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The Return of the Revenge of Horror Comics: Adaptations

S A L T C I T Y S H I V E R S

In a previous post for Madness Heart (“Ink Stained: Two Memories of Horror Comics”) I wrote about my love affair with horror comics, which began in my middle school years and continues to this day. In particular, pioneering horror comic company EC Comics made an impact on me – and not just on me. As I wrote:

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Horror and Dollcraft: Thomas Ligotti, Eugene Thacker, and Stephen Graham Jones

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Blessed are those with a voice. If dolls could speak, no doubt they would scream, “I didn’t want to be human!”

– Motoko Kusanagi, Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence

The oldest undisputed depiction of a human being is the so-called Venus of Hohle Fels, which was crafted between 33,000 and 40,000 years ago. The zoomorphic, lion-headed Löwenmensch figurine is even older, being between 35,000 and 40,000 years old. Dolls – which is to say, human figures carved as toys rather than objects of veneration – date to at least the 21st century BCE, with examples scattered throughout the world’s ancient archeological sites. For practically as long as our species has biologically been human, we have crafted self-representations: replications of the human form in wood, stone, mammoth tusk, and every other medium available to us.

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Dracula: Blood and Soil

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The genesis of Bram Stoker’s Dracula is sometimes traced to the 15th Century – specifically, to 1462, when Vlad Drăculea, Voivode (Warlord) of Wallachia seized a Saxon town called Târgoviște and murdered the entire populace in the most gruesome manner imaginable. This, however, is a mistake: other than his name and his potent cocktail of aristocracy and cruelty, Drăculea lent very little to Dracula. The real genesis of Stoker’s masterpiece can perhaps be traced to the earliest German “best sellers,” many of which contained legendary accounts of Vlad’s sadism – and those accounts no doubt influenced Stoker when he was researching Dracula between 1890 and 1897 (although Stoker first heard the Vlad Drăculea legend in 1881).

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Heaven Beside You, Hell Within (Cantos X – XXXIV)

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(This is part five of a five-part series on Hell and horror – you can read the other posts in this series here.)

Down and down we fell like lightning into depths unplumbed and dark, two falling flames amidst an endless void. I called to David Bowie, trusted guide and ghostly muse: “Are we to fall forever?”

“No,” said he, “our destination now is near.” And within moments we had touched down lightly on the dark and sunless core of Hell. The rocky ground was bare; the air cold, stale, and thick. Around us implements of torture stood unused, in cobwebs shrouded like forgotten wedding gowns. No sinner was in sight, no demon there to greet or caution us, no flames, no punishment.

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The Punitive City (Inferno, Canto V)

S A L T C I T Y S H I V E R S

Sing me a song, you’re a singer…do me a wrong, you’re a bringer of evil,” Dio yowled, the shrill tang of his voice resounding off the scorched black walls of Dis, the City of Damnation and walled circler of the coils of Nether Hell. “The devil is never a maker,” he sang apace, his voice now warming to his words, but at this last I hushed him with a wave.

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The Borders of Hell (Inferno, Canto IV)

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“…and that,” finished Ronnie James Dio, “is why I would have made a kickass professional basketball player.”

“Uh huh,” I responded. For lo, though I had dozed my patchy way through Dio’s ramblings, our boat had crossed the flaming river Phlegethon and bumped up on the rocky beach of Sai no Kawara. There we trudged past the souls of countless children, all clad in rags. As we watched, they stacked upon themselves small stones in paltry piles. “What are they doing?” I asked. “They are trying to build towers to climb to Heaven,” answered Dio. “The poor fools. They brought their parents grief in life, and thus they are excluded here upon the shores of Hell. Much like myself.” He paused. “I’m keeping a spot all warmed up for Meat Loaf,” he added. As we left the beach, the terrible Datsue-ba, a dreadful, haglike creature, flew at child after child. Each one in turn endured the iron club of Datsue-ba, who perpetually beat them and tore at their rags. “This seems,” I said, “unfair, to say the least.”

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Nicolas in Wonderland

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“Once upon a time, a little mouse moved into St. Marinara’s orphanage. He loved to play games with all the other orphans. But most of all, Chuck E. loved learning to play music. He especially loved the song ‘Happy Birthday.’” – The Story of Chuck E. Cheese

“We’re all mad here.” – Alice in Wonderland

On a recent episode of Wandering Monster, John, Lemons, and I had one of our many discussions regarding monsters – specifically, in this case, monsters from video games. On this occasion, I happened to bring a game to the conversation called Five Nights at Freddy’s (FNAF). For those who have not had the pleasure, FNAF is a game in which one plays as a security guard who keeps tabs on the security cameras in, essentially, a haunted Chuck E. Cheese in which the animatronic performers have come to life and will do creative and terrible things to your body, given the opportunity. The point of the game is to use security doors and your watchful eye to prevent this outcome. FNAF was a monster hit for an indie game, and went on to inspire so many sequels that the creator held the Gunness World Record for “Most Sequels Released in One Year.” I’m sure this was a proud achievement for a guy who launched FNAF based on the spectacular failure and frighteningly bad character design of his previous games. Those game also happened to be exclusively Christian, and thus did not center on homicidal automatons.

I mention this because there’s a great deal of FNAF in the DNA of a truly delightful film – starring Nicolas Cage in full badass mode, no less! – called Willy’s Wonderland.

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Masks (Part Three): The Mask Behind the Face

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The second post that I ever wrote for Madness Heart Press, way back in March of 2019, was a review of The Best Horror of the Year, Volume 10, edited by Ellen Datlow. It’s an excellent collection that is well worth picking up, and is the venue in which I first encountered a short story called “West of Matamoros, North of Hell,” by Brian Hodge. There were many top-notch exercises in horror in Best Volume 10, but “West of Matamoros” is the one that has stuck with me the longest – haunted me, you might say. In particular, I often think of one sequence in which a very frightening, violent fellow (I won’t spoil the story for you – you ought to read it for yourself) has a calm conversation with another fellow about, and I quote, “the mask behind the face.”

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