It’s the time of the season when everybody starts trotting out their lists of favorite horror movies. I’ve tried doing those in the past, and maybe one day I’ll try an exhaustive one again, but this year I was just thinking about the problem with those lists, which is that they’re always populated by the same bunch of movies. The classics are classics for a reason, after all, and chances are they’re going to fill anybody’s list of favorites. So this year, I thought I’d focus on a few of my favorite horror movies that probably wouldn’t normally make anybody’s top-ten list. Are these the best movies out there? Probably not. Are they even my favorites? Maybe a few. But they’re all movies I love, and they’re all movies that tend to get forgotten. So here they are, in descending order by release date, to prevent me from having to pick favorites:

13. House of Wax (2005)
I am as surprised as anyone to have liked the 2005 remake of House of Wax. It’s really, really outside my wheelhouse, and while I’m admittedly a little obsessed with wax museum stories, that really shouldn’t be enough to get it a place on my DVD shelf, or on this list. But as I said at greater length around this time last year, it’s just surprisingly good. Director Jaume Collet-Serra brings a giallo approach and a Gothic sensibility to what is basically a backwoods slasher flick, and manages to come out the other side with a movie that I like way more than I probably should.

12. Brotherhood of the Wolf (2001)
Is it a horror movie? A martial arts film? A costume drama? It’s all of the above, and probably a little more besides. Brotherhood of the Wolf is one of those movies that hits almost all of my obsessions. It’s what would have happened if the weird martial arts Gothics like Captain Kronos (later on my list) had become an actual genre, and it manages to be even weirder by explaining away the seeming monster than it would have been had there actually been a werewolf or something, which is a feat not easily accomplished!

11. Night of the Creeps (1986)
Of all the movies on this list, this is probably the one that you’re most likely to see on some other favorite horror movie list, but I don’t see it on enough of them, so here it is anyway. Monster Squad director Fred Dekker’s first feature, and a movie that just gets better and better every time I watch it.

10. The Stuff (1985)
Hands down the best movie about killer yogurt that you will ever see!

9. Someone’s Watching Me! (1978)
John Carpenter does his best Hitchcock in this surprisingly effective–and charming–made-for-TV thriller.

8. Piranha (1978)
Any number of Joe Dante movies could probably go onto any list of my favorites, but Piranha holds a special place in my heart, and is nowhere near as well-regarded as other favorites like Gremlins 2. There are a lot of reasons why I love Piranha, but to sum it up in just a few words: unnecessary stop-motion fishman!

7. Captain Kronos – Vampire Hunter (1974)
I love all Hammer films, pretty much without exception. Any list of my favorite films could almost always include all of them, and the only reason they don’t is usually because I’m incapable of picking favorites. When it comes to weird movies that I absolutely love, though, Captain Kronos is a special case. One of the most unusual vampire movies ever made, it’s also full of absolutely beautiful touches. My favorite is the part about the toads!

6. It! (1967)
Roddy McDowall does his best Norman Bates–while also sort of feeling like a Lovecraft protagonist–as a museum curator who stumbles upon a golem and uses it to do his bidding, in the second film in our lineup with an exclamation point in the title! There aren’t enough golem movies out there to begin with, so any one we get is a gem, and this one is a gem of unusual luster. It starts out pretty strange, and gets a lot stranger before the final credits roll.

5. The Comedy of Terrors (1963)
Though not actually based on anything by Edgar Allan Poe, Comedy of Terrors certainly belongs in the same spiritual company as the Corman/Price/Poe films of which it is a contemporary. While a lot of Halloween lists do (and should) include great Corman/Price/Poe films like Pit and the Pendulum (my personal favorite), Comedy of Terrors is often unjustly overlooked. Which is a shame, because it is fantastic. Boasting a cast that includes Price, Peter Lorre, a hilarious Boris Karloff, and Basil Rathbone, with a script by Richard Matheson and the great Jacques Tourneur behind the camera, Comedy of Terrors isn’t exactly a horror film (as the title might suggest), but it’s a perfect flick for a rainy October evening.

4. Matango (1963)
It should be pretty obvious that I love fungus monsters, and if I could convince everyone in the world to watch one movie that they’ve probably never seen, it would be Matango, also known by the wonderfully lurid titles Attack of the Mushroom People and Fungus of Terror. 

