unsettled them, even though there was nothing overtly creepy about it, which concerned them more. Emilia explained everything needed about Erica as well as she could with help from her diary, which Aimée translated into their own.

Aimée: Listen! I think she’s saying something important.

Both of them mirrored each other as they started writing. Erica was fighting with Octo directly now. He was manipulating the events, corrupting her memory like it meant nothing. However, Erica demonstrated her strength, realizing the cruel game she was put into, and went through the real murder of her whole family all over again. Her mother wasn’t alive, and she never escaped. She was rescued by another person, someone from the order just like her, who also captured the monster inside Octo.

Something is Killing the Children #19 (Written by James Tynion IV, illustrated by Werther Dell’Edera, colored by Miquel Muerto, and lettered by Andworld Design) / Source: Boom! Studios

Erica’s still body suddenly moved. Her fingers grasped the table she was on and started reacting to something in some kind of limbo between her subconscious and reality. Emilia noticed it right away and alarmed her new acquaintance of the danger.

The travelers ran outside the barn and hid in the shadows, soon to be conquered by the sunset. Erica’s silhouette walked out slowly with Octo in her hands, almost as a sign of power. They waited for her to be far enough to reunite and keep talking, which was hard to know given Erica’s background and skills to not let things like that go unnoticed. When the circumstances finally allowed them to feel secure and free to conversate, Aimée noticed something beside them. An old butcher’s knife with the blade covered in blood, resting in the grass.

Aimée: Hey, take a look at this! I guess it makes sense to find something like it here, but it feels…off, in a weird way. I can’t explain it. Do you understand?

Emilia explains how she just found the book, which produced her the same feeling, and prompted Aimée to keep it as she did with her object.

Aimée: When will we finally be free of all this? I thought it might have been a horrible joke from the universe, and we’re just fucked, but…there’s something, maybe even someone actively making us look for all this shit. If there’s a purpose to all this, why choose us? Me?

Emilia: I don’t know, but I…I’ve never liked change. And there’s so much sadness in these places, and we can’t do anything about it. I don’t know why it would pick us. I’m not a person who can handle…other people…very well. Someone is controlling our lives! How do we escape an invisible enemy?

Aimée: I guess if anything, it means we have to keep looking. It may not be a joke, but it sure does feel like it…I could find you before. I have to be able to find you if needed. You too! We could even find others if there’s any. 

Emilia: I agree. Something has changed, and now these strange objects are appearing! If we can work together again, I think we can figure out more than we would on our own.

Something is Killing the Children #19 (Written by James Tynion IV, illustrated by Werther Dell’Edera, colored by Miquel Muerto, and lettered by Andworld Design) / Source: Boom! Studios

Aimée: Well, it was surprisingly nice knowing I’m not alone in this. Thank you. I hope this is not the last time we see each other.

Emilia: I haven’t talked to anyone in so long…I never thought I’d miss human interaction. We’ll be reunited again, I’m sure. It’s the only way…

Both lay down in the cold grass; the sun was about to reach them as the mountains were letting it reveal itself. Sleep came quickly as always for them, but this time was different. There was someone there who, even if a stranger, meant they were not totally alone in these worlds.

Writers: Katie Liggera, Simon Zuccherato, Gabrielle Cazeaux.

Categories
Comics Interviews

Bobby Singer Talks About Kickstarter Final Gamble

Gabrielle Cazeaux: What’s your favorite sandwich?

Bobby Singer: Buffalo Chicken with lettuce, tomato, pickles, and honey mustard.

Gabrielle Cazeaux: Nowadays, stories focused on political injustice, inequality, and exploitation of the working class are becoming more and more common, almost turning into a staple of this era of art. What made you want to write about it?

Bobby Singer: There wasn’t, really. The original idea for Final Gamble was very different from what I ended up writing. Originally, the book had a greater focus on gangs and the criminal underworld. As I was outlining ideas for future storylines, I came up with the idea of a society of elites who gamble with the lives of others for amusement, and I ended up deciding that that was where the real story and thematic depth was.

Final Gamble #1 (Written by Bobby Singer, illustrated by Jorge Santiago Jr., colored by Harry Saxon, and lettered by George Gant) / Source: Final Gamble Kickstarter

Gabrielle Cazeaux: There’s a trans character who’s part of the rich that exploit the lesser classes. Considering the archetypes of characters minorities get to have as representation is severely limited, this feels like an exciting opportunity for writing and reading. How was the process of creating the character, and is there more like that throughout the story?

