The day I am writing this, the sky is grey and foggy and rain is pouring down. As I look out my window, everything is dark and bleak like there was no hope and for some reason this made me think of a film. No, not “The Fog” and not “Silent Hill” but Pumpkinhead directed by FX master Stan Winston. Then I thought, wow Dark Horse Comics did a four issue mini series based around this demon of revenge, and then I thought hell, why not take a look at it for the blog. But before we get into that, there has been talk about a Black Panther being on the loose in our area! To me, this is something amazing. While no attacks have been reported, the beast has been seen several times! This kind of thing can add some spice to an area that is better known for its normal city crime. Imagine coming out of your house and seeing the panther near your car or on your front porch! Some say it’s a hoax, while others think it is just an escaped pet. All I know is that Baron Von Porkchop and I might have to go look for it for an episode of Terrifying Tales of the Macabre.
The first time I saw Pumpkinhead was on a VHS rented from K&L Video in Kettering. My brother rented it on one of our many horror filled weekends, and we always knew the image of Pumpkinhead but had never fully gotten to see the film. Fangoria Magazine was always a huge help for us to read about the horror flicks of our time as well as John Stanley’s Splatter Guides and horror icon Chas Balun’s Gore Score books. Each made it a little easier to learn about horror films of the past and present. My brother and I would spend many hours reading these books and wowing over films like Zombi 2, Igor and the Lunatics, Blood Feast, Rawhead Rex and many more years before we could finally see them. While some titles lived up to our hype, many didn’t as well, but this was way before the internet and before video stores were at every corner so it would take you longer to find videos or for it to show on HBO or a Horror Host to guide you through it.
Pumpkinheand became one of my favorite cult films of the time after watching it. The plot has a shop owner Ed Harley whose son dies when city kids hit him with their dirt bikes. Stricken with anger, he goes to the old witch in the woods and raises town legend, demon of revenge Pumpkinhead to avenge his son’s death. After each of the deaths at Pumpkinhead’s hand, Ed Feels pain and comes to realize he was wrong and goes to stop the demon and save his own soul before all the teens are killed. The atmosphere of the film and the use of lighting made this a creepy film, not to mention the amazing creature design by Winston and his FX team is straight out of nightmares. The film stars Lance Henrikson who plays Ed Harley and does an amazing job as always. I first owned this film on VHS and quickly bought it on DVD when it was released and then again on DVD when the special edition was released. This film has been released on VHS, DVD, Beta and Laserdisc via MGM. So far no Blu-Ray has been released.
Pumpkinhead sparked three sequels. While alright, none captured the charm or horror of the original. First came 1994’s Pumpkinhead II: Bloodwings and took more of a normal direct to video approach to the legend making the creature Pumpkinhead more of the sad character. This film has been met with very negative reviews but did gain a cult following years later. Pumpkinhead: Ashes to Ashes was next and brought back Ed Harley as a spirit who is trying to warn of the evil of Pumpkinhead. Throw in a evil town doctor played by Doug Bradley and you have the third film. This was a fun film that was a nice way to see the legend again. The last sequel thus far was Pumpkinhead: Blood Feud. It was released in 2007 and showed two feuding families with one side using Pumpkinhead to get the upper hand. This was as well was just an okay direct to cable film. The Pumpkinhead legend is quiet for now but who knows who will raise the demon again in the future.
Besides movie sequels many other products have been made with Pumpkinhead’s image that include model kits, action figures, t-shirts, posters, soundtrack CD’s, comics and even a PC video game. All these items kept his image out there, in fact Game Swap in Kettering, a place I get some of these comics for review, has one of the action figures on a shelf display that is tearing apart a G.I. Joe!
So now that your mind is on the creature of revenge named Pumpkinhead, let’s take a look at the mini series done by Dark Horse Comics, the company who brought comics based on The Predator, Aliens and Dr. Giggles to our hands. I want to remind everyone that I grade these comics on a standard 1-4 star scale and look for entertainment value, art, story and how true the comic is to its source material. So with no more delay, let’s go to our look at Pumpkinhead!
Pumpkinhead # 1 **1/2
Released in 1993 Cover Price $2.50 Dark Horse Comics #1 of 4
The old witch Haggis is sick and looking for a replacement. She finds one in Mariah, a young woman who was traded to her by a farmer some years back in exchange for good crops. Mariah is called to the cabin in the woods, and Haggis shows her the legend of Pumpkinhead via visions. David is the son of the town’s doctor and is madly in love with Mariah and has come up with a plan for them to run away and leave the small backwoods town behind. Mariah is torn between her love and her duty of being a witch in training. A stranger by the name of Angus Brenner has also arrived in town with the intent to find Haggis and get the location of the Pumpkinhead’s husk remains so that he may perform an exorcisim and rid the world of the demon of vengeance once and for all. But on the night of the escape, Mariah finds Haggis dead of natural (or is the supernatural?) causes and now must become the town witch to keep the tradition alive.
