From Horror Movie To Horror Comic: Phantasm

You Write A Good Blog, Boy…But Now You Die! Those words are something I would like to think The Tall Man would scream at me if he was here at my apartment while I write this update.  The Phantasm film series is a horror franchise that breaks the mold of what one thinks of when comparing it to other horror films that came before.  The film was not made up of vampires, zombies, a slasher killer, ghosts or even animals running wild; oh no, this film was something more with a killer who was beyond the realms of normal horror bad guys as The Tall Man is so much more than your normal villain of cinema. When choosing Horror Comics for this year’s countdown to Halloween many titles were considered, but one I knew for sure had to be in this year’s roundup was this Xmachina comic based on Phantasm as the movie series as well as this comic deserved to be talked about here on Rotten Ink. This marks not only our second update in our countdown to Halloween but also the first in our “From Horror Movie To Horror Comic” updates that join our returning update themes like “Horror Host Icon”, “Alien Invasion”, “Undead Files”, “NES Challenge” and “Marvel At The Movies” among others. What I am trying to showcase in these updates are horror movie themed comics that lasted for 1-4 issues (some cases could be more issues) and can be from any comic company from Marvel all the way to Blackthrone and can be an adaptation or its own story or a prequel based on the characters of the film it’s named after. This also can apply to promo comics that used to be given away at video rental stores and now come inside DVDs and Blu-Rays, plus still sometimes at the movie theaters! Many great horror movie themed comics have been released and sadly many have been forgotten, so I feel it’s my duty here on Rotten Ink to dig them up from the comic long box graveyard and give them life once more and share them with you, my friends and readers, who might have interest in tracking them down to read or collect. So with that, let’s move into the graveyard and dodge those evil metal flying spheres and get one step closer to the world of The Tall Man!

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The Phantasm movie series is the brain child of director and writer Don Coscarelli who grew up a fan of horror and wanted to make his own in the booming market. Inspired by the book “Something Wicked This Way Comes” by Ray Bradbury as well as from elements from films like “Suspiria” and “Invaders From Mars,” he made a film that became a hit at the box office as well sparked a cult-like following that is still going strong to this day. So before we dive too deep into this update, I want to talk about the films. The write ups will once more come from our friends at IMDB with some info and my brief thoughts and memories of the films…so let’s dodge the spheres and leap over some tombstones and get to talking about the films that are near and dear to many horror fans’ hearts.

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Phantasm (1979)

Mike, a young teenage boy who has just lost his parents, is afraid to lose his brother. This fear causes him to follow his brother to a funeral, where Mike witnesses the Tall Man lift a coffin on his own. Mike decides to investigate and discovers a horrible world where the Tall Man, along with his flying spheres, shrink them to half their normal size and reanimate them as slaves. It is then up to Mike, his brother, and Reggie the ice cream man to stop the Tall man.”

Phantasm was one of those films that when I first viewed it as a youngster, I was lost by the twist and turns of the plot, but nonetheless was so drawn in by the atmosphere. Looking back, I think I first saw this film on the USA Network or some other cable station as I can remember watching it with my brother late on a weekend night while living in Waynesville. As I grew older and into my teens when I started to collect more and more horror films on VHS, the Phantasm series was on my must-own list, and part one always remained a chilling and bizzarre classic in my eyes. The film was directed by Don Coscarelli, who also was the brain behind the idea of characters, and the cast was made up of such talents as Michael Baldwin as Mike, Bill Thornbury as Jody, Reggie Bannister as ice cream man Reggie and Angus Scrimm as The Tall Man. At the US Box Office it brought in a total of $11.988,469.00 on a $300,000.00 budget. The year it was released, it was joined by such other Horror Films as “The Amityville Horror”, “The Driller Killer”, “Tourist Trap”, “Zombie 2”, “Screams Of A Winter Night”, “Cannibal Holocaust” and “The Dark” to name a few. This first one is a true cult classic in my book and is one that you should watch this Halloween season if you have not seen it, and hell even if you have seen it, watch it again!

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Phantasm II (1988)

Mike is released from psychiatry, when he agrees with the doctors that the terrible happenings in his past were just in his imagination. But once he’s free, he contacts Redge and they team up to hunt down and eliminate the “Tall Man”, who plunders the graveyards and abducts the sleeping with help of his terrible gnomes. A beautiful strange girl starts to appear in Mike’s dreams. He assumes she’s in danger and needs their help – will they find her before the Tall Man can do her any harm?”

