Swamp Thing wicked this way comes…

by on Aug.01, 2012, under Uncategorized

Forty years ago this coming November, the brackish murk of the Louisiana swamps gave birth to one of the finest creature creations to spring from the human mind. 1972 marked the release of DC Comics’ “Swamp Thing”, a spin-off title from a short story in its popular “House of Secrets” anthology series, expertly crafted by writer Len Wein and illustrator Bernie Wrightson. “Swamp Thing” #1 told the story of a husband and wife scientist team, Alec and Linda Holland, and their discovery of a bio-restorative formula which accelerated plant growth, “that can make forests out of deserts”. Hidden away in a laboratory within a converted barn, the Hollands are charged with perfecting the chemical when a few sinister strong arms arrive, attempting to take possession of the formula.

Unwilling to comply, Alec Holland is the unfortunate victim of an explosion caused by the evil interested party, and – doused with the chemical and engulfed in flames – plunges into the cooling waters of the swamps. His burning flesh, mixed with the bio-restorative formula and the thick waters of the bog, absorbs the compound and he rises into the night air – no longer the handsome doctor, but a hulking monstrosity, more plant than man. A swamp thing.

What follows is a series of dark, inventive and stylized adventures as Holland searches for a cure for his new condition, placing him in the path of synthetic men, werewolves, witches, robots, aliens and undead slaves bent on revenge. Superbly written and beautifully drawn, “Swamp Thing” was pure gothic gold. Set in what would appear to be a rather non-specific time period, the book took the reader from Scottish moors to Balkan mountains to remote towns removed from modern civilization to Gotham City for a clash with what may be one of the most intimidating Batman renderings to land on the printed page. Agonizing over his loss of humanity (as well as the loss of his lovely wife at the hands of the men responsible for his own fate), Holland finds himself in a most peculiar position. Seeking revenge upon his wife’s killers, he must contend with a former friend who mistakenly believes HE is the one responsible for Alec and Linda’s murders. Agent Matt Cable relentlessly hunts the brute, seeking his own vengeance. On the run AND on a mission, the Swamp Thing encounters a unique mix of victims, downtrodden and misunderstood much like himself. Driven by his instinct for good, the help he offers those in need is often met with hostility, for he is horrifying to behold – a “muck-encrusted mockery of a man”.

“Swamp Thing” #1 was the first comic book I can remember picking out as a kid – I still recall the dreary rainy night my father stopped at the corner store and talked me into going inside during the downpour with the promise of a comic. I was just about to grab another of the western or war magazines my father was so fond of (to this point the only books that ever made it into the house), when something lurking at the very bottom of the spinner rack caught my eye. The title and logo alone were enough to seize my young imagination. I quickly thumbed through the pages, and I was a goner. THIS was my kind of comic!

The Swamp Thing was simply a fantastic monster design. Human enough to still garner sympathy from the reader, the massive brute towered above the average man. His massive chest demonstrated the power within his giant frame (power enough to stop a speeding car head-on), yet his deep-set red eyes managed to emit wisdom and compassion. His facial features were distorted into a distant semblance of his former self, with a blunt, peaked facsimile of a nose and no ears to speak of. Living roots and vine thrived on his moss-covered form, and his limbs were capable of rapid regeneration (as depicted in several key stories). Standing in one place too long, and his feet began to take root. Majestic and monstrous all at once, he was an impressive sight to behold among the brightly-costumed superheroes of the time.

In addition to the titular character, Wrightson churned out some amazing creature designs. Anton Arcane’s manufactured Un-Men were a fright, seeming to leap straight out of Tod Browning’s “Freaks” and onto the page. The Patchwork Man – a foreshadowing of Bernie’s career-defining “Frankenstein” designs – was both ugly and beautiful, sacrificing his own misshapen life to save that of his daughter. The powerful alien creature from issue #9 is still an awesome image, and the futuristic robot enforcers of a displaced Bavarian clockwork town still hold up after forty years. His incomparable art graced the book for ten memorable issues, at which time the equally astounding Nestor Redondo took over the art chores. From there, the deep conspiracies and Lovecraftian horrors continued to lure readers into a truly literary comic book experience, until the series ended its 24 issue run in 1976. However, much like the title character, “Swamp Thing” wouldn’t die.

