Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Longbox Junk Halloween - Nosferatu Wars

Welcome back to Longbox Junk. . .the place to find all the comic reviews you never asked for!

It's the day before Halloween, but we're still having some spooky fun here at Longbox Junk by spotlighting some of the creepy comics hiding in the dark corners of my (and my daughter's) collection.

This month we've taken a look at American Vampires (great!), Vegetarian Duck Vampires (pretty good) and grumpy reformed Vampires (meh).  So even though this Halloween Longbox Junk season HAS been a bit Vampire-Heavy, I'm of the opinion that in this time of year Vampires are like bite-size Snickers. . .you can never have enough in your bucket!

And so. . .more vampires. I pulled this one from my daughter's collection after spotting that SWEET Halloween-y cover while delving for some good Longbox Junk.  I've never heard of this or read it until now, so you'll find out the same time I do:

Is this Snickers or Candy Corn?

Let's do it!


SCRIPT: Steve Niles
PENCILS: Menton3
COVER: Menton3

So the cover on this is what caught my eye.  Let's linger on it for a moment. . .

Is this or is this not an almost perfect Halloween cover?  I say it is!  It's a bit late to put it up on the office wall (just spotted it this morning), but this one is DEFINITELY on the list for next year.  That  strangely beautiful, yet fierce, face standing out strongly as the focal point against the dark shades of black and grey really makes this cover great.   It's a very simple cover that is outstanding in almost every way.  

Such a great cover.  Let's see what's underneath. . .

The story goes like this:

During the time of the Black Plague, there is so much death that vampires roam the earth freely as sort of an open secret.  Our story begins as Moria and Tarquin, ancient vampires and lovers, leave a plague-ridden city and seek directions to the country estate of Lord Mattering. . .who has turned his home into a fortress against both plague and vampire.

Shortly afterward, the doctor who they speak to is seized by a priest and his men and burned at the stake for being seen talking to vampires.  As the doctor burns, Moira hears the screams of a woman and convinces her lover to avenge the senseless death.

The vampire lovers follow the priest back to his cathedral and confront him, mocking his belief that the vampires are the spreaders of the plague when their great age (they're from the days of the Roman Empire) gives them the knowledge that it's actually rats and fleas.

The pair of vampires kills the priest by hanging him and leaving his body on public display, then continue their journey to Lord Mattering's fortress estate. . .

Upon arrival at Lord Mattering's Castle, Moira and Tarquin see that the rumors are true.  The estate is heavily-fortified, with soldiers everywhere.  Tarquin decides that since every effort to enter will be equally dangerous, a direct attack is as good a way as any to get inside. . .

As the pair of vampires fight their way through the castle guards, Tarquin reflects on how they met about 100 years after the fall of the Roman Empire and became former enemies turned lovers.

Once inside the fortress, Moira and Tarquin surprise Lord Mattering and his family as they hide in their inner sanctum.  The vampires brutally kill Lord Mattering's two young children in front of the terrified nobleman and his wife. . .

Tarquin strikes a deal with Lord Mattering that if the nobleman will marry the two vampires, they will not harm him.  Mattering agrees and so marries Tarquin and Moria.  Unfortunately for Lord Mattering, Tarquin's deal said nothing about his now-vampiric children.  The vampire children slaughter their parents as Tarquin and Moria take their leave of the fortress. . .

Outside of Lord Mattering's estate Moria and Tarquin are confronted by a large group of vampires led by one called Mangus.  He tells Tarquin that the couple's activities. . .namely the public killing of the priest. . .are bringing too much attention to vampires.

The confrontation turns heated and Mangus threatens Moira, who attacks.  Knowing they can't defeat so many other vampires, Tarquin and Moria flee the encounter.  The rest of the vampires pursue them.

As Moira and Tarquin make their escape, a strange craft comes from the sky and Moira is drawn up into it by a brilliant beam of light, leaving Tarquin alone to escape the pursuing vampires. . .

On board the mysterious craft, Moira finds herself surrounded by strange beings.  She attacks them.

The end of the tale comes some undetermined time later in the future, as Moira returns to Earth after having apparently conquered a planet, intent on finally reuniting with her lover, Tarquin, who has been fighting for survival alone since her disappearance.  Her return starts some sort of war.

The End.  To be continued?

Okay.  Well then.  THAT escalated quickly.  Let's try to unpack what's happened here.

Basically, this story went from a pretty decent tale about two vampire lovers during the Middle Ages and turned into a goddamn ALIEN ABDUCTION story out of nowhere!  Where the hell did ALIENS suddenly come from?

It's as if you were watching Lord of the Rings and suddenly Gandalf whips out a machine gun and starts blasting orcs to a heavy metal soundtrack.  It's so incredibly sudden and out of left field that it just sort of leaves me wondering what the hell just happened.  And then the story just ends!  All I can think of is this:

Okay.  Deep breath.  Let's put the aliens aside for the moment and look at the rest of the comic.