I can remember when Phantasm II was coming out to theaters as Fangoria Magazine was pushing it, and the TV spots playing on the local stations always captured my attention. My first time seeing the film was when it hit home video and my cousins Dino and Norman rented it and had me and my brother over to watch it. I can remember when the sphere killed one of the Tall Man’s funeral workers, Norman and I cheered and were in wonder as the effects looked fantastic.  This sequel was also directed by Don Coscarelli with actors James LeGros as Mike, Reggie Bannister as Reggie, Paula Irvine as Liz and Angus Scrimm as The Tall Man. The film did okay for Universal at the US Box Office bringing in $7,282,851.00 on a $3 million dollar budget. The film came in at 103 for the year and beat such cult films as Waxwork, Hot To Trot, Mac And Me, The Unholy, Braddock: Missing In Action III, Elvira Mistress Of The Dark, Monkey Shines, Night Of The Demons, Pumpkinhead, Maniac Cop, Hero And The Terror and Critters 2: The Main Course to name a few. The sequel packs a wicked punch and adds to the mystery of The Tall Man and his wicked dead spreading ways, a great watch for your Halloween season for sure.

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Phantasm III: Lord Of The Dead (1994)

The Tall Man, that imposing menace from Morningside Mortuary, is back and once again haunting the thoughts of the now-adult Mike and his friend, ex-Ice Cream vendor Reggie. The two continue their hunt for the mysterious figure and in his path of destruction encounter a variety of dangerous situations, friends and enemies. They also must contend with the resurrected dead plus a growing number of the infamous and deadly silver spheres which aid the Tall Man as he sets his sights on indoctrinating Mike and finishing the fight begun so many years ago”

Phantasm III was the first of the series not to make it to theaters, and the rumor going around about why it went direct to video was because Universal and Don Coscarelli were at war with each other and they did this as a way to flex their muscle, but by doing this they created one of the top selling direct to video films of all time. I first saw the film when my brother Bryan and I rented it from K&L Video, and both of us liked it but were also confused by some of it.  But that’s the real charm of the Phantasm films, they reveal answers but also make it so there are more questions that need answers from film to film. This one also adds female characters named Rocky and Tanesha who are also on a quest to take down the sinister Tall Man…part three in this series is great and was one that was worth renting and now owning on DVD.

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Phantasm IV: Oblivion (1998)

Taking off immediately where the last one ended, in this episode Mike travels across dimensions and time fleeing from the Tall Man, at the same time he tries to find the origins of his enemy, and what really happened the night that his brother died. Meanwhile, Reggie (accompanied by a beauty he picked up on the road) battles the spheres and the undead in a quest to find Mike before the Tall Man can complete his transformation.”

The fourth film in the series was another one that my brother Bryan and I rented from Blockbuster Video.  While good, I did find it to be the weakest in the series, but even with that said, it’s still an amazing and strange film. I don’t have much to say about this film besides I bought it on VHS and later DVD. It was great seeing The Tall Man back in 1998, and it was released by MGM this time around and not Universal. Also a fun fact is that the film was originally written under the title “Phantasm 1999 A.D.” and would have been set in a post-apocalyptic world and would have co-starred Bruce Campbell, but that script could not find funding so it disappeared into developmental hell. This film also had the lowest budget out of all the sequels that were made up to that point. Over all it’s a solid sequel that adds to the legend and mysteries that is The Tall Man.

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Phantasm V: Ravager (2016)

The final installment of the long-running Phantasm series.”

Not much is known about this fifth film in Phantasm series besides it was filmed in secret from 2012-2013.  Oddly enough the film has been scheduled for release this year and has yet to see the light of the movie theater or even the home viewing market, but just recently the release date of October 7th, 2016 was announced. This fifth film is also supposed to be the end of the series and is also the only film not to be directed by Don Coscarelli as David Hartman steps into the director’s chair. I am hoping that the Neon Movies in Dayton will get this film to screen when released, but I won’t hold my breath. I am very much looking forward to this film as the world needs another nightmare of celluloid featuring The Tall Man. So you friends and readers, are you looking forward to this fifth and final Phantasm film?

Tall Man in The Crypt

I am sure some of your readers would like to know who is Tall Man and what is he about. In the 19th century a mortician named Jebediah Morningside had become obsessed with finding out the connections between the worlds of the dead and the living.  He researched and built a machine that would allow him to travel through time and space via a portal that when stepping into it, lead him to an unknown destination and when returning he was no longer Jenediah; he was different…he was now The Tall Man. With these changes he became immortal, super strong, can shape shift, is telekinetic and able to control not only people but also objects with his mind.  When having a body part cut off, the severed limb not only grows back but the amputated limb can transform into insect-like creatures.  His helpers are many as he not only has humans to help in his goal to make the world a graveyard, but also small dwarves, gas mask wearing guards and spheres to name a few. His only known major weakness is cold as it’s believed that the dimension he came from is very hot and this makes is body not able to deal with freezing temperatures. Another fact is that with the change his blood is no longer red but yellow, and while he can be hurt, he has never been killed as shown for 4 films thus far (could his death be in the fifth film?). What makes The Tall Man a fascinating character is the fact that his motives are unknown for the most part besides he wants the land of the living to be the land of the dead. While he can talk, he is a bad guy of few words and mostly uses his face and eyebrow movement to show his feelings. The Tall Man is said to be 6 feet 4 inches tall, have grey hair and is always wearing a black suit. Actor Angus Scrimm has played The Tall Man for five films and his portrayal will forever lock The Tall Man as a true iconic character in the world of horror films. And one has to wonder if the Creepypasta Slenderman is slightly based on The Tall Man…think about it.

