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Top 5 Halloween Comics

My favourite Holiday by far is Halloween: it’s my happy time of the year. I love watching people being dressed like vampires, ghouls, witches and other creatures from the spirit world. For me it is the perfect time to gather round the television and watch horror movies until deep into the night, or curl up next to the fireplace to read comic books that to me have a nice Halloweenish flavour to them. If only I had a fireplace… Anyway, here’s my top 5 favourite ‘Halloweeny’ comics.

1. Nocturnals (Dan Brereton)

To me, it doesn’t get more Halloween-esque than the comic book series Nocturnals by American writer/illustrator Dan Brereton. Taking place in the fictional California town Pacific City, Doctor Horror and his band of misfit night creatures are fighting against evil vampire street gangs, hill billy swamp witches and robotic hitmen that work for the mob.

Doctor Horror is a scientific genius, master of the occult and father of Eve, aka Halloween Girl. Halloween Girl not only dresses like it’s Halloween every day, she also carries a plastic bucket in the form of a pumpkin head that contains toys that are possessed by spirits. Whenever Eve needs help, the toys come to life and transform into monstrous versions to protect her. These spirits also communicate with Eve providing information from the spirit world.

Both dad and daughter are natives from another dimension. They travelled to earth after their native planet got overrun by the Crim: parasitic squid like creatures that could have walked out of a H.P. Lovecraft story. Unfortunately the Crim have also reached earth and team up with the malicious Narn K Corporation. This powerful bioengineering firm specializes in controversial experimentation and covert weapons development, and also creates animal-human hybrids. Some of these hybrids have joined Doc Horror’s group. Such as Firelion: a big guy that has the ability to conjure and control fires and Komodo, a young animal-human hybrid. He’s also known as Dragon Boy because, well, he looks like one.

Brereton mixes elements from gangster and horror stories, science fiction and Halloween lore into deliciously and beautifully painted adventures that breathe the spirit of Halloween.

2. Batman: Haunted Knight (Jeff Loeb, Tim Sale)

One could argue that with all the weird costumed villains running around Gotham City, living there must feel like it’s Halloween every day. Therefore, comic book stories about Batman have to be part of this top five. Luckily for us, there are a couple of great Batman stories connected to the holiday.

Before the creative team of writer Jeph Loeb and artist Tim Sale made the impressive Batman story The Long Halloween, for three straight years from 1993-1995 they cut their teeth on three Halloween Specials, that were collected as Batman: Haunted Knight. All three stories take place in the early days of the Dark Knights career, before he hooked up with the Boy Wonder, and all three stories take place on Halloween, or the days surrounding the holiday.

In Fears Batman is trying to hunt down the Scarecrow and his crew are knocking out power grids so they can loot the city in the dark. The Scarecrow is an interesting villain because he uses people’s fear as a weapon, just like Batman is trying to evoke fear into criminals. In this story Batman has to deal with his own fears while he’s being trapped in a large maze with poisonous thorns, while Bruce Wayne has a new love interest that keeps a dark secret.

In the story Madness Batman is dealing with the Mad Hatter who kidnaps children to host a very twisted tea party. A young Barbara Gordon, James Gordon’s adopted daughter who later becomes Batgirl, is one of the victims and chosen by the Hatter to play Alice.

The final story Ghosts is Loeb’s reworking of the classic A Christmas Carol: Batman is visited by the ghost of his father, Poison Ivy, The Joker and Death, trying to get the message across that Bruce should be concerned about the legacy of Bruce Wayne and not only focus on his work as Batman. After all, Wayne and his money could do a lot of good for the world.

There’s a great Halloween-esque atmosphere in Haunted Knight – in a way even more so than in The Long Halloween since that story takes place on 12 different American Holidays, and just starts on Halloween. Also Loeb and Sale are able to reveal something new about Bruce Wayne and the night his parents were killed. After more than 75 years of Batman stories, that’s quite a feat.

3. Locke & Key (Joe Hill, Gabriel Rodriguez)

Locke & Key – de comic.

The series Locke & Key revolves around the Locke family. After the brutal murder of the father, the three siblings and their mother move to their ancestral home in Lovecraft, New England. The mansion is called Keyhouse and has magical keys and doors, giving the bearers of the keys magical powers. For instance, one of the keys gives you the power to temporarily die and turn into a ghost. Another key changes your sex. The Locke family will soon will find out that a devious demon, kept captive on the grounds, also has its eyes on the keys and is willing to shed blood to get them.

Author Joe Hill (yes, Stephen Kings’ son) gives an original twist to the haunted house theme and treats us to very rounded and likable characters. The three Key kids have a hard time dealing with the murder of their father and all of them do this in their own way. These characters imbue the horror story with a lot of heart.

The horror and violence in Locke & Key feel real and are not for the faint of heart. Gabriel Rodriguez‘s art style is very lively, consisting of stark, clear lines. It’s just cartoony enough to take some of the edge off of the depicted violent actions.

While not really a story revolving around Halloween, Locke & Key is a must read for anyone who likes to be scared by a very well crafted and hellish comic book. Perfect reading for a lonely Halloween eve.

4. Hellboy (Mike Mignola)

One of my favourite comic book series of all time and one that has a distinct Halloweenish feel to it, is Hellboy created by Mike Mignola in 1993.

As an infant demon Hellboy was summoned from Hell to Earth by Nazi occultists and Rasputin to unleash the Apocalypse. This summoning took place in 1944, the last days of the Second World War. Hellboy was found by Allied Forces and raised by Professor Trevor Bruttenholm. He’s now an adult, although he ages a lot slower than humans do.

