by Dirk Manning
It's been several months since DC comics cancelled their long-running iconic horror comic series Hellblazer, and despite the comic's replacement with a much-more spandex-friendly title in Constantine, the fact of that matter is that numerous fans of the darker and more adult-themed stories the now-non-existent Hellblazer provided have been left with a hole in both their hearts and their reading habits… until now.
In a day and age where big-two crossover events tend to dominate the mainstream comic news landscape, it's easy to fail notice – or perhaps even simply forget about – the comics out there capable of scratching the itch previously only tended to by everybody's favorite English supernatural shyster and non-magnanimous magician.
In the spirit (no pun intended) of shedding a light on some such titles worthy of reading by those of you still looking for your fill of some more adult – or at least non-spandex-inclusive – supernatural thrills in your comic reading, I humbly present to you three titles worthy of a first – or perhaps even second – look.
Given the multiple Eisner Awards Eric Powell's The Goon has picked-up over the years, it still surprises me that more people aren't aware of this borderline cult-classic series from Dark Horse Comics that combines the best aspects of horror, noir, and humor into a gangster/monster/tragedy/comedy gumbo about a – to use Powell's own description of the main character – "bucktoothed thug who murders people for money."
Admittedly, while the book's erratic nature (which will have you laughing one moment and cringing the next – sometimes even in the very same issue) combined with an erratic publication schedule (due in part to Powell's involvement with The Goon film with producer David Fincher and Blur Studios) makes it an easy book to fall off people's radar, Powell's recent decision to move the series to a "series of mini-series and one-shots" approach a la Mike Mignola's Hellboy should allow readers a new chance to discover (or rediscover) this horror-comic gem.
After the upcoming Issue #44 of the series (which returns the spotlight to the bizarre Spanish-talking lizard man Lagarto Hombre), Powell will be delving into "Occasion of Revenge," an eight-issue story story-arc broken over two mini-series that will focus on a gang-war between a clan of invading witches and sorcerers and promises to be "more gritty and nourish" a la The Goon stories such as Chinatown & the Mystery of Mr. Wicker.
For fans of noir, dark comedy and titles that drip with emotional resonance, The Goon by Eric Powell is a title well worth reading.
(DISCLAIMER: Oh… while I hope this goes without saying, let the record show that I'm labelling The Goon as a book from "The Past" because as of this writing it already has a very healthy back catalog any of you can dive right into, as opposed to the "Present" and "Future" picks below, for which that obviously isn't the case… yet.)
THE PRESENT: Drumhellar (Image Comics/Shadowline)
While by no means a one-trick-pony, Riley Rossmo has been steadily making a name for himself as one of the premier definitive artists to watch in regards to great horror and supernatural-based comics, including Rebel Blood, Dia de los Muertos and now his newest foray into the weird with his latest Image Comics/Shadowline series Drumhellar.
Featuring a lead character who's more hippie than hero, in its debut issue (which hit shelves just a few weeks ago) co-creators Rossmo and Alex Link create a dynamic, carefree, and oftentimes psychedelically-inclined supernatural gumshoe whose closest companion is a talking pink ghost cat Harold who may or may not have always existed in its current form.
Equal parts whimsical (see: Drumhellar's lax attitude towards seemingly everything, up to and including his bisexual werewolf ex-girlfriend) trippy (see: the results of his hallucinations when he willingly and gleefully ingests a 40 million year old lotus flower), funny (see: everything about Harold) and even frightening (see: the creepy elastic bogman who Drumhellar rescues before it unexpectedly open-mouth kisses him and escapes in search or… something), Drumhellar is eclectic enough to prove entertaining without being off-putting, as even in its debut issue Riley and Link are subtly but successfully building a weird but wonderful world for Drummhellar and his merry band of magical misfits to encounter.
Oh, and Rossmo's art is mesmerizing and beautiful to soak-in page after page, too.
Do yourself a favor and nab yourself a copy of Drumhellar #1 and make sure they add the title to your pull-list, as Drumhellar is already establishing itself as a must-read comic for patrons with a preference for perky paranormal publications.
Originally serialized as an online comic series, Tales of Mr. Rhee (say it aloud to get the pun) and recently recipient of a successful Kickstarter campaign, the full series is now being offered as a complete trade paperback collection (with over a dozen pages of new exclusive material) from Devil's Due Entertainment.
Written by yours truly and illustrated by Josh Ross (whose past credits include art duties in Nightmare World and Atomic Robo among other titles), Tales of Mr. Rhee follows the journey of a paranormal trouble-shooter trying to survive and thrive in a world that has survived a Armageddon and Rapture of Biblical proportions and would now rather just move on from all the unpleasantness, thank you very much.
As can be expected, not all the nastiness from the "Three Days of Darkness" have been vanquished from the Earth, though, and when supernatural unpleasantries emerge from the shadows the street-level monster-hunter is called to deal with them – both off the record and without the support – both physical and psychological – Mr. Rhee will need to survive as the dangers of his profession continue to escalate and conspire against him.
Tales of Mr. RheeVolume 1: "Procreation (of the Wicked)" is now available for preorder from PREVIEWS (and was selected as a "Staff Pick" to boot!), and, as with the case with both The Goon and Drumhellar, will serve to provide readers looking for some haunting, hilarious and/or horrifying supernatural comics to read in the months and years to come.
Remember, folks: The comics you want to read are out there… sometime you just have to broaden your horizons to find them.
Dirk Manning's writing credits include Nightmare World, Tales of Mr. Rhee and Love Stories (to Die For) as well as stories for The Legend of Oz: The Wicked West, Critter, and Dia de los Muertos among other comics. He is also the author of Write or Wrong: A Writer's Guide to Creating Comics, which will be returning as a continuing online column in December once his insane "13 Cons in 13 Weeks" signing tour ends at the end of November. You know, if the tour doesn't kill him before then.