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Let’s talks a little about actor Angus Scrimm, shall we? Born on August 19, 1926 in Kansas City, Kansas, Scrimm started his media journey when he wrote and edited for such magazines as TV Guide and Los Angeles Herald Examiner and would also write the liner notes for LPs and CDs for bands like The Beatles and Frank Sinatra and even won a Grammy for his work on liner notes. Hits first acting role was in 1973 in the film “Sweet Kill” with another role that year being in “Sceam Bloody Murder” and after another small role in 1976 for a film called “Jim The World’s Greatest.”  His career changing role would come three years later in 1979 when he landed the role of The Tall Man in the film Phantasm.  This launched his career in acting in horror and cult films, landing roles in “Wiches’ Brew”, “Subspecies”, “Wishmaster” and “John Dies At The End,” to name a few. Angus would travel around the world acting and appearing at conventions and was always a man who made time for his fans. But sadly on January 9th 2016 at the age of 89, Angus Scrimm passed away peacefully surrounded by his family and friends.  This marked another major blow for fans of horror as the year before we lost Wes Craven and Christopher Lee. While gone, his work will live one, and I just wanted to take a moment and honor the man who truly made The Tall Man come alive and scare all those who witnessed his cinema and home video madness. This update is for you, Mr. Scrimm.

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The Tall Man has lots of creepy helpers that are trying to usher in a world of death.  Let’s take a few moments to take a look at them. The most popular of his helpers are the Spheres, also known as Sentinels.  They are flying weapons of death that are packing drills, knives, lasers and saws inside of them and are pure killing machines. The Dwarves, also called Lurkers, are pint size terrors who are crushed down dead bodies that have their brains removed and act as his main forces in his quest. The Hearse is another of his allies, a roaming self controlled four wheeled death machine, and lastly we have the Gravers, who are gas mask wearing slaves who act as guards. All these minions help make The Tall Man a true menace that the world fears and has to combat in order to save their towns from becoming wastelands of death.

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Phantasm has had its share of merchandise and only VHS, DVD and Blu-Ray and other home media releases. Over the years Phantasm and its character The Tall Man have appeared on t-shirts, posters, a comic book, action figures, posters, books, wall clock, hats and many more official and unoffical products. Over the years my most favorite Phantasm item I own is my NECA action figure that not only showcases The Tall Man but also a Lurker.  I also really like my Xmachina Comic as well as an item I will be talking about very shortly. So if you’re a fan of Phantasm and are also a collector of cool things, you can find some very kick butt stuff that showcases characters and the logos for this cult classic horror film.

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In 2009, a Phantasm homebrew video game was made for the Atari 2600 by Scott Dayton.  During its limited release, it was placed on a cart, and I was lucky enough to get a copy of it to play. It’s an adventure game and has you looking around doors in the mausoleum trying to find your shotgun and fighting off the dwarves and dodging The Tall Man who says/screams “Boy” at you. The best part of the game is the midi version of the film’s theme…amazing! While not ground breaking, the game is very much a fun play and makes you flashback to the days when a joystick and one button were all you needed to play a game. While out of print and pretty hard to find, from time to time it will show up on Ebay, and for a high price, you too can get yourself a copy of the horror video game.

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The score music for the 1979 classic Phantasm was done by Fred Myrow and Malcolm Seagrave and could be some of the most memorable horror film music to come out of the 70’s next to Goblin’s Dawn Of The Dead work. The opening theme has a creepy organ sound that blends the sound of the 70’s and yet also mixes in the eerie feel of the 60’s horror score music. The soundtrack has been released on vinyl and CD, and both are pretty much out of print and fetch a very high price in the used market. I was lucky to find a special edition CD release for Phantasm that puts the scores for the first and second film on one CD-R and play the main title during the Halloween show of Alpha Rythms on WYSO. If you’re a music score fan and have extra cash, you should check out this soundtrack as it’s worth buying and listening to.

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Back in 2011 as part of the podcast Gutter Trash’s Halloween special, I was asked to be a guest to review Phantams alongside hosts Jason Young and Eric Shonborn, and wow was it a fun time! We ate take out Chinese food and watched the film over at Eric’s house and after the film recorded the podcast in the Gutter Trash studio….and I was the only one trying to defend it! It was a great time, and if you want to take a trip to the past and listen to some movie and comic geeks chat about Phantasm and other topics, make sure to give it a listen here.

