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“If you make things too real, sometimes you bring it down to the mundane.”
– Ray Harryhausen

Seven years ago today, I was home from a very pleasant trip to Portland for an off-season H. P. Lovecraft Film Festival, which had ended with me hearing about the passing of Ray Harryhausen. I was watching It Came from Beneath the Sea to mark the event.

A little less than three years ago, on December 2nd, 2017, I was in Oklahoma City for an exhibit of Harryhausen’s work, thanks to lots of help and patience from my wonderful spouse and partner. I made it on literally the last day of the exhibition, and barely that, due to recovering from emergency surgery that year.

The exhibit was life changing, and not just because I came so close to not being alive to experience it. Harryhausen has always been one of my biggest inspirations and, for my money, one of the greatest monster designers to ever live. It may be weird for a writer to cite such a visual artist, but Harryhausen was a storyteller, as well as an animator, even if his name wasn’t on the director or screenplay lines.

A little under two months from now would have been Harryhausen’s 100th birthday. In a century, cinema has changed a great deal, but its debt to Harryhausen hasn’t slackened one bit – nor has the debt that my own work owes to his.

Harryhausen - SkeletonWhile my licensed novel was dedicated to him, the place where his influence is probably most obviously felt is in my story, “Baron von Werewolf Presents: Frankenstein Against the Phantom Planet,” which is available in Guignol & Other Sardonic Tales.

It’s there in less-obvious places, too, though. In the way that the monster moves at the end of The Cult of Headless Men, also available in Guignol.  In the dinosaur statues of “Prehistoric Animals,” my recent tale in the latest Weird Fiction Review.

Like so many of my inspirations, Harryhausen is also part of a thread that runs backward and forward. His own work is heavily inspired by King Kong and the engravings of Gustave Dore, and in his recent series of daily quarantine sketches, Mike Mignola drew a host of Harryhausen creatures, not to mention some other sketches that obviously owe a debt to Ray.

I’m not really sure where I’m going with any of this, save to mark Ray Harryhausen’s passing on what should have been his hundredth year on this plane. He is seven years gone now and, to the best of my knowledge, he still hasn’t gotten a tribute anthology. Maybe I need to start talking to someone about that…

 

And I don’t mean the weird, clunky, Kirby-like grays that show up in Hellboy, nor Mike’s take on Martian tripods from his Year of Monsters series of covers. I mean aliens as in the movie Aliens. Or, to be somewhat more accurate, the various Dark Horse comic series that spun out from the movies.

Today is Alien Day (4/26), and a few years ago about this time I posted a little about what the Alien franchise has meant to me throughout the years. Today, I’m going to be too busy to put together anything that says it better, even if I could.

27253But I’ve also talked a lot, over the years, about what Mike Mignola’s work means to me, and to see the two things dovetail is a rare treat indeed. Mike drew the Aliens: Salvation comic (written by Dave Gibbons, himself perhaps best known as the artist on Watchmen) back in 1993.

It is an amazing comic; evocative, gothic, monstrous. But Mike’s style has evolved a lot in the years since ’93, and one of the great pleasures of my life was seeing his more recent take on the same material when he drew a new cover for the story’s hardcover reissue back in 2015.

Around that time, I posted something to the effect that the way other people must feel when they see a new Star Wars movie coming out is how I feel when Mike Mignola draws Aliens.

Plenty of other artists and writers have taken swipes at the Alien mythos to great effect. Recently, I particularly enjoyed James Stokoe’s Aliens: Dead Orbit. His hyper-detailed yet still stylized art is a perfect fit for the material.

For this Alien Day, I’m too busy to watch any of the movies, so maybe I’ll read Aliens: Salvation again instead…

Mummy 01To say that A Lot has been going on in the world lately is to engage in the most ridiculous understatement. We are living in unprecedented times, and things have taken a turn for the very strange and, let’s face it, probably very tragic, no matter how they shake out.

With any luck, we will manage to prevent the loss of countless lives to COVID-19, but some will still die (some already have), businesses will close, and people will suffer. The future is not necessarily bleak, but it does promise to be difficult.

Everyone has been coping with the pandemic and being on essentially house arrest in their own ways, some better than others. For me, not that much has changed. As a freelancer, I work from home anyway, so it’s just been business as usual, more or less, with the most significant difference being that Grace is currently furloughed and so I’m the only one gainfully employed at the moment – not something you ever want to say, when you’re a freelancer.

Ultra - ReigubasOne thing that’s been helping to keep my days a little brighter, though, and that I’ve been sharing on my various social media timelines in order to, hopefully, brighten the days of my friends and followers, is that Mike Mignola has been doing daily sketches.

The subjects of these sketches have ranged from The Flintstones to Ultraman monsters to a day of mummies to Godzilla and Gamera to Jack Kirby monsters to, most recently, figures from Ray Harryhausen movies. There hasn’t been a Ymir yet, but I’m keeping all my digits crossed.

RommbuThere’s not much of a news post to go with this. Just letting you know that I’m still here, and sharing a few of the drawings that have been helping me to keep my head up as the days of the pandemic tick by.

