Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Red Sonja 3 on Black Gate

Merry Christmas. My review of Red Sonja 3 is up on Black Gate. Check it out.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Red Sonja 2 on Black Gate

Another Tuesday and another Red Sonja post. Check it out.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Red Sonja 1 on Black Gate

My review for Red Sonja 1 is up on Black Gate today. Check it out and let me know what you think.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Marvel Feature 7 on Black Gate

My review of Marvel Feature 7 (part of my continuing series of Red Sonja posts) is up on Black Gate. Check it out and let me know what you think.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Daywalt Horror: Fridge Monster

Drew Daywalt is the creator behind some of the best Fewdio Horror videos. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’ll know I’m a huge fan of those short films. So when he started up his own Youtube channel, Daywalt Fear Factory, I had to check it out. Several of the videos on this channel are re-posts of the Fewdio stuff; but there’s quite a few new videos as well.

“Fridge Monster” works more in the set-up than in the pay-off. At a minute and a half, we’ve got the background and character well-established (once again, when the filmmakers know what they’re doing, it doesn’t take long to establish background and character). The actual reveal of the fridge monster is … not so impressive as what was set up. Also, and this is just a personal gripe of mine, it seemed just a bit gratuitous that the narrator was checking the refrigerator in her panties.

As always, filmmakers interested in developing tension in their work could benefit by studying the short films of Drew Daywalt. Check it out for yourself on Youtube.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Marvel Feature 6 review on Black Gate

My review for Marvel Feature 6 was posted to Black Gate today. Check it out and, as always, let me know what you think.

Sunday, November 25, 2012


Back in the 1950s & 1960s (known in comics circles as the "Silver Age"), DC Comics' editor-in-chief, Julius Schwartz, liked to set up challenges for the writers. Basically, he'd have an artist create the craziest, most nonsensical cover he could imagine, then present the cover to the writer and say, "Make a story out of it." Batman is dressing up in a zebra costume. Jimmy Olsen is marrying a gorilla. Superman is Pope. Take the idea and run with it. In the 1970s, the books started getting more serious and more socially relevant. And while I love that era (the "Bronze Age"), it's kind of sad that so much of that playfulness was lost in the process.

Artist Yale Stewart has set up a tumblr site on what could have been a classic Silver Age cover concept: What if the members of  the Justice League had attended grade school together? Twice a week (Mondays and Thursdays), he posts a newspaper-style strip that follows the continuing adventures of eight-year-old superheroes. We watch young Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Flash, Martian Manhunter and Power Girl going through Peanuts-style adventures and it honestly is better than anything you'll read in the "New 52" titles that have been clotting shelves this past year.

The most fascinating part of this strip is how Stewart is able to move between light comedy to genuine pathos and the occasional commentary on modern comics. An eight-year-old Power Girl trying to leave the house in a revealing outfit highlights the over-sexualization of female comic characters, as well as the motivations of young girls (often not much older than eight) who seek attention through such displays. Eight-year-old Batman's practiced indifference is both funny and touching when you realize this is a child coping with the loss of his parents. The Martian Manhunter is perfect as the foreign exchange student. And this version of Wonder Woman is simply one of the best renditions of a character who is strong, confident and compassionate.

Of course, there are plenty of in-jokes for long-time comic fans. The school bullies are all supervillains, led by a young Lex Luthor (who still has his hair and likes to wear it long). And there was that great moment when I figured out the joke about the bully wearing the red hoodie. The requisite sadistic phys ed instructor is Darkseid. And the home-room teacher is none other than Julius Schwartz.

You can check out the comic on the tumblr site and get updates by joining the Facebook page. Due to copyright laws, Yale Stewart can't actually package these strips into a print collection; but if you're just itching to hold this work in your hands, you can always request an art commission from him. Right now, he's doing this strip for free; but with any luck, he'll be working for one of the major publishers soon.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Marvel Feature 5 review on Black Gate

My review for Marvel Feature 5 was posted to Black Gate today. Check it out and let me know what you think.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Fantasy - music video by DyE

Ah, for the days of Thriller. A wholesome teen romance with a werewolf, followed by a synchronized zombie dance number. Remember when that was the scariest music video in the world?

Now check out "Fantasy" by the performer DyE. The song's from the album Taki 183, produced by Tigersushi Records. It's a mellow bit of electronica that doesn't overwhelm you so much as subtly work its magic on you. And the storyline of the video is almost as wholesome as Thriller. Four teens (two boys and two girls) break into a swimming pool one night to go skinny dipping. Not G-rated fare, but it's the sort of rite of passage we all went through growing up, like having your first beer or sneaking into an R-rated movie. The sort of wholesome transgression that's expected and actually kind of healthy.

Well, that only runs for one minute and forty-five seconds. Then the sick stuff starts. And your first guess is wrong. Way wrong. And no matter how bad you think it's going to get, that unholy sunrise is worse than anything you thought you were going to see walking into this show.

The video is Not Safe For Work (NSFW) and Not Safe For Just-Before-Bedtime Viewing (NSFJBBV?). Thus warned, check it out on Youtube. If you like the music, check out DyE's Facebook page or just pick up a copy of Taki 183 at Tigersushi.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Marvel Feature 4 review on Black Gate

Continuing with my Red Sonja reviews, I've posted my comments about Marvel Feature 4 on Black Gate today.

Friday, November 9, 2012

One-Minute Weird Tales: Chainsaw

Four years back, Weird Tales began an experiment in short story presentation. Writers were asked to submit stories of approximately one-hundred words. These stories would be presented in short, one-minute videos, one text block at a time, with an appropriate soundtrack in the background. The results were a collection of sometimes funny, sometimes creepy micro-stories. It’s been over a year since the last of these One Minute Weird Tales was presented, but they’re all still available to view online.

The series began with “Chainsaw,” a list of chores written by J.M. McDermott. Your first guess about the plot is wrong, in that this is no tired re-telling about a mass-murdering maniac. There are clues scattered throughout and a sense of mystery is built in a matter of seconds. The final reveal comes in the fact that “Chainsaw” is not the real title of the story.

J.M. McDermott does a wonderful job of revealing plot and character in a very limited format. This was the video that Weird Tales used as an example for curious writers trying to get an idea of what they wanted in future submissions. So this is, in many ways, the seed from which all the future stories were grown.

You can check out the video and learn more about the series at Weird Tales. If you want to read more of McDermott’s work, you can check out his web site, blog and Amazon page.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Marvel Feature 3 review on Black Gate

I posted my review of Marvel Feature 3 on Black Gate yesterday. As always, let me know what you think.

Friday, November 2, 2012


So that’s it: the entire Fewdio catalog.