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So we are now in the heart of this Horror Comic Mortuary where good scary comics go to die, and it’s my job to bring them back to life and share them with you my readers – I should warn you that I have had to dodge so many Lurkers who have tried to stop me! I want to thank an Ebay seller for having this issue in stock. I also want to also tell you that this Phantasm comic series was planned to be a four issue mini series, but after Xmachina closed up the comic shop, only one issue was released. But I would like to make a prediction that may could come true; Eibon Press, the new amazing Horror Comic Company who is releasing the missing issues from the Xmachina Gates Of Hell comic series, could take the chance and release the remaining issues..again, just a guess that I could be WAY OFF on. As I am writing this, I can hear a Lurker mumbling this, “Remind them that you grade on a star scale of 1 to 4 and are looking for how well the comic stays to the source material, its entertainment value and its art and story.” And that Lurker said it best..let’s move onto the Phantasm comic that is the perfect way to countdown to Halloween with as well as kick off my new themed updates “From Horror Movie To Horror Comic” so dodge the spheres and try to outrun The Tall Man and see what this comic has to offer as this is my first time reading it.

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Phantasm # 1 ***
Released in 2002    Cover Price $4.95    Xmachina Comics    # 1 of 4

Mike is stuck in a world of his memories of his past run-ins with The Tall Man and his strange world and followers. He remembers back to when he was convinced it was all a dream and that his brother Jody died in a car crash and was not taken away by The Tall Man.  He also remembers when The Tall Man took him into his world and he witnessed the bizarre and weird place in between dimensions that he walked between.  He remembers going along with his best friend Reggie and meeting a female survivor named Rocky and how they had to fight to stay alive, and he remembers how The Tall Man removes his brain to show him not all is what it seems…and then he wakes up attached to machines, greeted by a hippie looking doctor named John Andrew Quezada who is dream specialist.  The year is 2047, and he has been studding Mike who he claims has been in a coma since 1979, a year after his brother Jody and friend Reggie were both killed in a car wreck.  He also claims that the world went crazy some years back and that many people went into dream comas and that The Tall Man is something that lives in dreams and only one other person has ever lived this long in a coma. Mike is still young as a serum was used to keep him youthful, and now Quezada wants him to help find a cure for the dream coma that is sweeping the world. The woman who survived is Rocky, and Dr. Quezada puts them both through dream tests that pits them against The Tall Man and his army of minions, but also what ever weapon they dream up to fight him with can be made as the clinic has a weapon manufacturing room! In one of his dream tests Mike has his own mind taking the appearance of Reggie telling him that this is all a trick of The Tall Man to get him and Rocky out of the way so he can spread death around the world and that they must fight back and end The Tall Man’s path of destruction. When he awakens, he questions Quezada who in turns answers questions but soon turns into The Tall Man and along with spheres and his minions attack Mike and Rocky, only for them to run away and smack dab into a twisted grotesque version of The Tall Man…and our story ends.

Just like the movie series this is based on this comic took so many twist and turns and was so odd that it fit perfectly into the world of Phantasm! The plot mixes the elements from the four films and tries to twist Mike’s memories into nightmares and say that he has been in a coma for decades – and that The Tall Man is nothing more than a nightmare man who has infected the sleep world of many people on earth causing ones who dream of him to go into comas…this of course is all a trap as Mike and Rocky, a returning character from the film Phantasm III, soon find out that this clinic to help them is just another sick game being played by their most hated enemy The Tall Man. The things that work the most about this issue are that while you are reading it and being drawn deeper and deeper into the possibility that these nightmares of Mike are what’s causing these major and evil problems, you know in the back of your mind that it has to be the work of The Tall Man as his sinister mind games are on par with the Marvel Comic villain The Red Skull as they both get joy in watching their targets squirm as their twisted plans unfold. Mike is a great character as by the point we join him in this comic issue, he has already been through so much and he seems to be fed up with all the strange and sinister antics he has had to deal with in his young life.  Plus he knows that he is the key that can stop this approaching end of the world, and he is ready to take up the fight! Rocky is also a fighter, and she tries her best to have no fear even when the odds are stacked against her.  The best way to describe her to modern horror comic fans is that she is much like Michonne from The Walking Dead. While we see Reggie and Jody in flashbacks mostly, they are missed in the story, but I have a feeling that later on they would have played a major part in the story. Doctor John Andrew Quezada is one of those characters that from the moment you see him you’re not sure if he can be trusted and after getting to know him a little better you lighten up only to again quickly question his motives…is he good or bad or a pawn of The Tall Man…I can’t say for sure, but by the end of this issue, he sure does seem evil! The Tall Man always seems to be around in this issue whether its in flashback, on TV screens or in person, and he just wants to screw things up and mess with the minds of those who can stop his rampage. Tall Man is always also surrounded by his minions and his spheres making him a major threat. The cover has a dark mood look and for some reason The Tall Man looks like he is part Terminator with his glowing red eye.  The interior art is done by Michael Broom and is creepy and fitting for this style of story based on these characters. The story is well crafted and put together by Stephen Romano, who you could truly tell was a fan of the series.  I wish that Xmachina Comics stayed around longer so that this series could have been finished up and we horror comic readers could have seen how the story played out. Here is to hoping that sometime in the future companies like Eibon Press or Rough House Publishing will pick up the series and put out the remaining three issues in the planned miniseries. Over all, this is a great read and something that fans of the film series should track down as well as horror comic readers. Below is artwork from the comic that shows the badass nature of what this comic has in store, so enjoy!

