31 Jul

The Android’s Dungeon: Batman – a stealth horror character?

Posted by Bryan White | Tuesday July 31, 2012 | The Android's Dungeon

Batman as a horror characterWith The Dark Knight Rises dominating the box office and me neck-deep in Arkham City for Xbox 360, I’ve been thinking lately about an idea I’ve had rolling around in my head for some time in half-baked format:

Maybe it’s just because I don’t actually follow Batman beyond the odd one-shot or mini-series. Maybe it’s because my fondest memories of the Adam West Batman show involve Vincent Price. Maybe it’s because that when I do buy a Batman book, it’s because my natural status as a horror fan draws me toward the darker explorations of Batman in a horror context, but it seems to me that every time I look, I find something in the Batman canon that makes me think that even when he’s being written in the most straight-ahead fashion by whatever Schmoe DC has hired, it seems to me that Batman is injected with at least some degree of the horror genre. The medium doesn’t matter, either! Whether it’s Detective Comics, the movies and even that outstanding Batman: The Animated Series. Batman is always spooky.

The very foundation of Batman’s origin is rooted in horror. Superman’s origins not only involve the death of his parents but the death of his entire race but he flies through the space away from this tragedy into the arms of a loving pair of parental units so it renders his argument moot. Others, however,  The Green Lantern, The Flash, Wonder Woman, any of the other members of The JLA, none of them feature a tragic back story involving the death of a child’s parents. Comic books have grown up since the golden age but the one thing you have to remember was that back in 1939 when Batman made a splash in the pages of Detective Comics #27, comics were largely a product directed at children. I’m sure there were handfuls of adults consuming comics on the sly but if the average comic book consumer of today were to be seen with boxes upon boxes of lovingly bagged and boarded comic books, they would have been marched off to the funny farm where they would have found an ice pick jammed through their ocular cavity, scrambling up the frontal lobe of their brain. It was fucking unheard of! Kids bought and read comics and their parents hated it! So how strange was it that as a child, Bruce Wayne witnessed the senseless murder of his parents? Disney did this a lot, too, in their feature cartoons using dead parents as a driving force behind a character. Take yourself back to 8 years old and put yourself there. It’s unpleasant to think about it now, even as a rational adult.

Continue Reading »

27 Jul

Grand Guignol Revival: The Conspiracy of Three, a gory play of love and betrayal in one act

Posted by Bryan White | Friday July 27, 2012 | News

An Evening of Grand Guignol, Theatre of Terror by Matt TalbotI know, I know. It’s been fucking forever since I’ve updated this place. I have a shitload going on these days. A baby in the coming months, a script in production on an indie horror flick and I just wrapped up a run at The Player’s Ring theater in Portsmouth, New Hampshire with my co-production with John Herman of An Evening of Grand Guignol: Theatre of Terror.

John is a local creative dynamo and I’ve talked about him a bit in this place since he and I have worked together in the past on some shit and we’ve had a lot of fun. A little while back I did a sort of capsule review of Le Theatre du Grand Guignol, the famous Paris house of horrors which staged hundreds of sadistic and gory plays much to the delight of France’s bloodthirsty theater patrons. John has done a series of one-act plays in the past with his ‘Evening of Steampunk’ and ‘Evening of Apocalypse Theater’ productions at The Player’s Ring, both done for the benefit of charity. In the wake of my article on Grand Guignol, it occurred to me that we could probably pull off another one of these Evening of… shows in the style of the Grand Guignol. John pitched the show to The Player’s Ring who gave us the thumbs up, we presented it to the press and their patrons one evening and then he, our friend E. Christopher Clarke and myself got to work on our respective scripts.

The idea of this show was to recreate the style of the Grand Guignol and I feel that with a couple of creative liberties, we got it mostly right. Each one of us produced and directed (well, not me. Michael Ficara directed my script) our own works. Chris Clarke wrote a very unpleasant, heavily Poe-inspired tale called The Boot, which featured a woman passionately copulating with the soggy reanimated corpse of her husband’s father while her husband looked on, helplessly trapped under the spectral weight of his father’s severed foot. John Herman adapted a Grand Guignol original by Andre De Lorde, A Crime In A Madhouse, wherein a crazy woman is terrorized by a pair of loonies in a crazy house who believe that an owl lives in her head and the only way to let it out is to tear her eyes out and I wrote my own, The Conspiracy of Three, which I have attached here for your reading and should you feel so inclined, I’ve slapped a Creative Commons License on it so that you can use it to stage your own Grand Guignol evening at whatever venue happens to think it’s grand idea.