Moving forward, I can’t rationally commit to a daily blog posting; but I do plan to post a short film review at least once a week. There’s a lot of short films being made available online (such as the work of Fewdio alumnist Drew Daywalt and his channel, Daywalt Fear Factory). A brief search of Youtube for short horror films yielded seventy-five videos, currently stored in my Watch Later queue. As I go through them, I’ll put together brief reviews to be posted on a quasi-regular basis. There’s a lot of work out there that’s deserving of a greater audience and I’ll just do my little part to draw your attention to these hidden gems.

Thanks for following these reviews and make sure to check back regularly.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

FEWDIO Horror: The Tap

And to wrap up the Fewdio reviews, I found an extra film on the Fewdio site that isn’t on Youtube. My guess is that it has to do with the nude scenes sprinkled throughout, even though the Fewdio site version blurs it all out. I suppose I could write a post or two about why so many people feel perfectly comfortable showing scenes of graphic violence, but not nudity (not even sex, just nudity).

As a long-time fan of William S. Burroughs, I appreciated this story about a young man who stumbles on a new high with a terrible price. Frankly, I don’t know why the producers even placed the nudity in this film, since it doesn’t really add anything to the story. There’s a nice Naked Lunch moment (“a frozen moment when everyone sees what is on the end of every fork”) and we know enough about the main character to understand his reluctance to try the Tap. But in the end, it’s another predictable reversal of fortune.

As always, you can check it out on Fewdio. And if you want to support the people who make these films, consider picking up the DVD collection, Nightmare House.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

"Wet Dog Perfume" in Tales To Terrify, Volume 1

A few months back, "Wet Dog Perfume" was performed in a podcast for Tales to Terrify. Today, it appears in print once again in Tales to Terrify, Volume 1. You can read a great introduction to both the podcast and the book here.

If you need a little more convincing, check out the table of contents:
"Jumbo Portions" by Christopher Fowler
"Wet Dog Perfume" by Michael Penkas (hey, that's me)
"Seen Through Flame" by Gary McMahon
"Just Around the Corner" by Alexei Collier
"In A Country Churchyard" by Bev Vincent
"God of the Razor" by Joe R. Lansdale
"Bread and Circuses" by Felicity Dowker
"Chair" by Martin Mundt
"Grandmother’s Road Trip" by Cat Rambo
"In The Dust" by Tim Lebbon
"The Last Few Days in a Life of Frost" by Joe Pulver
"Green Apples, Red Nails" by John Everson
"Just a Suggestion" by John Shirley
"Working for the God of the Love of Money" by Kaaron Warren
"Rat Time in the Hall of Pain" by Lawrence Santoro
"The Short Go: A Future in Eight Seconds" by Lisa L. Hannett
"The Goosle" by Margo Lanagan
"Lost and Found" by Mark Morris
"An Eye for an Eye" by Nancy Kilpatrick
"All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Piggy Class" by Nicole Cushing
"Big Rock Candy Mountain" by Weston Ochse
"Bluebeard" by Angela Slatter
"The Tree is My Hat" by Gene Wolfe

You can order it in hardcoverpaperback or a variety of e-book formats.

"What Everybody Sees" in Queer Fish, Volume 2

Pink Narcissus Press has just released the second volume in their gay fiction series, Queer Fish. My contribution, "What Everybody Sees," focuses on a gay man in his sixties, contemplating lost love and the changing face of gay culture. It's about missed opportunities and how sometimes we hide secrets from ourselves better than we can hide them from anyone else. Fair warning, it's mostly guys talking to eachother in a coffee shop and there's nothing near as steamy in it as the PG-13 cover would suggest.

You can order a copy directly from Pink Narcissus or from Amazon. Either way, it's $14.95. If you like it, check out some of the other books in the publisher's catalog and go to their Facebook page. And, as always, let me know what you think.

FEWDIO Horror: Road Rage

And we wrap up October with “Road Rage”, a film that’s not very scary, but still close to my heart after years of maneuvering through the traffic labyrinths of Chicago. A woman vents her rage at all the passing motorists around her until one of them decides to take it personally. It’s basically “Duel” condensed to nine minutes with a clever trick ending. One of those films where everything goes wrong at the worst possible time.

Despite the rage this woman expresses to passing motorists, we get enough information to see that she’s basically a good person who can’t handle stress well. That said, she makes a pretty stupid move near the film’s end.

You can check it out on Youtube. And if you want to support the people who make these films, consider picking up the DVD collection, Nightmare House.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Marvel Feature 2 review on Black Gate

You can check out the latest in my Red Sonja review series here. As always, let me know what you think.

FEWDIO Horror: Neighbors

The weird part about this one is that I’ve grown so accustomed to the roles being reversed that I suspected the real killer before I even realized I was supposed to be misdirected. This one’s more funny than scary.

You can check it out on Youtube. And if you want to support the people who make these films, consider picking up the DVD collection, Nightmare House.

Monday, October 29, 2012

FEWDIO Horror: Firsts

A young woman is considering losing her virginity while being harassed by an overbearing aunt. The ending isn’t terribly surprising, as this is basically the generic slasher movie formula condensed down to five minutes.

The aunt was a bit one-dimensional and the niece only developed a bit more than her. The final line is a nice play on words; but you’ve probably heard it elsewhere.

You can check it out on Youtube. And if you want to support the people who make these films, consider picking up the DVD collection, Nightmare House.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

FEWDIO Horror: Next

Ah, Chatroulette … a website that’s tailor-made to be a horror movie plot device. A lonely guy is running through the usual cast of bored Internet surfers until he comes across someone creepy. He doesn’t like what comes next.

After the trend towards more character-driven pieces, this one feels like a bit of a step backward. There’s nothing too surprising in it; but it’s less than two minutes long, so it’s not like it has time to drag either. Nice creepy guy make-up.

You can check it out on Youtube. And if you want to support the people who make these films, consider picking up the DVD collection, Nightmare House.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

FEWDIO Horror: O.C.D.

Once again, Fewdio produces a film with more character development in six minutes than many feature length films put into ninety. A couple meets on the Internet and it’s not until they meet face to face that it’s revealed one them has obsessive compulsive disorder. Like “The Feed”, this could have been a quirky little romance, but it went the horror route instead.

A woman has a number of strange compulsions and her date tries to convince her that nothing bad will happen if she stops doing them. Guess what? This is another film where the fairly predictable ending is saved by genuinely endearing characters.

You can check it out on Youtube. And if you want to support the people who make these films, consider picking up the DVD collection, Nightmare House.

Friday, October 26, 2012

FEWDIO Horror: Baby Sounds

Here’s a rare one where the background information is essential to making the story work. A woman is trying to become pregnant and having no luck. She spends the evening researching fertility clinics when she hears a baby crying. She follows the sound to find something unexpected.

