Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #181: Energized and Anthologized Vol. 4

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Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #181by Drew Barth

Energized and Anthologized Vol. 4

It’s been over a year since I wrote about the last Ex.Mag from Peow Studio and that came out shortly after major historical events were occurring here. And this time around we’re somehow embroiled in an even larger mess of erosions of bodily autonomy and civil liberties.

So, comics, huh?

If there’s anything that’s provided a well-needed respite from the general state of this country, it’s been some fairly good comics over the past few months. And with Peow’s newest volume in their Ex.Mag series releasing this past month, there’s a fair amount to get lost in.

As with previous Ex.Mag releases, this volume is themed to a specific genre. In this case, Master Grade—a phrase commonly used when talking about giant robot model kits—is the line running through these pages. These are also some of my favorite stories to come from the series thus far. From the opening “Tiempos Híbridos: Chab’s Hands” to the frenetic energy of “Inferiority Complex” to inward reflections of “MMCM” there is a mecha story in this volume that touches on every intersection of the human and the mechanical on a macro level. And in a story like “CLANG” by Emil Friis Ernst we see it even more so as a group of children watch a giant robot fight on the edge of their town. As the fight comes to a conclusion, the pilot of the losing bot ejects and one of the kids comes face to face with someone that reminds them too much of themselves. Everything about the story draws you into its world and emotions and doesn’t even speak a single word outside of onomatopoeia.

More than anything, this volume of Ex.Mag explores the abundance of stories that are possible in the mecha genre. As much as I enjoy a fight, I want to see the symbol of an oppressive regime retrofitted to help transport the last of a breed of trees hundreds of miles to new habitat. Or the thoughts of the robot that pilots the person that pilots the larger robot as it scours ruins. This is one of the key strengths in themed anthologies: being able to see these different and often underutilized interpretations of long-established genres and their conventions. It’s the kind of anthology that makes me want more anthologies of work that dives into these genres deeper and deeper.

Ex.Mag is still that beacon of anthologies for the kind of work that it is still consistently putting out. Every story here is the kind that makes you stop and rethink your notions of genre and how those stories can be told. Every creator here is working with some of their best stories in the medium and, again, it just makes me want to see more in the future. As this anthology came after the original Kickstarter for the original three they published, I can only hope that more come soon. And that the world is a little more stable next time.

Get excited. Get giant.


Drew Barth at Miami Book Fair in 2019.

Drew Barth (Episode 331, 485, & 510) resides in Winter Park, FL. He received his MFA from the University of Central Florida. Right now, he’s worrying about his cat.

Episode 529: Kathryn Harlan!

Episode 529 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature, is available on Apple podcastsstitcher, spotify, or click here to stream (right click to download, if that’s your thing).

On this episode, I speak with fiction writer Kathryn Harlan about her debut collection, Fruiting Bodies.

Photo by Dale Robinette.

TEXT DISCUSSED

NOTES

ScribophileTDO listeners can get 20% of a premium subscription to Scribophile. After using the above link to register for a basic account, go here while still logged in to upgrade the account with the discount.

The Curator of Schlock #387: The House on the Edge of the Park

The Curator of Schlock #387 by Jeff Shuster

The House on the Edge of the Park

You don’t like these kinds of movies.

I was being accosted by three goons in a dark alley. One of the goons had a turtle crossing sign strapped to his chest. He brandished an aluminum bat and I was expecting every bone on my body to get cracked. As soon as he raised his bat, a shuriken struck him in his wrist. He screamed and the lanky goon with a nervous twitch pulled out a 9MM and started shooting in the direction the ninja star came from. — To be continued.


This week’s movie is 1980’s The House on the Edge of the Park from director Ruggero Deodato. This flick is notorious. The House on the Edge of the Park made it on the Video Nasties list in the United Kingdom upon its release in the early 1980s. The fully uncut version didn’t get released over there until April of this year! We get the return of David Hess playing yet another psychopath. Giovanni Lombardo Radice also stars. Do you remember him? Of course you do. He played the town pervert in City of the Living Dead and the singing cannibal in Cannibal Apocalypse.