Between freelance assignments, I’ve been working on a longish project that unfortunately has to remain secret for now, and making good headway. I’ve written a few reviews and other nonfiction things that will be appearing in various places in the near future. Beyond that, there’s not a lot to report.

 

Today, I finally made it out to the theatre to catch Avengers: Endgame, which means that I have now seen all 22 of the “Infinity Saga” (or whatever they’re calling it) films in the theatre, and I have done my duty by them (and they by me). I know that technically Phase 3 isn’t over until Spider-Man: Far From Home, but while I have every reason to assume I will see that in a theatre, too, this feels like the ending to me, and I’m good with that.

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I’m not really here to talk about Endgame, though. I’m here to talk about my books. Today is also the last day to pre-order Revenge of Monsters from the Vault direct from the publisher. The book will still be for sale through the regular channels when it launches in August, but we appreciate direct sales, and they put more money into my pocket. So if you’re thinking about buying Revenge of Monsters from the Vault (and I sincerely hope that you are) now is the ideal time to do it. But please hurry!

If you’re just coming here from… somewhere else, Revenge of Monsters from the Vault is the follow-up to my 2016 book Monsters from the Vault and, as such, it’s a collection of a whole bunch of essays about various classic (and not-so-classic) horror films from the silents to the ’70s, including such beloved and obscure titles as Condemned to LiveRevolt of the ZombiesThe Devil Bat, not one but two versions of The Black CatReturn of the VampireThe Giant ClawZombies of Mora TauDark IntruderX: The Man with X-Ray EyesBrotherhood of SatanThe Creeping Flesh, and lots more. If you’d like a taste of what you’re in for, you can read my essay on Toho’s “Bloodthirsty Trilogy” of Dracula movies right here.

Not already familiar with the previous volume? Not to worry, you can actually pick it up in a package deal with Revenge of Monsters from the Vault if you pre-order right now!

Today is also Walpurgisnacht. As most of you know, I wrote a story called “Walpurgisnacht” which originally appeared in the Laird Barron tribute anthology Children of Old Leech, and has since been reprinted in my second collection, Painted Monsters & Other Strange Beasts. If you’ve already read that one, though, plenty of other seasonally appropriate stuff can be found in my latest collection, Guignol & Other Sardonic Tales. I think “When a Beast Looks Up at the Stars” would be particularly well suited to the evening’s festivities, don’t you?

Speaking of witches, I was also a guest on the latest episode of the Nightmare Junkhead podcast where I talked in some rambling detail about my feelings on the new Hellboy movie (which has more than a few witches), the comics, Brian Lumley, and lots of other topics of occult interest. Greg D. and Jenius McGee of the Nightmare Junkhead podcast are the same cool folks who put on the Nerdoween Triple Feature that has become my birthday/Halloween staple every year, so it was a real pleasure to finally sit down with them in their inner sanctum.

Let us not bury the lede here: There is just over a week left to pre-order Revenge of Monsters from the VaultYou can get it direct from the publisher, avoid putting money in Amazon’s pocket by putting a little extra in mine, and get some special deals that you won’t be able to get any other way. If you’re planning to order, pre-ordering now is definitely the best way to do it! Go forth! Click!

It has obviously been a little while since I updated here. I didn’t post any kind of wrap-up of the Outer Dark Symposium on the Greater Weird in Atlanta because, frankly, the trip was a bit of a whirlwind, and I’m just now getting more-or-less fully recovered. Tyler Unsell of Signal Horizon and I drove overnight to get there, had a full day of programming, and then drove all day coming back. Not an ideal itinerary for restful cogitation.

Highlights, of course, include the various panels and readings of the Symposium itself, meeting Ben Thomas for the first time face-to-skull, hanging out with old friends like Jesse and Selena, and, of course, the Silver Scream FX lab where the Symposium was held, which was piled to the brim with monsters and magicians. Any more in-depth an exploration is simply beyond my capabilities at present.

monsters single coverI managed to come home without loading up on too many books, though I did pick up a copy of Whiskey Tales. I’ve been a fan of Jean Ray’s weird fiction ever since reading “The Mainz Psalter” and his classic weird novel Malpertuis, and I have been frustrated by the paucity of Ray stories that have been readily available in English, so it was with great pleasure that I learned that Scott Nicolay was taking it upon himself to translate the body of that writer’s collection of tales of the fantastique and with equal enjoyment that I read through this first installment, even if the stories themselves are a tad more prosaic than his more famous works–and a lot more anti-Semitic, more’s the pity.

In the time since my return from Atlanta, several things have happened that are worth noting, at least in brief. For starters, I received the gargantuan box containing the first part of my Hellboy boardgame, which I Kickstarted from Mantic Games some time ago. The box is as enormous as predicted, and filled with room tiles, miniatures, delightful cards, and all manner of fun stuff. To date, I’ve only essayed a couple of missions, but it has been a great deal of fun so far.