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So I hope you’re not too scared as we have just started with our countdown to Halloween 2016, and I think taking a look at Jaws 2 and Phantasm was the right way to kick off this season. Phantasm is one of those cult classic films that has a loyal fanbase that just cannot be beat, and I for one will always stand by the fact that I am a fan, or as they say Phan, of this film! Our next update is a comic based on another film that I am a super fan of, the 1932 classic film Dracula.  We will be taking a look at the Dark Horse Comic adaptation of that Universal Monster Classic as well as Lugosi’s Dracula and the impact it has had on society.  So make sure to join me back here for that as you will not want to miss it.  Until next time, avoid The Tall Man, watch a horror movie or two, read a horror comic or three and as always support your local Horror Host. Also watch out for flying spheres as they can be a real pain in the neck!

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Xmachina Opens The Gates Of Hell…..

March 21st-23rd 2014 marked another year that Baron Von Porkchop, Susie The DJ and I were guests at HorrorHound Weekend, a convention that we all look at as home and the place that the Horror Host Hall Of Fame takes place at. This year was a little different from the years past as we didn’t even know if we had a table due to some issues brought on by the convention center cutting space, and a rumor was going around that the Horror Hosts were all going to be thrown in a room at the hotel across the street! This was bad news for us as Baron and Fritz The Nite Owl have become hosting buddies and this would have us across the street from them who would be in the convention center because they were having a screening of their hosted version of Trick R’ Treat.  Not to mention, we had the very talented artist Rachel Lare with us and her art would not get to be seen by the mass convention goers if she was placed in the hotel. While we wanted to be at the convention center, we also didn’t want to be so far away from the rest of out host family like Halloween Jack, A. Ghastlee Ghoul, Dr. Dark, Victor Von Scary, Janet Decay and many others! We meet up in the morning as Susie The Dj drove Baron, Rachel our friend Mike McGraner (who is the main man behind the rebirth of Nite Owl Theater) and myself, and we all packed into the car and were off for another amazing HorrorHound Weekend adventure. The sad part is the fact that Fritz The Nite Owl got sick and was not able to make it, and that’s a shame as it’s always a treat for us to chat with Fritz. When we arrived at the convention we found out that Mike had a table for Nite Owl, but sadly Baron did not…lucky for us, Mike is a great person and friend and he allowed us to share his table! The weekend was filled with good sales, great friends and a great time! The table was in a great spot as we were right next to The Vortexx, the online TV station that is all about Horror Hosts and next to them was The Horror Host Hall Of Fame Table where our pals Halloween Jack and Dale Kay were and on the other side was the lovely Sharni Vinson of the films You’re Next and Step Up 3-D, who I must say was one of the sweetest celebrities that I have ever had the pleasure of being next to at a convention.  The way she treated her fans was top notch, and she truly is a class act. It was really cool getting to spend some time with Susie The DJ and Baron and catch up with them on what’s being going on in New Burlington as well it was nice to get to talk to Rachel about art and life in general. Plus hanging with Mike is always great as he is also a very creative person like myself and also directs a horror host so we both know the hard work that goes into making a quality show for the fans.  Plus Mike is one of those guys thats just so much fun to shoot the bull stuff with. Also at the event were great friends like Jesy and Jermie Anderson, Amber and Bryan Brady, Fred and Shelby Vogel, David J. Getz and so many more friendly faces. Over all once, more the event was a fun one that always makes me look forward to the next one.  Oh, I guess I should say that the year’s big Guest was Bruce Campbell of Evil Dead fame.

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The Horror Host Hall Of Fame 2014 took place at that Horror Hound the Saturday at Noon and was done in front of a packed house, as the auditorium filled up fast with fans of hosts as well as fans of the Evil Dead who had a Q & A panel after our ceremony. This years event was the best yet as everything came off more smooth and organized. This year Jason Hignite placed the event into the hands of Halloween Jack who took the ball and not only got the touchdown but also spiked the ball and did a shuffle much like Bengals player Icky Woods would have. Baron Von Porkchop got the honor of inducting Grandpa Munster into the Hall Of Fame for his work on the TBS show Super Scary Saturday. Baron and Myself were very happy to find out that we doing this as Baron is a fan of The Munsters and I myself grew up watching Super Scary Saturday and it was really a great experience for me to watch the Host I dug up induct a host that meant a lot to me in my youth. Baron researched and wrote a very good induction speech and delivered it well in front of the crowd who also seemed to enjoy it. I was really proud of Baron Von Porkchop and I hope someday that he gets into the Hall Of Fame and a host who inducts him is just as happy and honored to do so as Baron is for those he has inducted. Baron and I really love The Horror Host Hall Of Fame event and this makes the second icon of hosting he has inducted as last year he had the honor of ushering Shock Armstrong into the hallowed halls. If your a Horror Host fan and go to HorrorHound Weekend in Cincinnati, Ohio make sure you attend the ceremony as the 2015 Class is being discussed and some major players could get the honor as well as some news on a physical Hall of Fame might just get announced! So as Grandpa Munster would say “Be There Or Be Scared”!

