Friday, October 24, 2014

FRIDAY FRIGHT MASK - NFL SUPERPRO

Halloween approaches and with it the once-a-year dread of finding just the perfect costume. Well, this year, why not avail yourself of the back catalog of Gone&Forgotten's collection of fourth-stringers, Z-Listers, weirdos, misfits, almost-rans and never-weres? With nothing more than a pair of scissors, a color printer and a little imagination, you can slide right into the identity of the subject of your favorite Gone&Forgotten article. With a new fright mask (and accessories) posted every Friday throughout October, why not thrill your friends and terrify your enemies by disguising yourself as today's free download, NFL SUPERPRO?




Instructions - it's easy!

1. Download and print the handy, full-color, three-page PDF file with this week's Fright Mask! (Preferably on cardstock paper, or paper of a similar hardiness - don't skimp on materials!)

2. Cut out the mask along the outside of the black outlines. Cut carefully along the blue dotted lines to create a comfortable opening for your nose (or other mid-face protuberance), and be sure to punch out the holes for the eyes, or else you might unknowingly walk into a wood chipper.

3. Punch out the circles on the tabs along the side of the mask and lace a string or other string-like substance through, to keep the mask attached to your head.

4. If you'd like to accessorize your costume with the enclosed word balloon and props, just cut along the outside of the black outline, same as with the mask. For ease of display, glue a popsicle stick or tongue depressor to the back of the word balloon so as to quickly employ it when appropriate for the conversation.

5. Go forth and spread the magic!

And that's all there is to it! Have a happy gone and forgotten - and safe - Halloween!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

TRULY GONE & FORGOTTEN : SON OF DRACULA

This isn't true. The strangest vampire of all is Inside-Out-Dracula. 
As a horror character, the primary problem with Atlas-Seaboard’s “Son of Dracula” was mostly that they didn’t give him any sort of unique name just for his-own-bad-self, like “Fangy” or “Bitey” or “Dracula Jr.” Or “Chocula.”

A product of the collaboration between Gary Friedrich and Frank Thorne, Son of Dracula debuted in the sole issue of one of Atlas’ broad-swinging umbrella titles, Fright, in the mouthful of a story “And Unto Dracula Was Born A Son” (August 1975). Which frankly sounds like a sequel to Marillion’s “Script for a Jester’s Tear,” I’m gonna look it up on Wikipedia.

"So you, uh, kinda OWE me, if you know what I mean"
The story opens on a seemingly innocent woman being burned at the stake for witchcraft, persecuted by enraged townspeople and possibly also some out-of-townspeople. Not everyone is always a local, you know? They mighta driven in just for the witch-burning. Maybe there’s a shuttle service.

Luckily for the almost-flambeed filly, infamous vampire and notorious pussy-hound Count Dracula is some sort of infernal pick-up artist, and can’t resist the opportunity to swoop in on a mega-negging of this intensity. Telling a girl she’s fat pales incomparison to actually sentencing her to be burned alive for witchcraft, I tell you what. Seeking to add the young lady to his stable of undead babymamas, Dracula rescues the girl only to discover – GASP – she’s his cousin! A bat-shaped birthmark on her neck keeps Dracula’s dentures at safe distance, although it doesn’t provide any protection against getting vampire boned.

Frustrated that he can’t – for whatever reason, it’s not really made clear – just murder or vampirize this lady, Dracula instead marries her with the hopes of gaining a male heir. Which he does, mazel tov Dracula! Mom has a weird plan, though, which is to confront the lord of the night and inform him that she and the baby are gonna r-u-n-n-o-f-t, at which point he kills and vampirizes her, which I thought they said he wasn’t allowed to do but ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

"Scat, Son of Dracula" now playing
in a theater near you!
Still, the boy manages to escape his father’s wrath, taken by loyal peasants overseas to relative safety in the mountains of Appalachia. Just imagine what this guy’s accent is gonna end up being like, from Transylvania by way of Blue Ridge. “Ah these here chilluns of th’naght, that there’s some right durn lovely music they done makin’, git a boy so he wantsta HOOT and HOLLLA!” Please don’t write in.

Anyway, to speed this meandering origin along, Dracula eventually finds his wayward son, despite a caption in a previous panel explaining to us that he couldn’t.  “Not even the occult powers of the evil Count,” it explains, “Can span the vast Atlantic Ocean” and then literally two panels later Dracula shows up on the kid’s doorstep. Same rules that applied to Vlad not being allowed to vampire his wife, I guess. Heckuva double standard in the vampire community.