The opening of the movie introduces us to Alex (David Hess) and before the opening credits hit, we learn that he’s a rapist and murderer. Yikes!

Alex works at a garage in New York City with his dimwitted friend Ricky (Giovanni Lombardo Radice). This garage may also be a chop-shop. Alex and Ricky are getting ready for a night on the town. Ricky is very excited about getting the chance to boogie. Before they leave, a rich couple named Tom (Christian Borromeo) and Lisa (Annie Belle) pull in with a fancy Cadillac and ask for assistance.

Turns out that their car trouble comes from a loose wire that Ricky is quick to fix. Tom and Lisa are in a hurry. They’re leaving for a get-together with their other rich friends in New Jersey.  As payment, Alex wants an invite to that sweet shindig. He also insists that Ricky tag along. Before the four of them leave, Alex says he has to go back for his keys, By keys, he means straight razor. Yes, violence is coming.

Tom and Lisa bring the two working class mechanics to the party much to the amusement of their rich friends. Ricky humiliates himself by showing off his dancing moves. The blue bloods invite him to play a game of poker. Meanwhile, Lisa plays a game of “Now you get me. Now you don’t.” with Alex, leaving him frustrated. Alex returns to the other guests only to see them fleecing his simple-minded friend for all he’s worth. Realizing the poker game is rigged, Alex unleashes a torrent of violence on his wealthy host and guests. Alex busts up Tom’s face pretty bad. He knocks another guy into the swimming pool. Alex then proceeds to urinate on him while laughing maniacally. And it only gets worse from here.

Did you know David Hess was a songwriter? Apparently, he wrote several hits for Elvis Presley, Sal Mineo, Andy Williams, and Pat Boone. I just find it interesting that a man who already had a successful career had a side gig of playing sociopaths in exploitation flicks.


Photo by Leslie Salas.

Jeff Shuster (episode 47episode 102episode 124episode 131episode 284episode 441episode 442episode 443, episode 444episode 450, episode 477, episode 491, episode 492, episode 493, episode 495, and episode 496) is an MFA graduate from the University of Central Florida.

Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #180: Doing Something to the Trend

Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #180 by Drew Barth

Doing Something to the Trend

A few months ago I looked at the first issue of Shobo, George Kambadais, and Jim Campbell’s Buckhead. It was one of those series that left some hooks in me after I finished the first issue—with its blending of small town mysteries, African mythos, and a blend of science and magic, I couldn’t help but want to know more. With the series concluding a couple months ago, it did take some of those hooks back to wrap its story, but it couldn’t help but drag out a few more to explore later.

Buckhead is the story of Toba, a recent immigrant from Nigeria to the titular town in the Pacific Northwest. While it may look sleepy and idyllic, there is a strangeness that permeates the town. People seem to shut down around that abandoned house on the edge of town, adults leave their homes in the middle of the night to congregate the school, and trench coatted androids roam. It’s from these oddities that Toba and his friends enter a game in the basement of their school, the Elseverse, and unravel more of the town’s mysteries—namely, why Toba’s dad is in the game they’re playing. From finding out more about the forces that seem to control the town to putting down ancient Yoruba spirits, Toba finally  finds his place in Buckhead while building a group of friends to help him throughout his journey.

But that doesn’t quite feel like the end. Buckhead is doing something I’m seeing more comics do recently and that’s to leave their conclusions open. This is a fairly tight five-issue series, but there are lingering questions and plot points—namely whoever the Eight Lords of Chaos are—that could be picked up on later. The way this story is told gives it a natural break point, but also an open door for a sequel series that can pick right back up where this one ended or give it space enough for a time-skip. This kind of story planning treats a series less like a monolithic entity and more like a grouping of seasons. We can get a complete arc with this volume of Buckhead, but there’s an over-arching plot out in the distance that we can pick right back into if the creators want to continue. It gives some more time and space to develop that larger plot without having to rush through every aspect of a longer story.