Without the first minute spent setting up this woman’s desire to have a baby, all we would have is someone investigating a strange noise. By establishing this desire, we can understand the hope that accompanies her curiosity. She’s not just the person who happens to hear the sound. It calls to her for a reason. In fact, it’s the deep character work that saves what would otherwise be a mediocre ending.

You can check it out on Youtube. And if you want to support the people who make these films, consider picking up the DVD collection, Nightmare House.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

FEWDIO Horror: A Helping Hand

A young woman calls her boyfriend to complain about her invalid mother. I’m not one who demands total veracity in my ghost stories. Fine, it’s horror and sometimes people do stupid things in horror movies. But as you watch this one, ask yourself, Would you say this sort of thing if you knew it was being recorded?

Otherwise, nice character work. We learn quite a lot about the young woman from her dialogue and her delivery. But the scare at the end didn’t really have any sort of irony to it and I was really hoping for more of a “punishment fitting the crime” resolution.

You can check it out on Youtube. And if you want to support the people who make these films, consider picking up the DVD collection, Nightmare House.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

FEWDIO Horror: Five Minutes Earlier

This one is subtly brilliant at two and half minutes. A woman wakes up at 3:15 to a knock at her door. She investigates. Not a word is spoken.

What’s brilliant is that the film opens with loud screaming hints of what’s happened to this woman. We know her life is about to become hell. The rest of the film takes place as a flashback five minutes earlier. The rest of the film can be quiet because we know what’s coming. And because the rest of the film is quiet, we don’t get that jolt release at the end, just a mounting tension that doesn’t dissipate as the credits roll. One of the best Fewdio films I’ve seen so far and a prime example of how limiting the time frame can be a strength.

You can check it out on Youtube. And if you want to support the people who make these films, consider picking up the DVD collection, Nightmare House.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Marvel Feature 1 review on Black Gate

My overview on the origin of Red Sonja, that ran for the last three weeks on Black Gate, leads to issue-by-issue reviews of her comic appearances. The review of her appearance in Marvel Feature 1 is now posted on Black Gate. It's a slight issue that yields a slight review, but I'm having a lot of fun going through this series. As always, let me know what you think.

FEWDIO Horror: The Prey

Horror has a strong tradition of the hunter becoming the hunted. It’s to the point where a “twist” ending would be if the roles AREN’T reversed by the story’s end. So when “The Prey” begins with three gangsters planning to rob a handicapped man, it’s fairly obvious where this is going.

At six minutes, we get enough information about the gangsters to tell that one is a wannabe and two have done this sort of thing before. There is a nice little touch at the end with the pawn shop, but all things considered, this is one of the weaker entries in the series. Strong characters, but a weak plot.

You can check it out on Youtube or Fewdio. And if you want to support the people who make these films, consider picking up the DVD collection, Nightmare House.

Monday, October 22, 2012

FEWDIO Horror: Shadow Puppet

Another funny one at ninety seconds. A man decides to amuse his dog with some shadow puppets. The dog is more scared than amused and his owner discovers the reason just a few seconds too late.

Just to re-assure anyone watching, nothing happens to the dog. It’s funny how people are about horror movies and dogs. Any terrible thing can happen to the human cast, but if the dog doesn’t make it to the end, the audience is in tears and writing angry letters to the studio.

Not many horror movies can end with a banjo tune, but this one pulls it off.

You can check it out on Youtube. And if you want to support the people who make these films, consider picking up the DVD collection, Nightmare House.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

FEWDIO Horror: The Feed

This could have been a love story. This could have been a surreal love story. This could have been a supernatural love story. This could have been some quirky romantic love story. A man’s television is receiving the security camera feed from the lobby of an unknown apartment building. He spends his free time alternately looking for the building and watching the mysterious woman who is forever waiting in the lobby.

Had this been handled differently, the man in this film would have been nothing but a creepy stalker; but there is something innocent about watching a mysterious video feed that he has no control over. He’s curious about the video first, then the woman. I knew better than to expect a happy ending from Fewdio, but the story was rendered well enough that I would have forgiven a happy ending this one time.

The ending we get is a bit of a surprise, although it’s pretty clear something bad is going to happen when he finally finds the lobby he’s been watching. And while I generally like how these films don’t bog us down in exposition, this time the ending seems to really come from left field. You won’t expect this ending simply because nothing leading up to it suggests what’s going to happen.

So, strong characters, compelling storyline, but an unsatisfying ending.

You can check it out on Youtube or Fewdio. And if you want to support the people who make these films, consider picking up the DVD collection, Nightmare House.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

FEWDIO Horror: Conviction

What makes us believe in an afterlife? Is it knowledge? Faith? Or desperation? This five-minute film explores the idea just a little with an atheist explaining her viewpoint of oblivion as reward.

Unlike some of the earlier Fewdio works, the dialogue is meant to be more than filler here. It really does outline some of H.P. Lovecraft’s own ideas about religion and the afterlife. Of course, Lovecraft also had some ideas about the things that lurked in those philosophic realms.

Stay tuned through the credits for this one, as one final ironic piece of dialogue answers the question for one character.

You can check it out on Youtube or Fewdio. And if you want to support the people who make these films, consider picking up the DVD collection, Nightmare House.

Friday, October 19, 2012

FEWDIO Horror: The Collector

This one’s a bit more graphic than your average Fewdio video as it follows an evening in the life of a serial rapist. As with most of these stories, things are not as they first appear and the collection is something far stranger (and larger) than what you at first expect.

I wasn’t surprised by the general ending, but the specifics of the “collection” was a welcome surprise. As usual, we don’t get bogged down in a lot of boring explanations. The film gives us just enough information to follow the story and nothing more.

You can check it out on Youtube or Fewdio. And if you want to support the people who make these films, consider picking up the DVD collection, Nightmare House.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

FEWDIO Horror: Ninja Clown Monster

Clowns are creepy. Dolls are creepy. A clown doll that moves whenever you aren’t looking at it is going to be creepy. This one is a minute long and doesn’t waste time with dialogue or background. The post-credit scene is either creepy or silly, depending on your feelings about clowns.

You can check it out on Youtube. And if you want to support the people who make these films, consider picking up the DVD collection, Nightmare House.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

FEWDIO Horror: Marie

One of the longest of the Fewdio videos, but it doesn’t drag at all. A hit man is left with a mystery about his latest victim. The mystery insists on being solved.

The set up of this video is straightforward enough that I had no trouble believing that a hit man would investigate his victim’s dying word. It also left me guessing right up to when I saw Marie, at which point it was kind of obvious where the story was heading. The finale was predictable, but the build-up was well-paced.