To save the boy, he’s hustled into a hillside hollow which is subsequently buried in a deliberately-set explosion. He emerges in 1975 as a professor of occult studies which is, as I understand it, how you get tenure.  Masquerading as Dr.Adam Lucard (uggggggh), the handsome young-looking academic lives a Jekyll-and-Hyde existence, keeping his vampire self at bay with the help of a V-shaped disco medallion. His additional nighttime urges to excurse and exsanguinate requires the help of a room full of occult geegaws and a heavy crucifix he balances on his chest while he sleeps. I would’ve given him a holy waterbed myself, but not like this character would have been improved by puns.

When a love-hungry female student breaks into Dr.Lucard’s (UGGGGGH) apartment in what appears to be either a Penthouse Letter gone wrong or at least a grim example of what life was like before Tinder, she manages to upset his Catholic steering wheel lock and unleashes the vampire side he’s kept at bay lo these many years. Quickly acquiring a cape, the now savage Dr.Lucard (UGGGGGGGGGGH) does what all recently unleashed bestial personas and no small number of career politicians on a Vegas retreat do – murders a few prostitutes!

Confronted with the horror of his now-liberated vampire self dominating his nighttime hours (although why he can’t just get back under the crucifix and get a more-girl-proof lock for his front door, I dunno), the Son of Dracula is left after his singular appearance in the midst of a terrible existential dilemma. Of course, he’s also one of at least three characters at Atlas-Seaboard who eats
people for a living, so at least he could probably form a support group.

It's the end.


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

THE LEAGUE OF REGRETTABLE SUPERHEROES PRESENTS: DEATH


Roads to Regrettability: Death
The League of Regrettable Heroes – soon to be published by Quirk Books and written by yours truly – features write-ups on 100 of comicdom’s weirdest, most unfortunate, most misunderstood and flat-out strangest  superheroes. The book debuts June 2, 2015, so in the meantime let’s discuss the many paths a character can take on the road to regrettability. Some are born regrettable, some are made regrettable, and some become heroes by the most regrettable means – death!

Jules Feiffer, in his excellent 1965 combination memoir and collection of classic comic book stories The Great Comic Book Heroes, makes particular note of the means by which the cloaked and short-pantsed supernatural hero The Spectre gains his powers – he dies! Acknowledging that superhero origins tend to involve a little murder here, some orphaning there, and the occasional destruction of a home planet, it’s the rare hero who actually has to up-and-die on his or her way to the four-color crusade.

Shortpants of the undead.
The blood-spotted floor of superherodom’s great hallways are littered with posthumous heroes. Kid Eternity, shuffled off his mortal coil owing to clerical error, returns with a magic word and the ability summon an array of heroes from fiction and history as varied as Lancelot, Knute Rockne and Carrie Nation. Also counted among the spirits rubbing shoulders with living men were the French Foreign Legion fliers of the Ghost Patrol, murdered by high-altitude sabotage while in the middle of disobeying the sinister orders of their Vichy leaders and thereby granted the liberty to hassle Hitler with their supernatural powers.

Like the Spectre, American Comics Group’s Nemesis was a former police officer who returned to life after kicking the bucket at criminal hands. Besides almost limitless supernatural powers and similar career placement exam results, Nemesis also shared much in common with the Spectre’s dress sense – short pants, little booties and a hood, an outfit which seemed to scream “Avenger of the Undead” in the comics of yesteryear.

More than a few flesh-and-blood heroes had the opportunity to share their lives with deceased siblings; Houngan hero Brother Voodoo carried the spirit of his brother and predecessor around during his supernatural slugfests, while the Golden Age’s Captain Triumph pressed a T-shaped birthmark on his wrist to recall and combine with the spirit of his deceased brother, doubling his strength and energy. (Marvel’s faux retro hero 3-D Man, while having the hero’s brother trapped in another dimension rather than actually being dead, operated under the same principle. Then again, what exactly is the difference between death and banishment in an invisible realm?).

