Thursday, March 31, 2011

Dracula Cha-Cha-Cha

Why are Kim Newman's Anno Dracula novels not being kept continually in print? They are brilliant, breezy great fun, continually inventive riffs on vampire folklore and pop culture. I am currently engrossed in Judgement Of Tears: Anno Dracula 1959. In this, the third volume in the series, Kate Reed (a character created by Bram Stoker but eventually excised from the final version of Dracula) journeys to Rome on personal business and, within hours, witnesses the brutal murder of Count Kernassy (from the movie The Playgirls and the Vampire) and Kernassy's niece, Malenka (from Malenka, The Niece Of The Vampire, aka Fangs Of The Living Dead) by The Crimson Executioner (from The Crimson Executioner aka The Bloody Pit Of Horror). Kate spared a similar fate by the briefest of appearances by Mater Lachrymarum, the Mother Of Tears (from Inferno and Mother Of Tears).

Of course Newman knows of what he writes: for years he has been a contributor to Tim Lucas's Video Watchdog magazine.

A scene that made me laugh out loud (not because it is a humorous scene) has Kate Reed meeting a fellow reporter, Marcello (Marcello Mastroianni?), at a café. And with whom is Marcello conversing when Kate arrives? None other than Father Lankester Merrin, twelve years before his rendezvous with the demon Pazuzu in the Georgetown bedroom of little Regan MacNeil (this encounter is described in greater detail in the novel The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty and the subsequent film by William Friedkin.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Doberman Update

The first two films in Byron Chudnow's epic Doberman Trilogy— The Daring Dobermans and The Doberman Gang—are available here at the Warner Bros.'s Archives. Could this be the proof we require to prove beyond doubt the existence of a higher power manning the universe's tiller? Perhaps.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Inside Worlds Beyond

The following pages were conceived as the opening and closing editorial pages for the first issue of the magazine that I was to publish. This is pretty much all that came of it, but, as Joe Walsh once sang with such eloquence and meaning, "it was fun while it lasted."

[Note: the content of Early Wallace's Editorial was written by C.J. Henderson; the remainder was authored by myself.]






Worlds Beyond, The Vintage Years

Harder to explain than the shared universe concept of Worlds Beyond is the explanation for what follows: a series of covers selected from the back issue archives of Worlds Beyond, which, within the confines of the shared universe, had been in publication since 1949. The basic designs were borrowed from Fate, which Worlds Beyond was modeled after, and then modified to suit. The artwork was purchased from Dreamstime.com.

1st Issue, Spring, 1949

December, 1959

December, 1969

November, 1973

December, 1989

December, 1999

Worlds Beyond, The Modern Era

This was a project beyond my reach at the time of its inception; perhaps beyond my abilities even now. Worlds Beyond was conceived as a shared universe in which each contributor would create a reporter character and write stories of their character's coverage of a particular story. There would be interaction between the various characters at the start of each issue as well as reviews for nonexistent books and movies in the back. The concept proved as hard to involve writers in as it is to describe here. As they say: so it goes













What Was…

Represented here are happier memories. In the long run, I seem to prefer working on my own projects and projects for friends; established publishers of a certain size have established notions of how their works are to appear, and God help you if you suggest something different. Below are covers for two books by Mr. Adam P. Knave (access his blog here); the first is the collection of short stories he'd suggested several years earlier; the second, a bringing together of a novel published in serial-form.


Thursday, March 17, 2011

What Might Have Been…

I have worked as a graphic designer for several publisher companies, starting with Peregrine Entertainment in the 1990s. Of all the work I have done in that time, the below book covers represent my greatest disappointment—Dark Regions Press. I'd put together a book for C.J. Henderson that was published by Dark Regions; I was contacted by the publisher afterwards and asked to produce some more work. I worked amicably with the publisher on Scott Thomas's The Garden Of Ghosts and was then asked to design the books for the New Voices Of Horror series. Without the benefit of a schedule or regular communication I was subsequently removed from the series and replaced with Dave Barnett of Fat Cat Designs, who went on to unsuccessfully steal elements from my NVOH layouts for his own (inferior) work. The golden lining to all this? I was able to get James Chambers his first limited edition paperback and hardcover published. So it goes.

Volume 1 in the New Voices Of Horror series

Volume 3 cover; the redhead is just a placeholder

My design for Voices From Punktown by Jeff Thomas

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

ANNO DRACULA

I've been reading a lot of Dracula-related material in preparation for mine and John Peter's Lionheart of Her Majesty's Secret Service; after reading Stoker's masterwork I dove right into Kim Newman's Anno Dracula and found myself as enthralled by Newman's work as I was by Stoker's—and that's saying a lot.