You can check it out on Youtube or Fewdio. And if you want to support the people who make these films, consider picking up the DVD collection, Nightmare House.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

In Defense of Red Sonja, Part III

I've posted the final part of my three-part overview on the origin of Red Sonja on Black Gate. As always, let me know what you think.

FEWDIO Horror: Dinner Date

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I’m usually not a big fan of erotic horror. Nothing prudish. I just find most of it to be poorly-produced rape fantasy. But occasionally, someone presents a story about how horrifying our intimate fantasies can become.

This one’s based (very loosely) on a true story about a couple that meets on the Internet and agree to consummate their unorthodox fantasy. It’s a nice slow reveal where the dialogue suggests one thing, while the visuals reveal something far different. The reveal is appropriately graphic, while the final image is chillingly subtle.

You can check it out on Youtube . And if you want to support the people who make these films, consider picking up the DVD collection, Nightmare House.

Monday, October 15, 2012

FEWDIO Horror: Curse

Basically, five minutes of dialogue followed by one minute of suspense. A man with a briefcase hires a contract killer for an unusual assignment. The target and the payment leave us with more questions than answers. I found the religious background to be unnecessary and, even at six and a half minutes, this one could probably have been trimmed in half. If he’d started with naming the target and had a briefer dialogue, this could have been a much tighter film.

Best detail was the unique handcuff on the briefcase.

You can check it out on Youtube or Fewdio. And if you want to support the people who make these films, consider picking up the DVD collection, Nightmare House.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

FEWDIO Horror: The Tale of Haunted Mike

This one makes up for yesterday’s disappointing “Scare!” More than makes up for it. A wonderfully rare blend of humor and horror (which is a much more difficult trick than you’d think). How can I not love a character named “Haunted Mike”? The story involves our title character running an online auction site specializing in “haunted” items. Of course, it’s quickly revealed that Mike just makes up all the spooky histories of his mundane collection. A jaded profiteer who makes his living by exploiting believers in the supernatural … we all know how those guys end up in horror movies.

The real McCoy haunted item is just perfect, the sort of thing that would creep most people out even if there was no grisly back-story. Of course, the question at the end of the film is whether something is playing off Mike’s lies or he in fact has some subconscious psychic gift that he discounts as merely imagination. The last scene is great simply because the jump-scare we expect is exactly the opposite of the one we get.

You can check it out on Youtube or Fewdio. And if you want to support the people who make these films, consider picking up the DVD collection, Nightmare House.

Saturday, October 13, 2012


They can’t all be gems. After almost two weeks, I ran across the first disappointing film in the Fewdio series. Two pranksters watch a joke backfire with horribly bloody results. This one feels like the intro scene to a feature film with a gimmick killer. The “real life” part of the premise is an interesting start, but it seems like no one really knew where to go with it beyond killer scarecrow. Hopefully, tomorrow’s short makes up for it.

You can check it out on Youtube. And if you want to support the people who make these films, consider picking up the DVD collection, Nightmare House.

Friday, October 12, 2012

FEWDIO Horror: The Cellar

It’s kind of interesting to see one of these films put together with multiple scenes. The plot develops with two guys investigating a man living in a cellar, followed by their discovery of his true identity, followed by their fleeing the scene. I’ve often wondered why more characters don’t just run when the weird stuff starts and this one provides a believable motive for fleeing, as well as a believable motive for exploring the house further.

The make-up effects in this one are top-notch, but so far the Fewdio films have impressed with their ability to tell stories without showing very much of the scary stuff. Here, the blatant shock scenes aren’t frightening so much as interesting to look at. This one feels more like a mainstream film than the ones preceding it and might not be to your taste. That said, the last line of dialogue is wonderfully creepy.

You can check it out on Youtube. And if you want to support the people who make these films, consider picking up the DVD collection, Nightmare House.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

FEWDIO Horror: Vargel Geroth, Monster from Hell

After the last two character-driven films exploring guilt and madness, Fewdio manages to surprise us with something that’s actually funny. We’re tipped off during the title credits when the book of incantations is none other than the Necronomicon ex Mortis (from the Evil Dead films). A wonderful ninety second piece. The eponymous Monster from Hell puts in a wonderful performance, despite having no lines and a mask that obscures all facial expression (it’s all in the body posture).

You can check it out on Youtube. And if you want to support the people who make these films, consider picking up the DVD collection, Nightmare House.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

FEWDIO Horror: Cleansed

This one is set some time after a brutal murder has been committed and the police investigation is finished. We follow the activities of a crime scene clean-up specialist whose job is to remove the grisly traces of the crime from the home. Obviously, some traces are easier to remove than others.

Cleansed is over ten minutes long, a rarity for Fewdio. Does it drag? Not really. The film is mostly silent, letting the condition of the house tell the story. We can figure out what’s happened from a wall of photographs and which two rooms are covered in blood. Even the cleaner’s dialogue in the beginning, which at first comes off as needless character exploration, provides a vital clue to what is happening. My favorite detail in this one is the dead woman’s ankles.

You can check it out on Youtube or Fewdio. And if you want to support the people who make these films, consider picking up the DVD collection, Nightmare House.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

In Defense of Red Sonja, Part II

I've posted the second part of my three-part overview on the origin of Red Sonja at Black Gate. I got some nice responses to the first part. Check out the second part and let me know what you think.

FEWDIO Horror: Smoke

So far, this is my favorite of the Fewdio films. A wordless tribute to Edgar Allen Poe’s classic, “The Telltale Heart.” In four and a half minutes, you know everything you need to know about this nameless man, what he’s done and how he feels about it. You can see his dilemma and understand why he takes the actions that he takes. One of my favorite details is the collection of photographs pasted on his bathroom wall.

It’s a wonderful example of how a brutal story doesn’t have to be graphic. A bit of visual poetry that I imagine Poe himself would appreciate.

You can check it out on Youtube or Fewdio. And if you want to support the people who make these films, consider picking up the DVD collection, Nightmare House.

Monday, October 8, 2012

FEWDIO Horror: Mockingbird

And we snap back to the tight-format filmmaking. In ninety seconds, you know everyone in the story and what’s happening. There’s a plot twist, a creepy line of dialogue and then black out to credits. We know what happens without having to see gory effects and we don’t need to know why it happened for it to horrify us. Nicely done.

This was actually the first Fewdio film I saw, following a link posted by one of my friends on Facebook. You can check it out on Youtube. And if you want to support the people who make these films, consider picking up the DVD collection, Nightmare House.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

FEWDIO Horror: Breach

I’m not sure why this one is subtitled, “Wes Craven Exclusive Terror Short!” There’s nothing in the credits to indicate that he had anything to do with the making of this film.

A home security system keeps indicating that there is a breach, but the home’s occupant can’t see any intruder. He goes outside to explore. Eventually, there’s a jump-scare and the film ends.