Most of these heroes are lucky enough to receive celestial boons as a sort of compensation prize for having been murdered ahead of schedule or otherwise out of sight from St.Peter’s bookkeeping, but others snuff it on their way to serving satanic powers directly. Todd McFarlane’s Spawn, most notably, rebels against his infernal master during his earthly mission to collect corrupt souls, but he’s not the first to play around with that shtick – Atlas-Seaboard’s Grim Ghost is a reincarnated highwayman given tremendous powers by the devil himself in order to bring evildoers to the gates of hell ahead of schedule. (Keeping in mind that this Grim Ghost is not to be confused with DC Comics’ Grim Ghost, a character only called that during his revival since his original name – the Gay Ghost – seemed apparently unpalatable for a contemporary audience)

Other heroes have merely faked their death in order to confuse enemies or increase their efficacy, but Will Eisner’s The Spirit faked his as part of his origin – now residing in a cemetery headquarters, the believed-dead Denny Colt uses his extralegal status as a non-person to aid the law and also to avoid anyone connecting him with that movie which Frank Miller made about him a few years ago.

Of course, the most famous dead superhero might be the one with his condition right there in the name – Deadman. Formerly a world-famous highwire trapeze artist, Boston Brand (a good name for a baked beans company if ever there were one) is murdered as an Assassins Guild initiation, which mandates that every member must fatally shoot a circus performer. Trapped as a ghost in the material world but blessed with the power to possess the bodies of living beings by the transcendent spirit Rama Kushna, his mortal infirmity hasn’t managed to keep Deadman from having a bunch of Batman teamups or occasionally having sex with hot ladies by inhabiting the bodies of their boyfriends. Amaaaaazingly creepy, that, someone should file a report with superhuman resources.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

BATMAN LEADS AN INTERESTING LIFE - THE TRUE STORY OF FRANKENSTEIN

Batman is the scientist. We call his creation "Batman's Monster."
Ripped from yesterday’s headlines, a literally adrenaline-packed story of time travel and mindless rampage!

I’m sure that Batman has met Frankenstein’s Monster on more than a few occasions, but I’m not sure if any of them have necessarily purported to tell the real story behind the famous book, much less have ended by ripping the sense of accomplishment out of Mary Shelley Wollstonecraft’s hands. Dumb ol’ girls, what do they know about writing timeless literary horror? Batman’s the real master of prose here!

Before we get that far along, though, this story doesn’t even begin with Batman (providing that we discount the splash panel and the giant logo reading “BAT-Batman’s face-MAN” right at the beginning of the book. Unrelated, but imagine a post-apocalyptic future where generations some several millennia down the road try to parse what scraps of the English language remain in order to piece together what little information about our culture persists, and imagine that an old Batman comic is one of the documents to have been preserved; how do you think they’ll pronounce Batman’s head sitting in the middle of his name? “A hero of ancient Ah-Mur-I-Cun folklore, known to its people as ‘baht-poink-mon’…” Maybe then another academic speaks up, ‘That’s not an individual word, it’s an accent mark, it affects the pronunciation of ‘Baht’ to ‘Beet!’ It’s ‘Beet-Mon!’” Then the whole seminar devolves into arguing. Something to think about, right?).

This is an unsettling amount of power
for any one person to wield.
Batman and Robin’s personal hypnotherapist Carter Nichols takes time away from his “Be The Best You and Travel Through Time – Through HYPNOSIS!” seminars to ponder lightly about the true story behind Frankenstein, so uses his hypnosis time-travel powers on himself (thanks to his assistant, the full-length mirror) to return to an unspecified locale in Central Europe sometime around 1800 or so.  Science isn’t precise, folks, it just pierces the time and space barrier.

In short order, Nichols manages to meet up with Victor Frankenstein, his cousin Mallert and their titanic manservant Ivan. “I don’t see any monster here” Nichols thinks to himself, disappointed, “Ivan is a giant, yes, but he’s kindly!” Carter Nichols is hard to satisfy, apparently.

An accident with an electrostatic machine damn near kills Ivan, but Nichols saves his life with an emergency injection of adrenaline, which he apparently carries around on him when traveling through time in case anyone wants to fuckin’ party. Ivan is saved, but returns to life as a mindless brute. Carter’s sure that another dose of adrenaline – not yet discovered in Frankenstein’s time – will return his mind, but in the interim Ivan provides a handy tool for the malicious Mallert to arrange for the murder of his cousin.