Although Hellboy, with his red skin, cloven hooves for feet, an over-sized right hand made of stone and horns growing from his head, looks like a demon from hell, he’s a good guy fighting the forces of evil together with the an international agency called the BPRD (Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defence). Bruttenholm whom raised Hellboy as if he was a normal boy, founded the agency. Some of other members of the BPRD are strange creatures themselves, such as Abe Sapien, an amphibious man and Johann Kraus, an ectoplasmic physical medium. Together they fight against ghouls, monsters, ghosts, vampires and Nazi’s.

Mignola (and other writers and artists) combine superhero antics with the supernatural and folkloristic elements, creating a wonderful, somewhat goofy, Halloween-esque world. If it ever gets to too dark or horror like, Hellboy’s dry wit will always lighten the mood. Mignola’s expressionistic drawing style sets the right dark mood in which to visualize the stories.

5. Sticky Monsters (John Kenn Mortensen)

‘I was born in Denmark 1978. I write and direct television shows for kids. I have a set of twins and not much time for anything. But when I have time I draw monster drawings on post-it notes… it is a little window into a different world, made on office supplies.’ This is how John Kenn Mortensen introduces his sticky monsters: a wonderful collection of Halloween-esque creatures and creepy monsters, drawn on the famous yellow post-it notes.

The creatures sometimes resemble something out of a horror story or nightmare, other times they look more like overgrown Muppets. Each drawing seems to contain a whole story and sparkles the imagination. Mortensen creates a world where kids and creepy monsters take centre stage and offers perfect Halloween ‘Bat’-time reading.

I wrote this top 5 two years ago for Submarine Channel. These are still my favourite Halloweenesqe comics. However I am contemplating writing about recent discovered comics that I liked a lot and fit within the theme of Halloween. To be continued.
Originally published on October 25, 2017 on HalloweenCult.com.

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Vlog: De coole, creepy monsters van John Kenn Mortensen

Het begint herfst te worden, dus dan leef ik altijd naar Halloween toe. Het leukste feestje van het jaar. Om in de sfeer te komen, vertel ik iets over een van mijn favoriete boeken, namelijk Sticky Monsters van John Kenn Mortensen.

Dit is zijn instagramaccount.

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Boeken Striprecensie Strips

Recensie: Sticky Monsters van John Kenn Mortensen

‘I was born in Denmark 1978. I write and direct television shows for kids. I have a set of twins and not much time for anything. But when I have time I draw monsterdrawings on post-it notes… it is a little window into a different world, made on office supplies.’ Zo luidt het voorwoord van Sticky Monsters, een verzameling tekeningen van John Kenn Mortensen dat in 2012 werd uitgegeven door Square Peg.

johnkenn_118
johnkenn_ 92Een kort en bondige introductie op een reeks illustraties waarnaar je uren kunt staren. Illustraties waarin bijvoorbeeld een groot ovaalvormig, harig monster met een lange spitsneus en een soort van gewei op zijn hoofd, achter een kind met een paraplu aan sluipt dat van steen tot steen springt. Of een vampierachtig meisje met grote oren en gevaarlijke tanden dat buiten de boomhut van een jongetje zweeft. Net boven de rand van de vensterbank staart het jongetje het meisje aan. Of een groep bleke, vettige creaturen met uitpuilende ogen, een grote bek en enorme klauwen als handen, die niet zou misstaan in een aflevering van Doctor Who. Ze lopen stampvoetend over de brug waar een jongetje met geruite pet onder schuilt.

De creaturen ademen soms de sfeer uit van een nachtmerrie of een horrorscenario, maar de andere keer lijken ze wel wat op de vriendelijke monstermuppets die je in Sesamstraat voorbij ziet komen.

Met dunne lijnen brengt Mortensen (die zichzelf online ook wel Don Kenn noemt) in zeer gedetailleerde tekeningen een bijzondere wereld tot leven, waar kinderen en monsterachtige verschijningen in allerlei vormen en maten de hoofdrol spelen. Een wereld die alleen bestaat op gele post-it-velletjes – vandaar de titel ‘Sticky’ Monsters – wat alle tekeningen een herkenbare lichtgele kleur geeft. In het boekje zijn de illustraties even groot als de originele afgedrukt. Juist omdat de tekenaar verder geen uitleg geeft en tekst ontbreekt, kun je je eigen verhaal bij het werk verzinnen. In wezen is het iedere bladzijde Halloween, zij het dan wel in het herkenbare handschrift van een verder bij mij onbekende illustrator.

'Trick or Treat?'
‘Trick or Treat?’

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Wie lang genoeg kijkt ziet bepaalde thema’s en patronen terugkeren. Zo houden veel kinderen een ballon in hun hand, of houden ze een zwevend monster aan een touwtje vast alsof ze een ballon zijn. Veel monsters komen voor op zee waar iemand met een bootje vaart. De creaturen achtervolgen de kinderen vaak opgemerkt, en als ze wel door het kleine grut worden gezien, dan staart het kind ze met grote ogen aan. Soms maken de monsterlijke verschijningen onderdeel uit van het landschap.

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Het werk van Kenn was ik wel eens tegengekomen op Tumblr. Hij houdt zelf al sinds 2009 dit blog bij en ook heeft hij zelf een Tumblr. Toen ik eerder dit jaar het boekje Sticky Monsters bij de American Book Center zag liggen, moest ik het aanschaffen. Geregeld pak ik het op en sla ik het boekje ergens open. Telkens ontdek ik weer een nieuw detail: een specifieke blik of een klein element op de achtergrond dat ik niet eerder zag. Het is heerlijk bladeren en vertoeven in de excentrieke, monsterlijk leuke en magische wereld van John Kenn Mortensen.

John Kenn Mortensen. Sticky Monsters.
Square Peg. £ 7,99
9780224 095761

Er is inmiddels ook een tweede boekje verschenen.