Have you ever been to Mars? Well I have! It’s not like one would think. It’s filled with lots of restaurants and hotels and it does have a U.F.O in its downtown, but it’s not as hot nor is the air unbreathable as you’d be lead to think. Okay, I am not talking about the planet Mars but the one in Pennsylvania that hosts the amazing horror convention known simply as Monster Bash! And this update is going to be all about our trip to Monster Bash for vacation and for our comic reviews, I will be covering FantaCo’s Night of the Living Dead comics called “Prelude” and “Aftermath,” and I will be reading them at Evans City Cemetery, the same one that George A. Romero filmed the movie in! So buckle your seatbelt, Rotten Ink is going on the road with Juliet and I as we have one spooky vacation! And for those wondering Blood Feast will be coming up after this one..
Juliet and I were long overdue for a vacation and after the passing of my grandfather John on June 15th just a few days before this trip, I really needed to go and charge my batteries. So on Thursday June 19th we jumped in our Mazda 3 and hit the road for a fun and relaxing trip. We first stopped in Columbus to have lunch with our friend Mike McGraner who is the producer/director/editor and even sometimes writer of Nite Owl Theater starring the horror host legend Fritz The Nite Owl. We ate at the Blue Danube and had great conversations about horror hosting, movies and life! I always look forward to chatting with Mike as we have a lot in common and both know how it is to direct a host. After lunch we hit the road for the trip, and Juliet and I had a blast talking and listening to podcasts like Gilbert Gottfried’s Amazing Colossal Podcast as he talked with classic comedian and F-Troop actor Larry Storch. We also listened to Colt Cabana’s Art of Wrestling where he talked to Iron Sheik, Angelina Love and Gangrel, and I must say that both of these podcasts are some of the best going right now. We made one more pit stop at a Burger King so that I could get a Coke Icee, and we hit our hotel late and ordered room service and relaxed for the night. As Juliet slept, I for some reason couldn’t and watched Pawn Stars almost all night. Over all it was a fun day to kick off what promised to be an amazing weekend for sure!
The first day of Monster Bash was on June 20th 2014 and the weather outside was in the upper 70’s and at times the clouds came out and made the sky look as if it was about to storm something awful. Juliet and I started the morning off eating lunch with David J. Getz, who was vending at the convention, at Max and Erma’s, and while there who walks in but Joel Hodgson of Mystery Science Theater 3000 fame. We didn’t bother him as I had all weekend to do that and after lunch we headed back to the hotel for a hour or two and watched some TNT show called “Cold Justice” that’s about two women who travel to small towns and solve cold cases. We then headed to Monster Bash, and I must say that next to Horrorhound Weekend it’s a convention I feel at home at, and the reason I say this is because I am a classic monster fan and this is the place that really is made for fans like me who don’t care about meeting the Walking Dead cast for the 50th time, not that there is anything wrong with that if that’s your thing. Walking in, you’re treated to a very nice staff who all seem to love what they are doing as well as amazing statues of classic Universal monsters like Dracula and The Wolf Man. This year’s main display was for Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein and was complete with sound effects and dialogue from the film, and even the crate that the Monster was shipped in! You then walk down the hallway and see the celebrities like Julie Adams (Creature From The Black Lagoon) and Judith O’Dea (Night of the Living Dead) and the ball room is filled with the merchandise dealers and is where the horror hosts are. The first day I was more about shopping and seeing the lay of the land and decided that Saturday would be the grand fun time of chatting with the stars. The attendance seemed a little light but the people who were there seemed to really be into the whole vibe of the classic monsters. While shopping around we ran into our music making pals The Midnight Syndicate, and we had a really good time just shopping around and looking at all the cool stuff at every booth. Below is the cool set up of the Universal Monsters that meet you as you enter the convention.
I got some great stuff this first day: I found an Imperial Mummy figure from Abbott and Costello Meet The Mummy for $6.00 and a Burger King Frankenstein figure for $1.00. Supernaturals # 2 magazine/comic from the U.K for $2.00. The following CD soundtracks (that will be played on Alpha Rhythms on WYSO when I get back): An American Werewolf in London, Phantom of the Opera and Gates of Hell all for $10.00 each. Four Son of Ghoul DVD’s that has him hosting Tourist Trap, Tarzan The Fearless, The World of the Vampires and his 28th Anniversary Special, they were $10.00 each. As well as two wrestling DVD-R’s one being 1991’s WCW War Games and the other being WWF’s Country Boys about Hillbilly Jim and Uncle Elmer, and they as well were $10.00 each. Over all while I am super happy to get more Son of Ghoul episodes, the thing I am most hyped about getting was The Mummy figure!
