Archive

cinema

Well, another Panic Fest is more-or-less over. Technically, there’s another night or two of programming, and there’s a chance I may go out tomorrow night to catch Watcher or The Sadness, but give or take, it’s done.

I saw a few good movies, the best of which was probably Spider One’s Allegoria, and I saw a few bad movies, the worst of which was definitely Dashcam, which I described on Letterboxd as, “An absolute torrent of bafflingly terrible decisions wrapped around an adequate V/H/S segment.” Seriously, Dashcam is a piece of shit, and not in any remotely fun way. Don’t watch it, definitely don’t give it any money, and I’m done talking about it, because I don’t want to give it any oxygen.

As you can maybe guess from the Allegoria review up there, I was covering the Fest for The Pitch this year, and there are a few more reviews where that one came from, including a review of Midnight and capsule reviews for a few other highlights. Assuming I don’t make it out to any more, I’ll have seen nine films from this year’s Panic Fest, several of which I watched online rather than in-theatre for various reasons that include because there’s still a fucking pandemic on.

I also watched a few short films. I typically miss the short blocks at festivals, and I did this year, too, but I caught a few of the shorts online, including some where the filmmakers had reached out to me. A couple highlights include “The Pey,” about an Instagrammer who shares a gif and unleashes a monster, and “They See You,” which had its world premier at the Fest.

Something I did see in theatres was the new Doctor Strange, which I watched this morning and which I’m not going to talk about here because of spoilers and because we’ll be talking about it on the next episode of the Horror Pod Class, which is also why I saw it today. So tune in for that or, if you’re local, join us at the Stray Cat Film Center on May 24 at 7pm while we screen the very best Dr. Strange movie – the 1992 Full Moon classic Doctor Mordrid.

Anyone who has been following me very long will be familiar with one particular shot from Pacific Rim; a scene from the film’s (great) world-establishing montage, in which a kid puts toys of jaegers and kaiju on a toy shelf.

It’s the shot I always use when I’m talking about the movie, because I love it so much. But it’s also a shot that has frustrated me for most of a decade, because the toys I love most from it – those stylized, sofubi-esque figures that are front-and-center – are ones they never actually made so that I could buy them and put them on my own toy shelf.

Or so I thought. Recently, I learned that, in fact, they did make those toys, and not long after the film came out, to boot. In 2015, NECA released them as a convention exclusive – a long box with five soft vinyl figures; the two prominently featured in that shot, two others that you can see off to one side, and a fifth that, as far as I can tell, isn’t in the picture at all.

Better still, even though they were convention exclusives, you can still buy them – sometimes even at a reasonable price – on eBay. Which is where I picked up a set, because I have literally been wanting to put those toys on my shelf since 2013.

The figures are great – I mean look at them. But I think the thing that makes me love them the most is that they aren’t of the film’s main players. It would have been so easy, so tempting from a marketing standpoint, to make figures of the jaegers and kaiju that dominate the movie. But that wouldn’t have made sense in the shot in question, because that was part of the montage, meaning that these toys had to be earlier jaegers and kaiju. And they are.

From left to right, as I have them laid out up above, the kaiju are Hardship, Trespasser, and Karloff, while the jaegers are Romeo Blue and Horizon Brave. All of whom barely show up in the movie at all, and only during that aforementioned montage.

Like the montage itself, which is hands-down the best part of a movie that I love unabashedly, these toys are so great in part because they help to make what could have been a fairly simple world feel big and strange and lived-in. Plus, I just love having them to play with.

As you saw in my last post, a lot has been going on lately. I mentioned a few things, all of them adjacent to the movies, and now it’s time to talk about them a little more…

First off, Panic Fest starts next week. For those who aren’t local to the Kansas City area, Panic Fest is our own homegrown film festival celebrating horror, sci-fi, and thrillers, and it’s grown up a lot in the half-dozen or so years I’ve been attending. This year, I’ll be covering the fest for another Kansas City institution – our very own dirtbag newspaper, The Pitch.

