Saturday, 28 March 2015

COMICS SUCK! - Merrick #3 (February 2015)

NOW - March 2015
MERRICK #3 (Self-Published)
"Tragedies & Reflections"
By Tom Ward (w); Luke Parker (a); Nic J. Shaw (l) & Clare Lenton (e)

One of the things we love about comics is that it gives voice to the voiceless. The X-Men are a prime example of the kind of empowering stories found in the artform: a school of misfits and outcasts band together to defend the world that hates them. I remember director Bryan Singer talking about how he identified with the mutant team as a young man because he was gay. Some critics put it all down to petty power fantasies, but such arguments don't negate the impact comics have on the psyches of marginalized people. For anyone who discovered comics at a young age, I think it's safe to say we've all been there.

One of the most tragic human beings to grace the corridors of spaceship earth was Joseph Merrick, colloquially known as the Elephant Man due to his severe deformities. In Merrick: the Sensational Elephantman, writer Tom Ward and artist Luke Parker have taken this tragic figure and empowered him. His physical maladies remain a source of torment, but they also make him into a powerhouse. He's no longer a medical curiosity or sideshow exhibit, he becomes an opponent of evil. His tough insensitive skin is no longer a detriment to physical contact, it makes him bulletproof. His bone disfigurement don't simply warp his appearance, they give him tremendous strength.

In a way, we all identify with the Elephant Man. How many of us truly enjoy seeing their own reflection? We all have doubts and insecurities about our own abilities and appearance, but what if someone were to come along and show you how to turn those things that you don't like about yourself into your greatest advantage? It's this inversion of the negative that I find empowering about this comic.

The first three issues of this series chronicle this fictional version (let's call him an alternate universe version) of Merrick's rise from freak to adventurer. In this latest installment, he dons a costume of sorts for the first time, though it isn't colorful or form-fitting. It's gritty and is borrowed from reality. The creators have offered a much more inspiring origin for the historic Merrick's cap and hood (on display at this location), not to shamefully hide his appearance from onlookers, but to disguise his identity from evil-doers. The no-nonsense look of the disguise is straight out of the pulp tradition.

After three issues, Merrick: the Sensational Elephantman has shown great potential. This Merrick occupies a world of cloaked figures, crooked carnies, cockney goons and friends who haven't been completely honest about their true intentions. Merrick is an honest guy in search of dignity in an exploitative world occupied by sideshow bosses and double-dealing freemasons. He is physically powerful but emotionally volatile with all the pathos of Jack Kirby's early take on The Thing.

The artwork and much of the layout and image choices are reminiscent of Mike Mignola's work on Gotham By Gaslight and Hellboy, which is tonally appropriate. The influence actually becomes less noticeable as the story flows along. The pacing is solid, lending proportionate weight to each development and it picks up by issue #3. The series was crowdfunded into existence and has since gained a head of steam which continues to build. The first issue was cover-dated February 2014, which means the creators managed to crank three issues out in a year. Though it doesn't seem like Merrick is ready to be published on a regular, monthly basis just yet, the next issue will mark the end of the first story arc which will make the perfect jumping on point for new readers.

Merrick reminds me of the comics that creators like Tim Truman, Howard Chaykin and Mike Baron were publishing in the early 80's. They didn't need to break all the rules to tell a story, but they weren't beholden to the house style at the major publishers either. They told good, accessible stories that just happened to be "indie". Ward and Parker carry on the tradition. I'm excited to see where this series goes and I give the first three issues an enthusiastic recommendation.

You can read the first issue, for free below:

Well after ordering a physical copy or three of Merrick and / or a Black Flag inspired t-shirt from the official website (at this location) or snagging a digital copy at this location, the kids they're burdened by choice when it comes to music.

Here's my list of ten of the best albums with March 2015 release dates:
BAD GUYS - Bad Guynaecology
BRETUS - The Shadow Over Innsmouth
POMBAGIRA - Flesh Throne Press
SHEPHERD - Stereolithic Riffalocalypse
VENUS SLEEPS - Dead Sun Worship
WOODEN STAKE - A Feast of Virgin Souls
XII BOAR - Pitworthy

With so much great music out there, it hard to find the time to stay up on the latest movie news. One horror film that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival last month that has been getting an inordinate amount of buzz is The Witch, but I don't know anything about it other than it's set in the 17th century. I may be doing this wrong but I can't find so much as a trailer for it. But one movie I can find a trailer for (and share, below) is called Spring. It was showing a couple weeks ago at SXSW and it looks good. It's written and directed by the team of Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead whose V/H/S-Viral segment "Bonestorm" polarized viewers, but I thought it had a good feel, pulling off a careful balance while walking a tightrope of tastefulness.

From what I've gathered, Spring is about a guy who travels to Italy and finds romance with a local woman. It turns out she has a "medical condition" which results in the occasional tentacle flare-up. No big deal.

It had a limited theatrical release on March 20 through Drafthouse Films. I believe the film is available on iTunes in the U.S., but I can't confirm that. And instead of even bothering to try to confirm it I'll just hang my head, kick an empty can and wonder why Canadians are discriminated against. The film is being handled in Canada by Raven Banner Entertainment but it doesn't look like there's a pending release date for it.

It's worth mentioning that I found out about this movie through the indiegogo page for The Void, which I urge horror movie fans to check out and if you like what you see, to contribute at this location.


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