Honestly, this one feels like a step backwards as the filmmaker takes twice as long to build suspense as was needed just three or four films ago. After five minutes of build-up, the pay-off is actually more laughable than shocking. Not much of a Wes Craven tribute; but a pretty good use of the suspense tactics used in John Carpenter’s Halloween. The acting and directing are solid, but this one needed more of a script to justify the time.

You can check it out on Youtube or Fewdio. And if you want to support the people who make these films, consider picking up the DVD collection, Nightmare House.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

FEWDIO Horror: Door 17

Honestly, I’m usually not a fan of erotic horror. Most of it is just rape fantasy. Maybe it’s a monster committing the rape. Maybe it’s a rape-and-revenge. Maybe it’s nothing but last year’s news with the names changed.

While Door 17 easily fits the category of erotic horror, the easy scare of depicting a sexual assault is avoided. A man visits a peep show and begins to negotiate with the performer about how much he gets to see. Since it’s a Fewdio film, he obviously gets far more than he paid for.

The finale was a nice twist ending with only one reservation. Personally, I would have found the video more disturbing if the supernatural element had been removed. It is, unfortunately, completely believable that people would do this sort of thing to one another and enjoy it.

You can check it out on Youtube. And if you want to support the people who make these films, consider picking up the DVD collection, Nightmare House.

Friday, October 5, 2012

FEWDIO Horror: Anniversary

Inevitably, as the films go on, they start to get longer. The characters aren’t quite so generic. The shock-scare or twist ending isn’t enough for the creators. They’ve learned the basic riffs of horror and want to tell more complex stories.

To be sure, six minutes is still a brief time to establish characters, background and escalation; but “Anniversary” is still twice as long as the longest episode to precede it. Arguably, some of the first minute or two (where our heroine is getting ready for her anniversary date) might have been trimmed; but there’s still that slow build. You can tell that something horrible is going to happen; but your first two guesses are likely going to be wrong. It’s a surprise ending that reveals character. And the image of her walking towards the tree at the four-minute mark conveyed character just in the way her back was bent and her feet were clomping on the ground.

You can check it out on Youtube or Fewdio. And if you want to support the people who make these films, consider picking up the DVD collection, Nightmare House.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

FEWDIO Horror: The Laundromat

Honestly, if you watch this one first, you probably wouldn’t even get it. The Fewdio videos don’t actually have a continuity. It’s not like characters from one video appear in another. But there is a sort of mood that gets set from watching a string of them in a row.

And that’s why "Laundromat" works better if you’ve watched the earlier episodes before it. The suspense from these episodes comes partially from the fact that we know we’re watching a horror film, so we expect bad things to happen. This one has one of those surprise (not jump-scare, but one-eighty turn) endings that peek through from time to time. The look on Tom Proctor’s face in the final shot is just perfect.

You can check it out on Youtube. And if you want to support the people who make these films, consider picking up the DVD collection, Nightmare House.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

FEWDIO Horror: Viral

This one actually has a bit more plot than the earlier ones; but it’s still sparse enough that it doesn’t get in the way of scaring you. Really, one after the next, the Fewdio videos are just great object lessons in how to present just enough plot to get the story moving without bogging us down in background trivia.

There’s a photograph of a killer called Albert the Carnivore. How many people did he kill? What did he say at his trial? What city did he live in? What are the names of the two men talking about him? It doesn’t matter. You get all the information you need to follow along. As with a lot of the Fewdio films, the title gives a clue to what’s going on.

You can check it out on Youtube or Fewdio. And if you want to support the people who make these films, consider picking up the DVD collection, Nightmare House.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

In Defense of Red Sonja, Part I

I've posted the first of a three-part overview on the origin of Red Sonja on Black Gate. Check it out and let me know what you think.

FEWDIO Horror: Bedfellows

Another quiet piece with a jolt-scare ending. Normally, I like the monsters to stay concealed, showing only enough of themselves to let you know that they’re there. But the face in this one is so primal that the story would actually be weaker if you didn’t see it. In fact, it’s the face that Drew Daywalt and Fewdio would use as a de facto logo in much of their marketing.

One of the things that makes these short films work better than many feature-length horror films is that their brevity prevents a lot of boring exposition. We don’t waste thirty minutes “getting to know the protagonists” before the good stuff starts. We also don’t listen to corny explanation tying the monster to Native American legend or pop psychology gobbledygook. These are the lousy ninety minute horror movies with the lousy eighty-eight minutes taken out, leaving only that first visceral scene the writer had in his head before he ruined it by putting a dull narrative around it.

You can check it out on Youtube. And if you want to support the people who make these films, consider picking up the DVD collection, Nightmare House.

Monday, October 1, 2012

FEWDIO Horror: Creep

So after posting a brief review of The Easter Bunny is Eating My Candy a little over a month back, I began going through the rest of the Fewdio film catalog. Frankly, there’s enough content to post a review every day for a month … so that’s what I’ll do. I’ll be celebrating Halloween this year by posting a quick review of one of their nightmare videos every day this month. Many of the videos are only two or three minutes long, so it might actually take you less time to just watch them then to read my explanation of why you should watch them.

With all that said, Creep is a nice introduction to the series. It’s all shadows and quiet conversation. The empty passenger seat and lights from passing cars are tricks that Val Lewton would have used in his films. And at two minutes, it gives just enough slow-burn suspense to make the pay-off worth it, without dragging on for too long.

You can check it out on Youtube or Fewdio. And if you want to support the people who make these films, consider picking up the DVD collection, Nightmare House.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Pet Shop of Horrors review on Black Gate

After taking a bit of time away from the Internet, I'm posting again. A review of Pet Shop Horrors, a wonderful anime series, can be found on Black Gate here. As always, check it out and let me know what you think.

Monday, August 27, 2012

The Easter Bunny is Eating My Candy

It's a two-minute film.  It's a joke where you get the punchline a minute before you see it.  Hell, you might even guess the punchline just by reading the title.

But what the Easter Bunny says to the little girl ... Jesus Christ.  This is an excellent creepy little film directed by Drew Daywalt and David Schneider.  You can watch it here and here.  You can find a lot more little nightmare videos from Fewdio here and Drew Daywalt has his own Youtube channel here.

Let me know what you think.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Helen Killer review on Black Gate

I just posted a review of the amazing Helen Killer mini-series (by Andrew Kreisberg and Matthew JLD Rice) on Black Gate.  Check it out here and let me know what you think.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Land of Laughs review on Black Gate

I posted a review of Jonathan Carroll's Land of Laughs on Black Gate.  It's one of my favorite books by one of my favorite authors.  If you check it out, let me know what you think.