I’m not sure yet which movies I’ll be seeing when, but there’s a number that I want to catch, including Allegoria, Dashcam, Malibu Horror Story, and Midnight, to name a few. If you’re going to be at the fest, drop me a line and maybe we can catch up sometime.

Or, if you’re in the area and can’t wait for Panic Fest to kick off, you could always come by the Stray Cat Film Center as Tyler Unsell and I host another live episode of the Horror Pod Class on Wednesday, April 27, where we’ll be watching a made-for-TV movie from very early in John Carpenter’s career – that just happens to also be one of my very favorite Carpenter flicks.

As far as news relating to movies goes, I saved the biggest for last. Recently, I became the movies editor for Exploits, an Unwinnable publication. At Exploits, what we basically do is provide short blurbs about movies, books, music, games, and so on that we’ve been enjoying lately. They can be new, they can be old, they can be mainstream, they can be weird.

As movies editor, my primary job is to source a 350-word essay each month about a film. It can be any film, from any era. With me in the catbird seat, the odds are it’ll usually be monster movies. But that’s far from a requirement.

The news got announced on social media a while back, so I’ve already received a number of pitches and, indeed, filled out my first few months worth of essays. But, if you haven’t already and you have any interest in writing a little about a movie, feel free to send me a pitch. The 350-word cap is firm and we pay $10 per essay and beyond that, just about everything is fair game. Send me a pitch before you write, though, in case someone else is already writing about Attack of the Crab Monsters, or whatever.

I’ve also been helping with the film programming for this year’s NecronomiCon in Providence, which probably means I will also be in attendance there. That’s a few months away yet, though, and there’s a lot that can change between now and then. Regardless, the film programming is very much still a work in progress, but hopefully there’ll be some news on that front soon, too…

What feels like a lifetime ago but was, in actual fact, only a decade, Silvia Moreno-Garcia and I co-edited a little anthology called Fungi that was about, well, I think the title makes it fairly clear. This was the culmination of a pretty much lifelong fascination with fungal creatures, on my part, and was specifically kicked off by Silvia and I chatting about Matango.

As part of the process of putting Fungi together, we created a database (now likely lost to the mists of time) of fungal stories, movies, and so on. It contained a few of my favorites, including William Hope Hodgson’s germinal short story, “The Voice in the Night,” as well as various adaptations of same, such as the aforementioned Matango. It also included more obscure favorites, such as the moldy corpses of Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin alongside things I had never read or seen.

Of those latter, the one that jumped highest on my personal list was The Unknown Terror, which has the distinction of maybe being the earliest fungal horror film, even beating the “Voice in the Night” episode of Suspicion by a year. What’s more, the fungal horror of The Unknown Terror is far from incidental. Not only is there a fungus-filled cavern, there are multiple fungus people, before all is said and done.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. The Unknown Terror was directed by Charles Marquis Warren, a guy best known for making Westerns. In fact, most of his other feature film credits occupy that genre, and he also helped to co-create the TV series Rawhide. Before he became a director or a screenwriter, though, Warren wrote stories for the pulps – a place where the plot of Unknown Terror would have been right at home.

Warren didn’t write this picture, however. The sole screenwriting credit belongs to Kenneth Higgins, whose only other horror credit is the jokey 1943 flick Ghosts on the Loose, starring Bela Lugosi and the East Side Kids. Nowhere in the film’s credits or background is any reference to Hodgson, and yet any story that involves fungus turning people into things owes something to “The Voice in the Night.”

Though it was released as the front-half of a double-bill (with Back from the Dead, also directed by Warren), Unknown Terror was always going to be a B-picture. It was a product of Robert Lippert’s Regal Pictures, a production unit under 20th Century Fox created exclusively to shoot B-movies in Cinemascope, as a way to assure theatre owners that there would be plenty of features in that format.