Issue one is a nice build up for the story to come and does a great job of tying in the film this series is based on. The story is a simple one of a young woman torn between love and duty and has a subplot of honor and salvation. Mariah, who is the star of the issue, is a likable character who while a witch uses her power to help her fellow man and is freaked out when she has the vision of Pumpkinhead. David is a normal throwaway boyfriend character so far, simply a young man with big dreams. Haggis is as snippy and creepy as ever and takes glee in the fact she owns Mariah’s life. Plus it’s shocking when in issue one she is killed off. Angus has very little panel time but I am sure this hero is going to come into play very soon. Pumpkinhead is not around much in this issue and when you do get to see the demon, it’s only in flashbacks. The comic does a good job with staying with the concept of the original film and seems almost like a part two, as this came a little before Pumpkinhead II: Blood Wings. The art is pretty well done and has that early 90’s Dark Horse Comic look. The cover, on the other hand, is not well done and makes the issue look like a cheap throw away. The comic is bloodless and has no shocks or thrills, but it’s clear that this is the build up for things to come. Let’s see how issue 2 goes and if it brings Pumpkinhead out to play.
Pumpkinhead # 2 **1/2
Released in 1993 Cover Price $2.50 Dark Horse Comics #2 of 4
Mariah sits in the woods alone waiting for David, but she is not fully alone as a group of bullies attack and accidentally kill her. David shows up just as they are fleeing and filled with anger and sorrow takes Mariah’s body to Haggis’ cabin and digs up the husk of Pumpkinhead, bringing the demon to life. As Pumpkinhead starts his killing ways ripping one of the bullies jaw off, Angus finds David and takes him home where he tells him and his father that there is hope for him to live through this if they put faith in him and stop the creature once and for all.
Issue 2 brings Pumpkinhead out to play as he wastes no time killing one of the people he was raised to go after. Mariah, who was set up to be the hero of the story, is killed in the opening moments of this issue making for a shocking moment. David quickly becomes the series’ focus as he takes the curse and becomes responsible for Pumpkinhead’s latest killing rampage. Angus is now given more of a purpose and a back-story making him more important to the plot. The asshole bullies are your normal backwoods punks who not only rough up Mariah but also attempt to rape her, making you want to see them all die. Again this one delivered the full plot into effect and is setting up issue 3…that never was made. The art is well done again and is pure early Dark Horse, and Pumpkinhead looks pretty sweet in all his evil glory. This issue packs a little more gore and blood. This series or what was made of it was a good average read that had a good plot and some good characters. I think the coolest thing about this unfinished comic series is that it clearly was a follow up to the film, making fans of Pumpkinhead happy at the time.
One of the best things about this two-issue run is the fact we do get to see Ed Harley in the first issue, really tying it into the film. It also dives into the rumor of what Pumpkinhead really is and shows there is more than just one of these creatures in the world. Dark Horse Comics struck out by not finishing this series and to this day I cannot find out why they cancelled the series at the half way mark. They had a good horror movie tie-in series going, and the only reason I could think for them not to finish is very poor sales for the first two issues. It is said that a model kit was made to tie into this comic series that had Pumpkinhead with wings and has a booklet where the creators of this series were able to finish the storyline. So we do know that a booklet has the end of this story and that wings were to come to Pumpkinhead. The odd part about all this is when a film sequel was made, its subtitle was Blood Wings. 1993 was the first and last time a comic was made about Pumpkinhead, and that’s a shame when in 2010 IDW had the means to make one via its Midnight Movie line. So with some empty slots here, why not take a look at a few other comics all of which had the same fate as Pumpkinhead.
Fangoria opened up a comic branch in 2007 and closed it that same year. Rumors of it re-opening went on for years but finally died in 2009. Fangoria Comics made issues based on horror films and some that were completely new ideas. Many of these issues got great reviews at the time. But much like many series before it, when the company went belly up they never were completed. Some series did get the rest of the remaining issues made into digital comics thanks to The Scream Factory. So let’s take a look at two of these comic series that started but never finished via print issues.
What do you get when you mix horror films, comic books, 80’s hair metal and body modification? You give up? Well you get Strangeland, a horror thriller written by Dee Snider lead singer of rock band Twisted Sister. Captain Howdy is a bad man who gets his joy in life by kidnapping and modifying his victim’s flesh. He finds his young victims via online chat rooms where he tricks them into coming to his house for a fake party. But when he is captured and convicted, he tries to turn his life around only for the townspeople to drive him back into his killing ways. This is a fun little b-movie horror film that is well written by Snider who also happens to play Howdy. A sequel was supposed to start filming in 2011 but has since been cancelled. This Fangoria 4 issue mini series was to be the prequel to the original film, but sadly only one came to print. So let’s get onto a look at Strangeland: Seven Sins # 1.
