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SJ Reads: Krampus Shadow of Saint Nicholas

Published December 11, 2017 by admin

Time once again to visit a holiday book for the season, and keeping with the inadvertent theme, we’re going to look at another graphic novel:

krampuscomic

Note that this is not a comic/novelization covering the same story of the movie, though it is set in the same universe. If you like the movie, you’ll probably like the comic, and vice versa. Honestly, I think this even fleshes out the movie a little bit and gives more of a reasoning to things that happen there – it kinda gives a slightly different vibe to the last scene, because you have more of a sense of the full scope of things that are going on (and although it’s mostly subtext, I felt like there’s more of a feel of why, too).

This is somewhat more like Trick R Treat than Krampus, in that it combines different narratives in an almost anthology feel, but does a better job of blending them into one narrative at the end. A down-and-out mall Santa, a cop who runs into the person who ruined his life, and a rich businessman each earn a visit from Krampus, and each have to do their part to ward off the anti-santa and his minions and save the town’s Christmas.

If you love the over-the-top aspects of the movie like the evil toys and elves and such, you get much more of that here. You also get to see more of the realm inside Krampus’s sack, and honestly I feel like the limits were pushed much further here at times than in the movie. You also definitely get a moral – this isn’t just bizarreness for its own sake. Though it does feel like it almost runs away with itself at times, the creators do a great job at reining things in toward the end and giving the reader a fulfilling, complete journey. Definitely a great companion to the film, though you don’t have to see it to appreciate the book. I honestly read this long before I saw the movie and loved it a lot. Probably best for teens on up and those who like horror/can have a sense of humor about the holidays, this is a fun title that’s every bit as quirky and creepy as the film it springs from.

 

 

 

 

 

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Free fic, reviews, and all that fun stuff

Published December 7, 2017 by admin

It’s time to see what I’ve been up to whilst I was Nano-ing last month!

Ghosts

No matter the time of year, this is a great read that combines family and the supernatural. As always, Raina Telgemeier weaves interesting plot with relatable characters. Read my full review for Books by Violet here!

 

babyandme

Also for Books by Violet, I talk about a manga series that would be great to introduce kids to the medium. What happens when Takuya has to help shoulder the responsibility of raising his younger brother, even though he’s still a kid, himself? A lot of feelings, a lot of growing up, and a lot of hilarity. If you like cute titles and are interested in giving manga a go, definitely check out the full review. 

 

natsume

 

Because I will scream about this series until everyone reads it, I’m talking about Natsume’s Book of Friends on I Smell Sheep. Another great intro to manga, this series has more of a paranormal bent, but it also episodic so you can really start anywhere without feeling the pressure to hit every volume. Beautiful art combines with emotional plots, humor, and just the right amount of tension in this story about an orphan trying to repair his grandmother’s legacy and while learning to be more like a human and less like the spirits only he seems to be able to see. Read the full review here

creepy chair.png

Back for another round of the Ladies of Horror flash picture prompt project! This was my image this month, and man did I have a blast coming up with a story to fit! Be sure to check out what I came up with!

 

 

SJ Reads: Marvel Zombies Christmas Carol

Published December 4, 2017 by admin

zombiechristmas

 

I really considered how to do SJ reads this month. I have an addiction to Christmas/holiday fiction, and there are a TON of great titles out there.

My notes are also scattered everywhere, so I really need to re-sort and dig through. I decided to keep with the unintentional theme to finish out the year, though, and go with holiday graphic novels/comics (and not just because those are closest at hand).

I love a good holiday story, but sometimes it’s nice to see how other properties use the holiday season in their own franchises. You can find some really interesting, unconventional reads that way – and it’s sometimes fun to find holiday stories that are a bit unconventional.

Today, we look at Marvel Zombies Christmas Carol.

This was given to me a few years ago as a gag gift, and I think the person was a little shocked that I love it as much as I do. On the one hand: what the ever-loving hey. On the other, it’s a title that lives up to the name. While it doesn’t interact with any of the other Marvel Zombies titles, it is definitely A Christmas Carol with zombies. You’d think this would be stupid, but it actually ends up working really well. The basic premise is the plot of A Christmas Carol, but amid a zombie outbreak that’s overtaking the workhouses (admittedly it’s been a while since I’ve read it, and I’m trying to jog my memory while writing this). Setting Scrooge’s personal journey against an actual threat of death and destruction, while finding out that the whole thing may actually be his fault…it’s intense.