Yes, who would have guessed it, there was a black sheep in the Frankenstein family! Ivan’s attempt to murder the famous doctor in his bed is interrupted by the cast of Downton Abbey, at which point he takes out his frustrations on the townsfolk below. Realizing that he simply could not have more badly fucked things up, Dr.Nichols uses his hypnosis powers to summon Batman and Robin into the past in order to deal with the marauding giant. Oh, Carter Nichols, when will you realize that not all of life’s problems can be solved with time-hypnosis?

"Oh no, he's been David Finched!"
Somehow Nichols can indeed remote-hypnotize Batman and Robin through time without their consent, which is terrifying, and brings the Dynamic Duo into the mix in order to further complicate matters. Packing an emergency bottle of adrenaline – apparently Gotham’s number one party drug in 1948 – Batman attempts to restore Ivan’s mind, but is himself overpowered and then jazzed up with adrenaline by the malicious Mallert. The result? BATMAN RAMPAGES THROUGH THE VILLAGE. Bat-rampage! Batpage!

It turns out that Batman was faking the rampage, although exactly why isn’t really made clear. Listen, it was part of his plan and in the end Ivan has his mind restored, that’s all we need to know. Well, also, all that adrenaline has left Ivan with a post-maniacal rampage hangover and a deep abiding sense of regret, so he grabs the coy Mallert and dashes into a room full of exploding chemicals which Frankenstein keeps around for giggles and dynamic suicide.

The subsequent explosion knocks the castle to the ground and kills everyone involved, including Batman and Robin the en- wait, no, sorry. Batman and Robin make it out with Doctor Frankenstein and Professor Nichols safely, but apparently end up hanging around town for a few more days because they hadn’t yet messed with local timelines catastrophically enough. When “an Englishwoman writer” shows up, “attracted by the terrible case,” Batman spills the beans on everything that’s happened, prompting the young lady to return home and write a “fictionalized” version of the weird events, lest no one believe her account. Which either means she thought the guy dressed like a rubber ferret and the bare-limbed, masked boy who accompanied him weren’t notable enough to include in her final draft or the DC Universe’s version of Frankenstein includes a pivotal role for Batman and Robin. “Polluted by crimes, and torn by the bitterest remorse, where can I find rest but in … vengeance! Yes, that’s it,” says the monster, “I shall become a BAT!”

Western literature in Batman’s world is a weird creature, I bet he shows up in Love In The Time of Cholera, too.

"Listen here little lady, let Batman write the timeless prose of an English-language masterpiece. You go back to darning socks or whatever it is you ladies do, okay? Okay sweetie, that's a good girl."

Monday, October 20, 2014

MONDAY'S MONSTER - WHAT’S-HIS-NAME


What would Charlton Comics’ monster line have been without the efforts of the great Steve Ditko? Well, it would’ve been shy of a Konga, a Gorgo, a bunch of other Fantastic Giants and, of course, What’s-His-Name.

A classic Charlton Comics ghost story, it was a tale which was unearthed as an inventory piece for reprint titles. As it popped up in Charlton’s mid-70s Monster Hunter title, it also has the honor of being one of the few horror comic tales to be shepherded by three hosts – Colonel Whiteshroud was the technical host of Monster Hunters (although he’d been absent on the interiors since issue no.10), Winnie the Witch hosted the actual story inasmuch as it was entirely reprints from her title Ghostly Haunts, and the strip’s protagonist is Doctor Graves!

And catering by L.Dedd.


Every year around May 14, so the story informs us, “a small town in West Virginia is haunted by a very malicious ghost!” The green, elongated specter rises from his unmarked grave in the town’s cemetery and then proceeds to make a mess of the place – knocking out power, slugging the unsuspecting in ark alleys, burning down houses and doing savage donuts in the town’s only fire truck. I’ve never seen a ghost story which combined the twin images of a leering, spectral visage erupting with malicious laughter over the sight of a deadly house fire and that same ghost a few minutes later driving a fire truck into crowded traffic with its hands at 10 and 2. Safety first! 

Haha, seriously.

The extent of the destruction and chaos is so great that a concerned local doctor calls in his colleague, Doctor Graves, whom I’d assumed had a doctorate in supernatural studies but I guess he’s an ophthalmologist or something? He’s just in the book? I might be able to see Doctor Graves if I had a referral, right?