Bobby Singer: The character in question, Mandy Chalk, was not originally conceived as a trans woman. When I first wrote the scripts for the first six issues, I still identified as non-binary. However, since January of this year, I have come out as a trans woman, and with that, my desire to see better representation for trans women in media has been amplified. So, noting that there wasn’t any trans rep in Final Gamble, I decided I wanted one of the 3 main characters to be trans, and she made the most sense to me as a choice. And yes, all throughout the story it is shown that people of all races and sexualities can be corrupted by wealth.

Gabrielle Cazeaux: Other projects that tackle the fight against the system often fall short, solving things by, for example, putting the blame only onto individuals instead of the system itself, causing it to lack the depth it has in real life. How are you handling this matter?

Bobby Singer: The rich own and control the world. It is made clear early on that the protagonists are on their own because their enemies own every law enforcement organization and government in the world. There is no moral justification for being a billionaire, and this book shows the lack of morals in everyone who has that type of wealth.

Final Gamble #1 (Written by Bobby Singer, illustrated by Jorge Santiago Jr., colored by Harry Saxon, and lettered by George Gant) / Source: Final Gamble Kickstarter

Gabrielle Cazeaux: The work you have made until now has been really varied. Did you encounter any changes that you found difficult or maybe exciting with Final Gamble? Were there any similarities with previous work that surprised you?

Bobby Singer: Honestly, there haven’t been any challenges. My team, consisting of Jorge Santiago Jr, Harry Saxon, and Geroge Gant, is incredibly talented and we all work together well. It’s definitely exciting dipping my toe into the thriller and horror genres. And I wouldn’t say I’ve spotted any similarities to my previous work. 

Gabrielle Cazeaux: What kind of dynamic do the two protagonists have? What was your process for creating them?

Bobby Singer: Danny and Jasmeet come from different worlds. Danny’s an asshole who’s done whatever he had to to survive for years, while Jasmeet is a kind and respectable guy who was a superstar MMA fighter but lost everything in a moment of weakness. They butt heads right off the bat, but as they’re thrown into life or death situations, they start to bond. I knew from the start that I needed a gambler and a fighter, and as I thought about the kind of relationship I wanted them to have and the experiences I wanted to put them through, their personalities and backgrounds formed.

Final Gamble #1 (Written by Bobby Singer, illustrated by Jorge Santiago Jr., colored by Harry Saxon, and lettered by George Gant) / Source: Final Gamble Kickstarter

Gabrielle Cazeaux: How do you use the supernatural elements present in the previews?

Bobby Singer: The Hell in this book created by the elites of the world is one in which those trapped in it have their humanity stripped away and are treated as toys. Clothes and food are luxurious privileges granted only to some, you can lose your life on the whim of an elite, and your suffering is a form of amusement. In essence, it’s an extreme encapsulation of reality.

Gabrielle Cazeaux: On the Kickstarter it says there’s the possibility of continuing the story. Do you already have a mental outline of what you want to do, maybe a script or something similar?

Bobby Singer: Currently, the first six issues are fully written, and I have a written outline for 18 issues. I have ideas for even more than that, but I think we’d need to be a pretty huge success to make that happen. But hey, maybe we will be!

Categories
Comics Interviews

Interview: Zombie Date Night’s writer Steve Urena

It was already nighttime, 8:00 P.M to be more precise, when I got to the Italian restaurant Steve and I decided as our place of meeting for the GateCrashers interview. I’ve never been to one, so I spent the whole evening practicing my Italian hand gesture to communicate with the waiters. He was already sitting at a table with all the tableware prepared when I waved at him, receiving a very energetic wave back at me.

First, we talked a bit before the formal interview. But we were both hungry, so it didn’t take long for us to order food. I asked for spaghetti with bolognese sauce as a sign of respect since it was my first time. I made the hand gesture just as planned when I did it, but the waiter just kept staring at it, confused. He must have been from a different region of the country.

GC: First of all, what’s your favorite sandwich?

SU: Last time I was on Gatecrashers podcast, I went with a Taylor ham, egg, and Cheese (Not pork roll), but since we are in this fancy-ass Italian restaurant, I’m going to go with a meatball sub. How can you go wrong with three meatballs on Italian bread with cheese?

GC: You’re about to release a new comic called Zombie Date Night, after releasing another great horror comic named Slowpokes; being so inclined to the genre, where do your inspirations come from?