In The Conspiracy of Three, the adulterous wife of a drug-addled physician plots to murder her husband with her lover and take off to Barbados with his money. My original intent was to portray it very seriously but upon reading it and seeing it performed in rehearsals, it occurred to me that it was, in fact, completely ridiculous and the director ordered the cast to play it up with maximum camp. The results were hilarious and the audience ate up every minute of the show. Lovers, Henry and Claire were played as though they were in a 30′s farce with Claire practically drowning in melodrama and Henry acting as a living, breathing analog of Pepe Le Pew. Dr. Clouseau was portrayed as a completely oblivious fool with a sort of silver age of Hollywood forcefulness. Night after night, the audience laughed its ass off until things got bloody and then they started squirming in their seats (while laughing their asses off).

This was a very effects heavy show by comparison to the other two plays in the program and to achieve the effects, director Mike Ficara and I parted with cash money to buy some serious gear. We hired the services of The Shoggoth Assembly of Portland, Maine to create the prop razor, the prop eyeball and a silicone appliance to be worn by William O’Donnell for when Dr. Clouseau, played by Matthew Schofield, cuts him open and pulls back the skin to reveal the meat and bone beneath. When Claire, played by Constance Witman, has her throat slashed, I built a device that she wore beneath her costume that used a CO2 gun to pressurize a cannister made from 1.5″ PVC pipe (yes, it was kind of big) full of fake blood. The blood snaked up through some surgical tubing and out the notched end of the tube hidden just below her collar to achieve a sort of Kill Bill arterial spray effect that hit the audience sitting in our “splatter section”. Night after night, this thing worked like a charm and was a real crowd pleaser. I wish I had pictures but no one ever thought to take pics of the show as it was performed.

So yeah. This is what I’ve been up to of late. We had a lot of fun and made a few bucks in the process to donate to a number of local charities. If producing a play wasn’t such a titanic pain in the ass, I’d be all over it again right now. Seeing my show performed for a room full of people who were very clearly enjoying it had a very addictive effect. Next up for me is a short film production of the comic Rich Woodall and I did for Zombie Bomb, Volume 2: This Night I’ll Eat Your Flesh, as part of Mike Ficara’s anthology horror film, The End.

Feel free to download, read, redistribute and perform my play, The Conspiracy of Three, available under a Creative Commons License.

15 Apr

Everything you know is wrong. The Cabin In The Woods.

Posted by Bryan White | Sunday April 15, 2012 | Reviews

The Cabin In The Woods ReviewI’m about to break the dry spell. I haven’t written a review in a long, long time. What’s more, I haven’t covered a horror movie since last year at some point so it is with great joy that I break the trend with a movie I’m not likely to stop talking about for some time. See, horror movies suck. It’s true! Well, wait. New horror movies suck. Hollywood hates the genre but they love the money the by-the-numbers stuff rakes in at the box office so, like most movies in wide release today, they play the safe game and do nothing but release a parade of sequels to movies that were hugely successful only a couple of years prior. But every now and then something comes along that manages to slip through the cracks. Thanks to studio politics, someone owes someone a favor and the most offbeat, original genre picture, rated R, no less, manages to find its way to the megaplex where it spends a couple of weeks playing in front of a handful of savvy genre fans, drunks and people who thought they were seeing something else before it shuffles its way off to DVD where it finally finds it audience. Or, in the case of The Cabin In The Woods, your movie stars a cast member of this summer’s blockbuster season opener and happens to bear a producer credit from said blockbuster’s director. Though, I’m sure studio suits thought that they were priming the box office money pump with some goofy horror flick that has been gathering dust in the vault for a couple of years but in the process of trying to squeeze as much money out of the Avengers and Joss Whedon’s name, they inadvertently released a horror movie into the wild that is among the most original, funny and relentlessly awesome flicks I’ve seen in a very, very long time.

Now for the bad news. I have no idea how I’m going to discuss the endless list of good things about The Cabin In The Woods because the entire movie is a giant horror movie in-joke that hinges on a very basic premise that unfolds very early on, but the central gag is so important to the rest of the movie that talking about it all would spoil horror’s best idea in years. So please excuse me if I’m being vague, but I want you to like this movie as much as I liked it Continue Reading »

11 Apr

The greatest horror movie scenes. Ever.