It stays true to the original story and takes time to get you through all the beats. While there are a lot of zombies, they’re not slammed up in your face all the time – they’re somewhat part of the environment, unless they’re illustrating the obvious metaphors of the story. It’s a really interesting twist to the tale, and highlights more of Scrooge’s plight and the whole life vs death theme that’s quietly going on underneath the original.

Granted, here’s the thing: to enjoy this you almost have to like horror, like comics, and like the original story. It’s not really a gag interpretation and it’s not over-the-top gore for gore’s sake or meant as some punchline. I’m actually fairly impressed by the care that obviously went into this.

While I’ve read worse in Walking Dead, there are some intense illustrations, and this book does carry a parental advisory. However, compared to most of the other horror comics I’ve read in my life, this is easily doable for teens and up who are into this kind of thing.

The day I was given this, I sat and read it a few times, because I expected it to be a one-note title, and I kept finding little nuances to appreciate. Plus, the art is vivid and grotesque in interesting ways, and the new twist really makes you appreciate the familiar characters and plotline. I definitely recommend a read through – it may not get you precisely into the holiday spirit, but it will help you appreciate what you have around you, for sure. Also a great gift for horror comic fans.

Find it here

 

 

 

 

New Reviews! #manga #comics

Published November 21, 2017 by admin

I know, I need to get caught up, though this time I do have a decent-ish excuse. Writing has taken me away a bit this month, but I’ll get to that on another post. In the meantime, here’s what I’ve been up to:

babyandme.jpg

This tends to be one of my stress/comfort reading series, and it’s really good for a wide range of ages or if you’re looking to get into manga with a low-stakes, easy plot. It’s also cute as can be and hilarious. To read my full review of Baby & Me, check out Violet’s blog!

Crogan's Adventures

Adventure, history, and genealogy are front and center in the Crogan’s Adventures series. Framed by incidents in the modern-day Crogan family life, each volume looks at a different ancestor in a different point in time. It’s a great series to get kids hooked on history and interested in their own family trees. Check out the full review here!

petshop

 

This was one of the first manga series that I read, and if you like anthology horror it’s a really unique way to get into reading manga. All of the stories are linked to the mysterious Count D’s petshop that sells animals of a more…exotic variety, let’s say. And with strange pets, come contracts, and with broken contracts, comes a price. To read my full review, check out the smells like sheep blog!

alice

Pushing the horror theme just a leetle bit longer, I take a look at the first volume of Alice in Wonderland by Kaori Yuki. There’s some great things here, some things to consider, and I also discuss what it means when you can only find the first volume of something. To read my full review, go here!

 

 

 

Creepy Reviews, get yer creepy reviews!

Published October 24, 2017 by admin

So, being down a week means I have more fun stuff to share with you today!

black butler

My latest manga review for I Smell Sheep is up – to celebrate all that’s creepy this month, I’m taking a look at Black Butler! While it’s not without it’s problems, it does some really good things to subvert typical horror cliches and characterizations – if you can stick with it. To read the full review, go here!

princess decomposia

 

And to prove I can write about and even like cute stuff, too, I reviewed Princess Decomposia and Count Spatula over at Books by Violet! It’s a really fun, different sort of look at vampires and monsters, plus there’s a plucky heroine and some fun scenes in this quick read. Definitely be sure to read the full review!

ghostopolis

 

Also at Books by Violet, I’m taking a look at Ghostopolis – I mean, with Halloween around the corner, you’ve got to have ghosts, right? Fast pacing and some really original world building are the big features in this story about what life is like on the other side – and what happens if one of us might get dragged over there before it’s time. Definitely worth checking out the full review if you like a lot of action and interesting twists and turns with your creepy. Read more here!

 

OldeSchoolCoverFinal_650X433

It occurs to me that I shared this around media but not here – so a long time ago I did a thing for Friday the 13th (the day, not the franchise. I’ve had dealings with Jason, but that’s a whole other story). Once in a while I fanfic myself and the not completely good and not actually a bird character Clyde, from Olde School. So, if you’re in the mood for something to read to kill some time and laugh at me getting sucked into one of my own worlds, here you go. 

Also, it’s October, and I write creepy stuff, so…

Buy My Stuff

Specifically, might I suggest the 1800’s vampires vs lumberjacks short read Mooner? 