SU: I draw from personal experiences as much as I can. I just turn the volume up to eleven. I love the horror genre, so a story where something is scary without monsters before adding in zombies or killer sloths means I’m onto something. It’s also a great genre where anything can happen, and people are supportive.

Slowpoke #1 (Written by Steve Urena, art by Juan Romera, and lettering by Sean Rinehart)

GC: With those inspirations, and your former and current projects in mind, in which direction do you want to take the genre with your art?

SU: I want to get as nuts as possible. The crazier the project, the more excited I get. I want to entertain and take my ideas to the brink of insanity. When I feel like I am comfortable there, I will switch it up and attempt something different in another genre. I am having a blast, but I want to keep people guessing.

GC: What is the next–

As I was reading my notes, a noise invaded the environment. You would think that a simple noise wouldn’t catch any attention in a place full of people like this, but this wasn’t a regular sound. It was a desperate gurgling coming from beside us, just outside the door. Dozens of heads turned to the origin of the sound, which we rapidly learn came from a man giving his last steps, trying to escape from something after his throat was ripped off. Gasps inside the restaurant were followed by screams outside. The whole street was suddenly bloated with people running from their lives. From what was yet to be determined, but considering the topic of the conversation, the coincidence was in the mind of both of us.

Some people got outside, intending to get into their cars. Some others went into the bathrooms or to the exit doors. Steve and I went into the kitchen, looking for refuge. People were quite hurried, talking about zombies killing us violently if we stayed. But I couldn’t get the writing error I noticed in my notes out of my head; it was pretty bothering. However, we barricaded the doors and had some time to breathe.

Slowpoke #1 (Written by Steve Urena, art by Juan Romera, and lettering by Sean Rinehart)

GC: Ha! You wouldn’t believe it, but I wanted to ask you what weapon you would use in a zombie apocalypse! I guess there won’t be a better time to ask.

SU: Damn. Looks like they’re gaining on us. A lovely evening ruined! Uhhh I would say a weedwhacker for sure. It’s practical, light and it can make zombies turn to liquid really fast. I’m surprised they haven’t made a weed wacker that is strictly for zombie killing.

GC: What was your first encounter with the horror genre? You know, considering this might be your last.

SU: I remember the Child’s Play 3 box cover art at a Blockbuster when I was a child. It scared the hell out of me and created so much intrigue. A toy that kills people? What is happening here? From then on, I always walked around the horror box covers and took a gander at movies I one day wanted to watch. It was a thrill because I couldn’t watch it and now I’m in it. Life comes at you fast! Like these damn zombies.

GC: Both of your comics have romance as part of the plot; is that another genre you would like to write about? Is there any other?

The things pursuing us were no longer distracted with the victims outside and started punching the metal doors to the kitchen. Steve was choking down his meatball sandwich with the quickness of a gazelle while I was inclined on a table beside an oven, making an effort to ask the questions between all the agonizingly rude screams and the growls from the monsters.

SU: I think I have a serious love story in me somewhere, but I want to write all genres or at least play in these different worlds. I just want to challenge myself as a writer and have fun. If an idea pops into my head that is outside of my comfort zone, then that is where I need to go.

GC: There are many types of zombies in pop culture; fast, slow, dumb, intelligent, infected by a virus, magic, etc., is there anything that sets the zombies from ZDN apart from other versions?

SU: I don’t want to give it away, but these zombies are different than anything I’ve ever seen before. I wanted to do something that hasn’t been done ( to my knowledge) and I hope readers get a kick out of it. They are normal moving zombies. I will say that.

Slowpoke #1 (Written by Steve Urena, art by Juan Romera, and lettering by Sean Rinehart)

GC: Despite the nearing sense of death just outside the door, how does it feel to be releasing your second comic?

SU: I am very grateful I got to eat that sandwich before my bitter end. I am truly grateful people want to keep seeing me create. If I make it out of this, any amount of money that goes to this Kickstarter will go towards future projects. Whether it’s loved or hated, I just want people to react to it while having fun.

We started hearing something crawling through the ventilation system, which gave a perfect entering to the kitchen. Both of us looked to the ceiling as the monster’s body hit the vents constantly, announcing its appearance. There was nowhere to run.

GC: Well, what do you think about going out with a fun question? What monsters would you like to use in a future horror comic of yours?