While Buckhead isn’t the first to use this kind of comic storytelling—there’s still no word on if the story will continue into new volumes—but it’s one of the ones I’m becoming more drawn to the longer I think about it. Shobo, Kambadais, and Campbell have created a world and a mythology to populate it that I want to know more about. Like the game in the story, I want to explore and marvel at the work that has gone into it. Buckhead can stand on its own, but it’s still leaving those plot hooks in me that can be explored so much more in the future.

Get excited. Get sequels.


Drew Barth at Miami Book Fair in 2019.

Drew Barth (Episode 331, 485, & 510) resides in Winter Park, FL. He received his MFA from the University of Central Florida. Right now, he’s worrying about his cat.

Episode #528: A Discussion of Sally Rooney’s Conversations with Friends with Rachael Tillman!

Episode 528 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature, is available on Apple podcastsstitcher, spotify, or click here to stream (right click to download, if that’s your thing).

In this week’s show, Rachel Tillman and I discuss Conversations with Friends, Sally Rooney’s debut novel.

TEXT DISCUSSED

NOTES

ScribophileTDO listeners can get 20% of a premium subscription to Scribophile. After using the above link to register for a basic account, go here while still logged in to upgrade the account with the discount.


Episode 528 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature, is available on Apple podcastsstitcher, spotify, or click here to stream (right click to download, if that’s your thing).

The Curator of Schlock #386: Hitch-Hike

The Curator of Schlock #386 by Jeff Shuster

Hitch-Hike

Also known as Death Drive. 

The trunk popped open and three goons adorned with bandanas and torn jeans yanked me to my feet. We were in a dark alley somewhere in the dead of night. A cat meowed after knocking over a garbage can, beer bottles clinking to the asphalt. This spooked one of the goons, a lanky guy that kept twitching.

“Let’s finish him off,” he said, turning his head from right to left. “I feel like we’re being watched.”

“Relax,” said another goon grasping an aluminum bat with both hands. “Boss said we could play with him first.” — To be continued.


This week’s movie is 1978’s Hitch-Hike from director Pasquale Festa and is another in the line of Italian exploitation pictures inspired by The Last House on the Left. While this one does not follow that standard formula, it does star David Hess, the actor who played the sadistic Krug Stillo in The Last House on the Left. It also stars Franco Nero of Django and Street Law fame. And we get Corinne Cléry, who starred in Mooonraker and The Story of O. I haven’t seen The Story of O, but with a title like that I think I will have to.

Hitch-hike begins with a husband and wife on the great American road trip in southern California, camper in tow. Walter Mancini (Franco Nero) is an Italian journalist married to Eve  (Corinne Cléry), an American woman from a rich family. Walter likes to drink…a lot. Walter and his wife fight…a lot. Walter falls after tripping over a tent at a campground and busts up his right hand so he can’t drive. While on the road, Eve sees a hitchhiker and picks him up despite Walter’s protests. That hitchhiker is Adam Konitz (David Hess), an escaped psychopath from a hospital for the criminally insane.

Walter attempts to be on his best behavior, but Adam keeps taunting the couple. When Adam rambles about a sexual act he’d like Eve to do for him, Walter punches him in the mouth and  has Eve pull over. He forces Adam out of the car, but then Adam pulls a gun on them. Turns out Adam stole two million dollars and is on the run from the law. He needs the couple to drive him to Mexico where he can live the high life. Two members of the California Highway Patrol pull them over before they can reach the border. Walter secretly alerts the police officers to their predicament, but Adam gets wise and wastes the cops in short order.

Adam finds out Walter is a journalist and wants him to write a book about him. These plans are thrown awry when Adam’s former partners in crime, shoot him and take the Mancinis hostage. They just want the two million dollars and transportation to the Mexican border, but then a truck rams into the Mancini’s camper. Can you guess who’s driving that truck? Yes, it’s Adam and he’s not so dead after all. He has a shootout with his former heist partners, severely wounding one of them. He offers to drive them to a hospital in his truck, but then jumps out of the truck before sending it careening off the road so it can crash and explode. More twists and turns come and I have to say that I’m glad I watched this. It’s a good thriller with the right kind of shocking ending.