Baron Von Porkchop Inducts Grandpa Munster

At HorrorHound I bought some cool stuff like Frankenstein’s Monster and Dracula t-shirts, Return To Nukem High on DVD and lots of CD soundtracks to be played on WYSO’s Sunday night show, Alpha Rhythms.  I spent a lot of money at composer Richard Band’s table and got his score work for such films as Troll, Re-Animator, From Beyond, Prison, Bride of Re-Animator and more. I also got the soundtrack CD for People Under The Stairs from the composer Don Peake, who is one cool guy, and I really enjoyed chatting with him about how he made some of the score music for the original Hills Have Eyes and even the history of the tapes they were recorded on.  Peake was a class act whose music you should check out. One of the things I bought from HorrorHound was a comic book that I had never seen before, a comic that was being sold by two hot blondes sitting behind a table, a comic that was marked $50.00 though they gave it to me for $40.00, and this comic is one based on a film made by horror icon Fulci.  Of course I am talking about the only issue made based on the film The Gates of Hell aka City Of The Living Dead. I was drawn to the comic that was placed on a pegboard behind their table that had a sticker on it that said rare.  At first I walked away from it when they told me the price was $50. I thought to myself, that seems really high for an independent comic book, but as Baron and I walked around, the idea of reading it and reviewing it for you my readers kept popping into my mind and that’s when I decided to bite the bullet and buy it. The comic was made by a small company called Xmachina who only made a very small handful of comics and all were based on popular horror films like Halloween and Phantasm. After buying it, I went over to my pal Pete Bell who owns the amazing comic store Bell, Book And Comic, who was vending, and he had also never seen it before and said he thought I paid a good price for it. When returning back to the table Baron Von Porkchop wanted to give the comic a quick look through and seemed to enjoy what he saw.  So I am really hyped to read this comic for the first time and discuss it with all of you. But before we start, I would like to give you all a little crash course on the director of the film the comic is based on as well as talk about the film and its terrible sequel.  Ao let’s get ready to open the gates of hell and see what’s on the other side.

Baron Von Porkchop Reads Gates Of Hell

When any horror fan thinks of Italian horror cinema directors names like Dario Argento, Mario Bava, Umberto Lenzi, Joe D’Amato, Lamberto Bava all come to mind as does the master of splatter, the godfather of gore Lucio Fulci who would have to be at the top of anyone’s list of great horror icons to come out of Italy. Fulci was born in Italy in 1927 and grew up to studying medicine in college as well as worked as an art critic. In the early 1960’s he turned his attentions to making films, and his genre of choice was comedy where he made a total of 18 films before moving on to making thrillers like “A Lizard In A Woman’s Skin” and “The Psychic” before also making some Westerns like “Four For The Apocalypse” and “Massacre Time.”  At this time Fulci was also called into court over what viewers thought were real animal deaths in the film A Lizard In A Woman’s Skin, and he had to prove that no animals were harmed in making his film. Also around this time he was accused of being anti-Catholic even though he was brought up in that religion, but out of these shockwaves came the boom of Fulci’s horror work that included “Don’t Torture A Duckling” and “Beatrice Cenci”. His main horror hit film came in 1979 when he made Zombi 2, a sequel in Italy to George Romero’s film “Dawn Of The Dead” that was simply called Zombi there.  The film was a hit not only in his native land but also in the USA and England. The film was packed with eye popping gore and to this day is considered a cult classic among horror fans. After the success of Zombi 2, Fulci filled the 1980’s with many other splatter horror classics like “Gates Of Hell”, “The Beyond”, “House By The Cemetery”, “The Black Cat”, “The New York Ripper”, “Manhattan Baby”, “Murder Rock”, “Zombi 3” and “Touch Of Death.” But even while making splatter films, he also directed a few made for TV films as well as a barbarian flick called “Conquest” and wrote many others. During the 1990’s he also made a few films that made impacts on Horror fans like “Demonia”, “A Door To Silence” and “A Cat In The Brain”, but the 90’s was also the time we lost the man as Fulci sadly passed away in 1996 at the age of 68.  His last work was a film called “Wax Mask,” a team up film that would have had Dario Argento helping him. Fulci wrote the script outline for a kind of remake of the Vincent Price classic “House Of Wax,” but he passed away before he could truly be involved with the film that was later made and mostly re-written. Fulci was an amazing director and really knew how to chill the blood of movie goers. I grew up watching many of his films on rented VHS tapes and always found them very entertaining so much so I would always end up tracking them down to buy! Later in his life Fulci found out just how popular he was in other countries and this took him by surprise and I am sure truly made him feel special.  This tiny write up doesn’t do this man’s legacy justice.  Make sure to watch his films and read books like “Beyond Terror: The Films Of Lucio Fulci” for complete information about the man’s life and work. While he might be gone, like the old bumper sticker in honor of the man said “FULCI LIVES” on in our hearts and TV screens. My favorite films by him are Zombi 2 and House By The Cemetery for those of you readers wondering.