Steve Niles creates a grim world of fanatic priests, wandering vampires, and terrified survivors set against the backdrop of a grimy, plague-ridden Europe.  It's a fantastic setting for a dark tale such as this.   The dialogue perfectly captures the weary feel of a world and its inhabitants at a time that feels like the end of everything.  

Unfortunately, there's not much story here to go with Niles' grimy, desperate world.  It feels more like some sort of disconnected prequel to a larger story that never got written.  It's more of an introduction than an actual story.  There are multiple references to things that we never see. . .such as the Nosferatu Wars of the title itself, Moira destroying a planet, and Tarquin's fight for survival during her absence.  

Reading this is like reading the first and third issues of a four issue mini-series without reading the second or last issue. You can tell what's going on, but it definitely feels incomplete in many ways.

I can't find any good information on this comic except that it was originally a 4 part story in Dark Horse Presents (Issues 26 - 29 of the 2011 series that I'm surprised lasted 36 issues because each issue cost SEVEN DOLLARS), but it really feels like there was supposed to be quite a bit more coming that never got done.   I think maybe the writer was planning on some sort of Vampire/Alien war from the looks of it.

The art also feels extremely inconsistent. There are definitely moments of greatness here.  The artist has an almost monotone, dreamlike (or nightmarish?), very dark style that perfectly matches the grim and weary world the writer has created.

 Unfortunately, mixed in with this very interesting and appealing style are panels that look like unfinished pencil sketches.  The sketches aren't bad in most cases, but when put next to the other art style on the same page they aren't very complimentary and give the comic a bit of a schizophrenic feel.  Maybe this was what the artist had in mind, but to my eye it doesn't quite work.


What we have here is a strange little piece of Longbox Junk that is contradictory in many ways.  

The setting is amazing, the characters and dialogue are interesting, and there are hints of a larger story to come.  BUT. . .Those hints never pay off, the story is more of a fragmented introduction than a complete story, and the ending is off the hook random craziness that makes you wonder what the hell just happened.

The art is dark, dreamlike, and perfectly matches the grim and weary setting.  BUT. . .Mixed in with that fantastic art, often on the same page, are what look like unfinished pencil sketches that give the whole comic a disorganized look.

Overall, this whole comic is an exercise in contradiction.  Good mixes freely with bad on almost every page.  I don't think I can recommend this to anyone but the most devoted fan of vampire stories, and even then I warn that there is no follow up to what's here.  This strange introduction is it.

As for anyone else, the cover is definitely worth a buck if you spot it in a bargain bin.  There's also some curiosity value that comes from seeing aliens suddenly appear in a Middle Ages vampire story.

Up Next. . .

That's it for this year's Longbox Junk Halloween fun!  So it's back to business as usual. I'm not sure exactly what will be next. . .so much junk to choose from. 

Be there or be square!

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Longbox Junk Halloween - DCeased #1

Welcome back to Longbox Junk. . .the blog packed FULL of comic reviews nobody asked me for!

Even though the witching hour draws close, we're still having a bit of Halloween fun here at Longbox Junk by taking a look at some of the spooky stuff hiding in the dark corners of my (and my daughter's) comic collection.

It's been a pretty nice Halloween season here at Longbox Junk if I DO say so myself. So far we've seen Vampires (Vegetarian and otherwise), Killer Easter Bunnies,  A sci-fi take on Jekyll & Hyde, Werewolves, Frankenstein's Monster, Spirits of Vengeance, Prairie Witches, and some generally nasty people doing nasty things (like burying each other alive).  So what's missing here?

Zombies.  We need some zombies!

And so here's some zombies.

What we have here is a fresh chunk of Longbox Junk that's on the stands even as I write this.  I only have the first issue because I basically bought it for the extremely Halloween-y zombie Batman variant cover and somehow have kept missing the following issues.  I'm sure I'll spot the whole set eventually in a bargain bin, but for now I just have this first issue, so let's take a look at it!

DC (2019)

So I bought this thing for the cover. Let's take a look at the cover, shall we?  

*shudders* Now THAT's some creep-tastic cover art right there!  Fransesco Mattina outdoes himself with a nightmarish vision of one of DC's greatest heroes gone straight to zombie hell!  Just look at the detail in things like Batman's nasty teeth and jaundiced eyes.  This is NOT the Batman you want to meet in a dark alley.  Very well done!

That's the cover.  Let's get into the story.


SCRIPT: Tom Taylor
PENCILS: Trevor Hairsine & Stefano Gaudiano (pgs. 1-6, 15-26)
                    James Harren (pgs. 7-14)
COVER: Francesco Mattina (Variant)

The story goes like this. . .