Photo by Leslie Salas.

Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #179: The Deep

Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #179 by Drew Barth

The Deep

Standing at the edge of a beach, you don’t know how deep the water gets. Even taking a boat out doesn’t give you a sense of just far down the water goes and how little light can peer down there. In this way, the ocean takes on a sense of dread—that feeling that what’s out there is beyond what we can understand, much in the same way space feels unfathomable. It is at this intersection of ocean and space horror that we find Ram V, Christian Ward, and Aditya Bidikar’s first issue of Aquaman: Andromeda.

Something has crashed into the ocean. All we have is a team of scientists that shouldn’t be there in an experimental research vessel that shouldn’t exist and governments that will not take responsibility if they’re found out. We also have a kraken. More than that, we also have Arthur Curry—king of Atlantis and Aquaman to the world. But Aquaman has been around a while. Like, a long while. He’s shown up on the shores of Kamchatka Krai for generations to help build ships but has never once looked any different. This is an Aquaman that is becoming as old as the oceans he guards, but when this object fallen from space disturbs a kraken in the most remote area of the sea and goes after a research vessel that shouldn’t exist, he has to become that young Aquaman we’ve all grown up with.

Andromeda is the most atmospheric Aquaman book I’ve read. Ward’s mastery of color and composition allows this story to feel like something is pushing down on it. Even the splash pages feel as though there’s some hidden pressure keeping them stationary. And this ties into that intersection of the sea and space—the unfathomable distance and the deeptime in which they exist. Aquaman himself exists in a similar intersection here as well, between the sea and the surface, but in his costume adorned with reefs and glowing pupils, he has a more alien look than any previous incarnation. V, Ward, and Bidikar are leaning into this idea of the unknown and unfathomable as Aquaman’s appearance becomes stranger and the artifact that came from space does something to the ocean that he can’t quite figure out yet.

The first issue of Aquaman: Andromeda plants the kind of roots that branch out into murkier depths. As though we were nearing the bottom of the sea ourselves, we can’t quite make out what mysterious shadows we’re seeing maneuver over the sand, but we’re curious. Curious and maybe a little afraid. But that fear draws us back into the story. We want to illuminate the unknown; we want to see where space and sea come together despite its dangers. But the sea beckons us forward, even if we’re not meant to be there. There’s mysteries here that we can’t help but want to uncover.

Get excited. Get deep.


Drew Barth at Miami Book Fair in 2019.

Drew Barth (Episode 331, 485, & 510) resides in Winter Park, FL. He received his MFA from the University of Central Florida. Right now, he’s worrying about his cat.

The Perfect Life #43

The Perfect Life #43 by Dr. Perfect

Dear Doctor Perfect,

Why does the self-checkout at Walmart ask people to donate money? We’re obviously there because we have no money. Make it make sense!

Poor and Peeved

————————–

 Dear P&P,

Charity solicitations abound. Things started simply enough with Girl Scout Cookies and Salvation Army buckets outside supermarkets. Now, I can’t even get carton of eggs without being pressed to cough up a few bucks for the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

DI donate to select organizations and have the endless junk mail to prove it. But that’s all from the privacy of my own home. I shouldn’t be guilted into donating when stocking up on champagne and caviar for my next orgy.

Speaking of charity, I was in the pet store the other day, buying cat food for my elderly neighbor’s twenty cats.

She can’t move around much, and I gladly help her out with errands when I can. At checkout, I was asked if I wanted to donate a dollar or more to a pet charity. A pet charity! I am already doing that, you swine.

In the 1980s, all you needed was a white blazer, neon T-shirt, and Pontiac Firebird to prove you were a person of worth. Filling up your tank today is akin to Rockefeller status. My American Express card was declined recently, if you can believe it. I was trying to commission an ice sculpture for my annual advice columnist soirée. And I’m expected to give more?

Non-profit charities rely on donations to function, which makes it more difficult for them during times of economic uncertainty. I guess we can’t blame them for trying.