Dinner the first night came from a place called “Eat’ N Park,” a restaurant that was a lot like Big Boy but is a Pittsburgh original. They were started in 1949 by Larry Hatch and Bill Peters after being inspired by a Frisch’s Big Boy that Hatch had visited in Cincinnati Ohio. They reached an agreement with Big Boy founder Bob Wain to allow them to open franchise Big Boy stores in Pittsburgh under the name Eat’N Park for 25 years and that’s what they did. In 1974 they decided to break away from Big Boy and made a legacy of food on their own. On our trip to Pittsburgh in 2013, we saw these restaurants all over and never stopped, but this year we decided it was time that we did! We ordered more food than we could eat because we wanted to try a little of everything; we got two appetizers Jalapeño Cheddar Poppers and Fried Ravioli, and they were great and a nice way to start our meal, out of the two I think the Ravioli was the better one. Juliet had the Buffalo Chicken Salad and was happy to see french fries on it; she used the word “wonderful” to describe it. I got what’s called a Original SuperBurger that was much like a mix of a Big Boy and a Big Mac, and it was pretty good. While the secret sauce was good it had a very heavy super sauce taste. The fries that came with the burger were a little lacking and were not as good as fries served at fast food places like Burger King or McDonalds. I also ordered a smily face cookie that is something they are known for, and I must say I liked it! The taste reminded me of Monster Candy, and that’s a good thing. We also ordered two slices of Oreo Pie that we had to eat way later in the night, cause we were about to bust from all the good food in our bellies. Oh yeah, and their mascot’s name is Smiley, and he is a cookie man!
Right before I left, I got a package in the mail filled with horror host shows to air on the DATV Horror Host Underground block so I decided on the night of the first day of the convention, I was going to watch one on the laptop to add even more chill to the evening as all the ghouls and ghosts who were at Monster Bash were now wandering the night all around the hotel. I turned down the air conditioner to 60 degrees and popped in GraveDigger Grimm of Unearthed Midnight Theater hosting the classic Vincent Price film House On Haunted Hill. I remember GraveDigger who was at many of the early Cinema Wastelands when the horror host gatherings use to be be a big deal there. He was always a super nice guy, and it was clear he loved the art of horror hosting and horror films all together. GraveDigger Grimm is a caretaker at a cemetery that he has worked at for 40 years, and while there he buried many people with 35mm prints of cheesy horror films and in 2004 he decided that it was time to dig them up and share the horrible horrors of the films with the viewers. The film is classic and always a pleaser when you want to watch something with Vincent Price. GraveDigger Grimm was also pretty good, you could tell he was a little green in this episode that seems to have been his first, but even with this you could still see the raw talent. At some point I would like to find more episodes and maybe even do a horror host Icon update about him. But when the movie ended so did the first day of the bash.
On the second day of Monster Bash, I woke up with a nerve in my spine going crazy. This made moving around very difficult so I hung out in the hotel for a few hours and watched WCW War Games on the laptop and ate Bob Evans carry out that Juliet went to pick up for breakfast. We then headed back to Monster Bash and walked around looking at goods, and I was lucky enough to be able to walk right up to Ricou Browning and get not only an autograph but also a picture with him. The line for Joel Hodgson was not super long, and Juliet and I got a picture with him and Tom Servo. As Juliet watched David’s table I walked around so that my back would not lock up and while I found a few things there was not as many great finds as there were yesterday. I kicked myself for not buying the Imperial Wolf Man and Frankenstein Monster, cause they would have been nice additions to Game Swap. The day was spent at Monster Bash as well and just relaxing as my back was pretty messed up. One other cool thing about Monster Bash is in the parking lot in front of the entrance, they had a cool Creature From the Black Lagoon green car and The Munsters Dragula car, nice additions to help add to the fun nature of the convention. That night we had dinner once more at Eat ‘N Park, and the second day was kind of a bust due to a injured back, I ended the night watching Halloween H20 on SYFY and hoping for a better back in the morning!
The second days pick ups are a Universal Monsters coloring book by Golden from 1991 for $4.00, Superman’s Metropolis DC comic book for $3.00, the Golem Soundtrack done by Hob Goblin for $10.00 and Mystery Science Theater 3000 riffing the cheesy sci-fi classic The Amazing Colossal Man on DVD-R for $10.00. The best pick up on day two for me has to be the MST3K DVD-R because they are always a fun watch. I’m looking forward to raiding the dealer tables one more time tomorrow and seeing what goodies I can find!