3. The Undying Monster (1942)
The first–and least–of three suspense flicks that John Brahm made for Fox in the 40s and that are available in this great collection. The other two are better regarded and, frankly, just better films. Hangover Square, in particular, is a masterpiece. But The Undying Monster is my unquestioned favorite, sending a host of arrows straight to my heart. There are paranormal investigators, a supernatural mystery, and little almost M.R. Jamesian touches with the family history and curse. It also boasts what might be the most delightfully ridiculous of all the “rational explanation” endings that plagued the movies of the time.

2. Doctor X (1932)
One of only a few movies filmed in two-strip technicolor, there has never been a movie that felt more like the cover of a pulp novel than Doctor X. The pre-code storyline involves cannibalism, mad scientists, “synthetic flesh,” a big creepy house on the cliffs, and just about everything else you could ask for. It’s like a Richard Sala comic come screaming to life!

1. The Old Dark House (1932)
Quite simply one of my favorite movies of all time. I’ve talked about it over and over again, going as far as writing an introduction for the novel it’s adapted from, so I’ll refrain from talking about it here. The whole thing is available on YouTube, so if you haven’t watched it before, you should do that tonight:

When Frankensteinia announced their Peter Cushing Centennial Blogathon, I knew that I would have to do something to participate, even though I also knew that May was going to be the busiest month I’ve had in, I dunno, maybe ever. But what could I do with my limited time and resources that would still fit the stature of such a great blogathon? I settled (perhaps not too wisely) on watching all six of the Hammer Frankenstein films starring Peter Cushing in my favorite role he ever essayed, that of Baron Frankenstein himself. (I did not count 1970’s Horror of Frankenstein, which doesn’t feature Cushing anyway.) It turned out that I already owned all six movies, having acquired them all at various different times and not realizing until that moment that I had “caught them all,” as it were. And while watching them occupied the vast majority of my movie-watching time during the month, it was interesting to see them all stacked up together.

The Hammer Frankenstein films, like their slightly-more-famous Dracula counterparts, are not really sequels to one-another in the way that we’re accustomed to sequels working (with the exception of Revenge of Frankenstein, the second movie in the series, which picks up literally right where its predecessor left off). Instead, they’re more like, I’m not really sure, alternate universe episodes in the life of Baron Frankenstein, a character who is always more-or-less the same, but whose history and even personality seem to fluctuate to fit the needs of one script or another. Here he murders a guy in cold blood, there he says he’s never killed anyone, here he’s almost heroic, there he’s as cruel and sadistic a character as you’re likely to find.

There’s a fascinating quality to all of Hammer’s gothic horror films, one of many things that set them apart from their contemporaries and imitators, which is the way they all feel as though they take place in the same universe, while at the same time seldom sharing any continuity from one to the other. And even when they do share continuity–in the form, say, of recurring characters like Baron Frankenstein–they play fast and loose with it. It’s appropriate that one of the recent Hammer film logos mirrored the Marvel movie logo, since the not-quite-shared universe of Hammer’s classic horror films feels like nothing more than it does a comic book universe. And the Frankenstein movies are no exception to this rule.

Of all six movies, the only one that was entirely new to me was Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed, which I have seen widely touted as the best of them. Certainly, it was extremely well put-together and dramatically satisfying, but it also features the Baron at his most cruel, and a completely unnecessary rape scene that Peter Cushing himself famously objected to filming, which resulted in my finding it more difficult to enjoy than I did many of the others, in spite of its other virtues. Of the other films a few I had seen repeatedly (Curse and Evil for sure), while for others this constituted only my second viewing (Frankenstein Created Woman, Revenge, and Monster from Hell). I found things to like in all of them, of course, and it was a great deal of fun to watch Cushing’s characterization of the Baron at once stay true to the basics and at the same time move all over the map, depending on the film.

But that’s probably enough generic blathering from me. When I mentioned doing this, I promised to list my favorites from the films, and so I’ll get on that, without further ado:

Favorite Assistant:
The vast majority of the movies feature the Baron being assisted by one stripe or another of eager young doctor (a couple of them, I believe, named Hans), and while each of them have their own strengths, they do sort of blur together after a while. Standing out more are the Baron’s Disapproving Friend Paul (as Gemma Files dubs him) from Curse and Thorley Walters’s boozy but kind Dr. Hertz from Frankenstein Created Woman. Ultimately, Dr. Hertz is the winner for me, with the combination of his bumbling performance and his genuine awe of Frankenstein.