Posted by Bryan White | Wednesday April 11, 2012 | Uncategorized,Whimsy

OK, so maybe they’re not the best scenes ever, but they’re certainly some of my favorites. Lately, I’ve been feeling burnt out and jaded. Nothing I see interests me. The horror genre is starting to slip away again and I don’t feel much like writing about how much I hate the horror movies that I’ve been seeing lately. I spend my nights reading and playing video games and there’s enough bloggery out there about Game of Thrones that me tossing in my two cents wouldn’t cause much of a ripple. Basically all I’ve been up to lately is playing Battlefield 3, watching Mad Men and reading until my eyes cross. So casting all that negativity aside and bucking the need to write about fresh new horror, here I go, turning my eye to the past; to better days. These are the movies I love so dearly. They either fostered my love of the genre or gave it longevity. I haven’t written anything horror-related in a while. So here you go. Let’s get nostalgic. Feel free to comment, too! I want to know what your favorite scenes are. Bonus points if you link to the clips on Youtube.

Poltergeist – The face rip
The first movie that I actually remember scaring the fuck out of me, actually scaring me, was Poltergeist. It was broadcast on TV one night back when the major networks actually aired movies as part of their nightly programming and being as it was a PG rated movie, it made it to air with no cuts. This meant going out to televisions all across the country with this famous scene intact. The year was 1985. I was almost ten years old and watched it with my mom. While most of the movie spooked me, much to my delight, this particular scene was just too much for me and I wound up covering my eyes through the worst of it. I don’t care who directed it, Hooper or Spielberg. Whichever of you two was responsible for this scene, congratulations.


Friday the 13th Part 7 – Sleeping bag smash
I am a life-long Jason Voorhees fan, as I have made abundantly clear in the past. I really don’t care for most of the 80′s slasher icons as the core three (Jason, Freddy and Michael ‘The Shape’ Myers) are the only ones worth mentioning and by the time that I was actually old enough to start watching these flicks, the genre was limping toward its inevitable doom having been bled completely dry by the time I was 7 years old. Even my favorite franchise, The Fridays, was a limping race horse as the sequels numbered higher than 5, but no matter how ridiculous the franchise got, each one had at least one good kill. Friday 7, as ridiculous as it is, at least tried to do something more than lumbering killer slaughters stoned camp counselors, what with it introducing Tina the pyshic. Plus it brought us the mighty Kane Hodder. So popular was this kill that they brought it back for the hologram kill in Jason X, a movie I like way more than any grown-ass man should. This is the uncut clip in workprint form, which shows far, far more tree smashes and gore than we got in the theatrical cut.


The Silence of the Lambs – The importance of putting the lotion in the basket
My favorite scene of all time comes from one of my favorite movies of all time. Silence of the Lambs is an amazing piece of film. It’s a sophisticated example of mainstream cinema saturated in the lowbrow conventions of exploitation film. It always seems like it’s raining. The color palette is drab and muted and the subject matter is torn straight from the pages of a dozen true crime books. Even though the film is dominated by the interplay between Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster, the true monster of the movie is Ted Levine’s Buffalo Bill an amalgamation of America’s worst pathological murderers and this scene is clinically horrifying. There’s nothing explicit about it, either, which is why it’s so great. Most of my favorite scenes involve some sort of imaginative death scene, spectacular gore or in-your-face scares but there’s nothing in-your-face about this. It’s the subtle-to-forceful suggestion that his victim be properly moisturized so that her skin will be in good shape when he sews it into his woman suit. He uses the pronoun ‘it’ to deliberately dehumanize her and make it easier to kill and skin her. His cool demeanor, eventually blown sky high seals the deal. This scene is just plain disturbing for all the right reasons is one of many explanations for why The Silence of the Lambs is such a landmark horror movie.


The Sentinel – The truth is revealed
Director Michael Winner wasn’t really known for horror. His bag was actually action flicks and suspense with his best-known work being with Charles Bronson and the Death Wish franchise. It’s when a director a steps out of their comfort zone that they tend to shine and Winner really knocked it out of the park with a movie that I consider criminally underrated among horror movie fans, The Sentinel. This is an idea so strong that eventually Lucio Fulci would lift the concept and adapt it for his own landmark movie, The Beyond. Haunted house movies really get under my skin and this is one of the many that gave me actual chills. It’s mostly that idea of ‘there is something wrong here’ that gets to me. People and things being out of place. The scene below is the actual climax of the movie, so if you haven’t seen it, I don’t recommend watching it because the story is pretty cool and the resolution, what Cristina Raines is actually supposed to be doing in the apartment building, is fucking awesome.

That video, by the way, is the entire movie. I highly recommend it.