As such, The Unknown Terror spends an unfortunate amount of its time on colonial fears of “native superstitions” or on lengthy caving sequences that call to mind MST3k jokes about rock climbing. Once they do finally reach the fungus cavern, however, it’s pretty great. Not only is the cavern itself full of cobwebby fungus that’s delightfully rubbery, it’s also home to several fungus people, who look sort of like lumpy Morlocks.

And all of that is before the fungus itself begins pouring down. It seems that the villainous doctor character, played by film heavy Gerald Milton, has discovered a type of fungus that grows incredibly fast. So fast, in fact, that you can watch it happen, represented in the movie by what look like thick soap suds being poured down the cave walls in what is actually one of the better set-pieces in all of ’50s horror.

The other interesting thing about The Unknown Terror comes far from the fungus cave, at the very beginning of the film, when we are treated to performances (including a theme song of sorts) by the “King of Calypso,” Sir Lancelot.

Lancelot Victor Edward Pinard, better known by his stage name Sir Lancelot, will be familiar to longtime readers and vintage horror fans for his appearances in several of Val Lewton’s classics from the 1940s, perhaps most notably I Walked with a Zombie. Here, he is performing a similar role more than a decade later, doing much of the heavy lifting required to convince us that this film takes place in the Caribbean while also providing exposition about the MacGuffin at the heart of the narrative.

“Down, down, down in the bottomless cave,” Lancelot sings, “Down, down, down beyond the last grave / If he’s got the stuff of fame / If he’s worthy of his name / He may get another chance but he’s never more the same / He’s got to suffer to be born again.”

“Movies like this aren’t totally worthless. They provide employment for a number of people.”

– Vincent Canby

John Hough directed one of my favorite haunted house movies, The Legend of Hell House, which somehow manages to have a PG rating while still containing all of the lurid, sweaty sexuality of the book upon which it is based. So, I had both high hopes and reservations when it came to watching his adaptation of Incubus, taken from Ray Russell’s 1976 novel of the same name, which is essentially a slasher movie if slashing was replaced with raping.

This is not a sensitive movie, is what I’m saying. Incubus has the unfortunate distinction of being one of the rapiest films ever made, and the sexual assaults that occur within its runtime are always distinctly brutal, even when they take place off-screen. Despite all that brutality, Incubus is also a slow movie, which is where most of the complaints that I’ve seen come in. (No one who is going to be too put off by the sexual assault probably makes it past the logline, to be fair.)

It certainly showcases more blood and nudity than Legend of Hell House but, like that film, it manages most of its luridness through suggestion as much as shock. This is a movie where the implications are as disturbing as anything seen, and a film that is absolutely drenched in what Letterboxd user nathaxnne identifies as “windswept dread” and gothic family secrets, which should come as no surprise from either Hough or Russell.

Incubus also features more recitations of the word “sperm” per minute than probably any other film released outside a medical context. John Cassavetes plays one of the sweatiest, most uncomfortable protagonists in horror movie history, a guy who, at one point, utters the phrase, “I swear to God, there’s gonna be a rape tonight,” and yet he is certainly the “good guy” compared to many of the people around him.

I didn’t love Incubus. The subject matter alone kind of guaranteed that. But I loved the atmosphere that Hough and company conjured. This is small-town gothic at its finest. The witch museum is great, and so are the gothic houses, and so is the incubus itself, when it shows up at the end for all of two seconds. Also, I love that this is apparently supposed to be Wisconsin, a state that is definitely known for its rich witch hunting history.

Due to an unrelated project, I recently fell down a rabbit hole relating to depictions of western dragons in film. For creatures so ubiquitous in the rest of popular culture, they’re surprisingly thin on the ground in the movies – especially prior to the 21st century.

This led to a Twitter thread in which I explored the early history of dragons in cinema. Oddly enough, the first dragons in film don’t look much like what we’ve come to associate with the term here in the west. 1924 saw, as far as I am aware, the first two dragons ever to grace the screen – certainly in a feature-length project.