Favorite Lab:
Hammer films pretty much unfailingly feature great sets, and the Frankenstein films are particular standouts of this, with every movie featuring one kind of spectacular laboratory or another. The lab in Revenge, in particular, has a great disembodied nervous system, while the lab in the opening of Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed is full of green lights and wonderful creepy things in tanks. But the hands-down winner of the best lab, for me, is easily Evil of Frankenstein, which contains not only my favorite lab (the one in the mill), but also my second favorite (the more extensive castle lab, which, like most of the rest of the movie, is Hammer’s take on the Universal version).

Favorite Creature:
Unlike the Universal Frankenstein films, which followed the adventures of the monster, the Hammer films all follow the Baron, who creates a new creature in every film. These range from a beautiful girl with her boyfriend’s soul in Frankenstein Created Woman to a giant caveman in Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell, and just about everything in-between. Hands down the best of the bunch has got to be Christopher Lee’s iconic interpretation of the classic monster in Curse of Frankenstein, but I’ve got a soft spot for the creature in Evil of Frankenstein, with his giant shoebox forehead. He looks a lot like what I imagine would have happened if Jack Kirby had taken a stab at designing the famous Jack Pierce makeup from the 1931 original.

Favorite Baron:
This is probably the most difficult category, since Cushing is always playing some variant of the same guy, even though he wobbles from almost heroic in Evil of Frankenstein (ironically) to incredibly and needlessly cruel in Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed, with stops off on almost every destination in-between. Every performance is basically magnificent, for my money, but the best ones are the ones where Frankenstein is a little tired and a lot acerbic, and so I’m pretty sure Frankenstein Created Woman takes the cake. He’s also got some of his best lines in that one. “Of course I”m alive. Didn’t I say I would be?”

Favorite Movie:
It’s an unpopular choice, but my favorite movie of the bunch is Evil of Frankenstein, no question. It is the one that’s least like the others, in that it really feels like Hammer doing a best-of interpretation of the entire Universal Frankenstein series, from the carnival to the deaf/mute girl to the unscrupulous hypnotist to the design of the creature and the design of the lab. But rather than feeling like Hammer aping Universal, it all feels to me like the best of both worlds, and I love every minute of it, even the monster frozen in a block of “ice” that’s obviously just plastic sheeting. My second favorite is probably its immediate follow-up, Frankenstein Created Woman, which is way, way less sleazy or exploitative than you’d probably imagine given the title/premise.

A Hammer Film Production

Not actually from any of the Frankenstein films, but it’s my favorite of the Hammer Film Production logos.

[Spoilers here, for Cabin in the Woods, mostly, so heads up.]

If I live to be a hundred, publish ten-thousand bestsellers, and cure cancer, one of my proudest achievements will still and always be that John Langan once referred to me as “the monster guy.” I love monsters (it’s right there in my bio), and I love movies about them, and it’s always been my intention to have a sort of unofficial award for Best Movie Monster of the Year every year, though I’ve never managed it. This is me, trying that again.

There are an almost unprecedented number of monsters in the movies these days. If I were ten years old right now, my head would probably explode. Except that somehow the monsters in the movies these days don’t really feel much like the monsters that were in movies back when I was ten years old and in love with monsters. Maybe it’s their very ubiquity that makes them feel different, maybe it’s the fact that CG monsters, no matter how good, will probably never feel quite as “real” as practical ones did. Or maybe it’s that most of the monsters these days aren’t really in “monster movies.” The majority of monsters I can think of on film in 2012 are in movies like The Hobbit (which was chock-a-block with creatures large and small and mostly large) or Men in Black 3 or Snow White and the Huntsman or even Prometheus, which is closer to a monster movie than the others, anyway. There are even the aliens in The Avengers, along with their giant flying prehistoric fish creatures. Basically, almost every big-budget action movie of the year had some kind of monster or another. And none of that’s taking into account kids’ movies like ParaNormanHotel Transylvania, or Frankenweenie (of which I’ve only seen ParaNorman).

[ETA: Shit, John Carter came out this year too? There’s another one for the list of big budget action adventure movies that were packed to the gills with monsters.]

Of all those monsters, though, none of them really stand out for me, none of them have the kind of personality that I’m looking for in a Monster of the Year. So this year, the award is going to go, not to any one specific monster, but to all the monsters in one particular movie: Cabin in the Woods, specifically to one particular sequence, one that anyone who’s seen the movie will instantly be able to identify, which is basically everything I’ve been waiting for my entire life. A representative segment is embedded below, but, and I cannot possibly stress this strongly enough, do not, under any circumstances, watch it if you haven’t seen Cabin in the Woods. It will ruin the shit out of it.