Day Three is the final day of Monster Bash, and I woke up with my back feeling way better! We had a little breakfast and headed to the convention where we saw that Joel had added Crow T. Robot to his table and after snapping a picture that turned out blurry and terrible, we headed to the last day of the shopping and monster filled good time. I found some pretty cool stuff and got some great deals on others and even walked around with David J Getz and watched him talk missing planes with Arch Hall Jr.! I even found someone who may have some episodes of Commander USA on VHS that he tapped off TV, and that would be a great for a fan like me to get my hands on episodes I don’t have in my collection already! After a couple of hours we left the convention and headed to The Twilight Zone…
The last day’s haul was the following The Texas Chainsaw Massacre on VHS from Video Treasures for $2.00, Mystery Science Theater 3000 riffing the film Cave Dwellers on VHS for FREE! The Addams Family Halloween Special from 1977 on DVD-R for $10.00. The Werewolf of Woodstock on DVD-R for $10.00. The Creature of The Walking Dead on DVD-R for $5.00. Cheesy horror flick Half Human on DVD-R for $10.00( and to be honest look for some of these films to be on future seasons of Baron Von Porkchop). Halls of Horror All Comics Winter Special Magazine for $3.00. Horror Host Hullabaloo DVD-R that is clips of horror hosts like Morgus The Magnificent and Uncle Ted for $15.00. Dracula 3-D comic book for $3.00. Marvels The Frankenstein Monster # 14 comic for $2.00 as well as Fright Night Part II comic for $2.00 and The Tomb Of Dracula # 35 comic for $1.00. Sadly the thing I am most hyped for is to re-watch the Addams Family Halloween Special again.
Juliet and I had to stop in downtown Mars to check out the Flying Saucer statue that they had for all the tourists to see and enjoy. We then took a walk around the small town and it was like a pure Americana experience as we passed by all the small shops and old time houses. The best part is that also in downtown they had a working railroad track and this reminded me of Mayberry. Another cool thing we saw was an old fashioned barber shop that had a green plastic alien with a ray gun in the window as well as a coffee shop called Mars Brew House that claimed to be the finest coffee in the universe! Sadly it was closed and we were not able to try a cup, but we were able to help a family take a picture in front of the UFO. While Juliet and I were walking around the town, we both chuckled when I said that the town was given me a Twilight Zone feeling and that when we tried to leave we would always just end back up downtown and that we will find out that all the residents really are from Mars. We spent some time in Mars, and I must say it was a cool old town filled with some very cool business including a tiny diner called Susie Q’s Place, and this is the type of town you would like to raise your kids in.
We started our journey back to Dayton on Monday, and we kicked this day off visiting Evans City Cemetery, the place George Romero filmed the opening scene of Night Of The Living Dead so that I could read two comics there just for Rotten Ink! We then hit Moe’s to eat, a great burrito place that puts Hot Head and Chipotle to shame. While on the road we hit a massive traffic jam that held us in the same area for about an hour and when we got to what was causing the jam, it of course was construction where they had one lane closed and all the workers were pretty much doing nothing, including one guy who was just eating a bag of chips….yeah needless to say in 90 degree weather sitting still and then seeing workers being super lazy, I was a little ticked. We then stopped in Columbus at a cool little toy and comic store called Evil Twin where I found a cool Incredible Hulk called The Secret Story Of Marvel’s Gamm-Powered Goliath, a graphic novel that I can remember borrowing from the library when I was a kid, and someday I will also review it for this blog as well as the other Marvel graphic novels from this series. We then made it back to Dayton and had some ice cream from Ben & Jerrys on Brown Street and later ordered wings from Wing Zone and watched Horror Host Hullabaloo. Over all even the drive back home was a fun filled day filled with good times and great memories.
So as all you horror film fans know, George A Romero shot many of his Dead films in and around the Pittsburgh area and these locations have become shrines to fans as they flock to the locations to reenact their favorite scenes and to find the spots the actors stood. Evans City Cemetery is the place he filmed the opening to Night of The Living Dead, you know the place the Cemetery Zombie played by Bill Hinzman attacks young Barbra played by Judith O’Dea right after her brother Johnny teases her about being afraid of the cemetery. Evans City Cemetery in reality is a very small cemetery that is off a long lane surrounded by woods and in the middle of semi rural area just outside Pittsburgh. The first time we visited it in 2013, it was pouring down rain making pictures and exploring the area impossible, but this changed this years! The day was nice and was in the upper 70’s. When we arrived the sun was fighting to peek out of a grey sky as we noticed that we were not the only people their to soak in the landmark and to enjoy the fact it was a set for one of the most iconic horror films of all time. It was really quiet from manmade noises as you could hear crickets and watch the groundhogs rush into the woods as you passed by. Words can not express the feeling you get as you think you pass by the tombstones and trees seen in the film and being able to read two comic books written about the film that was shot were I stood was an amazing feeling. If your ever in Pittsburgh I suggest you visit Evans City Cemetery and soak in all its grand spooky atmosphere.
