David’s Haunted Library: Monster Smash-Ups and Pray For Darkness

David's Haunted Library

Monster-Smash-Ups-02I haven’t read a lot of comics over the last few years but recently I found myself wondering what good horror comics are out there? It didn’t take to long to find an indie horror comic publisher that’s putting out quality horror comics and graphic novels. Scary Tales Publishing is run by Kevin M. Glover and produces comic anthologies that are a throwback to the black and white horror comics of yesteryear, such as Tales From The Crypt and The Vault Of Horror.

The comic I read from Scary Tales Publishing was Monster Smash-Ups Issue 1.Monster-Smash-Ups-03This book contains 40 pages and 6 stories of monster mash-ups. Some of the things that you will see if you pick up this anthology is astronauts on a strange planet trying to escape a space monster, Dracula versus an Arthurian knight, a horde of mummies, a swamp monster fighting zombies and a diary written by Anne Frankenstein. If you love monsters then you can’t pass this up.

Every story in this book was good but the one story that really stood out for me was The Diary Of Anne Frankenstein. The year is 1887 and young Anne Frankenstein is hiding in an attic as the angry villagers are going through town killing all the creatures of the night and throwing them in a pit. Anne may be a child but she has skills and the villagers will be sorry they messed with her. This story is an obvious nod to  The Diary Of Anne Frank and looks at intolerance in a fun way. I would love to see a series based on this story.

Monster smash-Ups is a lot of fun and a must have for horror fans. It takes me back to a time when I liked to sit in my room with my friends looking through horror comics and saying how cool the monsters in it were. I got a great sense of nostalgia while reading this book. You can tell that the artists and writers who put Monster Smash-Ups together have a true love of the genre. Great art, a sense of humor and fun story-lines. This is everything a horror comic should be.

http://www.fracturedscarytales.com/

http://www.screamwriter4hire.com/

23791949Many explorers have died in the Amazon and their bodies were never found. The jungle has been called the Green Hell and its a vicious uncaring place full of predators of different shapes and sizes. But this fact doesn’t seem to stop thrill seekers and tourists from visiting the jungle. Ben and his friends are about to take the trip of their lifetime into the untamed jungle.

What starts off as a wondrous trip into a beautiful part of the world, quickly becomes a fight for survival. On their way to a campground their boat captain is murdered and the tourists are stuck in a remote location where no one can find them. Now they have to make their way back to lodge they came from while being stalked by something that wont let them leave the Amazon alive.

Pray For Darkness by James Michael Rice is a horror novel where the jungle itself is the main character. In the beginning its described as a beautiful place with exotic animals, luscious fruit and it has everything you would need to live off the land. Later in the book we see it as the ultimate killer that can end your life in a thousand different ways leaving your body where it will never be found.

The jungle is a living, breathing dangerous thing in Pray For Darkness and that’s what made this book great. One of my favorite scenes in this book didn’t include any people but instead focused on animals struggling to survive in the wild. The chapter starts with a family of capybaras being stalked by a jaguar. The author gets into the heads of the animals and you see how hard it is for them to thrive in this place. I found myself feeling emotion for the capybara trying to save its family and the starving jaguar just trying to survive.  Then the scene gets more horrifying when a group of bigger predators arrive.

The predators in question could be considered zombies but in my opinion they are faster, smarter and more vicious than zombies. There is one scene when one of the characters is turned into a zombie like creatures that is downright chilling. This is when the book changes from being about the beauty of the amazon to a horror novel. I also loved how we see the character’s personalities change when they are confronted with danger. You could say this book is two books in one.

The thing I didn’t like about Pray For Darkness was that it took a long time to get into the action. The first half of the story focuses on the characters which I didn’t find interesting. The book picks up in the second half though when we find out about the wild humanoids that are stalking the campers. My favorite part of this book was the descriptions of the jungle and I would have liked this book even if it didn’t have any characters. This book brings to life an exotic location that I have never experienced and that was what made it worth reading.

1950’s Books

The first 1950’s book I wanted to mention was recommended from Facebook by Zachary Vaudo of the band Witness The Apotheosis. It is The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson.  Eleanor Vance is a shy loner who has spent the last 11 years taking care of her elderly mother.  One day she receives an invitation from Dr. John Montague to stay in a haunted mansion with other people who have had supernatural experiences. The mansion has gargoyles on the outside and rooms within rooms on the inside. As soon as Eleanor enters the house she starts to hear strange voices and sees ghosts wandering the halls, but despite the supernatural activity, Eleanore feels right at home.

The Haunting of Hill House has been made into movies a couple of times. The best movie adaptation is The Haunting made in 1963 and directed by the late great Robert Wise. There was also a remake made in 1999.The Haunting of Hill House was the first horror novel I ever read and it still stands the test of time. Stephen King called The Haunting of Hill House one of the best horror novels of the 20th century.

Also written in the 1950s and made into three different movies(The Last Man on Earth in 1964, The Omega Man in 1971 and I Am Legend in 2007) is I Am Legend by Richard Matheson. It was written in 1954 but takes place in the futuristic world of 1976. A plague has wiped out most of the world’s population and those who have survived are now vampires. One man by the name of Robert Neville is immune to the plague but now in a world of vampires he is an outsider and must fight to stay alive.

If your going to mention horror in the 50’s you have to talk about EC comics. EC comics actually got its start in 1944 but the golden age of horror comics began when EC started publishing Tales From The Crypt, The Vault of Horror and The Haunt of Fear in 1950. Sadly all three books stopped publication in 1955 when the government started to censor comics and the comic companies created the comics code to keep from being shut down. Though there time was short, these three comics made quite an impact on the world. They have been made into 5 movies , a TV series and a cartoon. They also inspired many young  horror writers to start writing such as Stephen King.

All three titles were very similar to each other. with Tales From The Crypt being hosted by the cryptkeeper, the Vault of Horror being hosted by the vault keeper and The Haunt of Fear being hosted by The Old Witch.  The creators of the books were William Gaines and Al Feldstein but several writers and artists brought the books to life. These three comics were very popular but the government, parents and school teachers said that the comics were contributing to illiteracy and juvenile delinquency and they disappeared from newsstands before their time. If you want to know more about EC comic’s battle with the government over censorship check out The Horror, The Horror!: Comic Books the Government Didn’t Want You To Read by Jim Trombetta.

While on the subject of 50’s horror comics I wanted to mention a comic that I never heard of until I was looking up books to talk about for this blog post.  The comic book is The Monster of Frankenstein by Dick Briefer, it ran from 1945 to 1954. When it started in 1945 it was meant for a very young audience but starting in 1952 it tried to follow in EC comics footsteps. It became a disturbing and violent horror comic until it was censored and came to an end in 1954. The comic actually ran monthly in a title called Prize comics. The story followed Frankenstein’s monster as he rampaged through 1930’s New York City and fought with Superheros: The Bulldog, The Black Owl, Green Lama and Dr. Frost.

Going back to novels, set in the 1950’s is Jack Ketchum’s The Girl Next Door. The story follows Meg Loughlin  and her crippled sister Sarah as they move in to a house with a woman named Ruth. Next door lives a boy named David who realizes that Meg is being tortured by Ruth and she is also letting other kids in the neighborhood torture Meg. Will David put an end to the torture or will he just watch and do nothing?