There are, of course, movies that had a chance of being in the running that I just haven’t gotten around to watching yet. Off the top of my head, I can think of the aforementioned Frankenweenie and Hotel Transylvania, as well as the (terrible, I’m told) sequel to Silent Hill. If I’ve made any startling or distressing omissions, please do not hesitate to let me know.

After some setbacks, it looks like we managed to finish our Alfred Hitchcock marathon within the confines of the month of November after all, coming in, guns blazing to a three-movie pile up over the long Thanksgiving weekend. We still haven’t made it out to see Sacha Gervasi’s Hitchcock. We still hope to (though I hear that it plays pretty fast-and-loose with actual history), and after seeing a trailer for the HBO movie The Girl I’d love to catch it as well. (I also like Toby Jones quite a lot, so it’s nice to see him getting some meatier roles.) Maybe we’ll wait until they both hit DVD, and see how they stack up next to one-another.

For those who maybe weren’t around for the beginning of this, I’d somehow managed to live my entire life without ever seeing an Alfred Hitchcock film up until a couple of months ago, when Grace and I watched Dial M for Murder. Suitably impressed, and with a big Hollywood biopic on the way, I thought that November would be a good time to at least make a dent in salvaging my cinematic literacy by seeing some of Hitch’s more famous films, as many of them as I felt I could cram in. We ended up doing eight (nine if you count Dial M). There’s of course a lot that could be (and has been) said about Hitchcock, and probably a lot I could say about this experiment, but I’ll confine myself to talking a bit about each movie, and then doing a little wrap-up at the end.

The Lady Vanishes (1938) – The most different of the films that we watched, I talked more about my initial impressions of it here. Looking back, I can definitely see a lot of earmarks of Hitchcock’s work in it, but it’s also lighter fare than anything else that we watched, though I’ve heard some of his other movies are more in its line, or lighter yet.

Rope (1948) – One of my favorites out of the whole bunch, Rope shares a delightfully stagebound quality and a sort of dinner party murder atmosphere with later entries like Dial M for Murder and Rear Window. It’s also got a lot of very impressive cinematic sleight of hand going on, though I’ll cop to having missed much of it the first time through. I talked more about my initial impressions of it here.

Strangers on a Train (1951) – Pretty much all of the movies that we watched this month contained a lot of familiar elements, mostly because they’d been copied by other movies and entered into our common cinematic lexicon, to be absorbed by me and even Grace via cultural osmosis, sometimes without us ever being aware of where they were coming from. But Strangers on a Train managed to surprise me more than most of the others, in part because it wasn’t actually about what I had always assumed it was about, based on the synopsis. I talked a little more about it here.

Dial M for Murder (1954) – Cheating a bit here, since I actually watched this one back in October, though I didn’t say much about it then. After watching all the others, it remains one of my favorites, and is one of Grace’s favorites still as well. Dial M looks beautiful, and may meld charm and menace better than any of the other movies on the list, and Ray Milland gives an inspired performance. The scene in which he ropes his old schoolmate into the plot, putting the screws to him bit by bit without ever changing his congenial appearance, is one of the favorite moments in all these movies. Maybe in all movies, ever.

Rear Window (1954) – With Rear Window we begin the string of what are probably Hitchcock’s five most famous movies. Made the same year as Dial MRear Window has a lot in common with both it and Rope, especially in terms of tone. A lot about Rear Window was, of course, familiar, from various remakes and references (including the “Bart of Darkness” Simpsons episode), and I think the movie was one of the ones I enjoyed the most, but I’d honestly have to watch it again to say much about it for sure, because I was so completely floored and distracted by the absolutely jawdropping set on which it was filmed. I linked to this on social media back when I first watched the movie, but here it is again for posterity, a video showing the entire set and all the events of the film that occur there, in one frame. It is seriously probably the most impressive set I have ever seen.