Zombie 2 PosterLucio FulciHouse By The Cemtery Poster

The Gates of Hell is the film we are going to break down here as it’s the main focus of the comic book I am going to review.  So here goes nothing. Gates of Hell was made in 1980 and is about Father William Thomas, a man who hangs himself in the cemetery.  By doing so he opens the gates of Hell, letting out evil zombies who all have weird and strong powers and are going around killing people in strange and brutal ways. The only hope we as humans have of closing the gates is a reporter named Peter Bell and a psychic named Mary Woodhouse. She herself died only to come back after being buried alive…or was that dead? The pair of unlikely heroes must find a way to close the gates in Dunwich, New England, the hot spot of the evil before All Saints Day…can they do it? I first saw this film on a terrible VHS copy I bought new off the racks of Suncoast in the Dayton Mall and was hyped to see more bloody good horror from Fulci.  I was not let down! When I first watched the film, I had my pal Jason Gilmore over and we both sat in wonder and watched the mayhem unfold before our eyes.  One scene that stuck with both of us was when one young lady has her eyes start bleeding and proceeds to puke up her own guts.  We both so wanted to figure out how they did the effect so that we could do it in one of our low budget flicks. When the film later came out on DVD via Anchor Bay, it was one the first films I upgraded next to the Halloween and Hellraiser films. It’s a great film with a spooky plot, great gore, likable heroes and evil baddies.  If you have not seen it and are a fan of Italian cinema, then shame on you because you should watch it.

Gates Of Hel 1Gates Of Hell PosterGates Of Hell 2

In 1988, a cheap film that’s real title was “Through The Fire” was made and later called “The Gates Of Hell Part II: Dead Awakening” that was about a woman looking for her missing sister who finds one cop who is willing to help when the plot of a cult that worships a demon comes into play. The film is very poorly made and is not worth watching or really talking about. I also got this film from Suncoast and only watched it once and warned all my other friends about how bad it was.  The acting was blah, and the gore effects were super cheap and to boot it has ZERO to do with the original film and is a sequel in namesake only. I feel like we wasted enough time on this film so I think it’s best we just move on…nothing more to read or see here…okay, maybe some stuff to see.

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The Gates Of Hell was not a main stream horror film like A Nightmare On Elm Street so it didn’t spawn a mountain of merchandise like toys and Nintendo games but over the ages it did have some cool stuff besides this comic I am about to read.  There were Halloween masks, soundtrack CD’s, t-shirts and hoodies, not to mention many articles in magazines like Fangoria. I for one would love to see a video game based on this film because I think it could really give Silent Hill a run for its money in the creepy department. I also would like to see a full comic book series based around the film and the legends it created, not to mention Father Thomas would make a perfect comic bad guy! If you’re a fan and a collector, try and enjoy what little goods the film has spawned for us.

fangoria 29Gates Of Hell MaskGates Of Hell T-Shirt

Before we fling open the Gates of Hell, I would like to take a moment and talk about a story that has been on the internet for a while now, the Sounds Of Hell legend or myth depending on who you are talking to. It’s said in 1989 a group of Russian scientist lead by a Mr. Azzacov were drilling in a unknown location in Siberia.  At some point in the drilling they got to 9 miles and broke into a cavity where they decided to lower a heat tolerant microphone into the hole that was letting out a temperature of 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. They were shocked at what they heard as they picked up sounds of fire, peoples screams of pain as well as random evil laughter…they had found Hell and were listening to the screams of those who were damned. They stopped the drilling and were scared of what they heard as now the world had proof of Hell.  The recording was saved and later played on Trinity Broadcast Network, a religious station, to prove the evils and tortures of Hell. Later accounts also reported that a bat like creature flew from the hole as well showing the release of a demon into our world. In 1997 the story was an internet topic and flooded message and chat boards with questions and theories to if it was real or simply a hoax. Even Art Bell of Coast To Coast AM played the sounds live on the air causing more panic and speculation about whether the sounds were real. Over the years, as with most things that walk the line of the unknown, people try and debunk it as a hoax and The Sounds Of Hell as well has come under attack as many people believe that the sounds are really just a mash up of different sounds even one coming from the 1972 Mario Bava film Baron Blood.  Others say that it was made by the folks of Trinity Broadcast in order to go along with a made up story to make their viewers worry and think about the horrors of Hell. So is the Sounds Of Hell real or fake…I for one am not sure but what is fact is that drilling was going on in and around Siberia in 89 as well as there is proof that Mr. Azzacov NEVER excised so this story is one that you will have to make up your own mind about…And if the sounds are real, I sure do feel sorry for Baron Blood because it seems like he might just be in Hell.