We begin with the Justice League defeating Darkseid and forcing him to leave after he invades Earth. But as he goes, Darkseid gives the League an ominous farewell that doesn't quite sit right with the heroes. . .

Indeed, all is not as it seems.  Darkseid's invasion was merely a distraction.  His true purpose was to capture the hero known as Cyborg. . .now held prisoner on Apokolips.  Darkseid's search for the Anti-Life Equation has led him to believe that the second half of the Equation rests in Cyborg's technology. . .

Darkseid's scientist, Desaad, informs his master that although the combining of the two halves of the Anti-Life Equation is possible, the Equation will be lost entirely if Cyborg dies in the process.  To ensure that Cyborg doesn't die, Darkseid summons Death and uses him to slightly alter the Anti-Life Equation to make sure Cyborg survives the process. . .

The change that Darkseid makes to the Anti-Life Equation has disastrous effects as the corrupted Equation combining the physical and technological drives Darkseid insane.  Desaad quickly transports Cyborg back to Earth to try and stop the spread of the Techo-Organic Virus, but he's too late.  An insane Darkseid destroys Apokolips. . .

Cyborg reappears on Earth in Metropolis, and his internal systems immediately connect him to the internet and all surrounding online devices.  Cyborg is horrified to see the Techno-Organic Virus he's infected with begin to quickly spread among the people nearby.  He is unable to do anything to stop the Virus as people begin to go insane and tear each other apart. . .

In the meantime, Superman is putting together a plan with Big Barda and Mister Miracle to rescue Cyborg from Apokolips, not knowing that Cyborg has already been sent back by Desaad.  He hears the screams of people from the street and sees the spreading insanity.  Realizing  that the situation is already out of hand and getting worse, Superman rushes to his wife and son. . .

While Superman is busy saving his family from the spreading madness, the scene shifts to the Batcave, where Batman is monitoring the situation on isolated systems safe from the Techno-Organic Virus. . .and the news isn't good.  

The computer estimates that there are ALREADY 600 million infected people, and at the current rate of spread BILLIONS will be infected in a matter of days.  This is definitely a problem Batman can't punch a solution to!

Batman quickly sets off an EMP pulse in Wayne Manor above, but he's too late.  As the Dark Knight heads upstairs to check on things, he is attacked by an infected Nightwing and Robin (Tim Drake)!

After a brutal battle with his infected partners, Batman orders Alfred to escape and we are left with a cliffhanger scene of Batman being bitten by Nightwing. . .

The End.

Okay then.  There it is.  It's not a "Dead Rising Up And Slowly Wantin' To Eat Your Braaaaaains" sort of zombie apocalypse.  More of a "Virus Driving People Insane Enough To Kill You, So RUN!" sort of thing.  Despite the unique connection to the DC Universe by having the virus originate as a corrupted form of the Anti-Life Equation, it's still. . .well. . .it's just another zombie apocalypse.

Don't get me wrong.  It's not bad.  It's actually pretty good and makes me want to pick up the next issue.  The idea of a zombie apocalypse in the DC Universe IS an interesting one.  It's just that, do we REALLY need more zombies?  Okay, sure.  There's superheroes in this zombie story.  But really, hasn't that also been done before?

There's going to be inevitable comparisons between this and Marvel Zombies. . .but from what I've read of Marvel Zombies (which admittedly isn't very much, just a few issues here and there), they are two different things.  Sort of like how there's a definite difference between a Corvette and a Pickup Truck even though at the heart of it, they're both basically automobiles.  So despite what you may think, DCeased is NOT a copy of Marvel Zombies. 

The writer does a fine job.  I want to see what happens next.  There's nothing wrong with the writing.  The art is good, but not great.  I actually enjoyed the chunkier, darker look of the art during the Apokolips sections. . .it reminds me of the artist everyone else hated on the recent X-Force series that I liked (Dylan Burnett) enough that I pulled out an X-Force issue to see if it was the same guy.  I guess I just like that chunky, dark sort of style.

So nothing wrong with the writing or art.  It's just. . .zombies, I guess.  Maybe they could have told the story of a Techno-Organic Virus destroying the world without zombies? Maybe? I think they could have.  


What we have here is a well-written story with a DC Universe-specific angle on the extremely well-worn framework of a zombie apocalypse backed up with some good art.  It's interesting enough for me to want to get the next issue, but not interesting enough to make me want to order it if my local shop doesn't have the next one sitting there.

If you're a fan of zombie stories, then definitely pick this one up.  If you're getting a bit tired of zombies then this isn't really something you'll miss out on if you don't read it.  If you don't like zombie stories in the first place, then this won't change your mind one bit.

Up Next. . .

I think there's still time for at least one more piece of Longbox Junk Halloween fun!

Be there or be square.

Monday, October 28, 2019

Longbox Junk Halloween - The Unexpected #202

Welcome back to Longbox Junk, the place to find all the comic reviews you never asked for that you could ever ask for!  Wait. . .did that make sense? You know what, I don't care!  Welcome!