Zombie – Eye gouge
Speaking of Fulci, when I discovered the global horror fan club on the Internet all those years ago and connected with people over at the legendary (and probably the first message board dedicated to horror movies), Mortado’s Page of Filth, I finally connected the dots and realized that some of my favorite video store shelf goblins, those wonky cheapos I was drawn to after I’d exhausted all the recognizable American movies, were all directed by the same weirdo with a penchant for intense gore and scripts that made no fucking sense whatsoever. My favorite Fulci is actually The Beyond, but Zombie’s famous eye gouge is one of Fulci’s greatest moments of direction. Most of the time I got the feeling that he instructed his cast to stand around looking confused but this is a scene of pure directorial genius. It is so long. It is drawn out to an agonizing degree. See the girl. See the splinter. See the girl. See the splinter. It gets closer and closer. Slowly. You know exactly what’s going to happen and when it does, it happens in explicit, nasty detail. The splinter slowly enters the cornea as her head is pulled into it. Fulci had a thing for eyeball abuse. All of his noteworthy movies have something awful happening to eyes but this one takes the cake. The effect is great!


Shaun of the Dead – Killing Mum
Shaun of the Dead is a lot of fun and introduced Americans to the one-two-three punch of Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. It’s genuinely very funny, it appeals to everyone’s inner slacker and taps right into that zombie apocalypse survival plan you’ve secretly been working on for so long. Above all, it’s British and if there’s one thing Americans love, it’s British stuff. I’m guilty, too. British stuff really resonates with me. Doctor Who, Sherlock Holmes, Benny Hill. I don’t know what it is but you folks in the UK really have quality genre fare down to a fucking science. Keep it up. This is a very funny, very ironic movie that is basically silly bullshit with zombies but if there’s one thing that struck an odd chord with me is that moment in the third act, having been holed up at The Winchester for a while, when all of a sudden, this comedy seamlessly transitions to an actual horror movie with a deadly serious confrontation revolving around Shaun’s mother having been bitten. All of a sudden, shit gets real. They do this again in Hot Fuzz and the effect is a very similar feeling to having the rug pulled out from under you.


Dawn of the Dead – The Man Comes Around
I went pretty soft on the Dawn of the Dead remake because it turned out a lot better than I thought it would. James Gunn’s script maintains the general vibe and it probably could have been called anything else and been a decent zombie horror movie. The original is pretty cartoony and the introduction of the mall shuttles as armored anti-zombie vehicles kept that rolling but the star of the movie to me wasn’t the story. It wasn’t Ving Rhames or Sarah Polley or that dude from Modern Family. It was the titles at the beginning of the movie. They took the art of the credit sequence and elevated it to a religious experience, melding AP newsreel footage of riots with staged news reports, White House press briefings and zombie attacks and the whole thing is set to a Johnny Cash song about Armageddon. I think Zack Snyder is a hack and his movies are universally terrible but Dawn of the Dead was a pretty good attempt and if you ask me, is far bleaker than Romero’s original.


Day of the Dead – I’m running this monkey farm!
Of the holy trinity, Day of the Dead is my favorite. It gets tremendous amounts of flack for being so chatty, with long periods of talking between bursts of action and violence. Personally, I love the talking. The dramatic bits are propelled forward at breakneck speed by Joe Pilato’s absolutely nutty and venomous Captain Rhodes. He spends all his time on screen yelling and freaking out and it. is. glorious. This scene in particular illustrates my point, precisely, and it’s my favorite piece of the entire movie. Here is Captain Rhodes in all his bug-eyed glory, yelling and screaming, coming up with some bug-fuck nonsense about being in charge and for all of Romero’s social critique, this is the moment in the movie where his point is made clear. Romero’s original script had to be scaled way back for budgetary reasoning and in the process of cutting out the expensive shit, most of his message gets lost in translation but the forceful interplay between Rhodes and Doctor Logan illustrates the intellectual vs. anti-intellectual butting of heads that was so present in 80′s America (and has resurfaced today).


I’ll cut it short here. I could go on and on but you get the idea. Let’s hear it. I want to know your favorites.

29 Mar

Municipal Waste returns with The Fatal Feast

Posted by Bryan White | Thursday March 29, 2012 | Horror Rock

Municipal Waste, The Fatal FeastMunicipal Waste enjoy heavy rotation on my iPod. This group of thrash maniacs keep the party hardy vibe of thrash metal’s past alive with a healthy fixation on Reagan-era social issues, horrible death through exposure to nuclear radiation, horror flicks, beer and weed. It seems like just yesterday that they released Massive Aggressive, an – ahem – darker album whose lyrical themes had less to do with getting wasted and more to do with being torn apart by wolves mutated by the radiation from the Chernobyl nuclear reactor. April 10th marks their return with their latest album, The Fatal Feast, which manages to bridge the gap between the extraordinarily violent Massive Aggressive and the extraordinarily ridiculous The Art of Partying. Still, they’re not quite as silly as Gama Bomb, but they’re getting there and the latest video to kick off the album, a tale of cannibalism and a haunted space station ought to give you an idea of what they’re angling for.