Okay, so for those who don’t know the plot of Night of the Living Dead here is a quick rundown. Something is making the recent dead come back from the grave and attack the living to consume them like today’s lunch. Barbra and Johnny are at a cemetery placing flowers and such on a grave for their mother when Barbra is attacked and Johnny is killed by a zombie! Barbra runs to a nearby farmhouse were she is joined by Ben, Judy, Tom and the Cooper family, and drama and horrors happen as the zombies want in and no one can agree how to survive this crisis. Now I should also say that if you have not seen this film, what are you waiting for?!! The two comics I have picked to read are the Prelude and Aftermath of the events of the film so they act as the buns of the flesh sandwich that is the film. Remember 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 get going because They Are Coming To Get Me…So I better read fast!
Night Of The Living Dead: Prelude ***
Released in 1991 Cover Price $1.50 FantaCo #1 of 1
Two satellites are covered in space radiation and are crashing to earth when they are blown up near the atmosphere. When they do so a rash of murders spread around the USA. The year is 1968, and the dead have come back to life even as far as California as a family falls victim in their own home. Meanwhile in Pennsylvania at the Eastman farm, Mary and Fred have an accident on the stairs that leaves Fred dead for a moment as he comes back and eats his wife’s face! Tom and Judy are walking through the woods when on their portable radio they hear about the rash of murders going on around the world and rush to the near by house the Eastman farm and lock themselves in the cellar. Meanwhile Harry and Helen Cooper as well as their young daughter Karen are lost and needing directions and as her parents argue the young girl gets more and more upset. Harry finally pulls over to ask for directions when his car is attacked by zombies and his daughter is bitten on the arm! The family escape and run to a near by farm that also happens to be the Eastman’s as well. We end with the family also thinking they are safe now.
If you ever wanted to know how Tom and Judy as well as the Cooper family ended up at the farm house, this is the missing piece to the puzzle. Plus I really like that they show what happened to the old farm couple who lived in the house, the Eastman’s. The downside to this comic is nothing is really fleshed out and its clear as day this was just a quick cash in for you to buy the bigger movie adaptation of the film from FantaCo as the story in this issue is short, sweet and to the point. The plot is this simple: satellites go boom in the sky, radiation effects the dead who come back to life and want to eat the living as two groups of people who don’t know each other end up at the same house they believe is safe. Tom and Judy are not given much but still come off as likable youngsters. On the other hand Harry Cooper is an ass even in the comic book and helps add fuel to the fire for you the reader to hate him even more. This comic, while very short, has zero ads and holds the answers to what the movie left out and takes the focus away from the film’s main characters (Ben and Barbra) and places it with the ones who act as more support to the film’s story. The art is well done and has a sketch book appeal to it, and while at times I find that style very distracting, artist Carlos Kastro does a fantastic job and brings a creepiness and classic horror feel out of the pages. Over all this is worth a read for fans of the film and classic zombies.
And now that we’ve seen what happened before the movie, let’s see what happened after, shall we?
Night Of The Living Dead: Aftermath **
Released in 1992 Cover Price $1.95 FantaCo #1 of 1
Sheriff McClelland and his men are killing zombies all around the Eastman farm house, but when the zombie versions of Barbara, Johnny and Karen Cooper show up things turn for the worse as the humans become the hunted and all meet a gruesome end. We then cut to New York 1968 as a woman is rushing to get to the airport as zombies and mayhem are going on all around her. She gets to the plane but is bitten on the neck and is heading to London.
This issue really kind of annoys me as its clear to me that it was used just to try to get people to buy their upcoming Night Of The Living Dead: London mini-series done by Clive Barker, and while thats cool and all don’t tag it as the Aftermath of the film and only have a little bit be about the Sheriff and his men being attacked by zombies. It was cool to see the zombie versions of Karen Cooper who is still using the spade to cut human flesh, and it’s cool to see Barbra and Johnny, the brother and sister duo, back together as flesh eating zombies. The second part of this story with the girl with no name trying to make a flight holds nothing for me as it seems out of place in this comic. Over all this is nothing special and is pretty forgettable. The art work is done by Carlos Kastro again and in spots is very distracting again, and its’ hard to tell what is happening to who in some panels. I would say skip this one.
Reading these comics in the graveyard was a great experience and something I would like to do again with FantaCo’s film adaptation of Night of the Living Dead. I must say that this was a fun time and being able to hang out with Juliet with no stress of our jobs looming in our minds was something I am looking forward to again when vacation time comes around. Plus it was cool seeing friends like David J Getz, Mike McGraner and 42nd Street Pete who all helped add to the vacation! I should also thank Stephen Alexander, Josh Weinberg, Todd The Fox, Garrison Kane and Dan Harkless for running Game Swap while I spent time with monsters. Well I guess it’s back to work for us and not to worry Blood Feast will be coming right up! So until then enjoy life my friends it’s a fun and wonderful thing.