One was in the Douglas Fairbanks version of The Thief of Bagdad, which I initially forgot about while making the tweet thread, while the other was in the first half of Fritz Lang’s diptych Die Nibelungen. Both looked more like dinosaurs than the winged dragons we’re familiar with from D&D. In fact, the first winged dragon that I know of didn’t show up on film until 1936, where it made its debut in an unlikely spot: a 16-minute Popeye short called Popeye the Sailor Meets Sindbad the Sailor.

Popeye Meets Sindbad was bundled with two other shorts, also inspired by the Arabian Nights, and released as “A Popeye Feature.” Ray Harryhausen would later acknowledge that the cartoon was a major inspiration for his 7th Voyage of Sinbad, which also features a dragon of its own, albeit again, a wingless one. As in 7th Voyage, the dragon is far from alone in the Popeye short. Sindbad’s island is also home to loads of other monsters, including a roc, an ettin, and more. It’s dragons we’re here to talk about, though…

Even though the short was combined into a feature, it doesn’t really count as a feature film. In fact, for a winged dragon to make its debut on American screens in a feature, we had to wait until 1959, when Disney introduced one of the screen’s most iconic dragons. The House of Mouse had already put animated dragons on screen before that, notably the eponymous character from the mixed live-action/animation oddity The Reluctant Dragon, in 1941. But in ’59, they gave us the dark fairy Maleficent in Sleeping Beauty, who took the shape of a massive black dragon who breathes green flame.

Maleficent wasn’t actually the first winged dragon to hit screens, though. The Russians had beaten America to that punch, with the three-headed Gorynych, who showed up onscreen for the first time (that I know of) in Ilya Muromets in 1956. That flick made its way stateside as The Sword and the Dragon in 1963, where it was eventually skewered by the crew of the Satellite of Love on Mystery Science Theater 3000.

Since then, dragons on screen have increased in frequency as the years have rolled on and these days they’re relatively commonplace, by comparison. Early on, though, dragons on film were as rare as they often are in the earliest stories about them – beasts both singular and strange, representing humanity’s desire to subdue a chaotic world. Which, in this case, takes the form of creating elaborate special effects to represent big, magical lizards.

In the month of January, I watched eleven Shaw Bros. movies. This is noteworthy for a number of reasons, not the least of them because, prior to that, I had seen… one? Maybe two, depending on whether you count their joint production with Hammer, Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires. It’s possible that I have seen others without remembering or realizing it, over the years, but the number is small, is the point, and over the last month I have certainly much more than doubled it.

This came about because I received a review copy of the very nice Shawscope Vol. One box from Arrow Video, and I have been trying to work my way through it for an eventual piece. I’m not quite there yet, either. There are two movies left to go – there’s a lot of movies in this box – but I’m getting close.

Interestingly, at the same time, I also watched a few of the latest Marvel movies that I had missed because there was a plague on. Now, those who have followed along for a while here know that I am, broadly speaking, a person who enjoys Marvel, and Marvel movies, and, more to the point, not someone who likes to rag on modern movies and go on about how movies were better “back in my day,” notwithstanding that every movie in this Shawscope set was made before I was born.

And yet, it bears mentioning that, with the exception of Mighty Peking Man, which really didn’t do it for me, the worst movie in this Shawscope set is at least several notches above the best offering from the latest batch of Marvel films. (The new Spider-Man possibly notwithstanding – I haven’t seen it yet.)

I’m not really here to rag on the recent slate of Marvel movies, though, as much as I am to just say what a joy it’s been to dig through all of these old Shaw Bros. pictures. I’ll have more coherent, and hopefully thoughtful, thoughts on them in the eventual piece (likely at Unwinnable) that will come out of all this, but it’s just been a lot of fun to get a much fuller view of a slice of cinema that I’ve long been aware of but have rarely seen.

That said, I’ll admit that these flicks (which are all kung fu pictures, with the exception of the aforementioned Mighty Peking Man) are not necessarily well-suited to binge-watching. Like any other very specific sub-field, even my beloved Hammer gothics, they get a bit same-y after you mainline enough of them all in a row. But thus far that hasn’t hampered my ability to appreciate the distinct pleasures each one offers, nor dimmed my enthusiasm to put on the next disc in line.