SU: I think body horror would be a good challenge; werewolves and aliens too. Ghosts, robots, and everything in between. Maybe I’ll even leave it up to the reader. If you want to see me write a specific thing, hit me up on Twitter @TheSteveUrena.

As soon as he finished the sentence, the vent door fell to the floor with a deadly sound. For a moment, nothing happened;  there were no more growls or hitting on the door. But before a real sense of calm could settle in, a small body fell and stared at us like we were nuggets he was about to play with before eating.

GC: Wait, is that a sloth?!

Categories
Comics

BoomCrashers! Tales (Boom! Studios Releases for 07/07/2021)

On July 7th, a mother woke up as the sunlight entered boldly through the window, kissed her wife on the forehead, and went to the kitchen to prepare breakfast. She had finished all her paperwork from the insurance company she worked at to spend the day properly with her family. She called their teenage son to come downstairs, telling him that she made his favorite; PB&J sandwiches with hot chocolate milk. She had to call again and again, each time with a little more annoyance in her tone, until she screamed, and thought how such a nice morning had already been ruined.

On July 7th, a young man was dreaming. He was inside a house of mirrors on a circus, but none of the reflections were his. He woke up with cold sweat and a little saliva falling from the side of his lip. He tried to reach his partner, but the only thing there were the sheets where they fell asleep the night before. 

That day, there was a sudden rise in missing persons all around the world. There were no letters left, no goodbyes said, and no clues as to what might have happened to them. They vanished overnight without a single warning and no trace to follow, almost as if they never even existed. 

A quiet sound, that’s not quite a sound, resonates, saying ”Mamo”.

White turned to black. The sterile environment the young woman meticulously maintained vanished as ripples appeared in front of her face. Swaths of green painted themselves on the walls as the room fades. Terrified, the woman clasped her hands over her eyes and held her breath when scents of pine overtook her nostrils. The humidified air that had filled her lungs inside the house she had not left in years transformed. Suddenly, she was outside, planted on a hill in the verdant countryside. Her eyelids fought to open, but she could see enough to know that she was no longer safe inside. The infinite openness stretched on for miles.

Emilia: No! I can’t be outside! Oh god, the bugs. They’ll crawl into my mouth when I sleep. And the birds. Diseases everywhere! Where am I? I haven’t left my house in three years, two hours, and . . . clocks. Where are the clocks? I need to know the time! My sanctuary is gone! Where am I going to find filtered water with the correct pH balance out here in the . . . woods? It’s bright! The sun is so bright! Somebody help me!

A feeling like dew sprinkling the morning grass clouded itself in her mind. She could hardly see or stand, frozen in place when voices rised out across the rolling hills.

Emilia: There are other people here too? Should I ask them for . . . no, I can’t go near them. Look at them, the germs on that girls’ bike. And oh — the other one has a cat! Who lets a cat roam around outside like this? Who knows how many germs are sticking to its paws right now?

A noise tinkling softly behind the woman momentarily distracted her from her panic. Her head darted toward the sound, but her weak limbs felt as if she was trodding through brambles. In front of her lay a journal, petite and bound with brown leather. A pen rolled toward her. Trembling, she tenderly reached toward the book, hoping for a lifeline out of her nightmare. Only two words were inscribed on the first page: “Write everything.” There was no obvious escape. One option remained: Comply and pray for rescue.

Emilia’s Journal: I am lost, outside during daylight hours, but I am not alone. I can hear them. Voices of people. I have had so little contact with people, but they may hold clues that will give me a gateway out of . . . wherever here is. The young woman on the bike is begging for help while the hat-wearing lady appears disinterested. She’s reading a book instead. I wonder if she reads poetry. What I’d give to be back in bed, an Emily Dickinson collection of poems in my hands. Wait! She’s a witch! The blond cat lady is a witch! Where the hell am I? They’re arguing about the girl — I think her name is Jo — Jo’s town. Jo needs the witch’s help because . . . magic is running amok in a town called Haresden? Magic! If magic exists here, I can surely use it to my advantage. All the fantasy novels I’ve read show magic has a price, but I’ll pay any price to return to the confines of my sweet, clean home. Oh no, Jo said her mother is cursed with an ailment, an infestation, in her body. I think I’m going to be sick.

While she wrote, Jo started heading south with the witch and her black cat along the vast plains of the hills. Rays from the sun felt unfamiliar, searing her flesh like pinpricks from glass shards. She decided to covertly follow the two women. Unable to write and run at the same time, she commited the unimaginable events occurring to memory. Later, she received a moment to rest in a shaded area by Jo’s house front.