Friday, July 20, 2012

"Wet Dog Perfume" on Tales To Terrify

This week's Tale To Terrify podcast starts off with a story of mine, "Wet Dog Perfume".  Check it out and let me know what you think.  Scott Couchman puts in a wonderful performance.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Mage II review on Black Gate

I posted my review of Mage: The Hero Defined today on Black Gate.  Check it out and let me know what you think.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Corn Productions 20th Anniversary Show

Corn Productions (located on 4210 N. Lincoln, here in Chicago) is putting on a comedy show featuring sketches from their twenty-year history.  It's hosted by the drag mother/daughter team of Tiff & Mom.  Long-time Corn fans will know that these two can talk about the weather and make it funny (and, probably, offensive).

One of the sketches that's been hand-picked from the Corn vault is a piece I wrote for the Seven Deadly Sins show five years back.  It kind of threw me to realize that it's already been five years since that show ran, as well as to realize that the sketch was well-received enough to warrant a revival.

The show runs Saturdays, starting July 14 and going through August 18.  You can learn more about the show at the Corn Productions website.  As always, if you check it out, let me know what you think.

Friday, July 6, 2012

House of Black Wings review on Black Gate

I posted a review of House of Black Wings on Black Gate today.  It's a great independent horror movie filmed right here in Chicago.  If you see it, let me know what you think.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Shadow Swans by Laura Thomas

OK, so odd couple stories are nothing new.  Holmes & Watson.  Oscar & Felix.  Burt & Ernie.  Mulder & Scully.  Gilgamesh & Enkidu (look it up).  There's something that resonates in these sorts of pairings, the idea that we often need to cooperate with people who are seemingly our polar opposites in order to discover new aspects of ourselves.  So on the surface, the tale of independently wealthy Ruby Cooper befriending homeless Credenza R doesn't seem like anything new.

But the best pairings of this sort occur when both members are odd, extreme in opposite directions.  Laura Thomas wisely casts Ruby not as a worldly-wise everywoman, but rather as a Howard Hughes-ian style recluse who spends her spare time in an otherwise abandoned building crafting hummingbirds from garbage.  It is, therefore, completely plausible that she would befriend a homeless woman.  Likewise, Credenza isn't some naïve runaway living off the streets, but a clever survivor belonging to a homeless community just as valid and complex as any society to which the average reader might relate.  While both women struggle with their own unique problems, we are never presented with a platitude about how one or the other lifestyle is the "right" way to live.

The story begins with a chance encounter between Ruby and Credenza on a subway platform.  Credenza has never left the tunnels beneath the New York subway system, due to a severe allergy to sunlight (which may or may not be psychosomatic), and so employs Ruby to make shopping trips for her.  After several such trips, Ruby finally dares to follow her friend back to a vast community of homeless people who live far beneath one of the wealthiest cities on Earth.  Perhaps inspired by Ruby's daring, Credenza finally works up the courage to take on a journey of her own.  However, her journey doesn't take her to the surface (as most readers might predict), but rather further into the tunnel systems, into a secret network of shelters whose ultimate purpose is disturbing to both women.

It's probably inaccurate to classify Credenza and the other subterraneans as homeless, since we see repeatedly that they have not only manufactured shelters with lighting and plumbing; but that their community has its own laws and means of enforcing them.  Each of the characters introduced has his or her own backstory and it would be easy to imagine Laura Thomas returning to this setting to tell further tales of Ben, Ghostface & Ali or Leopold the conspiracy nut.  The community she describes is based off the real-life communities existing beneath New York (which don't officially exist).

As a whole, I enjoyed this book, although there were elements which seemed to ring false (Ruby Cooper is a twenty-two year-old millionaire social network designer who shows no interest in computers or social networking).  The second half of the story presents an adventure setting normally reserved for post-apocalyptic fiction, but which is likely to actually exist in one form or another beneath the streets we walk.  This is the first novel by Laura Thomas and I will certainly be watching for future work by this promising new author.

You can order a copy of the book here and here or a copy of the e-book here and here.  You can also go the Shadow Swans website to learn more about the book and its author.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Courtney Crumrin and the Night Things review on Black Gate

Just posted my review of Courtney Crumrin and the Night Things by Ted Naifeh on Black Gate. It's recently been re-released as a deluxe hardcover and I'm hoping Ted Naifeh makes a lot of money off this amazing series of comics.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Burnham Society review on Black Gate

My review of The Burnham Society, a podcast series hosted by Made of Fail Productions, went up on Black Gate today. Check out the review and let me know what you think. Or forget what I have to say about it and just go to The Burnham Society home page.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Mage review on Black Gate

My review of Mage: The Hero Discovered went up on Black Gate a few days ago. Check it out and let me know what you think.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Her Words Make It Go Away in One Buck Horror, Volume Five

Volume five of One Buck Horror is finally available and it leads with one of my stories, "Her Words Make It Go Away".  There's also stories by Brendan Detzner (author of "Scarce Resources", a fine collection of stories that I reviewed on this blog last year), Genevieve Rose Taylor (author of the e-book, "Prince of Kriti"), Grá Linnaea (check out a list of everything he's published here), Michael A. Pignatella (who received an honorable mention for his story, "Remember the Face of Your Son") and Richard Thomas (author of "Transubstantiate" and over fifty published stories).

If you want to read a section of my story, you can go to the Amazon page and Click to LOOK INSIDE.  If you want to find out more about the book, go the One Buck Horror page.  As always, if you pick up a copy, let me know what you think.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Parlour Party in Midnight Echo 7

The Australian Horror Writers Association has released issue 7 of their official magazine, Midnight Echo, today.   It's "The Taboo Issue" and one of my stories, "Parlour Party" is included among the taboos.  This is another of my bloodless horror stories, something that attempts to disturb without graphic depictions of sex or violence.

The issue also features fiction by Shaun Hamilton, Anthony Ferguson, Gary Kemble, Rick McQuiston, Kia Groom, G. N. Braun, Eric Blair, A.J Brown, Jack Skelter, Ed Higgins, Ron Jon, Lee Battersby, Tom McLaughlin, Andrew J. McKiernan and Graham Masterton.  There's poetry by Michelle Scalise, Kurt Newton and Bec Mirr; art by Greg Hughes, Jason Paulos and Joshua Hoffine and a comic by Mark Farrugia and Greg Chapman.  There's also interviews with Graham Masterton, Joe R. Lansdale and Joshua Hoffine.  That's one-hundred and thirty pages for $1.99.