Vertigo (1958) – Of all the movies on this list, Vertigo is probably the one I knew the least about going in. As such, it kept me on my toes more than some of the others, but in spite of its reputation, it wasn’t one of my favorites, though it was cool to see the origins of the “Vertigo zoom,” which is maybe the most copied shot in all of cinema ever. (Probably not, really, but it’s certainly ubiquitous.) The last half-hour or so, though, literally did floor me. (Pretty much everything from the famous nightmare sequence on.) Less because it kept me guessing, though it did that in some spots too, and more because it just really did create a terrible feeling of disorientation and tension, and James Stewart, impressive in all his Hitchcock roles thus far, really knocked the ball out of the park with his slow descent into, well, whatever the hell it was he was descending into, exactly. (The scene in the department store literally made me feel uncomfortable, which is something movies rarely do, and more rarely still movies from 1958.)

North by Northwest (1959) – As I said elsewhere right after I finished watching it, North by Northwest is basically just the template for every action/adventure-type movie that has been made since. As such, again, it feels very familiar in a lot of places, though never stale for all that. The most impressive moments for me weren’t any of the by-now famous set pieces (though I can see why they would have been when I wasn’t familiar with a hundred thousand re-iterations of them since), but the less-famous explosive end of the well-known crop duster scene, and the incredibly sultry dialogue between Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint. I have seen actual sex that contained less sex than that dialogue!

Psycho (1960) – I had steeled myself to be disappointed by Psycho. While almost all the other movies on this list were full of familiar elements, Psycho was a movie that I had, for all intents and purposes, already seen. Every frame and moment and line and shot of it has been called out in other movies, rehashed, reiterated, dissected, reproduced. I’ve even seen the 1998 Gus Van Sant remake, which I’m told is very close to shot-for-shot. (I don’t really remember it well enough to say for certain how closely it hews, though I can safely say that it’s nowhere near as good.) But I wasn’t disappointed, at all. Psycho is magic, an absolute masterpiece, maybe the most impressive movie on the list, and a stunning film that no amount of familiarity could dull. Anthony Perkins was a particular standout, giving one of the best performances in a month of movies full of fantastic performances. Pretty much every movie on this list is a classic, and probably every one of them rightly so, but Psycho might be the classicest.

The Birds (1963) – The Birds, on the other hand, I was disappointed by. Which isn’t to say that the movie is bad, at all. It’s filled with great stuff, and Hitchcock’s technical virtuosity is still well on display. The shots of the birds flocking are justifiably famous, and lose none of their punch. And of course I love that there’s no real explanation given for what’s happening. (Who is surprised that I love that?) But The Birds also stumbles for me more often than any other movie on this list, and begins to contain more elements that I’m used to seeing and not particularly liking in horror movies, especially in some of the attack sequences, as the victims flail about and roll themselves around on things.

So that’s the list. There are, of course, a ton of other great Hitchcock pictures I could and should and someday will watch, but that’ll keep us for now. I think my favorites of the bunch were probably Dial M for Murder and Rope, simply for their stagebound, talky style of storytelling. Grace’s favorites were probably Dial MThe Lady Vanishes, and maybe an honorable mention for Strangers on a Train. We both agreed that the best of the bunch, by any kind of cumulative standard, was Psycho. Rear Window gets some kind of honorary statue for Best Set.

I said earlier that I had originally hoped to post a book recommendation a day for the entire month of October. Part of the impetus for this was to have something to do for the Countdown to Halloween, but part of it was also Neil Gaiman’s All Hallow’s Read. The gist of All Hallow’s Read is to start a new tradition where you give people scary books to read on Halloween. I think that’s a great tradition, and it’s something I wanted to support. So, since I can’t actually give everyone a scary book, I was going to suggest a bunch of them.

Again, that’s not going to happen, at least, not in the depth I would have liked. But while I may not be able to go all out, I did do some thinking about what I would have suggested, had I had the time, and while I can’t do a suggestion a day, with explanations of why, I can still suggest 31 great scary books. To make it a little harder on myself, I restricted it no more than one book by the same author, and to no books by Mike Mignola. (Do I still need to suggest books by Mike Mignola? If so, this is me suggesting all of them.) To make it a little easier on myself, I let myself do whole series, rather than picking individual installments. Beyond that there’s no real rhyme or reason here, besides that these are spooky books that I like.