"Oh, shut up Fred, you've never said any such thing."
Rushing to the site, Graves is dragged appropriately enough to the local graveyard, where he learns that the single unmarked – and yet undisturbed – grave belongs to Bertram Crumm, black sheep of the acclaimed Crumm family. They sound nice. I think their family changed their name at Ellis Island from “Cumberbatch,” by the way.

Sensing a solution to end the ghost’s rampage, Doc G arranges for a local stonecutter to cast a forgiving tombstone for the malicious entity, and then asks the local townsfolk to come honor the man at a funeral. It does the trick ,and the ghost is mollified, although there’s frankly some outright fibs on his tombstone – “He harmed no one…” it says, the ellipses seeming to indicate “…assuming you ignore the time he played Crazy Taxi with the fire engine, or murdered all those dudes, or started all those fires.” Then again, comics are full of lie-laden tombstones, I mean, have you seen Bob Kane’s?



Sunday, October 19, 2014

SUNDAY THRILLER THEATER - DOOM OF THE CHEAT

"Hello kids, I'm television's Marty Engels ... FROM HELL!

"Actually, I'm Mister L.Dedd, host of Charlton's GHOSTLY TALES and owner of what is possibly the most confusing horror-host pun-based name possible. L.Dedd, L.Dedd, as in ... you know, 'El Dead,' which is Spanish for 'The Dead," I think. Maybe I'm an L.Ron Hubbard joke. I dunno, anyway, I changed it to 'I.M.Dedd' eventually because I guess if you want anything done right around here you have to do it yourself.

"If I stand out for anything in particular as a horror host, it's probably for looking like some sort of hellbent Danny Thomas. Just picture my lying under a glass-top coffee table, it'll complete the picture, I guarantee it.

"In the meantime, here's a forgotten classic from THIS MAGAZINE IS HAUNTED outlining the byzantine supernatural punishments of an outmoded primitive superstition. Me, I value reason and rationalism over absurd theocratic dogma. This is why I subscribe to Scientology."


Saturday, October 18, 2014

SATURDAY CHILLER THEATER - TWO FOR THE PRICE OF ONE

"Greetings and what-what, mortals, I am DR.HAUNT, known to many of our friends south of the Mason-Dixon line as 'Ol' Doc Haint.'

"My stamping grounds was the classic horror comic THIS MAGAZINE IS HAUNTED, which I'll just be sitting here waiting for the comics journalism sphere to give me credit for what they've chosen to call Grant Morrison's latest innovative idea. Hey buddy, we had a haunted comic long before Multiversity played with the idea. Do you have any idea how many children of the 1950s bought our comic and were subsequently cursed for seven generations? Ask your dad.

As far as our story goes today, it's a another forgotten classic from Dell's hallmark horror title, Tales of the Tomb, and you can take my word for it that it's a classic. After all, that's what I have my doctorate in; comparative literature. Yup, Arthur Randolph Haunt, Doctor of Humanities, that's me! And here's "Two for the Price of One!"



Story: John Stanley
Art: Uncredited

Friday, October 17, 2014

FRIDAY FRIGHT MASK - SKATEMAN

Halloween approaches and with it the once-a-year dread of finding just the perfect costume. Well, this year, why not avail yourself of the back catalog of Gone&Forgotten's collection of fourth-stringers, Z-Listers, weirdos, misfits, almost-rans and never-weres? With nothing more than a pair of scissors, a color printer and a little imagination, you can slide right into the identity of the subject of your favorite Gone&Forgotten article. With a new fright mask (and accessories) posted every Friday throughout October, why not thrill your friends and terrify your enemies by disguising yourself as today's free download, SKATEMAN?





Instructions - it's easy!

1. Download and print the handy, full-color, three-page PDF file with this week's Fright Mask! (Preferably on cardstock paper, or paper of a similar hardiness - don't skimp on materials!)

2. Cut out the mask along the outside of the black outlines. Cut carefully along the blue dotted lines to create a comfortable opening for your nose (or other mid-face protuberance), and be sure to punch out the holes for the eyes, or else you might unknowingly walk into a wood chipper.

3. Punch out the circles on the tabs along the side of the mask and lace a string or other string-like substance through, to keep the mask attached to your head.

4. If you'd like to accessorize your costume with the enclosed word balloon and props, just cut along the outside of the black outline, same as with the mask. For ease of display, glue a popsicle stick or tongue depressor to the back of the word balloon so as to quickly employ it when appropriate for the conversation.