Nor can we blame the Walton family for trolling customers for their corporate tax-deductions. They need to prep for the coming economic apocalypse in which they battle with Amazon for the corporate megastate world order. It’s incumbent upon us to choose sides now.

Consider starting your own charity to counter the heavyweights.

And don’t forget to donate to your favorite podcast’s website.


Dr. Perfect has slung advice across the globe for the last two decades due to his dedication to the uplift of the human condition.

Episode 527: Mixtape #16: Sobering Up the Muses

Episode 527 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on Apple podcastsstitcher, spotify, or click here to stream (right click to download, if that’s your thing).

Chic drunk woman hanging off couch by Darya Sannikova (Creative Commons).

NOTES

This episode is sponsored by the excellent people at Scribophile.

Scribophile

TDO Listeners can get 20% of a premium subscription to Scribophile. After using the above link to register for a basic account, go here while still logged in to upgrade the account with the discount.


Episode 488 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on Apple podcastsstitcher, spotify, or click here to stream (right click to download, if that’s your thing).

The Curator of Schlock #385: The Last House on the Beach

The Curator of Schlock #385 by Jeff Shuster

The Last House on the Beach

Not as much fun as Back to the Beach

I don’t like getting knocked unconscious and waking up in strange places. I don’t like waking up to find someone’s oily sock stuffed in my mouth. I don’t like waking to the sound of GWAR’s Sick of You blasting through the tinny car stereo. I don’t like feeling every bump from every pothole the driver can’t seem to miss. And I don’t like the bloodstained carpet of the trunk I’m hogtied in. — To be continued.


This week’s movie is 1978’s The Last House on the Beach from director Francos Prosperi. As you can tell from the title, this is another movie inspired by Wes Craven’s The Last House on the Left. This is another in the line of sadistic revenge movies so prevalent in the 1970s. The movie begins with a nasty bank robbery. Three young malcontents named Aldo (Ray Lovelock), Walter (Flavio Andreini), and Nino (Stefano Cedrati) make a getaway after shooting some civilians. Unfortunately, their car begins to break down and the cops are hot on their trail. What to do? Oh, look, There’s a house at the end of the beach.

The gang takes a peek inside and sees some girls practicing Shakespeare along with their instructor, Cristina (Florinda Bolkan). The gang takes the women hostage, threatening them with guns. Walter searches the house and finds the maid trying to escape. He beats her to death with an iron. Nino corners one of the young women, Lisa (Sherry Buchanan), in the bathroom, but she stabs him in the thigh. It’s a fairly severe wound, but not fatal. Aldo finds a nun’s outfit in one of the closets upstairs and figures out that Cristina is actually Sister Cristina.

The gang forces Sister Cristina to strip and don her nun’s outfit. Sister Cristina informs them that a bus will be picking them up in two days so that gives them enough time to fix the car, drink some wine, and torment their hostages. I won’t go into too many details, but this is an Italian exploitation movie so it’s going to be nasty. And then Sister Cristina receives a telegram from the postman informing them that the bus will be a day late. Sister Cristina tips the postman and I can only imagine she slipped him a note telling him to inform the police. Lisa finds his dead body stuffed in the lawn shed some time later.

Lisa can’t take it anymore and attempts to swim away to get help, but fails and is brought back by Aldo who leaves her fate in the hands of Walter and Nino. Sister Cristina is in the middle of treating Nino’s would when she finds Lisa’s dead body, murdered in a humiliating way. Sister Cristina removes the crucifix from around her neck before grabbing some poison to inject Nino with. After killing Nino, she takes his gun and plugs some lead into Walter. This leaves Aldo and his fate is the worst of all.

This movie may not be for everyone. By everyone, I mean anyone.


Photo by Leslie Salas.

Jeff Shuster (episode 47episode 102episode 124episode 131episode 284episode 441episode 442episode 443, episode 444episode 450, episode 477, episode 491, episode 492, episode 493, episode 495, and episode 496) is an MFA graduate from the University of Central Florida.