Emilia’s Journal: Write everything. Okay. I’m about to write everything. Apparently, the witch, Orla, had a grandmother — Mamo — who died recently. Magic is out of control, moving borders and causing sea turbulence because Mamo governed the nebulous relationship between the townsfolk and beings called the “fae.” I almost cried as I stalked Jo and Orla through the forest. Branches and god-knows-what poisonous leaves skimmed my skin on the way. I’m quite certain I won’t make it out of here alive. I almost gave away my position when Jo nearly fell victim to a faery trap. She thought a silver spoon lodged in the forest floor was the same spoon that belonged to her mother. Thank goodness Orla intervened and recognized the magic. Why anyone would pick up a disgusting item off the ground is beyond me. Orla has already proven herself as more knowledgeable than Jo. She’s the one I could ask for help if I had to. But I do empathize with Jo. Her mother is sick and possibly dying inside. If Orla can save Jo’s mother, I know she can save me.

Flashes of darkness billowed around the attic window from Jo’s house. The woman realized she was developing heightened senses and witnessed writhing shadows of a Mamo apparition contracting around Orla’s body.

Emilia’s Journal: I thought Orla said Mamo was dead. What is that Mamo ghost, and why is it trying to strangle her granddaughter? Orla’s magic powers have manifested now; yellow sparks flash from her fingers in concentric patterns. No! Orla can’t break that shadow demons’ grip! If only I could touch the doorknob and walk into the house. Wait! Jo managed to release the grip the creature had on Orla’s body. Magic shimmers in the air, casting the inky blackness in all directions. Why can I see this so far away? I’m so tired. Are these powers of my own? I want to sleep, but there’s so much dirt everywhere. Perhaps I’ll just lay down for a second. I haven’t died yet.

The sound that could be heard only by a few changed, and now it said ”Basilisk”.

A young man with tousled, dark blond hair sat slumped in a diner booth with his eyes closed. He sniffed the air; the smell of freshly grilled burgers stirred his sinuses. He opened his eyes, blinking.

Martin: Wh-what’s going on?

He looked down at the table in front of him. No food, no drink, just a small notepad, with a pen tucked into the rings. Picking it up, he flipped through it. Empty, except for a note on the first page.

Martin: Write everything, huh…

He was startled out of his reverie by the ding of the door opening up. A tall man with a thick beard came in. The man walked up to the table behind Martin. He stopped and started to talk. Martin flipped over the page of the notebook, took the cap off the pen. Somehow, he knew this conversation was worth recording.

Martin’s journal: These people seem to be part of some society. Three people total, now that the new man’s joined them. And they’re talking about… someone’s been captured. One of their friends, their partners. Someone named Regan. Even though they’ve tried to rescue her, it hasn’t been working. But, wait… Regan’s eyes killed her rescuers? How can you kill someone with your eyes? Either way, it seems like this Regan isn’t really cooperating with her friends. And they agree. One of them’s getting up, leaving. Saying something about being recognized. And wait…

Martin heard a sound from further behind him. Casting his eyes around the diner, he started to see everyone overcome with a form of madness. Some were choking up blood, while others had what appeared to be vines growing out of their nose. Everyone seemed to be overcome by violence, hurting themselves and those around them. Martin slides under the seat, breathing heavily, praying that he will be spared. He continues to write.

Martin’s journal: Everyone’s gone crazy, everyone except me. I don’t know why I’ve been spared. I don’t even know why I’m here in the first place. But everyone’s talking about… smells. And tastes. Maybe this has something to do with the senses? Is that it? Do they control the senses? That must be it. And they’re hurting everyone so that they can’t, well… do this. Tell anyone else what’s been going on.

Martin shrunk further into the seats, staying as quiet as possible.

Martin’s journal: I hope they don’t hear me, don’t notice me. I’m scared to even write, in case they hear the pen. That’s silly, though. It’s too loud here for them to hear it.

Martin winced at the chaos, the violence; though it was petering out, getting quieter.

Martin’s journal: It’s almost over, now, though. I’m not sure whether to be relieved… or horrified. Because that means almost everyone’s dead. I don’t want to breathe. They’re still there, right behind me. And I don’t know why they’re here, or I’m here, but I was put here with this notebook, and if they find it, destroy it, then I know I’ve screwed up. I think that’s it. They’re leaving now.