We're in the last week of October and it's the Halloween Home Stretch for Longbox Junk before we get back to our random business as usual.  So sit back and enjoy a few more posts where we spotlight some of the spooky stuff lurking in my (and my daughter's) comic collection.

I was sort of on the fence about labeling this one as a Longbox Junk "Retro Review".  It sits solidly at the end of the Bronze Age in 1980. . .and at 40 years old, it's not exactly a new comic.  But on the other hand, the art and the stories inside definitely have a more Modern Age feel to them. . .despite paying lip service to the CCA by sporting the (then increasingly toothless)  seal of approval on the cover. 

In any case, no matter where this comic may fall in terms of  defining "Age", at a top value of twelve lousy bucks for a mint copy (according to Comic Book Realm) it's definitely what I would call Longbox Junk. . .so let's take a look!

DC (1980)
COVER: Luis Dominguez

So before we get into the comic itself, let's linger a moment over the cover. . .

In my extremely humble opinion, that's a DAMN fine Halloween cover right there!  I mean, just LOOK at it.  It's so wrong. . .yet so right!  This is the sort of cover that makes me buy an old comic without seeing or knowing anything else about it.  And that's exactly how I ended up with this.  How could I possibly pass up a comic with a cover like this?  I can't! I  just can't!  

This is just a great horror comic cover.  It's one of my favorites and it makes regular appearances as part of my Halloween comic cover display on my office wall at work.  

Let's get into the comic itself.  There's four stories in here for the fifty cents this cost in 1980. Plus each story has an introduction page starring The House of Secrets' Abel or The Witching Hour's trio of witches.   That's a pretty hefty pile of pages for two measly quarters.  

SCRIPT: Carl Wessler
PENCILS: Torre Repiso

After an inmate escapes from the local insane asylum, a police captain's wife receives a visitor claiming to be an investigator on the case.  She becomes suspicious and tries to escape the house, narrowly avoiding death when her husband arrives just in time to shoot the disguised inmate.  

There's not really much to this story.  It's basically a "stalker chase scene" horror trope with the twist that the Captain's wife became suspicious in the first place because the inmate was female and she could tell the disguised "investigator" was female by the way she held her arms.  

Even though it's light on actual story, it's well written and the art is very nicely done.  Not a bad story, but not great. It feels like page-filler more than anything.  I'm not sure this should have been the lead-off here.


SCRIPT: Michael Uslan
PENCILS: Tenny Henson

Three kids join the festivities after signs advertising an Easter Egg hunt at an old mansion pop up around town overnight.  At the party, the three are invited inside the mansion for a "special" hunt with a big prize.  Instead of prizes, they fall into a trapdoor that drops them into a vat of chocolate.  

One of them is pulled out by a giant Easter Bunny, who immediately bites the head off of the chocolate-covered kid. . .leaving the other two still trapped in the vat of chocolate watching as the first is devoured, horrified and knowing that they will die the same way. . .

Wow. . .just. . .wow.  Even toward the end of the CCA's influence, I find it hard to believe that this story made it past.  It's not ambiguous at all. . .the Easter Bunny gets his revenge by biting the head off of a chocolate-covered kid.  It's a classic "Turn-about is fair play" horror comic trope.

It's a very short little tale, but it's just SO random that it leaves a lot of questions unanswered.  Why does the Easter Bunny choose THIS Easter for his revenge? Wait. . .is that the Easter Bunny at all?  Why does the Easter Bunny Monster live in a trap-filled mansion?  What does the Easter Bunny eat the rest of the year?  So on and so forth. . .so many goddamn questions! 

This strange little nugget of horror was written by one of my top 5 old-school comic writers, Michael Uslan.  I stand here and give him a round of applause for giving the world this unexplained and probably unexplainable piece of hidden Longbox Junk gold.  

Bravo, Mr. Uslan! *vigorous clapping*


SCRIPT: Peter John Palmer
PENCILS: Ken Landgraf & Joe Orlando

A pet shop owner being harassed by an extortionist performs an occult ceremony as a last resort, trading his soul to the "Agent" he summons to rid himself of the hoodlum and restore his ruined store.

Over the coming years, he regrets his deal and tries his best to be a good and righteous man, hoping he will be able to bargain his way free at the end.  Later, as he lays dying, the "Agent" comes to collect on the bargain.  The man tries to plead his case, only for the "Agent" to reveal that he had summoned supernatural help from Heaven, not Hell . .and that his good behavior has indeed saved him. 

The twist that the shop owner had summoned an angel instead of a demon was pretty good here and actually caught me by surprise.  Another thing that caught me by surprise is that even though the late Joe Orlando is credited on art, this story actually has the worst art in the comic.  It's not BAD, it's just. . .very average and workmanlike.  Maybe I was just expecting better after seeing Orlando's name on the credits. 