In 1982, on the heels of a theatrical film release written and directed by horror master Wes Craven, DC relaunched the title. Soon, the writing chores were given to a British writer named Alan Moore, who steered the book in a horrific new direction, re-writing the true nature of the Swamp Thing, now a true monster devoid of human life. Moore is most recognized for his groundbreaking maxi series “The Watchmen”, considered by many to be the greatest contemporary comic to date. Moore’s run delivered the character to newfound fame and popularity, largely contributing to the formation of DC’s Vertigo imprint of horror-themed books. The fan-favorite writer crafted nerve-shattering tales, sending the character to the very depths of Hell itself in search of the soul of the woman he loved. Innovative, terrifying, and revolutionary, Alan Moore’s “Swamp Thing” output is a milestone of modern graphic fiction. Incorporating interesting new characters, such as John Constantine (later to receive his own major motion picture), and reviving familiar yet almost-forgotten cast members from DC’s horror past, such as Biblical brothers Cain and Abel, Alan Moore directed “Swamp Thing” through a successful run as the first mainstream comic book to forego the Comics Code and target an adult-only audience.

The roots of the Swamp Thing spread far, with a theatrical sequel to Craven’s 1982 film, a television series on the USA Network, a pair of video games, and a Saturday morning cartoon which launched a popular toy campaign from Kenner Toys. Throughout the ensuing years DC took the book in an array of different directions, attempting unsuccessfully to reignite the popularity of Moore’s iconic tenure on the title. One of the more recent incarnations featured cover artwork by Eric Powell, who managed to evoke a rather Wrightson-esque imagery.

With the release of DC Comics’ “Blackest Night” inter-title story arc, the Swamp Thing was brought back into the spotlight. “Brightest Day” places the human Alec Holland back among the living, as a separate Swamp Thing exists simultaneously. The current volume of the series has met with critical acclaim, and once again the “muck-encrusted mockery of a man” has captured the attention of readers.

The Swamp Thing is a standout example of just how powerful outstanding creature design can be. Four decades – and more than a few failed interpretations – later, this shambling, moss-covered muck monster is as popular and endearing to fans as the autumn day he debuted in ’72. DC Comics has released a beautiful series of hardcover reprints of the original Wein/Wrightson and Moore stories, well worth picking up for repeated readings. Maybe by candlelight, on a dock in the deep of the night…

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The CW’s “Supernatural” at Dragoncon

by on Sep.01, 2011, under Uncategorized

The CW’s “Supernatural” has garnered a fiercely loyal audience since its debut on The WB in 2005. Returning for its seventh season, this haunting series follows Sam and Dean Winchester, two brothers bound by tragedy and blood to the one thing that runs through both their veins – hunting monsters. Part modern-day western, part monster road-trip buddy story, “Supernatural” has become a fan-favorite for its willingness to take chances and constantly surprise its audience.

Series stars Jim Beaver, Misha Collins, and Julie McNiven will be on hand at Dragon*Con 2011 to greet fans and participate in convention panel programming. Don ‘t miss the opportunity to see them appearing as part of Dragon*Con’s legendary programming.
Visit the official website at cwtv.com/shows/supernatural

Netherworld Haunted House is a proud sponsor of the Dragon*Con Dark Fantasy track.
Please visit us at our Dragon*Con booth, September 2-5, 2011, located on the Marquis level of the Atlanta Marriott Marquis. We’ll have plenty of surprises and fun going on all weekend, and you can find us featured in the Dragon*Con parade Saturday morning. fearworld.com

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Meet the cast and hear what’s in store for “Being Human” at Dragon*Con this Labor Day weekend!

by on Aug.30, 2011, under Uncategorized

SyFy’s runaway hit “Being Human” will return with new episodes in 2012, but in the meantime, fans can get a quick fix at Dragon*Con 2011. Series cast members Sam Huntington (Cavemen, Superman Returns), Meghan Rath (The Assistants), and Sam Witwer (Smallville, Battlestar Galactica) will be in attendance to greet fans and participate in a bit of the unique programming that Dragon*Con has made famous.

Being Human is a re-imagining of the acclaimed BBC original series that follows three twenty-something roommates – a ghost, a vampire and a werewolf – who are struggling to keep their dark secrets from the world, while also helping each other navigate the complexities of living double lives. Witwer and Huntington play supernatural employees at a Boston hospital, while sharing a residence with the ghost of Rath’s deceased bride-to-be, who had planned to live in the house before her untimely death. Upon the success of the first season’s initial thirteen episode run, SyFy has ordered a second season. You can learn more about the show and catch up on previous episodes at syfy.com/beinghuman

Meet the cast and hear what’s in store for “Being Human” at Dragon*Con this Labor Day weekend.