The bell dinged again, as the three people who had been talking in the seat behind Martin walked out of the diner. Martin extricated himself from under the booth, his legs shaky. He walked around the diner, taking notes as he went.

Martin’s journal: This has been hard to see, to look at. But I have to record the crimes. Everyone’s dead; Someone has a fork stuck up their nose. The fry cook dunked his face into the oil. It was still sizzling; I had to turn it off myself. I can’t believe these people, their cruelty, their callousness. I can’t do this anymore. I can’t look at this. I should go, in case the police or someone else comes.

Ducking out the back door of the kitchen, Martin stumbled into the woods, where he found a soft tree trunk. He sat down to keep writing.

Martin’s journal: I can’t get it out of my head. The deaths… I don’t think I’ve seen anyone die before. I don’t know, though. I don’t remember. I should get some rest. Maybe that’ll help.

Sighing, Martin laid himself down on the mossy forest floor and closed his eyes. He dreamt of burgers, of fries… and of eyes that killed.

The sound was no longer just not a sound, now it was also not colors. Non-colors that talked, and said ”New Day.

A feeling of dark emptiness mixed with an unnerving sense of displacement and confusion crept into every fiber of her being. Suddenly, a warm light fell upon her. She thought to herself, “Am I dead?” When she seemed to have some semblance of consciousness, her first thought was simple: write everything down. When she comes to her senses in the void, she seemed to have found a single writing utensil, and a notepad seemed to be lovingly placed near her. What was it even placed on? There were no objects aside from these. They seemed to be onto something, but there was no discernable surface to be found in this void. Suddenly, something akin to a large viewscreen, almost like an IMAX theater screen, appeared before her.

Three men appeared before her in bright, almost fluorescent clothing. The shortest one was holding a trombone. She focused on the instrument and looked at it, puzzled. She then had a moment of clarity. “Is that…me…?”

Francesca did not seem to have a body, but she did feel as though she was a presence. A concept? Something unknown, but definitely…alive? Conscious? Not sure. She started writing, not sure how she was doing that as she didn’t see or feel any limbs per se. The view screen continued to roll footage of the three men.

Francesca watched the screen to see what felt like a familiar sight. Gazing upon these technicolor men in spandex brought a warm, calming sensation to Francesca. The New Day (Big E, Kofi Kingston, and Xavier Woods + Francesca) were fighting in a Tag Team match against The Shield (Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns, and Seth Rollins). They turned to what looked to be the beginning of an origin story. Francesca looked with confusion. “Where is this going, and where do I fit in?”

We saw a young Kofi Kingston watching wrestling with his friends. Francesca didn’t specifically recognize the teenager in front of her, but seeing him brought a sense of comfort that she couldn’t quite place. He delivered a heartfelt speech about how seeing a Black wrestler inspires him. It seemed as though at this moment, Kingston had decided his path in life led to professional wrestling. He waited outside of the venue to meet his idol, Faarooq, after a show. He offered to introduce the teen to a friend if he was serious about training and becoming a professional wrestler. 

The screen quickly switched to a different view. Francesca was confused but delighted to see another face that felt oddly reassuring. Young Xavier Woods sat in front of a tv screen with a friend, choosing a video game character to play. Woods and the friend had a heated discussion on individual character stats. She was shown Woods excelling in all of his teenage pursuits: school, band, and high school wrestling. Francesca excitedly leaned closer to get a better look at the quick view of Woods’ trombone. “Is that me?” Francesca then deflated: it was not her, she surmised.

Just as quickly as it came, it was gone in a flash, and Francesca felt as though she recognized yet another young face: that of Big E. She didn’t understand why this young man’s visage made her happy and excited, so she stayed glued to the view of him. Another boy was being bullied only to have Big E come into the picture and help the bullied boy repel his harassers. It turned out that despite Big E’s large size, he opted to use his words to jab at the bullies, lest he was the one to receive punishment at the hands of the school administration. Big E ran into the bullies again outside of a barbershop and had a physical altercation with them. He won, but barely. The boys brought weapons like game consoles and books with them. The barber inside came out after he talked to a man on the phone during the duration of the fight. He mentioned to Big E that he has a friend, Joe, that could help train him to become a capable fighter.