The rest of the album, by the way, is pretty good.

22 Mar

Stardate, March 22, 2012. Happy Birthday, William Shatner!

Posted by Bryan White | Thursday March 22, 2012 | News

Happy Birthday, William ShatnerHail Shatner! The world’s favorite Quebecois Starfleet captain, he who boldly went, turns 81 today and that hair piece is looking as good as ever. He brought us some of the best episodes of The Twilight Zone, Kingdom of the Spiders, The Devil’s Rain, that weird-ass horror flick in Esperanto, Incubus and a reputation for being a total dick to Ensign Sulu. What makes Shatner so special is his total embrace of that ridiculous quality that makes us love him so much. Who but Shatner would release more of those speech/singing albums? Shat’s the shit, y’all, and today we salute him with this, Cinema Suicide contributor, Larry Clow, reading his original composition, The Erotic Shatner, at William Shatner Beat Night (aka The Night I Shat Myself) back in 2010 at The Coat of Arms in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

22 Mar

Cronenberg is back, baby! Trailer for Cosmopolis (NSFWish).

Posted by Bryan White | | News

I’m a huge fan of old David Cronenberg. The shit he did in the 70′s and 80′s was freakin’ vital horror that twisted genre conventions and in many ways, carved out a creepy subgenre of its own where our own bodies become our worst enemy. Among my favorite horror movies of all time, Videodrome ranks pretty high. This period of Cronenberg had energy to it. It was daring and fucked up but going into the 90′s, that edge started to dull and even while he freaked out theater goers and pissed off film distributors with stuff like Crash, nothing that came after Crash felt quite as important or inspired. Going into the new millennium, I was pretty much resigned to the feeling that Dave was done and was going to coast to a quiet retirement as he mainstreamed with A History of Violence and Eastern Promises, two adequate flicks that didn’t inspire me to rant or rave about them and that’s the worst thing for a film to do when it enters my world. However, the French trailer for his upcoming feature, Cosmopolis, looks positively nuts and I am beyond interested. You could say that I’m ecstatic over what looks like David Cronenberg reclaiming his nihilism from Gaspar Noe.

Cosmopolis is adapted from a 2003 Don Delillo novel and I wish that I could say more about it but all I can do is parrot what I see on Wikipedia about this book. Cronenberg, however, proved himself a fan of J.G. Ballard whose novels always bear a nihilistic streak of nasty and from the sounds of it, Delillo walks a similar path. The general vibe of this trailer reminds me of the Ballard novel Cocaine Nights, which highlights a series of fast living types; too much money and free time on their hands, the only way to get their kicks is through extremely self destructive behavior.

I also don’t give a shit that it’s Robert Pattinson. Unfortunately for him, he hitched his wagon to Edward Cullen and that sort of shit will dog him for the rest of his career. It makes sense that he’d go way out on a limb to prove to the filmmaking community that he’s more than just the stand-in for 1 out of 3 teenage girls’ ultimate boyfriend fantasies.

Frankly, I have high hopes that Cosmopolis turns out to be a fever dream of mayhem and carnage in the way that only David Cronenberg can deliver.

13 Mar

A salute to Jean ‘Moebius’ Giraud

Posted by Bryan White | Tuesday March 13, 2012 | News

Jean 'Moebius' GiraudIt was on Saturday that I saw the news. Moebius had died after a long fight with cancer. This stung. A bummer like few things. See, as a teen I was the worst kind of comic book hipster. I paid the exorbitant cover price for a copy of Uncanny X-Men that featured the wedding of Cyclops and Jean Grey and after recovering from what felt like a grand mal seizure, I realized that I had spent an awful lot of money on the one comic where the X-Men had officially jumped the shark and swore off major-label publishers and super heroes for good (it didn’t last but you get my drift). Instead I began shopping on the high shelves at my local shop, going out of my way to buy the weirdest shit imaginable and while this often meant shelling out for Daniel Clowes’ Eightball or a weirdo road trip adventure called The Cheese Heads, it also meant stumbling my way into the world of Euro-comics and it wasn’t long before I found myself scouring comic shows to assemble a collection of books illustrated by French artist, Moebius.