The other thing that makes it noteworthy that I watched all these movies in the month of January is that it’s vaguely miraculous that I managed to make time to watch anything at all. Chalk it up to basically not being able to leave the house because of the plague, I guess, but I’ve been incredibly busy in the month of January, working on a semi-secret licensed tabletop gaming project that is not terribly hard to guess the particulars of for anyone who has been following along at all.

It has eaten up pretty much all of my time that hasn’t been devoted to watching people kick one-another, and I’m looking forward to being able to discuss it at greater length hopefully very soon. In the meantime, you can read my weirdo thoughts on Matt Wagner’s Grendel and the Saw franchise in the latest issue of Exploits, if you’re so inclined…

I’m not here to talk about nuScream (2022) but I’m going to have to, a little, so here we go: I hated it. First Scream-branded thing ever that I didn’t enjoy. But I also seem to be alone in that – as I am in hating the new Halloweens – so if you loved it, I am legitimately happy for you.

(Also, it didn’t have time travel, as per the gag in Scream 4, and so it is dead to me.)

Because we’re going to be talking about nuScream, January has been Scream Month at the Horror Pod Class, where we’ve covered Scream 4 (my actual favorite) and Scream 2 and, as such, there’s been a lot of talk about the franchise, including which ones are best, worst, etc.

And here’s the thing, when I say that Scream 4 is my favorite, which is absolutely true, I always feel like I need to caveat that with the acknowledgment that the original is still probably the best, for any number of obvious reasons. But there’s another layer to that. Scream (1996) is not only the original, the standard from which all the others must deviate, it is also fundamentally different from the others.

The original Scream is a number of things, and while the vast majority of the ink that gets spilled over it is about how metafictional it is, that’s only one small part of what makes it work. Ultimately, though, metafictional or not, Scream is a deconstruction of – and love letter to – slasher tropes.

The sequels pay lip service toward being the same thing, but they aren’t. Because they can’t be. Because they made a decision that other slashers didn’t, and they stuck to it in a way that few other horror franchises ever have. Scream is not, fundamentally, a franchise about Ghostface. He may be the face (no pun intended) of the series, but it’s always someone different under the mask. What stays the same, movie to movie, is Sidney and, to an only slightly lesser extent, Dewey and Gail.

Rare indeed is the horror franchise that runs this long while keeping its focus so squarely on the survivors, rather than the killer. As a result, groundbreaking or not, after the first movie, the series is no longer about what the first movie was about – both lampshading and upending the cliches of the slasher genre. Instead, it’s about these three survivors. About what this does to them, about what they do in response. About how they come together and what pulls them apart.

The metafictional elements may have been what made the first movie stand out (we can debate that; for my purposes here, though, it doesn’t matter) but after that, what makes the series unique is its dedication to those three characters. That’s why I love Scream 4 and hated Scream 5, even though they are, on paper, practically the same movie.

4 understood what this series was really about. 5 doesn’t – at least for my money.

There’s another thing that happens as a result of this focus on the survivors – another aspect of the Scream franchise that we rarely get to see play out in horror films, at least in this way. There is an organic growth to the scale of the film’s central mythology. Sidney is a celebrity, even at the end of the first picture. By the opening of the second, there is a movie-within-a-movie that parallels the events of the first film. By the third, they are in Hollywood, on the set of a movie about their lives, with actors who are playing them.

This is a franchise where the world knows what happened, and has changed as a result. In small ways, sure, but still. This isn’t supernatural evil or whatever, so the changes don’t have to be big. But they’re still there. Other franchises have often gestured in similar directions, over the years, but few have ever been as committed to the bit.

Scream wasn’t the first place I saw this kind of storytelling, though. Another of my favorite horror/comedy franchises does this too – perhaps even one better. As with Scream, the original Tremors (1990) is a self-aware horror movie that at once pays loving tribute to and lampoons a largely-defunct (at the time) subgenre of horror – in this case, the giant monster movies of the ’50s.