5. Go forth and spread the magic!

And that's all there is to it! Have a happy gone and forgotten - and safe - Halloween!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

TRULY GONE & FORGOTTEN FOES : GORNA – LORD OF THE LIVING LIGHTNING

...and also Lord of the Dance!
Sometimes Dracula is a bit tough to take as the titular lead of his own ongoing book, at least if you ever expect that he’s going to be doing anything even remotely heroic. Sure, in this issue, he protects a vulnerable young widow from the wrath of her now-vampiric abusive ex, but that was only after he put the tooth to a young couple innocently fooling around in a barn and tried to assassinate another guy with lightning just for having a sass mouth. Still, at least we know he’s a feminist ally, I guess. Dracula – Social Justice Warrior.

Marvel’s Tomb of Dracula No.22 (“In Death Do We Join,” July 1974) pits the book’s go-getting young bloodsucker against Gorna, alleged Lord of the Lightning according to the cover of the book. This is a huge lie. Gorna has nothing to do with lightning, he never touches the stuff, he’s straight-edge for amperage. The closest he comes to having anything to do with lightning, in fact, comes about when Dracula calls down a torrent of the stuff to incinerate the mouthy Gorna when the two have an antagonistic rap battle in a Soviet cemetery. What he does like … is FIRE!

"Thanks dad."
Before Gorna first flicks his magical Bic, however, the story takes us into the trials of Petra, Gorna’s former wife and victim of her husband’s insane jealousy and brutal temper. Believing herself freed following her husband’s seemingly supernatural death – he falls mysteriously ill after Petra prays for her hateful hubby’s untimely kicking of the bucket, proving with one stroke that both God and misandry are real – Petra instead is terrorized nightly by Gorna’s persistent rising from the grave.

It turns out that Gorna is a vampire himself, possessed of powers that rival even Dracula’s. This is bad news indeed, but not unexpected – at Gorna’s funeral, half the town turns out in skull-masks and ceremonial robes. Apparently aware of Gorna’s supernatural nature, the townsfolk undertake a series of rituals intended to keep the little pischer deep in the dirt. When the lunch whistle blows, though, the townies take off with the job half-done, opening the door for Gorna’s return. Unions, am I right? Psh.

Petra’s parents protect her as best they can, between slapping her in the middle of conversations for no good reason. In fact, slaphappy dad is responsible for landing a natural 20 on Gorna with the slightly more Metal version of the ol’ stake-through-the-heart … the FLAMING stake-through-the-heart!

Burned from the inside out and now resembling something not like a partly melted Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man, Gorna returns to his graveyard where he finds Dracula waiting for him, itching for a rematch. Now wielding the power to create fire out of thin fire from his fingertips, Gorna has only one weakness – fire! Huh. Well. Whoops.

This, however, was one of the most awesome two-page spreads I've ever encountered, even if the flames appeared to have been colored with a Sharpie.

Following the most badass two-page spread in comics history and a pretty spectacular battle between the two wampyr, Dracula puts an end to Gorna with this theatrical sendoff: “Gorna Storski*, you have blasphemed your master … you lord, and so you must be punished … for if you cannot be held at bay by me, if you do no heed and obey my ever word, my every command, THEN BE DAMNED WITH YOU IN THE VERY FIRES OF YOUR OWN CREATION!” adding “Now, that as the flames consume you, that DRACULA is your GOD and Dracula is indeed a VENGEFUL GOD” and then he hucks Gorna into a flaming grave. ::holds up lighter::

*Of the Minsk Storskis, I assume


I assume you realize that you have just read the most baller kill lines in the history of comics, which is why I’m assuming Gorna has never been revived; It’d be a shame to put the lie to Dracula’s amazingly badass last words over Gorna’s smoldering corpse just to bring the guy back... 

::standing ovation::

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

PLANET OF VAMPIRES

Nothing even remotely resembling this happens anywhere in any issue of this series.

Naturally, the Atlas-Seaboard equivalent of Brian Eno’s Oblique Strategies is “Cram together two mildly compatible contemporary pieces of pop culture until a bland, flavorless paste can be made of the pulp,” and that’s certainly what they did with Planet of Vampires! Stirring together equal parts Omega Man and Planet of the Apes, the resulting simmering brew was strangely devoid of either vampires or planets in much of the traditional sense of the words.