Spider Man by MoebiusComic books from Europe have always carried with them a more sophisticated vibe and back in the day when I was a kid I felt like this made me stand out from my friends who actually gave a shit about the ongoing adventures of Wolverine and his woefully underaged female sidekicks. Desperate attention seeking behavior on my part notwithstanding, European comics often served a dual market. Here in the states, comic books had always been served up for children and as adults, hungry for the nostalgia of youth, we continued to buy Punisher comics even though he’d been turned into a black guy, killed off and then brought back as an Angel with a duster full of heavenly guns. In places like Europe and Japan, however, the medium grew up with the consumer and among the glut of adult comics coming out of France, Belgium and Italy, the group of titles that most easily caught my eye were by Moebius. Moebius perfected the art of hyper detail without going overboard. Plenty of American artists adopted this style but tended to go bananas with it (Todd McFarlane, I’m looking at you). Moebius kept a tight leash on his stylistic flourishes and for it we were rewarded with exceptional character illustrations. No matter who he worked with, be it Alejandro Jodorowsky on the incomprehensible acid space opera, The Incal or his own western series, Blueberry, every page in whatever book you read burst with thin line detail that had no trouble communicating the way-out concepts Moebius’ writers were often handing in.

Moebius DuneThrough trips to the film-related sections of book stores, it would later turn out that before I’d even laid eyes on The Silver Surfer: Parable (my first introduction to Moebius, thanks in part to a fascination with all things Galactus), I’d seen the work of Moebius in concept art and this was often the most fascinating shit to me. In the last few years I’ve devoted plenty of words to lamenting the movie that never was, the Jodorowsky directed adaptation of my favorite science fiction novel, Dune. Giraud had been tasked by Jodorowsky with production design for all things House Aterides as well as some character concepts and the stuff that Moebius came up with was positively mind blowing. Being the fan that I am of the David Lynch film, had Jodorowsky managed to pull of his Quixotic dream, the Moebius designs would have changed the way we watch sci-fi movies. To boot, he’d contributed outstanding concept art for Alien, Tron, Willow and Masters of the (fuckin’) Universe..

Moebius, Heavy MetalLastly, no tribute to Jean Giraud would be complete without a mention of the seminal sci-fi anthology comic (some might say magazine), Heavy Metal. Everybody knows Heavy Metal. Depending on where you bought it it was either kept next to the Playboys or next to the comics, both places being inappropriate spots for the magazine. Heavy Metal was Giraud’s home for the wildest shit kicking around in his head. Originally published in France, Heavy Metal, or Metal Hurlant, carried with it a particularly anything goes French vibe and explicit sexuality was an essential element to many a story. Look no further than the Moebius/Dan O’Bannon contribution, The Long Tomorrow for a taste of what I mean. Written during their tenure on Jodorowsky’s team of production maniacs, The Long Tomorrow has been namechecked by just about every important figure in science fiction with George Lucas lifting the design of the Empire Strikes Back probe droid right from its pages, William Gibson explaining that the general visual style of Neuromancer was pulled from those pages as well as the setting of Blade Runner.

Here in the United States we had comic book titans like Steve Ditko and Jack Kirby to steer the style of comic book art. Their European counterpart was Moebius. Less a force of design and art, Moebius was a force of nature. His art and visual prowess so powerful that even if you don’t realize it, your own illustration style has been influenced by him as the people who inspired you were first inspired by Moebius. The world lost a powerful science fiction mind on Saturday and Jean Giraud will be missed. I strongly urge all reading this to seek out everything you can by Moebius. It’s a genuinely mind-expanding experience to read the comic books he was involved in.

For example:

The IncalThe Incal
Jodorowsky has a reputation for way out psychedelic movies but while he hasn’t made a movie in forever, he has been studying the shit out of psychoanalytics and the Tarot, evident in The Holy Mountain. Never being able to get Dune off the ground clearly stuck in his craw and throughout his comic books, he got to explore ideas conjured up during the Dune period and came to life on the page with the help of Moebius in the form of The Incal, a sort of metaphor for the gnostic journey to the godhead. The Incal is about the trials of John DiFool, a mostly worthless layabout who likes to fuck robots and smoke cigars and not do much of else. Several forces in the galaxy, including extremely powerful forces of galactic government and alien races are going nuts for The Incal, a massively powerful crystal that falls into the possession of DiFool who must keep it out of the hands of the most powerful people in the galaxy whether he wants to or not. It’s incredibly fucking strange stuff.