Flames of HellThe Sounds Of HellBaron Blood

So there you have, it we took a look at HorrorHound Weekend 2014, the Horror Host Hall Of Fame 2014, the true Godfather of Gore Lucio Fulci (Sorry Hershel Gordon Lewis that crown’s Fulci’s), the film Gates Of Hell as well as we talked about the creepy Sounds of Hell.  So now it’s time for us to open the gates and take a stroll around and see what Xmachina has to offer the world of horror comics. So as always I want to remind everyone once again I grade these on a standard 1-4 star rating and am looking at how well the comic keeps to the source material, its entertainment value, its art and story. So let’s go on in and see what we have!

Gates Of Hell 1

Gates Of Hell  # 1  **1/2
Released In 2002   Cover Price $4.95   Xmachina Comics   #1 of 3

Mary Woodhouse is a special woman with special powers.  During a séance she dies a sudden death, but not before she warns her friends that evil is coming back! While this is going on, she is seeing the evil undead priest named Father William Thomas as he has done some real horrific stuff that all lead to terrible murders and even his own suicide that has caused him to be this undead monster! It’s the shock of seeing the suicide and knowing that the Gates of Hell have been opened that kills the young woman. The cops are called to Mary’s house where she is now dead and don’t believe her friends as they talk of the evils that are coming, but when one officer is killer by an unknown force on the steps their eyes start to open! Peter Bell is a down and out reporter who is looking for a big story to make his comeback to.  He had lost his respect in the news world when he became an alcoholic, and he thinks that the sudden death of Mary might just be his key to get back on top! Peter goes to the graveyard to visit the newly dug grave for Mary and hears from inside her coffin screams for help and rushes to save her from being buried alive! After he saves her, he finds that the two of them are now tangled in a higher plan that has chosen them to close the gates of hell for good. All the while, Father Thomas is killing people and sending the souls to hell to make the opening to Hell stronger. We end learning that if Peter and Mary don’t stop it, Father Thomas will unleash an army of Phantom Undead killers onto Earth killing all life as we know it.

I want to say that this comic captures the raw and gloom dark brooding mood of the film, but also adds its own pinch of dread and terror making for a good read for a fan of the film like myself. The downside of the issue is that it’s only part one of three, so this first issue is really more of a set up to the true horrors and terror that were to await us in issues two and three! In the first issue we have the set up for Peter and Mary to be the world’s heroes, and we set up that Father Thomas is one mean S.O.B. who will stop at nothing to open those gates to Hell. Mary Woodhouse is pretty likable even though in this issue she has very little stuff to say as she is dead during most of it, but her first appearance in the comic as well as her “rebirth” into it, you know she is a major player in the story. Peter Bell is okay.  He comes off a little shady, but I truly think that was the plan to make a guy you’re not so sure about a hero (I feel the same way about the film). Father Thomas is one evil priest who loves to kill and brutalize his poor victims.  While most of the people he kills have committed sins, his style of murder is just extreme and includes disemboweling and eyeball removal to name a few. The comic is filled with lots of gore, demons, death, naked women, murder and all other things we horror comic fans are looking for making it a really fun and good read, not to mention the fact it’s tied into a Fulci film! The art is done by Derek Rook, a talented artist who has done other horror comics like “Halloween Returns To Hadenfield”, “Zombi 2” and “Voices From Deadworld,” and his style is very raw and brings out the scary nature of the characters he is drawing.  He makes the scary scarier! The cover as well is very eye catching and well done and drew me in even at a Horror Convention with so much other stuff to see. It’s worth a read, and I wish there were more issues.

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When I bought this comic off the two hotties from HorrorHound, I thought that it was a single comic that was the full film adaptation of the 1980 film.  When I found out it was only issue 1 of 3, I was only slightly letdown because it would have been a challenge to find the others in the set, but when I found out that the other two issues in the series never seen the light of day, I can 100% say I was disappointed as I would have loved to have read them and shared my thoughts of them with you. I am going to place Xmachina with such companies as Fangoria Comics, Northstar Comics, Topps Comics and Dead Dog Comics that went away far too fast and could have given readers many more great issues of things of a spooky nature. I would have loved to see Xmachina do comics based on such films as Demons, Cannibal Holocaust, Baron Blood, Tombs Of The Blind Dead and so many other great European horror films that would have made great comic series. So while I am in the Euro Horror mood, I think that for my next update I will be taking a look at a comic based on a Jess Franco Frankenstein film.  So make sure to come back for my look at that one! So until then, support your local comic Store and Horror Host, read a comic or three and check out HorrorHound Magazine if you want to read a magazine that covers all types of horror. 

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