Tuesday, 28 April 2015

COMICS SUCK! - Blood & Gourd #1

You’ve felt it before, that ‘80’s horror movie feeling of attitude and atmosphere. That sense of irreverent fun challenged by vibrant gore and the encroachment of dire fate. Horror fans know that ‘80’s feel, it’s something missing from much of mainstream storytelling in any medium for the past 30 years. Among comics scribes in the intervening years Garth Ennis conjures it, Joe Lansdale taps into it expertly and Joe Hill comes awfully close to recreating it while skipping over the cheesy gore and special effects.

New comic Blood & Gourd has it.

And the creators have not skipped over the cheesy gore and special effects.

Blood & Gourd is the demented vision of writers Jenz Lund and D.H. Shultis. Originally conceived as a 150-page standalone graphic novel, the story has been serialized into three king-size comics and will continue as a regularly sized ongoing title. This is the first issue.

The story is about how to grow a prize winning pumpkin, it’s also about the impact and consequences of corporate takeover of family farms on the community, but mostly it’s about how to survive a man-eating pumpkin attack. Those that do survive do not escape unharmed and some that don’t survive, blaze out gloriously. In fact, it’s easy to consider this the most glorious story I’ve come across that takes place at a pumpkin grower’s fair. It’s also the goriest.

Much of that magical feeling comes out in the dialogue. The story develops slowly through the first couple pages as we meet our cast of quirky characters. We’re introduced to a family, a mother determined to enjoy an outing with her two sons at all costs. We meet a father and daughter team of farmers and their farmhands. We meet the fairgoers, a motley crew of hipsters and bumpkins. But no matter who we meet and how many, every character that appears in panel has dimension and purpose. The stress and humor of the family dynamics ring true and resonate from the films of Steven Spielberg. The storytellers take time and care to build character during this phase but the strength of the dialogue carries that weight. Before you know it, 20 pages has passed and you’re convinced that these are real characters interacting in a real world.

There’s a “rule” in storytelling that one should begin a story at that point when a character’s life drastically changes. When the story finally does kick into high gear, things fall out of joint quickly for the characters and there is no fixing them. What can I say, evil scientists and flying pumpkins conspire to ruin a nice day at the county fair and if that’s not horror, I’ll eat my hat! Don’t believe me, check it for yourself.

But no matter how well the story unfolds it might all be moot without a top notch artistic team. Enter penciler Dave Acosta, inker Juan Albarran and colorist Fran Gamboa. Acosta and Albarran employ a clean, thin line weight in which storytelling clarity reigns. The pumpkin menace of the story might fall flat in fumbling hands but the art team sells it beautifully and horribly. Mini pumpkin heads with evil glowing eyes sprout from the neck of a decapitated man painted with green gore as humanity melts away, it’s a fun story but there’s serious business to attend to. The art team takes care of business. The colors of the book are a highlight as well. Every panel is awash in orange tones. Blood & Gourd is a throwback story and the colors reflect that: the gutters and negative space are even tinted to give that vintage, faded look to the pages.

Typically, the letterer of a comic book is akin to the stay-at-home defenceman in hockey. The rule here is that if you don’t notice them, they’re probably doing a good job. But JC Ruiz and Jessica Jimerson are not slow, plodding stay-at-home letterers, they are all-stars. The casual reader would likely take their lettering job here for granted, which again is a plus, but for the deep nerd their thin tails and perfect positioning are impossible to ignore.

Blood & Gourd is a bizarre story, there’s no doubt about it. Imagine if Alan Moore had written Attack of the Killer Tomatoes instead of Swamp Thing and Spielberg had directed the adaptation and you’re getting there.

I highly recommend Blood & Gourd, the dialogue is superb, the characters are cut from the cloth of reality and the action is chaotic.

The first issue is available to order as of today from Dead Peasant Publishing, you can find it at this location.

Okay, here's the scenario: you've just spent all day keeping the pumpkin-possessed yokels at bay with your pitchfork, you're covered in pumpkin gore, your toupee is out of whack ... basically, it's not going well for you lately. It's time to take a load off and listen to some sounds, am I right? The problem is with a thousand new albums coming out everyday this situation is threatening to drive you back into heavy grunge-era listening phase part 27 or Led Zeppelin freak out #49. I mean, there are worse fates, but you can do better than that, I know you can. So ... what do you do?

You want to take my advice, start here:

Can't go wrong with that lot. April has been top-heavy with excellent new releases, those listed above are my personal favorites. So next time musical choice becomes a paralyzing burden, you can always go back to that golden bygone age that was April 2015 (sniffle). And while we're on the subject you can always check out the Doom Charts featuring the best in underground heaviness publishing on or around the 1st of every month.

As for films ... Another month has passed and still no hints of a The Witch trailer being released. I'll try to keep you updated as the days and years pass by. One day somebody who isn't blessed to have gone to Sundance will have seen it.

The big buzz generating movie of the past month has undoubtedly been It Follows. Like most things these days, the movie is somewhat divisive in the horror community but it seems to have been getting mostly positive reviews from fans. I haven't seen it yet and it doesn't appear to be the kind of thing I'm interested in, but I'll probably break down and watch it eventually. I finally saw Spring, which I discussed briefly last month and it is more than worthy of the hype. Track it down as soon as you can.

The movie that's at the top of my "can't wait to watch it" list (just edging out The Witch) is Headless. Actually, there's two new movies called Headless that I want to watch. The newer of the two is a spin-off of a movie that has quickly wormed its way into my "favorites of all time" which is Found. You've seriously got to see this movie, it's incredible. The spin-off Headless also looks great with over the top gore and is kind of a risky venture to begin with, considering it's a faux 1978 slasher film that inspires one of the characters in Found to do his disgusting thing. It could be a lot of fun with its low budget cheesy effects and it could be bland torture porn. I'll wait and see. If you hear anybody in horror fandom talking about a movie called Headless, this is probably the one they're talking about.

The "other" Headless was directed by Toby Lawrence and was first screened months earlier (August 2014) and looks perhaps less "fun", but more interesting altogether. One look at the 90 second trailer gives you an idea of the tone of the film. A young woman travels to a small rural town to look for a friend(?) who went missing in the same area and ends up in chains and robes at the mercy of an apparent clandestine cult. What's not to love? 

Even more esoteric than secret backwoods cults is the film distribution process. Without a major studio forcing a film down theaters collective throats, it takes time for it to trickle down to "the little people" like you and me. I'll let you know as soon as it does. So ... meet me back here in 2 or 3 years time and we might be able to finally see Headless and The Witch (eeeeeeee!).


  1. Did you ever end up seeing Toby Lawrence's Headless? I just watched it and I'm a little confused. Maybe I wasn't really paying enough attention, but the setup is that the woman spends time with the small group of religious nut jobs who literally beheaded her twin sister because they thought she was a witch. How did she think it was a good idea to spend time with them? Spoiler alert: It's not. It's not a good idea at all.

    1. No, and I'm still dying to see it! Where did you catch it?

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