Moebius BlueberryBlueberry
Western comics are nothing new but American western comics tended to mirror the camp found in any given 60′s western television series. In Europe, however, the Spaghetti Western vibe with its gritty anti-heroes easily found its way to Moebius’ page in this, what is considered to be his magnum opus. Blueberry follows the many adventures of Lieutenant Mike Blueberry, a blending of Clint Eastwood and James Bond (and totally not in that Hokey Wild, Wild West way). In later years, the book would dip its toe into psychedelic and spiritual waters, inspiring American western characters like Jonah Hex. This quality was eventually blown way out of proportion in the Jan Kounnen adaptation of the comics, which features a lengthy psychic battle during a peyote trip . It’s been a while since I looked but last I knew, getting your hands on the out of print English translations of the comics meant parting with LOTS of money.

Silver Surfer: ParableThe Silver Surfer: Parable
Confession: I think Stan Lee is a lousy writer. Indeed, he was responsible for some absolutely vital parts of pop culture with his output at Marvel but when it came to writing dialog, I can barely stand it. However, the Silver Surfer: Parable redeems him quite a bit in my eyes and I feel like it had a lot to do with Moebius being on the set. The Surfer is probably the best character that the two could have chosen to work with and the character’s philosophical, head-shop past enabled Moebius to run wild in his usual psychedelic way. The comic brings Galactus back to earth putting in motion the means for mankind to kill itself off so that he can eat the planet. It’s a fairly basic plot summary but inside is all commentary that at the time was extremely relevant to American culture as the climate of televangelists was coming apart at the seams. Galactus announces himself a god and a hungry TV preacher hitches his wagon to that in order to gain personal power. There’s a lot at work here about faith, power and corruption that if you ask me, is way out of step with your usual Stan Lee script.

The ArzachThe Arzach
I’ve only actually seen bits and pieces of Arzach over the years as it’s one of Moebius’ greatest works for Heavy Metal that came out in bits and pieces through the years. There’s actually nothing to read as the adventures of Arzach are wordless picture stories taking place in strange, extremely psychedelic fantasy settings. Often times, Moebius’ work in these stories made think that he put up posters of artwork by Frank Frazetta and wondered on the page what the rest of those fantasy worlds looked like. Like most of Moebius’ best stuff, these collections are way out of print and may cost quite a bit.

Further reading: http://www.comicsreporter.com/index.php/jean_giraud_moebius_1938_2012/

 

2 Mar

Thirty years later. RIP Philip K. Dick.

Posted by Bryan White | Friday March 2, 2012 | Whimsy

Philip K. Dick by Robert CrumbI haven’t been as prolific lately as I’m typically known for. This time I have a pretty good excuse, though. It would seem my former place of employment saw fit to cut me loose so I  was without employment for a little while. No worries, though. I’m back at it already with a better job for more money. So fuck those fools, bro!

I’m known around these parts for being a horror guy. I was once interviewed by a local paper on the topic of horror lit and I explained to the interviewer that when it comes to the written word, I’m actually not all that into horror. Beyond the usual H.P. Lovecraft – which in a lot of ways is also science fiction – I just don’t get down with reading horror. Science fiction is more my speed. I learned today by way of Tor.com, publisher of fine science fiction and fantasy novels, that today is the 30th anniversary of the death of Philip K. Dick. Dick is a household name and an absolute monolith of sci-fi, spoken of in the same breath as Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke and Robert Heinlein. Dick was no ordinary science fiction writer, though. He was as crazy as a shithouse rat and for a sci-fi author that’s a really advantageous thing. It takes a fractured mind to approach science fiction in a way that’s going to shake the foundations of the genre. Any joker can write half ass sci-fi about space ships and shit but like his contemporary, Frank Herbert, author of Dune, Dick’s best work could barely be classified as sci-fi in any traditional sense of the term. So here’s a primer on one of my favorite science fiction authors.

The Man In The High CastleThe Man In The High Castle
I once hijacked a conversation in a local book store between two dudes as one turned to the other and told his friend he always wanted to read PKD but didn’t know where to start.  His buddy reaches out to the shelf and pulls a copy of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep and hands it to him. I promptly interject that everybody goes to that one because it’s the book Blade Runner is based on and most people only know that one but that I think a better starting place is The Man In The High Castle. High Castle concerns the exploits of several characters living in a post World War 2 America where the Axis powers had won the war. The Germans control the eastern United States and the Japanese control the west but not all is good between the two powers. The Germans are secretly readying a plan to nuke Japan and caught up in the intrigue are numerous characters, many of whom create or sell fabrications or authentic pieces of American antiques which the Japanese occupiers hold in high regard. All the while, one character travels to Colorado to meet the author of a book banned in America which tells the story of an American where the Axis powers lost.