Speaking of all things Hellboy, well, there are lots of things Hellboy to speak of. Hellboy Day, marking the 25th anniversary of the series, happened while I was in Atlanta, and I was forced to miss the festivities, though I marked them as best I was able with an essay in appreciation of Mignola’s work that is included in the Symposium program book, alongside an illustration by Mignola himself.

Then, last weekend, the latest attempt at transposing the comics onto the big screen, this time helmed by Neil Marshall, hit theaters. So of course I went to see it. My reaction was… complicated. If that’s not enough of me rambling about it, you’ll be able to hear more when I’m a guest on the Nightmare Junkhead podcast soon, where we’ll be talking about the movie.

What’s more, yesterday saw the publication of the last issue of the regular B.P.R.D. series, which rings down the curtain on at least the “present day” of the Mignolaverse titles. There’s plenty of “Hellboy and the B.P.R.D.”-style adventures still left to see print, I’m sure, but this is certainly the end of an era, and it was delivered with sufficient pomp and circumstance.

I also published a few more reviews of older films for Signal Horizon and have penned more that are forthcoming over at Unwinnable, and I appeared on Monster Kid Radio talking about The Vampire Doll. If you like what you hear there, The Vampire Doll is just one of the many, many, many classic (and not-so-classic) monster movies I cover in Revenge of Monsters from the Vault, which, once again, you can pre-order right now!

Tomorrow night, I leave for Atlanta to attend the Outer Dark Symposium on the Greater Weird, which is being held in the belly of a real-life monster lab, aka Silver Scream FX Lab. As I write this, there’s still a few hours left to get in on the IndieGoGo, with plenty of cool swag up for grabs. (I’ve got an essay in appreciation of Mike Mignola–along with some art by Mike himself–in the program book!)

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Because I’m gonna be otherwise occupied over the next few days, I managed to sneak into a preview screening of Jordan Peele’s latest last night, and I wrote up my (as spoiler-free as possible while still actually talking about the movie at all) impressions for Signal Horizon. It’s a movie I’m looking forward to talking about a lot more once other people have seen it.

I figured, since I’m headed out of town anyway, and I just posted a new film review for an actual new film, rather than something stumbling onto Blu-ray from the ’90s or the ’70s, it was probably a good time to talk about my film writing a bit. (There’s also the little fact that Revenge of Monsters from the Vault is currently up for pre-order.)

For various behind-the-scenes reasons, I’ve been doing a lot more film writing lately, and posting it places other than here, mostly Signal Horizon and Unwinnable. I think, in doing so, I’m also carving out, bit by bit, my own identity as a film writer, whatever that actually means.

I’m especially proud of the writing I recently did for Unwinnable about Audition, an incredible film that I hadn’t seen in almost twenty years. But I also wrote about kickboxing cyborg movies in general and Albert Pyun’s Nemesis in particular, and about the 1994 Double Dragon movie–which, I didn’t know until I was writing about it, was only the second live-action video game adaptation ever made. Which maybe explains some things?

I haven’t had as many things pop up at Signal Horizon lately, though you can go back and read my reviews of stuff like Bloody Birthday and Fulci’s Zombie. More recently, I wrote about the new Arrow Blu of Horror Express, a film that I also covered in the first volume of Monsters from the Vault. (Which, it bears repeating, you can get if you pre-order its sequel here.)

There’s lots more like that on the way, but that ought to keep you all occupied while I’m out of town. If you’re coming to the Outer Dark Symposium, I’ll see you there, and if we haven’t already met, come up and say hi. And if anyone wants to bring me any Hellboy Day swag, I’ll be tied up with Symposium stuff all day on Saturday, so it would be much appreciated!

Putting this here because I’m going to get asked more than once, and I need a place to point people back to for the next four months or so. The trailer for the new Hellboy movie just dropped and, yeah, it’s scored to “Mony Mony,” which, as I said on social media, is certainly a decision, anyway.

If you want my take, I think that the trailer is the wrong tone to start off with, but there’s also nothing in it that guarantees a misfire in theatres. I do like that most of the stuff we can only see for a few seconds is straight out of the comics but, beyond that, we’ll just have to wait and see.

But I’m not here to talk about the trailer, not really. What I’m here to talk about is the existence of this movie at all. As someone who is at least on speaking terms with some of the principals involved, I can tell you with as much certainty as one can ever muster about a Hollywood deal to which one was not directly privy that there was never going to be a third Guillermo del Toro Hellboy movie, regardless of anything he might have said. If there was, the day when it was possible was in the months following the release of Hellboy 2, and that day is long behind us now.

And, speaking from my own personal perspective, there never should have been. Hellboy 2 has many fine qualities, to be sure, but it fails as a sequel to the first film and even more as a Hellboy movie.

Guillermo del Toro’s first film was the best Hellboy movie that we could have gotten at the time, given the realities of comic book adaptations in 2004. In fact, I would argue that it played a big (and largely unsung) role in getting us from there to here. But things have changed a lot in the last decade, both in the movies and in the comics, and a Hellboy adaptation made now has the opportunity to cleave closer to the source material than Del Toro’s version ever could have.

Will this movie be the one to do it? Only time (and definitely not a brief teaser trailer) will truly tell.