Without further ado (and in no particular order):

31. Tales, H.P. Lovecraft
30. Count Magnus & Other Ghost Stories, M.R. James
29. The Collected Ghost Stories of E.F. Benson
28. The Savage Tales of Solomon Kane, Robert E. Howard
27. The Casebook of Carnacki the Ghost Finder, William Hope Hodgson
26. Owls Hoot in Daytime & Other Omens, Manly Wade Wellman
25. The Ghostly Best Stories of Robert Westall (2 volumes)
24. Something Wicked This Way Comes, Ray Bradbury
23. A Night in the Lonesome October, Roger Zelazny
22. Hell House, Richard Matheson
21. A Coven of Vampires, Brian Lumley
20. Cabal, Clive Barker
19. The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman
18. The Courtney Crumrin books, Ted Naifeh (4+ volumes)
17. Gothic!, edited by Deborah Noyes
16. The Bone Key, Sarah Monette
15. The Monstrumologist books, Rick Yancey (3 volumes so far)
14. The Dylan Dog Case Files, Tiziano Sclavi
13. Beasts of Burden: Animal Rites, Evan Dorkin & Jill Thompson
12. The Enterprise of Death, Jesse Bullington
11. Uzumaki, Junji Ito (3 volumes)
10. Occultation & Other Stories, Laird Barron
9. The Darkly Splendid Realm, Richard Gavin
8. Mr. Gaunt & Other Uneasy Encounters, John Langan
7. The Man with the Barbed-Wire Fists, Norman Partridge
6. Basic Black, Terry Dowling
5. Worse Than Myself, Adam Golaski
4. Saga of the Swamp Thing hardcovers, Alan Moore & others
3. Creepy Presents: Bernie Wrightson
2. Jack Kirby’s The Demon
1. Creatures, edited by John Langan & Paul Tremblay*

*Yeah, this is skirting my rule about no two works by the same person. Also, I haven’t finished reading this one yet. But hey, it’s my list, and monster anthology!

2010 was quite a year.

I figured, since so much had happened that I was having a hard time keeping it all straight, I’d try to do a “year in review” post summarizing all the crazy stuff that happened this last year, to the best of my ability. Of course, probably the biggest thing is that I was contacted by Jason Yarn, an agent with Paradigm after he saw my submission to the Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities call for micro-submissions. He and I have been talking since, and hopefully there’ll be some big related news on the horizon.

Three of my stories appeared this year. “Nature vs. Nurture” appeared in the third fiction issue of Innsmouth Free Press, where it also won the readers’ poll for best story in that issue. My flash story “Ex Libris” appeared at Everyday Weirdness. And “The Clowder,” which I sold years ago, finally appeared in the Cat Tales 2 anthology from Wildside Press.

While “The Worm that Gnaws” was published in 2009, in 2010 it was voted the best Pseudopod of 2009 in an annual forum poll, which made me very proud.

That was it for fiction in 2010, but it was the Year of Nonfiction for me. Back in February I started my column on international horror cinema at Innsmouth Free Press (the latest installment of which is here), and I participated throughout the year in Vampire Awareness Month and Ghost Appreciation Month. This coming February I’ll be one of the MCs for Monster Awareness Month, which I am very excited about. I also wrote a piece on Mignola, Wellman, and Modern Myth-Building for IndiePulp. But my proudest nonfiction moment of the year was being asked to write a piece for Strange Horizons on a subject very near and dear to my heart, which you can take a gander at over here, if I’ve not already pointed at it and jumped up and down enough times.

The end of 2010 saw a fairly unprecedented flurry of short story sales that should all be appearing in 2011 sometime. First “Letters from the Monster Show” sold to the forthcoming YA ezine Scape, then, in rapid succession, I sold three stories to anthologies that should be hitting next year. “Black Hill” will be in Historical Lovecraft, the first anthology from Innsmouth Free Press. “Count Brass” will be in The Burning Maiden from Evil Eye Books. And “The Devil in the Box” will be in Delicate Toxins from Side Real Press. In every one of those I’m in some very august company, and I’ll keep you updated about ordering information and such as it becomes available.

A lot of stuff happened in my “real life” this year, too. I got a new job, for starters. My lovely, smart, and talented wife was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, went on short term disability, had to quit her job, and found a new one that suits her much better. Our cat had a brush with death, and we learned that she needs some extensive dental work done. Ups and downs, in other words, but I think we came out of it better than we started, which is good enough.

I could go on and on about things that happened to friends, movies I saw, books I read, but I’ve mostly talked about those things before, and this is getting long enough. I’ll close with a few links to a couple of other fun things I participated in this year: a micro-interview with me at Innsmouth Free Press, Vincent Price Day live-Tweeting with me and Selena Chambers, and my 74* favorite horror movies.