SCRIPT: Ms. Charlie Seeger
PENCILS: Arthur Geroche

At Milestone National Park, a Ranger and his Deputy investigate a camper's death they believe was caused by a renegade bear.  When a close examination of a second victim is made, it appears that she was killed by rabbits!  

Now convinced the Ranger himself is killing the campers and making it look like animals are responsible, the Deputy tries to protect himself, but when the Ranger is also killed, the Deputy finds himself facing a small horde of animals. . .including rabbits, deer, and birds. . .that kill him as well.

At the end of things, it's revealed that the Park itself turned against humans for revenge against littering, forest fires, and bad treatment of nature.

Allrighty, then.  It's a horror story with an environmental message!  Unfortunately, that message falls flat.  Really flat.  It's actually a pretty decent story with some great, darkly-inked artwork. . .until the "twist" that the Park itself was rebelling against human abuse of nature.  It's just sort of cringeworthy.

What I DID like about this story (besides the very nice artwork) is that it's the second story in this comic with killer rabbits (even if these are off-panel instead of biting the head off of a chocolate-covered kid).  Even though it has a September publishing date, I'd have to say that the two killer bunny stories make this issue a great unsung Easter Horror comic!  I don't think there's many of those out there, so there's that.


Overall, I'd have to say that this was a pretty good comic.  At the time it was published, the comic horror anthologies were well on their way out the door.  This issue still has a nice little spark of life to it that I liked a lot.  Generally-speaking, the stories were all pretty good and nicely-illustrated.

The Michael Uslan killer Easter Bunny story is the definite star here, just for its complete randomness and for seeming like something that was sort of sneaked in under the radar.  The final story has the best art, but the worst story.  The other two are just sort of "pretty good", but everything in this comic displays little glints of gold here and there in single panels of art or lines of dialogue.

This is a comic that I absolutely love for the cover.  That said, what's inside isn't bad at all.  If you spot this one for a decent price (as in five bucks or less) then definitely pick it up and enjoy a strange little nugget of Longbox Junk gold.  

Up Next. . .

Halloween ain't over until the 31st! 
So there's still a little more Longbox Junk Halloween fun to come.

Be there or be square!

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Longbox Junk - Edgar Allan Poe's The Premature Burial

Welcome back to Longbox Junk, the place to find comic book reviews nobody asked for!

There's still a couple weeks left in October, so we're still having some Halloween fun here at Longbox Junk by looking at some of the spooky things hiding in the dark corners of my (and my daughter's) comic collection.

This time out, we have a Dark Horse one shot adaptation of a couple of Edgar Allan Poe's shorter works written and illustrated by comic legend Richard Corben.

If Halloween were to have a central figure. . .a mascot, if you will, like Christmas has Santa Claus or Easter has the Easter Bunny, or. . .er. . .okay, that's all I can think of.  ANYWAY. . .if Halloween were to have its own mascot, in MY extremely humble opinion it should be the grumpy ghost of Edgar Allan Poe.

For the sake of TRYING to keep my introductions to a manageable length I won't go too far into the history of Poe. . .he basically lived a short, tragic life and died a mysterious death, leaving behind a body of some of the darkest literature ever written that is now regarded as the work of a mad genius, but was mostly ignored during his lifetime.

Poe's life story is one of heartbreak, death, poverty, and unappreciated genius.  If you really feel like loving the life you have, then read Poe's life story and then thank God you aren't him.  

SO. . .

We have an undisputed comic book legend adapting two short tales by one of the undisputed masters of dark and creepy literature.  How can this NOT be good?  Let's take a look!



There's two stories in this one-shot and, as you can tell from the credits above, this is pretty much a one man show with Richard Corben wearing all the hats.  Before we get into the comic, let's take a brief look at the cover. . .

Now THAT'S a Halloween cover!  I love Corben's use of negative space to frame the ghoulish scenario in the center.  The dreary colors highlight the living flesh of the man in the coffin as well as the title.  The supreme attention to detail in things like the terror in the eyes of the living man lets you know before you even open this comic that there's a master at work here.  

Wait. . .did I mention I'm a big Richard Corben fan?  No?  Well there it is, then.  This isn't Corben's best cover ever, but it's still a great cover.  Let's get inside.


We begin the tale in a graveyard where Lucian and his fiancee, Victoria are having a picnic.  Victoria rebuffs Lucian's advances and leaves him without realizing that Lucian has given her poisoned wine.