Or how about taking a chance on a bunch of shorts ranging from weird to what the hell in Lost in the Shadows?

I’ve also got a story in the horror anthology The Grotesquerie, as well as shorts in Curious Incidents,  The Big Bad and The Big Bad 2

 

 

 

 

SJ Reads Bonus: Afterlife with Archie

Published October 7, 2017 by admin

afterlife

 

Like I said, I can’t not talk about horror in October…

I touched on The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina a little while ago, so I can’t exactly ignore Afterlife With Archie. I picked the thing up because it looked so weird, I couldn’t really not read it. Even so, I left it sit around for a while, figuring that I’d be putting myself through a gag title, and did I really have time for that.

And then I opened it up.

Askfdajlfaj;dajlfdajldfs is a safe approximation of my reaction.

Seriously, it’s one of the best horror titles I’ve read in a long time, and I still don’t understand how the really good horror titles are coming out of the Archie properties. Not only are these things holding their own with other, more recognizable titles, but in a lot of cases their overall sense of story and character development is better. 

The basic premise is that Reggie hits and kills Hot Dog with his car. Despondant, Jughead has Sabrina help bring his dog back to life. Thus starts the zombie outbreak. I mean, this could easily go so many ways of stupid…but it doesn’t. There are moments of humor, but it’s definitely got its horrific side. I love how there are little moments with all the characters grasping at what’s going on and how it’s affecting their relationships, whether it’s Archie’s feelings about his dad, or Veronica’s thoughts on Betty and on and on. I’ve only read through volume one, but the thought that these kids are hiding out as the whole town falls victim to the contagion…it’s intense. And it’s never really played like ‘oh ha ha, look at these cartoon characters be victimized, pretty gross, amirite?’ There’s care taken with the different story lines. Granted, it had been forever since I’ve really delved into the world of Riverdale (the eighties cartoon series is about the extent of my knowledge), but it does a really good job of conveying the basics very quickly. I didn’t really feel like I was missing anything, and I felt like I picked up on all the subtext and things I was supposed to know about to get the full range of the title.

The art isn’t as malevolent as Sabrina, but in some ways that lends itself to a really surreal feeling. You kind of forget that you’re reading about freakin’ Archie, or you forget that this is a storyline that really shouldn’t be happening in this universe, until you sit back and it all comes together and hits you.

It’s a suprisingly good blend, and I can’t wait to see where it all goes.

Get vol 1 here

SJ Reads: The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina

Published September 25, 2017 by admin

I was going to wait until October, but since the news broke last week that it’s getting a TV option and I LOVE this series, I decided what the hey.

sabrina

The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is another offering from Archie Horror, who brought us the magnificent Afterlife with Archie. A few things to keep in mind:

This is based off the 60’s comic book Sabrina, so it takes place in 1966. It has absolutely nothing to do with the 90s television series – the character went through a lot of incarnations before this point. Honestly, for me it makes it a little easier to take, because there’s less of an association with the outright familiar.

This series has much more of an existential dread vibe than Afterlife. There’s not really any humor, and between the time period and the art, there’s a nice tension throughout the story. In the intro to vol 1 the comparison is that if Afterlife is Evil Dead, Chilling Adventures is Rosemary’s Baby or Exorcist.

If you are offended/bothered by anything of an occult nature, you will not like this series. That’s just the way it goes sometimes. You can dislike that they did this, dislike that it was with this character, but there are a lot of Archie stories, so luckily you don’t have to wander into this if you don’t want to. There is no denying that the witches are malevolent in this series. The occult/satanism vibe is extremely overt, so it’s not something you can really read around if it bothers you.

This story has nothing to do with Afterlife – Sabrina, Betty, and Veronica are characters in both, but the stories don’t cross over at all, so just pretend they’re not even in the same world.

There are some similarities to the show, mostly that Sabrina is half witch/half mortal. Also, like in the show, witches aren’t really supposed to fall in love with mortals. That’s about where things end.

The day that Sabrina is supposed to be claimed by the coven as an infant, her mother rebels, which leads her being lobotomized by spell and put in a mental institution. For other reasons, her father is sent to Hell, so she’s raised by her aunts in another town. As she hits her sixteenth birthday she has to make a decision as to which way she’s going to live her life. Meanwhile, her father’s old ex, Madam Satan, has been summoned from Hell and is after revenge, and Sabrina.

So, yeah, little different.