Anno Dracula is impressive not only for being an exciting tale filled with action, adventure, mystery and horror, but also for name-checking every single vampire from fiction, films, and television. And I mean EVERY SINGLE ONE; nary a vampire goes without at least a fleeting mention; most are used as supporting or background characters. I was floored when, nearing the climax, I finally recognized the vampire named Iorga was in fact Count Yorga from Count Yorga, Vampire (1970) and The Return Of Count Yorga (1971).

As well as every vampire, at least one of the most famous vampire killers (so far as I am concerned) gets a singularly slick-as-hell cameo, to wit;

An angry little American in a rumpled white suit and a straw hat from the last decade was holding the mouth- and ear-pieces of the apparatus [a telephone] and yelling at an unseen editor.

"I'm telling you," he shouted, loud enough to render the miracle of modern science superfluous, "I've a dozen witnesses who swear [Jack the Ripper] is a werewolf."

The man at the other end shouted, giving the exasperated reporter a chance to draw breath. "Anthony," he said, "this is news. We work for a newspaper, we are supposed to print news!"

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Moment To Moment: Death Sentence (2007)

Surreptitiously based upon Brian Garfield's sequel to his Death WishDeath Sentence ejects nearly everything but its source's title. In place of the original story screenwriter Ian Jeffers has constructed a tale that resembles Death Wish—in the way that just about every story about vigilante street justice resembles Death Wish—and, quite possibly without ever realizing it, injects a metafictional element that is best evinced by the movie's oddly moving and satisfying denouement. Following the climax of the movie's ultimate battle, a blazing three-way gunfight, the Good Guy (Kevin Bacon) and the Bad Guy (Garrett Hedlund) settle down in a handy pew, both wounded (the Good Guy in the neck, recalling the wound DeNiro's Travis Bickle received in the final gunfight in Taxi Driver; the Bad Guy in the gut) and likely dead without swift medical treatment.

The Bad Guy turns to the Good Guy and whispers: "You look like one of us! Look at what I made you!" This last is accompanied by a smile both smug and satisfied; the Bad Guy is obviously pleased at having brought the Good Guy down to his level (or he could be pleased by the fact that the Good Guy is a much more interesting fellow, now that he has been blooded in battle).

Then, in a moment so remarkable in what could otherwise have been just another bloody revenge flick, the Good Guy draws from inside his jacket a nickel plated .357 Magnum revolver, lays it on his leg, and thumbs back the hammer: ka-klik! He raises his eyes to meet the Bad Guy's and croaks: "Ready?"

The Good Guy has had an epiphany: he understands that he is trapped within a bloody revenge film and, try as he might, he is doomed to play out this scenario to its ultimate, blood-soaked conclusion. Kevin Bacon's face hangs in sorrow, his eyes shrinkwrapped in tears: if he does not perform this last act of revenge he will be forever trapped—perhaps this is the true meaning of the movie's title.

In a moment equally remarkable, the Bad Guy returns the Good Guy's gaze with a mysterious expression; neither spitting poison in the face of his executioner, nor begging for life and forgiveness. Like a Greek warrior he is silent, stoic, having prepared himself for this death. If there is such a thing as reincarnation, this quiet acceptance of his fate could bode well for his future incarnations: he has actually transcended his life and learnings and is on the verge of experiencing a greater truth. He nods assent to the Good Guy without nodding.

And, in a final moment worthy of remarking upon, the camera pulls away, the scene fades away and we next see the Good Guy exiting the battleground to return to what is left of his life. This, without the brutal punctuation of a gunshot to let us know that the deed has been done; we know that is has, but are denied that audible punch in the gut to confirm beyond any doubt that it is at last over.

A prospective distributor for Mark Lester's brutal revenge-fueled Class of 1984 almost turned down that film because Perry King tried to rescue Tim van Patten, only agreeing to sign the film when this two-second blip of footage was replaced with an alternate take of King punching van Patten's lights out and sending the young man screaming two floors down to his death on the floor of the high school's gym. Though in spirit Death Sentence and Class of 1984 have so much in common what separates them is something so difficult to articulate as to be beyond words; something that can only be captured, however fleetingly, in pictures.

After the battle.
"Lookit you. You look like one of us!"
"Lookit what I made you!"
ka-klik!
"Ready?"



Camera pulls away…
Justice meted out, the vigilante exits to return to what's left of his life.