Appearing dead, Victoria is buried in the same graveyard.  Lucian digs up her grave the night of her burial, but Victoria wakes up as he is groping her body.  In a panic, Victoria flees and Lucian hits his head on a gravestone as he tries to pursue her. . .
A funeral is held for Lucian as the blow to his head has made him appear dead as well, but Victoria realizes he's not actually dead and hires the gravediggers to dig the terrified man who has been buried alive back up. . .
As Lucian recovers from his ordeal, he is informed by his outraged father that Victoria has told him exactly what happened and that, for some reason, she still wants to marry Lucian.  The two are married, but Lucian can't find happiness because he's become obsessed with his short time of being buried alive. . .
As Lucian sinks deeper into his obsession with being buried alive again, he takes many precautions to avoid that horrible fate. . .an above-ground tomb with a bell he can ring, a coffin that comes easily apart, a supply of food, and so on.  

Even so, he finds himself unable to sleep, terrified that he will wake up in a coffin again.  Victoria gives him tea so that he can sleep, but he finds himself having a horrible nightmare of being buried alive. . .
In Lucian's nightmare, he wanders a hellish landscape of the tormented dead who have been buried alive.  Their screams are relentless.  He spots Victoria and runs to her, hoping she can help him escape the nightmare. . .
But instead of helping him, Victoria grins wickedly and ignores his cries!
Lucian's worst nightmare comes true as he wakes from his dream confined in a coffin!  But he is quickly relieved to hear another voice as he realizes he's not in a coffin, but in a small berth aboard a ship he is travelling on for a hunting trip.  

Relief turns to horror as Lucian realizes the truth. . .the ship is a fantasy and he is indeed buried alive after being drugged by his wife.
The End.

For those who haven't read Poe's original "The Premature Burial", it's less of a story and more like what one would hear at a lecture, the sort of which were popular entertainment in his day.  An introduction to the subject, several short examples, and then the speaker's personal experience.  It's a very matter-of-fact piece, compared to Poe's other tales, and there's actually not much narrative to it at all.

What Corben has done here is to meld the various elements of the original piece together and add to them in order to create an actual story out of what is more of a dry lecture on Premature Burial.  So this becomes less of an adaptation and more of a re-imagining.  

For someone who's read Poe's work many times such as myself, this is a fantastic interpretation of what is really one of Poe's less memorable works.  The moving and combining of the separate elements of the original by Corben in order to make an actual story out of them is brilliant.

Corben's reliably outstanding artwork is in top form here.  The wicked grin of Victoria as Lucian realizes she's purposely buried him alive is probably the creepiest thing in the entire story.  Corben's use of the comic panel itself as Lucian's coffin on top of the final page is another standout moment, as is the small image of the terrified Lucian enduring his awful fate at the bottom of the final page.

What we have here is a fantastic re-imagining of one of Poe's less memorable works, backed up with some top-notch art by one of the most legendary comic illustrators in the business.  I can find nothing wrong with this chilling little tale.  


We begin our tale with the Lord Montresor leading the widowed Madam Fortunato into his family crypt, promising to shed some light on the mysterious disappearance of her husband nearly 50 years ago. . .
Montresor tells her that many years ago, he found her drunken husband celebrating at a carnival and invited him to his home. . .to the very crypt they are in. . .to sample some Amontillado wine, for her husband was a great lover of rare wines. . .
As they traveled deeper and deeper into the depths of the crypt beneath the Montresor Pallazo, her husband was offered several times to turn back, but Fortunato greatly desired to sample the Amontillado, and so the pair pressed on, deeper into the crypt. . .
Finally, Montresor led Fortunato to a small alcove, promising the Amontillado was within.  But there was nothing in the alcove but a chain, which Montresor quickly used to bind Fortunato within the dark alcove. . .
Once Fortunato was securely confined, Montresor began to brick the alcove up.  Fortunato thought Montresor was playing a cruel joke right up until the time that Montresor placed the final stone. . .burying Fortunato alive within the walls of the very crypt they now stood within, and where Madam Fortunato's missing husband has been for the nearly 50 years since!
Madam Fortunato is understandably horrified by Montresor's confession.  She demands to know what her husband did that so wronged Montresor that he did such a thing.  Montresor thinks a moment, but is unable to remember!  
Montresor explains to the horrified Madam Fortunato that he merely wanted someone to know the truth after all the years had passed, and that he has come to the crypt to die. . .a glass of poisoned wine and Montresor falls dead beside the tomb of Fortunato.
The End.

"The Cask of Amontillado" is one of Poe's better known works, and one of my personal favorites.  It's basically a very short, very simple tale of one man luring another into a crypt and walling him up alive.  

What Corben does here is add a framing device to add more depth to the original tale.  In the original story, beyond vague insinuations of insult, it's never explained WHY Montresor walled Fortunato up.  Here, the lack of explanation becomes truly horrible as Montresor confesses to Fortunato's widow that he can't even remember why he killed her husband in such a cruel way.  

It's a brilliant touch by Corben that makes a great story even better!  The confession of Montresor becomes even more horrifying than the deed itself, due to the absurdity of his not even remembering why he did it.