That’s the short version of 2010, anyway. (God help you if I’d gone with the long one.) It was an exciting year, if not always a pleasant one, and 2011 is shaping up to be just as exciting and hopefully even more pleasant. See you then!

2010 is, I believe, the first year of my entire life where I read more than ten books that came out that same year. Hence, I’m honoring the occasion by making my first-ever Top Ten Books of the Year list. It’s mostly comics, and about half of it’s stuff by Mike Mignola, but really, this is me, so that’s to be expected.

I read a lot of very good books this year, and because Mike Mignola released so many a few deserving ones didn’t quite make this list. That said, I still didn’t read nearly as many new books as I probably should, so there are likely ten times as many great books that I didn’t get around to as ones I did. Still, here’s a list, for what it’s worth.

(For the purposes of this list, I only counted books that came out in 2010. I read a number of great books for the first time that came out in previous years, some of which would’ve undoubtedly found a place here had I opened it up to them. A few that deserve mention are The Monstrumologist, Worse Than Myself, and The Darkly Splendid Realm.)

Anyway, without further ado:

10. The Ammonite Violin & Others
A weird, rough, sometimes repetetive collection of stories that are also often breathtaking, intriguing, and inspiring. Like most everything else I’ve ever read by Kiernan, although taken to its own extreme. Maybe flawed, but a gem nonetheless.

9. B.P.R.D. 1947
While the B.P.R.D. titles are not usually my favorites of the Mignola gestalt, the 194- series are my favorites of the B.P.R.D. titles. While 1946 tackled mutant Nazi vampires, this one focuses on “the spooky, old-school variety,” and the result is a quieter, more haunting story than usual for the series, aided by charming art and the combination of humanity and military/historical verisimilitude that Dysart brings to the mix.

8. The White Cat
Like The Brothers Bloom with curse magic! I’m a huge Holly Black fan, and a fan of grifters and con artists and stories about criminals, and The White Cat hit all those notes beautifully. Probably my favorite of Holly Black’s novels to date.

7. Hellboy: The Wild Hunt
Maybe the biggest turning point in the history of Hellboy so far, this is one that could also have gone off the rails all too easily under any hand less sure than Mignola’s. This is as sprawling and epic as Hellboy comics get, and Fegredo’s art is up to the task.

6. Under the Poppy
While no one is probably surprised to see this list dominated by Mignola, I myself am surprised at finding Under the Poppy here. I read it because I’d heard good things and something (the puppets, probably) about the premise intrigued me, but I didn’t expect to find myself loving it as much as I did. There’s nothing speculative here, just great characters and great writing, but in this case that’s more than enough.

5. Hellboy: The Crooked Man & Others
For a Hellboy collection with only one story illustrated by Mignola, this one’s a classic. The title story marks Hellboy’s first foray into Mignola’s version of the Appalachian folklore of Manly Wade Wellman, and also is a high point in the collaboration of Mignola and Corben. “In the Chapel of Moloch,” the one story illustrated by Mignola, is a great Hellboy short and a reminder of why Mignola’s the best. And the John Pelan essay on Wellman at the back of the book would be worth the cover price all by itself.

4. Witchfinder: In the Service of Angels
My favorite of the various Hellboy spin-offs to date. Perfect Victorian-era occult detective storytelling, with great art by Ben Stenbeck and tie-ins to the rest of Mignola’s expanding mythology that are both subtle and great.

3. The Poison Eaters & Other Stories
As I mentioned above, I’m a big Holly Black fan, and I like her short stories even more than her novels. The Poison Eaters was a big event for me, and it didn’t disappoint.

2. Beasts of Burden: Animal Rites
Who would’ve expected Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson to turn out the best supernatural comic series this side of Hellboy, and about talking animals no less? But that’s exactly what Beasts of Burden is. The art is great, the humor is great, the pathos is great, the monsters are great. And this collection, which features not only the four-issue miniseries but also all the short stories from the Dark Horse Book Of books, is both beautiful and great. If you haven’t already read Beasts of Burden, this is one of the best comic collections ever published.

1. The Amazing Screw-On Head & Other Curious Objects
Who’s surprised? Yeah, probably nobody. What we have here is a book that’s all Mignola. All the art, all the writing (with some help from his daughter Katie). And not in the Hellboy universe, either, but completely unfettered to do basically whatever he wants. And it’s brilliant. In addition to the by-now familiar (from the animated pilot, if nowhere else) title story, there’s a bunch of all-new content, and it’s all great weird mythologizing of the first order.