It’s also easily the best movie in the series. But the first of its sequels do something that, at the time, I had never seen any other horror movie do: they present a world in which the public is aware of what happened in the first movie. There’s a Graboids-themed arcade machine, and the survivors of the initial film are minor celebrities who appeared in a Nike commercial.

That sensation, of allowing the world to expand organically with the events of each prior film, is something that many franchises struggle with, and it is that, as much as anything else, that helped both Scream and Tremors remain something special into sequels that couldn’t replicate what the original had accomplished, and so chose to accomplish something else, instead – at least for a while.

Well, 2021 sure was a year, huh? I guess it was better than 2020, all things considered, but I think we all also hoped to be someplace better than this by the time we bid 2021 adieu, yet here we are. I have a lot to be thankful for from the year gone by, and a lot to look forward to in the one to come, but that doesn’t mean that getting here was exactly a cake walk.

I’m not really here to rehash everything that happened in 2021. It was a lot. I stayed pretty into tabletop gaming, in spite of mostly not being able to actually play. I wrote a bunch more stuff for Privateer Press, including the contents of a couple of very successful Kickstarters, with another on the way. I didn’t publish a ton of stories, but I had a few come out, and I’m proud of them all.

I kept a daily aesthetic thread on Twitter every single day for the whole year. For the entire month of June, I wrote a tweet-length “story” about a giant monster every day. I got lampooned by the Midnight Society. I largely quit using Goodreads. I read a lot of old comic books and watched a lot of movies, and occasionally wrote about both. I read fewer books than either of those other things, but not none. I did a presentation for the Johnson County Library and peer-reviewed a book for a major university press. I wrote regular columns for Signal Horizon, Unwinnable, and Weird Horror.

It’s been a lot, is what I’m saying.

But a lot of it has been good. My freelance work has kept my nose to the grindstone for much of the year, but I can’t really complain. In all, things in my life have been pretty great, even as the world around me doesn’t always come out looking so rosy.

I said I wasn’t here to rehash the year, though, and I’m not. I’m here to do my usual roundup of things that I watched and read. If you want something more like a proper end-of-the-year list, you can find me writing up a few of these items in various places online, or listen to me chatting with Tyler Unsell about them at the Horror Pod Class.

Now, let’s do the numbers. In the course of 2021, I watched some 270 movies. Of those, 173 were ones that I watched for the first time. Of those, roughly 19 were actually released in 2021. My busiest month was October, at 40 movies. My least was May, with only 13. The first movie I watched in 2021 was Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (2020), the last was Zeiram (1991).

As I’ve done for a couple of years now, I kept an ongoing Twitter thread of my favorite new-to-me movies of the year, as I watched them. Of those, the highlights not released in 2021 included (in the order that I saw them) Nightmare in Wax (1969), Night of the Devils (1972), Anguish (1987), Opera (1987), Death Ship (1980), City of the Living Dead (1980), Shadow of the Cat (1961), The Spider Labyrinth (1988), The Boneyard (1991), Possession (1981), Frankenstein 1970 (1958), The Snake Girl and the Silver-haired Witch (1968), and Whoever Slew Auntie Roo? (1972).

My favorite books that I read in 2021 include Jonathan Raab’s The Secret Goatman Spookshow, Stephen Graham Jones’ My Heart is a Chainsaw, and Richard Sala’s (sadly posthumous) Poison Flowers & Pandemonium.

My favorite movie released in 2021 (of the 19, remember, that I saw) was Malignant, which also gave us our Monster of the Year, that thing I do frankly sporadically because I don’t always remember to, what?

Gabriel is one of the best parts of a bonkers movie that I absolutely loved and that was definitely the best time I had in a theater all year – and I’m so glad I managed to see it in a theater, because damn.