For those who are curious, I've got several more stories scheduled to appear in various magazines and podcasts in the coming months.  I've been working on lots of new stuff in the meanwhile as well.  I've also started working as the Assistant Website Editor for Black Gate, an amazing resource for anyone looking for information on the fantasy genre.  In between all of that, I'm honestly going to try updating this blog with a bit more frequency.  So stay tuned.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Return of the Zombie ... Returns

Last week, The Bathroom Readers' Institute released the latest volume in the Uncle John's Bathroom Reader series. Flush Fiction contains eighty-eight stories, each long enough to be read in one sitting (ahem). One of them is "Return of the Zombie", a piece I wrote a few years ago as a sort of homage to the old ads you'd find in the back of comic books (X-Ray Specs, Sea Monkeys, Charles Atlas, etc.). It should be available through most major chain bookstores. You can also order it through the Bathroom Reader website or Amazon. If you pick up a copy, let me know what you think.

Monday, February 20, 2012

My Opinions on the Before Watchmen project

On February 1, DC Comics announced that they will be releasing a prequel to the classic Watchmen series this Summer. Titled Before Watchmen, the prequel is actually a banner under which seven mini-series and a one-shot issue will be published. Silk Spectre, Rorschach, the Comedian, Ozymandias, Nite Owl, Dr. Manhattan and the Minutemen will each get their own mini-series, with an epilogue one-shot apparently tying them all together. But you probably already know all that, because you've read it online just like I did and you've probably encountered some of the commentary already going around about it.

There's little surprise that Alan Moore is not in favor of this project. What has been surprising (to me, at least) is the backlash against him from both fans and professionals. The key arguments I've seen in post after post are that 1) DC has every legal right to publish whatever Watchmen derivatives they want because they own the characters; 2) Alan Moore has no right to criticize this project since he's written plenty of stories using other people's creations; 3) the Watchmen characters themselves are thinly-veiled rip-offs of other people's creations and 4) it's hardly fair for anyone to judge the work before it's even been published. Basically, Alan Moore is a hypocrite and anyone who has a problem with Before Watchmen is making a big deal out of nothing.

I don't believe Alan Moore is a hypocrite. I do believe that sick feeling I get from this project is justified. I'm coming out of Internet solitude to post an opinion piece on my blog (which I rarely do) because this news speaks to something important in my own life and work. Bear with me.


Yes. They own the rights. Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons signed a contract all those years ago giving DC ownership of the story and characters. Both men had been in the business long enough to understand what they were signing.

But in 1985, what were the options available for comics professionals? There were a handful of creator-owned publications; but it was nowhere near as common then as it is today. There were publishers who allowed creators to retain ownership of their work; but they were small press, offering very little money and poor distribution (at least, poor when compared to Marvel and DC). Things like royalties and creator ownership were still fairly radical ideas for the Big Two. Remember that this was around the time when Jack Kirby was asking for the return of his original artwork. Basically, if you wanted your work to reach a good number of readers and get paid halfway decently, then you were signing over the rights to your work.

The argument circles back to, yes, but they signed a contract. DC isn't breaking any laws by publishing further work using Alan Moore's creations. I don't believe that anyone (even Moore himself) is suggesting that DC is violating the law by producing these books. However, saying that something is legal is not the same as saying that it is a good idea.

Given the current state of comics publishing, how many creators would invest the time and effort that went into a book like Watchmen, only to sign over all rights to the publisher? The fact is that most would sooner market their books to Image, Dark Horse or any of the other presses out there that can offer wide distribution and decent payment without demanding sole ownership. Basically, a situation like Watchmen is just less likely to happen today.

Which isn't to say that DC should nullify an old contract to represent current business practices. However, this contract just looks strange by 2012 standards. It's a disturbing reminder of what constituted business-as-usual not so long ago in the industry. And there are still creative professionals who've lost rights that they never really had the option of retaining if they wanted to stay in this business.

My understanding of the contract is that, twelve months after Watchmen goes out of print, the rights revert to Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. This contract was signed at a point before the trade paperback boom, when every title was collected into more permanent (or at least longer lasting) editions. Did Moore foresee that his title would be collected into an edition that would be sold in bookstores around the world? Maybe. Did he imagine that it would still be in print a quarter-century later? No. What comic was kept in perpetual publication for a quarter of a century? It's almost like a variation of Mel Brooks' The Producers, getting screwed by success.

And with the film and now the prequel comics, does anyone still believe that DC Comics has any intention of ever turning the rights back over to Moore and Gibbons? What happens to all the spin-off products? Who owns the rights to those things? I'm sure part of his disgust with the film three years ago was the realization that it was the final nail in the rights ownership coffin. No way is he ever getting those back now.


And Swamp Thing. And Superman. And Batman. And Captain Britain. And Miracleman (Marvelman). He's worked on all manner of copyrighted characters that he did not originate. So how can he point fingers at anyone else who then uses characters that he created?

First, I don't know that Alan Moore has a problem personally with any of the artists or writers who signed on for Before Watchmen. I've certainly seen nothing to that effect. His argument seems more grounded in the idea that Watchmen was a complete story in and of itself. No prequels are needed and, in fact, are a bad idea.

As the original creator, he has every right to offer his opinion on this new interpretation of his work. I don't imagine he was storming press conferences in order to voice his opinion. He was approached. Someone approached him and asked for his opinion. He gave it.

And from what I've read, offering his opinion is all that he's doing. He's not launching a legal campaign to have this project halted. He's stating, as the original author, that he doesn't feel any further stories with the characters he created are a good idea. He's stating that some stories are better off being left alone.

Which brings us back to the argument that he's certainly written plenty of sequels and prequels and revisions for a veritable laundry list of characters. In the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, practically every single character in the series (down to the paperboys and scullery maids) is lifted from other people's work. Not to mention his first foray into American comics with Swamp Thing. Would he consider these books to also be bad ideas? Does he regret writing them?

First of all, regarding Swamp Thing, Superman and all the rest of copyrighted characters he wrote; this is the opposite end of the work-for-hire argument. Thirty years ago, you signed over your intellectual property to the publisher and, by the same token, thirty years ago, you worked with the signed-over intellectual property of others. Neither DC nor Marvel was going to gamble on a relatively unknown writer producing stories featuring unproven characters. You work with the Big Two and you're starting off with characters that have at least some sort of following. This is simply the business model that Alan Moore was presented when he came into the business. After a few years, he grew dissatisfied with it and left.

Did he know these characters were signed over to DC Comics by creators who no longer owned them? Yes he did. Did this seem like a problem? Maybe, but it was the system that everyone was working under and, when you're just starting out, it's hard to take a stand. Maybe there's a good reason that the business is run this way. And no one wants to start off in an industry with a reputation as a troublemaker. We don't start out with our ethical standards; we develop them over time and with experience. Eventually, he decided that the business model of signing over ownership rights to a publisher was wrong and he severed his ties with DC Comics.