The screen went blank for a moment, and Francesca got anxious. Just as she started to get seriously concerned, the screen showed a new scene. It moved forward quite a bit in time. Francesca was still mildly anxious but started to feel calm again once she saw Kofi Kingston’s face. She was then shown what seemed like a highlight reel of Kingston’s early career and struggles to find an identity, his gimmick. Kingston was a beloved figure in his wrestling scene, but he wanted more. Once WWE approached and signed Kingston, there was another leap forward in time. 


Kofi Kingston was talking to Hunter Helmsley, otherwise known as the wrestler Triple H. Kingston feared he would be pushed into a stereotypical, humiliating gimmick. Francesca felt Kingston’s anxiety with him. “Where is this going?” she wondered. That meeting was the catalyst for The New Day. Kingston got paired with Big E, and they became a tag team. The pair tried to find their footing but seemed to be missing something. An X factor, perhaps?

Xavier Woods approached Big E and Kofi Kingston in an over-the-top clandestine meeting. He posited that the missing piece of their puzzle was simple: they needed him on their team. Kingston and Big E seemed apprehensive but agreed with Woods’ proposal. In their first fight as a trio, they felt more like themselves than ever before. Somehow, someway, that oddball formula clicked on that night. Francesca waited with anticipation to see where the story went from there but decided to rest before everything continued.

And the sound and the colors that were neither of those things now turned into something not quite like a shape, and it expressed the words ”Wynd”.

The howling of the wind intertwined with that of the owls during late-night, as a young person laid in the middle of a spacious room, with a tender but intimidating atmosphere, and started regaining consciousness while their eyes remained closed.

Aimée: What happened to me? My head is killing me, and my body feels like I’ve been underwater for a week. Did I get drunk?

They opened their eyes with fatigue like their eyelids were almost too heavy to control and continued to sit on the immaculate floor. The room gave a sense of clarity and calmness that contrasted with the feeling of their knees, which felt like rusty screws trying to function after years of abandonment.

Aimée: Wait, what kind of room is this? What am I doing here? It looks like a fucking castle, a very weird castle, and I don’t think I belong in a weird-looking castle. I must be dreaming or hallucinating or something.

While they talked, the invasive noise of a conversation slowly penetrated the room; strangers were about to enter, they needed a place to hide. For some reason, even though the circumstances were abysmally different, running away from people didn’t feel uncommon. Hiding was an instinct, a necessity. When they started running off, the sound of something hitting the ground broke the silence even more than the still distant conversation did. Aimée turned around, and there was a journal with a pen that had fallen from their jacket. They grabbed it and hid behind a kind of bed that looked like no other bed they could recognize. They proceeded to open the journal and realized it just had a note on the first page that said ‘’Write everything’’. They thought, if it was a dangerous situation, maybe writing everything was a good idea.

Aimée’s journal: I don’t know where I am, I only know it’s some kind of castle, but it doesn’t look normal. Someone’s coming, so I’m hiding under the bed. It feels like my insides are trying to escape my body through my throat, and even the floor feels like it’s a hundred feet away from me.

As they tried to keep their breathing as quiet as possible, four beings entered the room; two humanoid figures with bug-like features, carrying an unconscious winged kid, as a girl similar to the other two accompanied them. The kid was left to rest on another bed across the room and then got out of the room. With all of this on sight, Aimée’s breathing, just for a moment, became almost too heavy. Not much time passed until the winged kid woke up, disoriented but comfortable enough to talk with the girl.

Aimée’s journal: This cannot be real. She’s not human! She’s green, with pink eyes and wings. They both have wings, but different, and the boy looks more like a human. Is this even my world? I can’t even be sure of that right now, nothing’s making any sense. The boy’s name is Wynd, and his friends are being brought here by other guards, like the ones that brought him. It seems they don’t know each other, but they’re friendly, the girl is going to tell him a story! Maybe they’re not so bad, but I can’t take any chances. What should I even do if I asked for their help? Tell them I’m dreaming and need their help to wake up? Maybe I fell into another world? They’d think I’m crazy! Maybe I am.

As the girl told the story, Aimée wrote every single detail down. It was an old tale that belonged to their culture; the fairies. It explained how old gods called the Winds created everything present in the universe. Every flower, animal, river. They also created people, winged people, that walked the earth with them as their children. But two sisters escaped the paradise their people chose to live in, to explore the lands. They went in different directions, and thirty years later, when a reunion came to be, one was turned into the first Fairie, and the other one, the eldest, into the first Vampyre. The Vampyre wanted power and ignited a war that broke every good concept the Winds built for them. Disappointed, the Winds disappeared along with the winged people and were never seen again.