The art in this story is simply fantastic!  This is a tale that has very little action or supernatural elements to it, so facial expressions need to do a lot of the heavy lifting.  Corben delivers in a big way here.  Fortunato's manic grin as he walls up Fortunato, as well as the insanity in that same grin as he makes his confession are real standout moments in a story full of great art.

What we have here is a brilliant expansion on an already great story, backed up by some extremely detailed and creepy art focusing on facial expressions.  For me, THIS is the definitive adaptation of Poe's classic tale.


If you're looking for a good horror comic, look no further.  You won't find gore or monsters here, but what you WILL find are two creepy little stories of madness and revenge that use the primal fear of being buried alive as their foundation.

In the first, we have a brilliant re-structuring and re-imagination of what is otherwise one of Poe's less memorable works, turning it from a dry lecture and into an actual story.

In the second, we have more of a straight re-telling of a classic story, but with an outstanding framing device that makes an already great story even better.

In both we have incredible artwork by one of the undisputed legends of comic art.

If you are a fan of horror comics, Richard Corben, Edgar Allan Poe, or any combination of those things, then do yourself a favor and grab this comic if you happen to spot it in the bargain bin.  It's pure Longbox Junk Halloween gold.

Up Next. . .

MORE Halloween fun!  That's right. . .MORE!

Be there or be square.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Longbox Junk Halloween - Count Duckula #1

Welcome back to Longbox Junk, the place to find all the comic reviews you never asked for!

We're still having a bit of Halloween fun here at Longbox Junk, spotlighting some of the spooky stuff haunting my (and my daughter's) comic collection.  This time out, we're going into the lighter side of horror with Count Duckula!

FAIR WARNING:  I'm going to digress a bit here before getting into the comic at hand.

As far as I'm concerned one of the best parts of comic collecting is the ability of a simple floppy stack of stapled paper to transport me back to various periods of time. . .I like to call it "The Paper Time Machine".  This Count Duckula comic book took me back in a big way.

I don't have a personal connection to this particular issue.  It came from my daughter's collection.  But as I was looking through it, I was brought straight back to the very beginning of my days as a bargain bin hunter.  See, before my daughter was old enough to start enjoying comics, I mostly collected what was new on the rack or what I had on subscription.  I pretty much ignored the back issue boxes.

But when my daughter got to be about 4 or 5 years old, that changed when I decided to find some cheap comics for her that I wouldn't mind if she banged them up a bit.  My thinking was to get her interested first and teach her how to take care of them later.  So I began my long career as a "Longbox Junker" digging through bargain bins for Richie Rich, Archie, Casper, Bugs Bunny, Mickey Mouse, and any other bright comic aimed at kids I could find for a quarter. . .and here we are now.

My daughter is 25 now and she's the Marvel fan of the two of us (I'm more of a DC guy).  Getting deep into the convoluted continuity of Marvel's connected superhero soap opera is definitely her thing. . .but it all started with comics like this one.  Just looking at this comic brings me back to the days of us sitting together on the floor of her bedroom. . .me with my new comics and her with a handful of  cheap Richie Rich comics after dinner on Wednesday nights.

It's amazing to me remembering how something so inexpensive and simple as a Casper The Friendly Ghost comic from the quarter bin could bring my young daughter such happiness.  What's even more amazing to me now that she's older is discovering (while digging through her collection looking for good Longbox Junk) that she still has so many of those comics I bought as throwaways!

They're worthless for all intents and purposes.  Heavily read. . .some of them with covers detached, some with Kool-Aid stains, corners bent, just all sorts of damage.  But she has them just as carefully bagged and boarded as the most valuable comics in her collection!  When I pulled this Count Duckula comic from the box to do this review, she told me to be careful with it, even though it's probably not even "worth" a dollar.

And so even though the pages are barely hanging onto the staples, I treated this comic like a Silver Age collector item. . .because to my daughter, it's valuable.  Her telling me to be careful with this "worthless" comic reminded me in a BIG way that sometimes the value of a comic has nothing to do with how much money it's worth.

Well. . .enough of that.

The comic at hand is one that I bought at some unknown point in the past for my daughter.  I assumed on first look (based on the cover)  that it was from the Warner Bros. stable of characters because the main character looks sort of like Daffy Duck or someone related to him.  But as I said above, in those early days of Longbox Junkin' I just pulled anything that looked good for kids from the quarter box.  I never actually READ any of them beyond a quick flip in the store and maybe a little reading together with my daughter if she needed help with a word or wanted to show me something funny.

BUT. . .

A quick bit of research shows me that Count Duckula is actually a character based on a British cartoon series I've never heard of called "Danger Mouse", and has nothing to do with Disney or WB.  So this comic and the main character is as new for me now as it was for my daughter all those years ago.  Let's do it!