NETHERWORLD Haunted House is a proud sponsor of the Dragon*Con Dark Fantasy track.

Please visit us at our Dragon*Con booth, September 2-5, 2011, located on the Marquis level of the Atlanta Marriott Marquis. We’ll have plenty of surprises and fun going on all weekend, and you can find us featured in the Dragon*Con parade Saturday morning. www.fearworld.com

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Free Comic Book Day May 7, 2011

by on Mar.14, 2011, under Uncategorized

Free Comic Book Day May 7, 2011

With the popularity of comic book-based horror properties like The Walking Dead and 30 Days of Night, there’s never been a better time to turn to this colorful medium to satisfy your taste for the dark and macabre.

On May 7 the annual Free Comic Book Day(FCBD) will take place at comic shops across the country, offering comic fans an excellent opportunity to explore some different titles without having to shell out cash on blind faith. It’s also a perfect jumping on point for new readers, who may wish to discover the many avenues of entertainment available in comic form.

Publishers are offering several titles that may appeal to the horror-minded consumer, including “Baltimore Criminal Macabre”, a “Darkness 2” prequel, “Worlds of Aspen” featuring the wildly popular steampunk/paranormal title “Lady Mechanika”, “Locke and Key”, and a “Dark Crystal” flipbook.

We suggest you take advantage of FCBD to seek out these enjoyable titles, and take a few moments to ask your local comic book retailer what other titles of interest they might recommend. Comics offer a HUGE variety of genres from a plethora of publishers, with a little something for literally everyone. From classic “Swamp Thing” and “Tomb of Dracula” to modern adaptations of “True Blood” and “Gears of War”, you can satisfy your creepy cravings at just about any comic shop!

Learn more about Free Comic Book Day at http://www.freecomicbookday.com/index.asp

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Vinylmation Gets Creepy!

by on Mar.07, 2011, under Uncategorized

Appearing at a Disney Store near you…

A short while ago, the fine folks at Disney hopped on board the designer toy train and unleashed upon the world its Vinylmation collection of figures – Mickey-shaped figures, customized by Disney animators and released individually in blind boxes (the contents hidden until opening).

Last year saw the release of a Halloween-themed series, and they’ve followed it up with a fun line of “Nightmare Before Christmas” designs:

Including twelve 3″ figures and two 9″ figures, the series features all of your favorite characters from the popular Tim Burton film as depicted by Disney staff artists. The nice part about this release is that the figures are window-boxed, meaning you can tell which toy you are purchasing as opposed to the treasure hunt system of most Vinylmation releases.

If you’re looking for a little something different for your Halloween collection, these stylish vinyl beauties may be just what you’re looking for!

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The Weird Creatures of Travis Louie

by on Mar.03, 2011, under Uncategorized

The eyes seem to follow you…

Fans of the dark and devilish run the gamut, as far as personal taste goes. While one person may enjoy the blood-soaked mayhem of a classic slasher flick, another may find their enjoyment in the more subdued. It is with that particular fan in mind that I introduce you to the mesmerizing world of artist Travis Louie…

Louie is a genius when it comes to blending the mirthful and macabre. An illustrator of uncanny ability and talent, his paintings transport you to a world populated by the type of oddball curiosities you would expect to find at a Tod Browning family reunion. Half-animal gentlemen mingle with distinguished simian scholars and fetching forest nymphs while pumpkin-headed chaps cavort with amphians, germs, bacteria, and krampus. Not menacing in the least, this menagerie of mutated souls evokes genuine yearning in the beholder to know their secrets, their origins. Luckily, Travis Louie provides us with just that.

He has said that his creative process begins with a back story for each character, and in his recently published book “Curiosities” we are treated to a delightful insight into each and every denizen of his rather limitless imagination. The stories are every bit as wonderfully-conceived as the paintings themselves – Louie has a natural gift for whimsy – but the real beauty lies in the masterful renderings of these hapless souls. Truly photographic in their quality, Travis Louie’s painting are a thing of magic to behold. His mastery of hair and eyes is superhuman, and his comprehension of facial expression is surreal. I dare you to frame and display one of his portraits amongst your family photos at home and observe as visitors gasp (discreetly) at poor cousin Mermin, wondering how such a tragic fellow could be linked to your lineage…

If you’re able to find a copy of Travis Louie’s “Curiosities”, it’s a true keepsake! His fine art prints are available through Circus Posterus at circusposterus.com, where you can also find amazing prints by the likes of Chris Ryniak, Kathie Olivas, Brandt Peters, Sas Christian, and Colin Christian.


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