Aimée’s journal: There are vampyres, fucking vampyres. And apparently, they’re following Wynd and his friends? This couldn’t go any worse. I just want to be back to whatever house I live in, wake up in a comfortable bed. My world may be fucked up, but at least I’m used to that kind of fucked up.

After the story ended, a bell rang, catching Wynd off guard, and Aimée even more; for a moment, they thought that they were found, and the alert was because of them. The fear felt like they suddenly submerged in the coldest water imaginable. But it turned out it was just a sign that the boy’s friends had arrived.

Aimée’s journal: That was too close, I almost moved. I have to be more careful. They’re both leaving now, finally. But the girl looks worried, she says she’s going to have a meeting with something called the Council of the Elders to explain and get help. Sounds serious. But it doesn’t matter anymore, they’re gone. I’m safe.

As Aimée wrote that last word, they stood still for a moment, with the pen in their hand. The silence and sudden desertedness were calming, but it also made the fear more real. The inertia was gone. Now all that was left to focus on, was the fear of not understanding anything, not knowing what to do. It almost made them cry, but they decided to hold it back. Maybe it was all just a dream, and all they had to do was go to sleep. Even with all the fear, the limited space, and the cold, they managed to do it, and dreamed of infinite nothingness, with millions of colors they couldn’t even recognize. 

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Comics

Specter Inspectors: Having Fun With Horror

Specter Inspectors is a story about four friends; Noa, Astrid, Ko, and Gus, who travel together around states, looking for ghosts and haunted places for their new show, InSPOOKters. Noa’s been an avid believer in the supernatural ever since she was a kid when she discovered her ability for sensing such things. She’s the catalyst that brought them all together on this adventure; she got Astrid to go with them, even though she not only doesn’t believe in the supernatural but doesn’t believe in much of anything at all. She also got Ko to be their cameraman, despite being terrified of ghosts, and her little sibling, Gus, goes with them despite their age.

But what is Specter Inspectors really about? Is it horror? Well, yes, but also no. You see, I think that the best thing about horror is its versatility. While you can always try to blend genres and create something really interesting out of it, I notice a certain willingness, and even eagerness to change from that particular genre. I think this comic reflects that perfectly. It’s a coming-of-age story, as much as it is a horror story, and it does both astoundingly well.

The atmosphere feels comfortable in isolation, silence, and corruption. The characters often explore abandoned buildings, drive through deserted roads, and search forgotten woods. Every place looks absolutely beautiful, because of Bowen McCurdy’s art, but they also feel potentially dangerous at every moment. Thanks to the angles of the panels, it always feels like they are being watched from not so far away. There are sequences that are so well made, and take full advantage of the medium, that made me feel genuine chills. It’s almost palpable how meticulously crafted they are.

Then, maybe on the same page, there’s a joke that makes me laugh out loud, or engaging and touching drama between the characters, or a little bit of introspection about them, that makes them even more compelling. McCurdy and Kaitlyn Musto, who wrote the book together, make them completely different from one another from the very start. Everyone has a fun and endearing personality, so much so that I ended up reading it aloud, giving specific voices and ways of expressing to each one of them, almost acting through the whole book. But it never feels like it’s putting too much focus on just one element. In fact, there’s a kind of symmetry with both; the coming of age that originates from the group, is invaded by horror, but the horror that lurks around them, is also invaded by the coming of age. That is very unusual in any type of story that has these elements but results in one of the most interesting parts of the comic.

With every passing issue, the tension slowly builds up, the mystery unravels, and the characters reach their highest point, almost acting as a ticking bomb, exploding uncontrollably in the fifth and final issue of the miniseries. The horror takes a turn, and goes from a ghost story, to a much more visceral aesthetic, with things that can’t even fit on a whole page. Our protagonists finally realize their problems, and maybe even solve them. The book rejoices in all the themes it shows; Love, terror, adventure, mystery, feeling lost, a found family, and ends everything with excellent payoffs for each one. In five issues, it explores so much, without limiting itself to be defined by only one of those themes, or doing it in superficial ways, that it feels unique and cozy. It’s excellent for people that want to get into alternative comics, or just for anyone that wants a fun, engaging, and easy-to-read story. I look forward to seeing more from this creative team, and hopefully from the fantastic group that is the Specter Inspectors.