Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Spring-Heeled Jack

Ah, England. The land of Shakespeare, the land of fish and chips, and the land of Spring-Heeled Jack…who I’m sure you’ve heard of. You know the guy. Black cloak, glowing red eyes, point ears, claws like iron, breathed fire?

Spring-Heeled Jack is one of those urban legends I don’t quite understand. Kind of like the Chupacrabra. I don’t get the Chupacabra. I don’t get Big Foot either, come to think of it.

He wasn’t a super-villain in some comic book, believe it or not. He was a supposedly real figure who terrorized small towns throughout the early 19th century, until he made his debut in London. That was when the stories really began to pick up. It became an almost weekly event for some sort of mention of him in one newspaper or another.

It’s believed that Spring-Heeled Jack could jump great heights, leaping in bounds over buildings with ease. Some witnesses described him as a cloaked man with springs in his boots. I suppose the idea was so convincing, Germany tried to implement the idea in WWII on their paratroopers. Unfortunately for them, the only results were badly broken ankles.

Spring-Heeled Jack’s favorite past-times were tearing women’s clothing, and slapping men on the face. Sometimes he’d even blind the occasional victim with his fire breath. He gave an original meaning to the term ‘Halitosis’, in that regard.

His most infamous sighting was in 1904, when he was spotted by over 100 witnesses in Liverpool. This was also the final time he would be seen in England for 70 years. Kind of sad when you think about it, as if everyone banded together to give their kinky bogey man a good send-off before retiring.

It's widely believed Spring-Heeled Jack was actually a young nobleman, the Marquess of Waterford, who didn't really get on well with police or women. He may very well have been the first Spring-Heeled Jack, having taken a bet with several friends. I suppose the bet was something along the lines of 'run about the city making an ass of yourself with slinkies in your shoes', or something along those lines. Regardless, sightings continued after the Marquess had married, and even after he died in 1859.

He would be spotted several more times in the 1970s and 80s, but the story had lost most of it’s punch. Or slap. Spring-Heeled Jack was a good example of an era monster, defined by the culture he originated from.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Vintage Comics - Ghost Comics: The Ghost Gallery 1 & 2 (Cover - Pg. 17)

Unsurprisingly in this comic, there was a running theme of ghosts in the stories. Maybe it had something to do with the title. Again I see a sort of awkward transition from radio stories to print, where the dialogue conveys what people or doing when it doesn't really need to. They also have a very pulp fiction feel to them, which is kind of funny if you think about it. Take your average gangster story, replace the detective with a ghost or snowman, and BOOM. You've got a horror comic. Despite that, there's still much less talking than I've seen on other less polished comics, and I can at least appreciate that they keep things interesting enough to turn the page. THAT, my friends, is the most important detail when it comes to a comic or a book.

Addendum: I also forgot to mention how good the artwork is. Definitely a cut above a lot of them. The lines are crisp, and the colors are superb. Top notch.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Book(s) of the Week: "The Blood Moon Trilogy"

The Blood Moon Trilogy
By Dawn Thompson

I suppose it’s technically cheating to put three books up for this week’s suggested reading, but I really do believe you have to read all three of these books to appreciate this absolutely brilliant story.

Perhaps it was the Dracula suggestion that reminded me of these. Often I struggle to find novels (modern ones) that are horror-related without a smattering of foul language and excessive sexy time. What I mean to say is that these books aren’t the average fare of your ‘dark romance’ or ‘best-selling horror’ shelves at Hastings or Walmart. The character development is there and most importantly, the atmosphere/tone/setting are all incredibly chilling.

Now I won’t lie and say there aren’t some sexy time bits, but they don’t dominate the story. The main character, Jon Hyde-White, is more focused on the fact that he’s about to be damned along with the woman he loves than he is on her creamy skin and pouty lips. A monster, a really nice old-fashioned Strigoi, has attacked both of them; it’s a race against the clock to pursue the monster back to Moldavia and cure themselves before it’s too late. There’s also an awesome gypsy vampire hunter who knows what they’re dealing with. One of my favorite aspects is that these books don’t abandon the classic elements of exactly what harms a vampire (holy water, crosses, sunlight.)

The second book follows the story after a sort of cure has been found for the couple, though it’s certainly not what you would expect. Their son now has to face the same monster, with a much different sort of challenge on his plate. He’s also in love, but again…there’s more to it than just the romance, it’s an epic adventure.

The third book explores the final portion of the story, with the gypsy vampire hunter the reader met (and probably fell in love with) from the first book. He’s actually a pretty consistent character throughout the trilogy, following the heroic cycle quite nicely as the mentor and advisor. So the fact that he gets his own battle and journey is incredibly satisfying.

I love Miss Thompson’s books, and her imagery is some of the most beautiful and haunting that I’ve read in a long time. Unfortunately she passed away in 2008, so there will never be another book set in this darker world she explored. What I can say is that she’s one of those ‘romance authors’ who really shows you that it’s not a sub-genre one should completely dismiss without exploring first. Her books are well worth the read.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Horror Flick of the Week: The Walking Dead (1936)

This is not a film about terror, nor will it strike fear into your heart. It is the sort of horror film that reaches deeper, because it is a tragedy. I picked this movie to highlight for the week, because I believe it is one of Karloff’s best performances.

I feel like with all the hundreds of pictures from this period, the title is almost misleading. Even the description can’t do it justice: John Ellman is wrongfully executed and brought back from the dead by a scientific experiment, and then pursues those who were responsible for his death.

BUT…it’s good that the description is misleading. It’s good that the true story isn’t revealed, at least not the ending. There’s more character in this movie than you would expect, and it is most certainly not the sort of film that deserves to be batched up in a 50-movie monster pack. So much is conveyed through the experiences of this good man, which builds into a wonderful piece.

At the end, you’re left with two questions: should one be brought back from death after having experienced it and when someone commits a truly despicable act, is he his own worst judge? I wish more people knew about this picture, because it truly deserves to be ranked among the top horror films of all time, if not films in general. I wish I had a copy of this so I could do the review justice with more screenshots, but hopefully this powerful clip will do.