Strangeland: Seven Sins # 1 **1/2
Released in 2007 Cover Price $3.99 Fangoria Comics #1 of 4
Carlton Hendricks aka Captain Howdy is a man with many deep secrets. His basement is filled with young men and women, all of whom he has modified in some way, and rumors are flying at club Sin that he is doing some very bad things. Sin himself owns the fetish club and is getting tired of hearing about how Carlton is scaring his customers and how others look up to this scum bag who seems to turn up everything a notch or 12 past people’s pain threshold. So one night Sin and the workers of the club set up Carlton, having him come to the club as a guest where he’s beaten badly by all. This issue ends with him ko’d on the floor in a pool of his own blood.
For a prequel this comic still starts off with Carlton being one sick bastard who has his torture chamber already set up and youths already in pain. Carlton is a smug asshole kind of guy whose whole existence is based around his wants and needs. His knowledge of what he likes is high, but his treatment of others in and out of his chamber is something that most would find to be rude and dickish. Not much can be gathered from this first issue besides the fact the club owners and goers hate him, and he is already a sick s.o.b. who forces his love for pain on others. I am sure the rest of the story had to have followed his revenge on the club workers who set him up. It’s a shame that Fangoria pulled the plug on the comic line because I would have liked to have seen where this series would have gone. Yeah, I know that the rest of the story is out there via a download comic, but let’s face it people, digital comics just are not the same! Nothing can beat holding an old 60’s or 70’s issue in your hand and smelling the old ink as you read an adventure, flipping through the pages and holding a piece of comic history in your hands. No computer screen will ever have that. Strangeland was a good choice for a comic and would have been a good series if given the chance to grow. The story from issue one was average but it was clearly the foundation for something more. The art was not my style but was by no means an eyesore. Only time will tell if Captain Howdy will get another chance at comics and movies and while I would be happy to see either, both are very doubtful at this point.
Next up is another Fangoria Comic that was a new idea but could have spun off into a film: The Fourth Horseman. What was supposed to be an ongoing series only got two issues before its parent company closed doors. I have owned these comics since they came out and never got around to reading them. So this will be a new experience for me. So let’s dive in and see if it’s any good. Unlike Strangeland this series never did get finished even on a digital comic format.
The Fourth Horseman # 1 **1/2
Released in 2007 Cover Price $3.99 Fangoria Comics #1 of Unknown
Bear is a Native American hunter who is special and powerful. Some say he was born with special powers that made him one of the horsemen of the Apocalypse. Bear’s tribe worship him, and he is, for all account, their leader and giver. The white men are his victims who he robs and scalps giving himself a memento of their death. The warrior turns on his tribe and kills them all looking for a challenge, but Bear thinks all his kills thus far have been of weak men so he challenges the US Army to a fight and wins. The warrior known as Bear is like a plague that sweeps across the land and is the first of the Horsemen also known as the White Rider.
This is more of a picture book then a comic and has very little words. It’s clearly a build up for a much bigger plan that was to have all the riders doing some sort of world changing event. Bear is a cold uncaring character who has a bloodlust that knows no bounds. He is very unlikable and is not only cruel to his fellow man but also very mean towards animals. The issue is packed with blood as Bear kills man and animal alike, and the gore and red stuff is aplenty. Nice art, interesting story, wish it had more reading and less of picture book feel, great cover not much more to say so let’s move on, shall we?
The Fourth Horseman # 2 **1/2
Released in 2007 Cover Price $3.99 Fangoria Comics #2 of Unknown
The Red Rider is Maggog, a Chinese master of marital arts and a man who killed many white men who tried to hurt his mother causing he and his father to fight over the wrongs of killing. The fight leaves his mother dead by accident, and his father killed by his hands. Maggog goes across the land killing anyone who he comes across and when the law finds him, he comes up with a plan that has him escaping jail and killing those who locked him up. After he kills his jailers, he finds that a bomb as been set and that Bear and another rider have blown up the city!
This one is much like the first and is more pictures then words. It’s a nice way to build up the character and show you just how evil he really is. Maggog is one blood thirsty confused character who, after watching his mother die, decides that death is a good thing and that many should die, but while this is his thought, he is so filled with anger that he kills for the lust of it. The issue is filled with blood and gore, and the story is pretty solid and entertaining. The art is well done and once more so is the cover. The end builds up the team up of Maggog, Bear and a cowboy character, and the end says we get to meet the Brown Rider in the next issue that never saw the light of day. Over all this issue as well was a nice build up for something that was to be a bigger picture.
While only two issues, The Fourth Horseman seemed to have a good story going that I am sure would have been worth the wait. Between Bear and Maggog, I think I liked Bear slightly better but found Maggog’s issue to be slightly better then Bear’s. I would have loved to have seen the other riders’ back stories and would have loved to find out what was to happen. But with the closing of Fangoria Comics came the end to all their series as well. One thing that was to come out via Fangoria Comics was a series based on horror icon Paul Naschy and his Waldemar Daninsky werewolf character. It was supposed to come out in 2009 during the last relaunch, but sadly this was not to be. The comic, much like others in the company’s comic line, came out only as a digital comic. So here is to hoping that Fangoria will finally get their act together and get their comic branch back up and running.
Well thanks for once more joining me. Next time we are coming back to Dark Horse Comics as we take a look at Doctor Giggles. Till then, stay young!