There were a few other good monsters this year, to boot, many of them in horror movies. I also dug Antlers more than most people seem to have, and it had a great monster designed (at least partly) by Guy Davis. There are several other movies with promising monsters that I haven’t yet seen, including The Night House and The Green Knight. (Everyone else absolutely loved Raatma in V/H/S ’94, but it didn’t do that much for me, even though it looks a lot like a Trevor Henderson creep.)

Monsters also showed up in a lot of the big-budget movies of the year, too, with Starro from Suicide Squad deserving of a special mention, even though I haven’t actually seen Suicide Squad just yet. There’s stuff I’m looking forward to in 2022, but a lot of it isn’t necessarily new releases. Toward the end of the year, I got Severin’s All the Haunts Be Ours boxed set of folk horror movies, so I can’t wait to check those out, along with Arrow’s massive Shawscope boxed set. Plus, October of 2022 should see the release of my next collection from Word Horde, not to mention some other stuff that I can’t talk about just yet.

And that’s basically it for closing out what I inadvertently dubbed “the Year of Dumb Shit” over at Unwinnable. Here’s to hoping that shit in 2022 is maybe a little less dumb, even if the movies can stand to stay this dumb, that’s totally fine.

A few days ago, I posted to Instagram photos of the cover of an issue of Satan’s Six, a short-lived 1993 comic from Topps that – like so many other comics rolled out and just as quickly dispatched during that oft-unfortunate era – bore the name of Jack Kirby, if little enough else of the King remained in their pages.

I was dimly aware of the title prior to picking up the entire run on a lark at my friendly local comic shop, spurred on by that cover. But I had never investigated it any too carefully. As I said, such things were a dime a dozen at the time, and, as one person pointed out on Facebook when I posted the picture, Topps comics of its ilk, “were so hard to get rid of for a while that my neighborhood comic shop in the 90s gave one free away with every purchase.”

When I posted the picture, the comics were all still sealed in the bags that Topps comics of that era came in – accompanied by collectible cards that, likely, no one collects. However, curiosity is what had driven me to buy the comics in the first place, and it also drove me to open them up and read what was inside.

So I can safely say that the comics themselves are, in a word, terrible. Puerile and jokey while also attempting to be edgy and hip, the ’90s have much to answer for, and no touch of genuine wonder can be found within their pages. What few contributions Kirby does bring feel dated and at odds with the tone of the rest of the book and John Cleary’s art, while certainly matching the aforementioned tone, is decidedly chaotic and difficult to follow from a storytelling standpoint.

Which all serves to obscure something delightfully strange: the subject of that cover, tacked onto the fourth issue, that prompted me to buy the comics in the first place, and to post the photo that I did.

First, a little background: Satan’s Six, for those who would prefer to be spared looking the series up, concerns a quintet of characters all consigned to limbo who are trying to earn a place in either heaven or hell – and who have been employed by Satan to do the latter. (The sixth is rounded out by Frightful, a genuine-article demon sent to keep tabs on them.)

At the beginning of the fourth and final issue, their demonic master – not Old Scratch himself, but a middle manager – arrives to chastise them for not doing a better job, and brings along a little muscle in the form of none other than Jason Voorhees. Y’see, for those who haven’t already done the math, this was the same year that Jason went to hell in the ninth installment of the Friday the 13th franchise, and the comic seems to be after a little cross-promotion.

In fact, Jason’s demonic sponsor is about to utter that film’s title when he gets cut off with a glib, fourth-wall-breaking, “I can’t let you use this comic for such a blatant plug!”

So, not only does “ol’ dead-face himself” show up for a pointless brawl that has nothing to do with the rest of the plot, he also crops up in the bullpen at the back of the issue, where then-editor-in-chief Jim Salicrup advertises not just the movie (which New Line claims will be the “very last, ain’t gonna be no more, no way, no how”) but the Topps comic adaptation of same.

Here’s the thing, though. This issue of Satan’s Six was released in July of 1993 – a month before the film hit theaters, and the same month as the first issue of the Topps adaptation. Meaning that this is, as near as I can tell, basically Jason’s first appearance in a comic book – even if they do manage to misspell his name.

So that’s something, anyway.