Initially brought to life by writer Larry Hama and artist Pat Broderick, Planet of Vampires related the harrowing tale of the crew of the Aries VII in the post-apocalyptic world of the far-flung 2020 AD. Having been on a mission to discover life on Mars, the Aries astronauts return to Earth only to find that the planet has reverted to a state of primitive barbarism. Crash-landing in the water near a futuristically dilapidated Coney Island, the five surviving astronauts (the cover promises us six, but I’m assuming the other five used that one to cushion their landing) discover that roving street gangs, speaking a lumbering patois of barbarian grunts and Noo Yawk slang, have conquered the once thriving metropolis.

This charming shit starts on page 1, issue 1, and never lets up.
The astronauts in question are led by Captain Chris Galland, a quick-to-anger sexist jag whose constant verbal barrages are unleashed on the majority of the crew only twenty percent of the time, while the remaining eighty percent of his violent ire is directed at his wife (and fellow crewmember) Elissa every time she clears her throat or doesn’t get space-dinner on the moon-table fast enough. Lest he be the only misogynist jerk on the crew, the caucasian Galland in backed up by his African-american second-in-command Craig, whose wife is also a crew member and who, between them, have spent pretty much the entire American space-exploration budget on maintaining their enormous afros. No worries though - when they're rendered on the cover to issue three, they're both depicted as white and Craig gets long, strawberry-blonde locks. Hm.

If there’s one interesting premise in the entirety of Planet of Vampires, it’s that none of the astronauts can fucking stand each other. When not biting each other’s heads off or running around crying over hurt feelings, they’d contemptuously sneering about each other’s refusal to obey orders. It must have been a fun trip to Mars.

A fifth member of the crew is elderly Ben Levitz, scientific expert and the only guy who went into space without someone to periodically stick it to, evidently. Ben’s opposite number might have been the mysterious sixth astronaut promised earlier, but it doesn’t matter because Ben dies in the landing anyway. One down, four to go!

Everyone's hair is GORGEOUS.
Captain Galland (no relation) and his remaining crew don’t endure the clutches of the local barbarian’s union for too long before flying cars rain stun-beams on the savage crowd, rescuing the spaceman and depositing them inside a dome-encased Empire State Building. If the idea of the Empire State Building encased in a dome wasn’t inspired by a cheap New York newsstand souvenir snowglobe, I’ll eat my hat.

Inside the Empire State Building are the remnants of the ruling class of the pre-apocalyptic world, in case you were ever wondering what Atlas-Seaboard’s take on America’s long-running class warfare would end up resembling. More than merely disconnected one-percenters, the inhabitants of the dome are also … VAMPIRES! Lame-ass, no-account vampires who apparently survive on the blood harvested from abducted barbarians. It doesn’t seem like the most productive way to feed a captive population, just sucking the life out of axe-wielding yobbos and hucking the dessicated husks in the green glass bin, but I guess “Planet of Vampires” sounds cooler than “Planet of Well Thought-Out Agrarian Principles.”

By the second issue, the astronauts are on the run from their vampire overlords when they fall back in with the local barbarian groups. Now scripted by John Albano, the street gangs start to pick up actual New Yorkisms and talking more like Big Apple regulars, which is terrific. I honestly wish they’d devoted a subplot to arguing about where you get the best pizza north of Canal and why the C Line sucks dick.

This sounds legit.
Along these lines, native knuckle-dragger “Bruiser” briefly becomes the actual protagonist of the book, uniting warring tribes and shepherding the astronauts around the city and away from danger (courtesy in no small part to the assistance of a scavenger delightfully named “Spanish Eddie”). This doesn’t last long as the book undergoes some streamlining, starting with the unfortunate lady astronauts getting snuffed by vampires when no one was looking.

By the third issue, the city dwellers have developed fangs for no reason except that no one told incoming artist Russ Heath – turning in some great art for such a barker comic – that they shouldn’t, and blood-sucking spiders the size of golden retrievers show up outside the Bronx Zoo, so at least it’s getting a little vampirey.

A dynamic two-page spread in the Kirby style seems to promise some sort of vampire Neanderthals in an untamed wilderness gearing up for the constantly bickering, big-haired astronaut heroes of the book, but Atlas-Seaboard  went and folded, denying the world a conclusion to a genuine roller coaster of bullshit.



HOLY SHIT, WHERE WAS THIS BOOK ALL ALONG??


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