The Man In The High Castle is probably the purest example of Philip K. Dick available. It contains a mind-bending narrative that never slips into pure weirdo territory, features elements of Gnosticism and eastern mysticism and features a fictional analog of the author, himself, whose story within a story, The Grasshopper Lies Heavy, offers a window out of the fiction and into our real world. It’s fascinating shit and as good a starting point as any, the way I see it.

VALISVALIS
On the other hand there’s VALIS. One of Dick’s final novels, the man certainly went out on a high note. And I do mean high. VALIS, a blurring of a fictional narrative and an autobiography of Dick’s own struggles with sanity, tells the story of Horselover Fat, who PKD admits early on is actually himself, even though Philip K. Dick appears as a separate character some ways into the novel. When Fat believes himself to be struck by a pink beam of light that fills him with strange knowledge about reality, he begins a quest to get to the bottom of what is happening to him. Clearly, he’s a man who is quickly slipping away into mental oblivion but through what are either strange coincidences or actual revelations from what Fat and his friends believe to be an intelligent satellite named VALIS which orbits the planet, Fat attempts to come to terms with his deteriorating mental state. That is, until his friends take in a weirdo arthouse movie starring a David  Bowie-style rock star that is loaded with hidden messages about VALIS. And that’s when shit gets real. If The Man In The High Castle is an even-keeled gateway drug to the world of Philip K. Dick, VALIS is PKD with the brakes removed. It is a harrowing look at a man struggling with the mental illness that had dogged him for much of his life not to mention a crumbling physical condition. In the end, it’s hard to even tell what VALIS is about if it’s about anything at all, but it serves more as an unfiltered look into the mid of the genius, warts and all. Like the best Dick novels, it warps reality and blurs the line between fact and fiction and it’s often hard to tell if you’re reading the diary of a madman or one of the most brilliantly twisted sci-fi novels ever written.

A Scanner DarklyA Scanner Darkly
Phil was drug user. Many of the best artists are. This may have had a hand in the dissolution of his sanity but his experimentations with drugs shifted his view of the world and stimulated his imagination in ways that nothing else could have. Nobody could have written the shit that Dick did without the aid of some kind of illicit substance. A Scanner Darkly has a lot to do with that, as Dick’s own life at the time was spent mostly under the influence of speed and in the company of teenage drug addicts. The book has to do with Bob Arctor, a drug addict in Orange County, California in 1994, and a big fan of the powerful psychedeclic, Substance D. At the same time, Bob is an undercover agent with the cops, gathering evidence on users of Substance D and the distribution network. So that the two personalities never cross, Bob/Fred meet with his police bosses in a disguise that makes it impossible to tell who he is. Unfortunately, Bob/Fred is hopelessly hooked on Substance D and has a hard time distinguishing between his two personalities until they suffer a complete break and he is removed from his undercover gig and placed in a rehab facility to get clean. Even more unfortunate, Bob/Fred doesn’t realize that he’s still working for the cops as he’s supposed to find out where the money for this rehab clinic is coming from. All along he, and us the readers, wonder what the fuck is going on here? Clearly the product of a speed freak, A Scanner Darkly is Dick at his most paranoid and compelling. As is the recurring theme in Dick’s work, the entire story orbits the concept of what is real and what is not. Is anything real, for that matter? Read this and then check out Richard Linklater’s outstanding animated adaptation. It’s something.

While you’re at it, take some time to check out the exceptional Tank Riot podcast about Philip K. Dick!

 

14 Feb

Be My Suicidal Valentine!

Posted by Bryan White | Tuesday February 14, 2012 | News

Ah, yes. Valentine’s Day. Few holidays do I loathe more than this one. Why, you ask? My entire social media experience on this day can easily be summed up with the following image.

Forever Alone

My social circle seems to be constantly moaning about the lack of romance/ass in their lives and those of us who have found a way to manage functional romantic relationships tend to keep quiet about it on this day. On the same hand, though, as many of my peoples can’t help but Facebook their feelings for their other half/subjects of their polyamory so basically on Valentine’s Day I am bombarded by relationship status updates and a lot of complaining about how so and so will be eating pizza alone with nothing but Skyrim and a marathon beat sesh to occupy their evening.

Let it be known, however, that I am not a romance scrooge. While my evening will be dominated by repeat viewings of the same Cake Boss episode that my four year old daughter is presently obsessed with, I do have a mushy spot and this morning’s post from Rondal Scott over at Strange Kids Club hit me right in the schmaltz production centers of the heart with this tech demo/short zombie comedy from the students of the Media Design School in New Zealand. For a student film, it’s pretty badass. I present to you: Rotting Hill.

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