MARVEL (1988)
COVER: Warren Kremer

As usual, let's take a look at the cover first. . .

It's great!  I like it a lot.  On first glance, it looks like Duckula is one of the Warner Bros. gang.  Between that and the short gag you get before you even open this up, you can tell this comic is going to be on the "wacky" end of the comedy dial, so it does a perfect job of selling what's inside the comic right off the bat.  The colors are also great, with lots of eye-catching and contrasting reds, blues and yellows mixed in with splashes of green on the main character. 

Overall, this is a really fun and colorful cover that catches the eye and perfectly sells what's inside.

Moving along. There's two stories in this issue, both by the same team.  Let's take a look. . .

SCRIPT: Michael Gallager
PENCILS: Warren Kremer

Our story starts with the origin of Count Duckula.  A ceremony to resurrect Count Duckula is "fowled" up when the housekeeper of Castle Duckula substitutes catsup for blood during the ritual, accidentally creating the first vegetarian vampire!

As the new Count Duckula discovers his musical talents, the sworn enemy of the Duckulas, Vampire Hunter Doctor Von Goosewing hears the sounds from the supposedly empty castle and investigates.  Hijinks ensue as he falls victim to his own clumsiness and the pitfalls of the castle.

In the meantime, Count Duckula's butler tells him about Castle Duckula's ability to magically teleport anywhere in the world, and that it will always return to Transylvania before sunrise.  Count Duckula accidentally transports the castle to Outer Mongolia, where he, the butler, and the housekeeper are quickly captured by Attila The Hen and her Hen-Chmen. . .who decide to cook and eat the three of them.  

It's Count Duckula's arch-enemy, Doctor Von Goosewing, who saves the day because HE wants credit for destroying Count Duckula.  He frees the trio of prisoners and they all return to Transylvania.

The End.

On looking at my synopsis, I realize its sort of hard to describe a zany story where puns, one liners, and physical comedy fill every single panel!  There's not a single bit of wasted space in this story.  The writer and artist cram as many gags as they can into every bit of this, and I love it!  It definitely has more of a Warner Bros. fast-paced "wacky" style than Disney, and that's more my speed of cartoons. . .where the jokes come fast and furious and never stop.  

Sure, this is written for kids.  But like the best of the old cartoons, adults can find fun in this as well.  Not all of the gags hit the target, but enough of them do to make this first story a good read.


SCRIPT: Michael Gallager
PENCILS: Warren Kremer

Count Duckula decides he wants to be a movie star, so he teleports Castle Duckula to Hollywood.  At Alfred Peacock Studios, Duckula gets his big break when a message he delivers to the famous director makes leading man Bird Reynolds run off the set.  

Count Duckula presents himself as Bird Reynold's stand in and with a bit of movie magic and makeup, Duckula becomes the spitting image of the famous actor.  Unfortunately, the reason Reynolds left becomes clear when his co-star, John "The Duke" Crane arrives on set. . .furious at Reynolds for going out with his girl.  

Hijinks ensue as John Crane mistakes the made up Duckula as Bird Reynolds and he chases him around the movie set, much to the delight of Alfred Peacock, who thinks the two of them are improvising a chase scene.  Duckula finally makes it back to Castle Duckula and escapes back to Transylvania.

The Butler, Igor, gives Count Duckula the bad news. . .Vampires can't be filmed.  But despite his Hollywood dreams going down the drain, Duckula is determined to be a star. . .next time on Broadway!

The End.

Like the first story, this one doesn't waste a bit of space.  The writer and artist work together to fill every panel with gags and give the reader fast-paced, zany, mistaken identity chase shenanigans.  I'm thinking this might be a running theme in Count Duckula because the second issue also follows the mistaken identity form (My daughter has 3 of these) in a very similar way.  

Once again, it's sort of hard to do justice to a story filled with constant art and story gags when trying to do a synopsis.  So I'll just say that once again, the gags don't all hit the mark, but the ones that do make this a fun read for all ages.


I think that this is actually the first pure "kid" comic I've reviewed here in Longbox Junk.  I took away a couple of interesting things:  First is that it's kind of hard to write a synopsis of these sort of gag-filled stories that doesn't sound a hell of a lot worse than the actual story. 

Second, I learned that (like a good classic cartoon short) just because something is aimed toward a younger audience, that doesn't mean there isn't some fun for adults too.  This comic was packed SO full of visual and written gags that there's a little something for everybody in here.

This comic was pretty far outside my usual zone, so I hope I at least did a decent job reviewing it.  The bottom line is that, even though it's written for kids, this was a fun read packed from end to end with zany gags.   It's not the greatest comic I've ever read, but it's far from the worst.  If you spot it in a bargain bin definitely grab it if you have a young kid who likes comics.  But be sure to give it a read yourself first!

Up Next. . .

It's still October, so that means MORE Halloween fun!

Be there or be square.