There are a lot of interesting things going on here. The time period lends itself not only to the horror vibe, but to the subtexts of racism and gender roles, as well. You always get a sense that Sabrina is fighting to be who she is around different groups of people, which makes for an interesting read. It’s also picked up with the Betty and Veronica practicing witchcraft in secret storyline, and some other places, as well. A lot of the characters we’ve come to expect as being benign become super-interesting in this version. Hilda and Zelda, as well as Sabrina’s father, project a definite malevolence, though her aunts sort of swing back and forth. They want the best for their niece, but they also definitely want her to commit to the coven.

And by commit I mean sign her name in Satan’s book. Let’s just put that out there now so I don’t get yelled at when someone tries to read this thing. I told you, this ain’t yer 90s Sabrina. There’s also some very sixties stuff with school shenanigans and trying out for a play, and other things that are foiled when Madam Satan shows up in disguise and takes Sabrina under her wing.

Sabrina, herself, is facinating. She’s the protagonist, but she also isn’t the goody goody we’re used to seeing. She’s somewhat victim to manipulations, but she also is ready to stand firm in what she wants and believes. She’s hardly innocent and uses her powers however she wants. I think there’s even a moment where she says something like ‘I’m a teenage witch, this is what I’m supposed to do!’

Honestly, after so many seasons of seeing her as a kind-hearted goofball (and I love Melissa Joan Hart’s portrayal of her), it’s kind of awesome to see her like this. She’s still kind of at the mercy of some things, but more of her decisions (even if she’s being misguided) come more from her.

You’ll still see familiar faces – there are some from the comics that we don’t see a lot of in the show. For you 90s fans, Harvey makes an appearance (heh), and Salem is there, though in a much less comedic capacity. Ambrose, her British cousin, also shows up and ends up joining Salem as more of a sympathetic sidekick.

It’s very important to note that this isn’t Sabrina as Buffy, Sabrina as Practical Magic, Sabrina fighting evil. And honestly, I don’t want those. This is what I want. This is horror. This is dark. This is something distinctly of and for this character. This reads like a showrunner snapped after being criticized over the 90s show one too many times and decided: FINE, SEE HOW YOU LIKE THIS. (note: this is my headcanon and not the actual origin of this series. The writer and artist are amazing in their own bodies of work and deserve a ton of praise for this). This is something that absolutely should not work because it is definitely against type and uncomfortable.

And it is magnificent.

Honestly, I was shocked when I read it. I did not expect it to be good, let alone this good. Does it unnerve me? Sure. Does it make me uncomfortable? Yep. But that’s what good horror does. Seriously, if you can step back from your expectations and how you feel about the television show, if you can embrace this for what it is, it’s truly amazing how strong of a title this has turned out to be. My only gripe is that it’s super slow to release (something that I hope changes now that it’s under the public eye).

The art is also some of the most beautiful stuff I’ve seen in a horror comic in a while. It has a distinct retro/vintage feel (some of it has a straight up EC or Creepy/Eerie vibe), and with the majority of muted colors, you just feel everything knot up inside you while reading. Characters you want to like and agree with become horrifying then revert back, and the familiar never feels altogether safe. It’s easy to fall into this series based on the art alone.

As for my thoughts on the television show…I’m not sure. I think it could be amazing. I really want it to be all that’s in my head. However, I also expect that because it’s going to CW that there will be changes (there’s at least one aspect that I kind of wonder if they’re going to have to change), or be dialed down, or whatever. I hope I’m wrong, because I think there is a market for this as is, if it can overcome people’s nostalgia over the 90s show.

For what it’s worth, I loved the 90s show. I thought it went on too long and became somewhat stale and a caricature of itself, but I loved the first few seasons. It’s cute, it teaches lessons, it’s feel-good. Salem is one of my favorite characters. However, it’s been done. I don’t need the further adventures of, I don’t need soap opera Sabrina or teen angst Sabrina or whatever.

Something based straight from Chilling Adventures would give them a lot of room to build (it’s only 2 collected volumes so far, I think), plus it provides a lot of subtle social commentary. I don’t know that marketing it is going to be the easiest thing between instant knee jerking and people wanting something close to what they remember, but with Riverdale’s success, hopefully I’m wrong.

If you’re brave enough to check out the comic, you can find the first volume here. It’s absolutely not for everyone, but if you like horror and different takes on the familiar, definitely give this a try.