Did he work with licensed characters after that point? Yes he did. But it was usually situations like the issue of Spawn he wrote. He was hired by the creator and owner of the character, Todd McFarlane, to write the story. In that case, the creator is not only giving you his blessing to work with his creation, he's actually paying you to do it.

Yes, but what about the League? None of those creators gave him the rights to use their creations. Most of them have been dead for decades. Doesn't working with those properties make him a hypocrite?

In theory, copyright laws are designed so that creators can be compensated adequately for their work. On the other hand, they also recognize that, eventually, these ideas become part of the public domain. Arthur Conan Doyle hopefully made decent money off his Sherlock Holmes stories. He deserved to make money off his Sherlock Holmes stories. He had every right to provide for his family in the event of his death by transferring the profits of his work to them. But at some point, Sherlock Holmes becomes more than the property of a single individual. It becomes a concept that belongs to the culture at large. Stephen Moffat takes the Sherlock Holmes concept, translates it into a new television series and now the unique ideas he adds to that concept belong to Moffat for a time, while the original Sherlock Holmes concept is still public domain.

Who's to say how long an idea belongs to a creator (and his heirs) before it becomes public domain? It's generally the lifetime of the creator plus a certain number of years following his or her death. With so many concepts belonging to corporations (which do not die), the laws are constantly being reviewed and revised.

Alan Moore is not taking money out of anyone's pocket by writing a story about the further adventures of Allan Quartermain, Mina Murray, Captain Nemo or Doctor Jekyll. Those characters have made their creators and their heirs all of the money they're going to make. He's taking characters in the public domain, owned by nobody, and creating his own interpretations of them. And, yes, this means that if I write a story about Mina Murray and Allan Quartermain traveling the world as secret agents of the British Empire, I've infringed on Alan Moore's copyright because I'm using his interpretation of public domain characters.


DC Comics had acquired the rights to a group of superhero characters originally published by Charlton Comics. Following the Crisis on Infinite Earths, they were looking for a way to introduce these newly-acquired properties into their own line of books. Alan Moore had suggested a series of radical revisions for the characters of Captain Atom, Blue Beetle, Nightshade, the Question, Peacemaker and Thunderbolt. While the editors liked his ideas, they were concerned that most of the characters would be rendered unusable (dead or retired) once Moore had finished writing them. It was suggested that he instead create analog characters for an original work.

So, Alan Moore created a storyline that was wholly original using pre-existing characters. When he was told that he wouldn't be able to use those pre-existing characters, he then created new characters. There are certainly similarities between them; but no more so than Superman is similar to Captain Marvel, the Shadow is similar to Batman, Flash Gordon is similar to Luke Skywalker or Conan the Barbarian is similar to Xena the Warrior Princess. The latter would certainly never have existed without the former; but in each case they are unique enough to qualify as being their own characters.

Alan Moore created these characters under the direction of DC Comics. They specifically asked him to create characters that were not properties that they already owned. They have worked from the premise that the characters in Watchmen are unique from the characters acquired from Charlton Comics. The Question, Captain Atom and Blue Beetle have all been featured in successful comic book series of their own that make no reference to the events in Watchmen. So, as far as DC Comics is concerned, these are original characters.

The real measure of whether a creation is truly original or simply a cheap knock-off, however, is how that creation is used. I doubt that anyone at Charlton Comics ever used their characters in a story like Watchmen. What Alan Moore did amounted to far more than a commentary on Charlton. It was a commentary on superheroes in general. He took all of the tropes, the secret identities and kid sidekicks and secret headquarters and fantastic gadgets and super powers, then created something both self-aware of its long history and completely fresh.

And if these characters are simply Charlton characters with the serial numbers rubbed off, then why not have a major event that gives those original versions their own mini-series? Why use Alan Moore's versions unless there's something he contributed that made them unique characters?


I doubt anyone is questioning the talent behind this project. J. Michael Straczynski, Brian Azzarello, Darwyn Cooke and Len Wein are among the best in the business. I'm sure each of them will produce stories that are well-written. Based on what I've read in interviews, they're making an effort to remain faithful to the source material. Likewise, the artists have all proven themselves in past work.

The judgment comes more from the fact that this project exists at all. It's not scheduled to tie in with the film and I'm not aware of any strong demand from fans to see this work. Was anyone writing to DC asking for more Watchmen stories?

The stated reason is to keep the characters fresh and relevant. Apparently, a story set in 1985 is not something that a modern comic book reader can identify as relevant. Yes, that's what superheroes meant back in the eighties; but how would they translate into the modern era? Fair enough, I suppose, except the new comics are actually prequels, with stories set as far back as 1940.

But perhaps it's not so much setting as creative input. Fresh perspectives on classic characters. Strange irony that the characters only exist because DC didn't want Alan Moore to bring his own fresh perspective on other characters.


So, wrapping it all up, I don't have a problem with DC, the creative talent behind this project or even the project itself. Not really. It's not something that I'm interested in picking up; but maybe there's a lot of people who can't wait to see what other creators have to add to a classic.

My concern is that Alan Moore is being demonized for objecting to how his work is being re-interpreted. He has every right to his opinion on the work and if people ask for it, there shouldn't be any complaining when he gives it. He feels that he was treated unfairly by DC Comics and he's free to express that opinion as well. Keep in mind that business practices in the comics industry have changed over the last quarter-century in part so that what happened to Moore and Gibbons doesn't happen to other creators.

And why do I care? If you've nosed around my blog at all, you know that I'm a writer as well. I'm still starting out, a dozen professional sales on my modest little resume of work. I look over every contract before I sign it and one of the things I always read carefully is what rights a publisher is specifically requesting. I have turned down publishers because they asked for permanent ownership of my work.

I grew up reading comics. When I was younger, I wanted to write comics. I began reading interviews with and columns written by some of my favorite writers in the medium. What I came across again and again was the terrible working conditions so many of them labored under. The horror stories were enough to keep me away from the medium.

So just because I'm nowhere near the talent of Alan Moore (or Dave Gibbons or Jack Kirby or Jerry Siegel or Joe Shuster or Bob Kane or Bill Finger), I can still end up regretting a contract that takes control of my work away from me. It's a good lesson to learn; but at a terrible cost to the men who taught it to me.

In the end, saying, "He shouldn't have signed the contract" is union-buster logic. If you don't like working here, then quit. Never mind that every other employer will also treat you unfairly. That's the way the game is played and if you don't like it, then it's your fault for getting in this line of work.

Not that anyone noticed; but a lot of young writers and artists took what happened to Alan Moore and so many other creators to heart when pursuing their creative dreams. They chose to explore other mediums and the industry is poorer for it.

And that, in three-thousand words or less, is how I feel about the new Before Watchmen project.

And that is why my girlfriend never asks me about comics.