American Hero: Rambo

Happy Independence Day 2019 to all you readers, family and friends. This is a very important holiday for Americans as this the day that we truly celebrate our Independence! On this holiday we all prepare for the fireworks and are gathered with friends and family grilling out burgers, steaks and hotdogs. Here at Rotten Ink I have been working hard to once more bring you an update about an America Hero in the world of comic book, and this year I have chosen to take a look at John J. Rambo, the iconic character of novels as well as a film series that later this year sees a fifth installment! And I feel 100% that Rambo goes alongside other American themed heroes we have covered in the past like Captain America, Fighting American and The Original Shield who all fight for freedom and deliver amazing comic adventures. So while the burgers are grilling and the gathering is going strong, let’s sit back, relax and celebrate the one and only Rambo!

Let’s talk about the book that started it all for Rambo. First Blood was a novel written by David Morrell in 1972 and was about a Vietnam Vet named John Rambo who is being harassed while hitchhiking through a small town in Kentucky and fights back when the police department treat him like scum and cause him to flashback to when he was a POW. He escapes and this causes a manhunt for him that leads to a terrible shoot out where in the end both Rambo and the sheriff meet their maker, as Rambo dies by a shotgun blast to the head at the hands of his one time commander Trautman. The novel is a dark sad twisted ride as one man who served his country is treated like a common scumbag by the hands of those he defended just because of his look and the length of his hair. The book is a great read and is worth checking out if you like war books and or like the films.

The novel was turned into a film in 1982 and starred Sylvester Stallone as Rambo and made some major changes to the story having Rambo and the Sheriff both living and Rambo going to jail in the end. The film still followed the manhunt through the woods and the stand off in the town making this open for a sequel that came in 1985 with “Rambo: First Blood Part II.” This time Rambo is asked to go back to Vietnam and take pictures of POWs but instead rescues them! “Rambo III” was released in 1988 and had him helping Afghanistan fight off Russia as they tried to invade them. This film also had Rambo fighting a tank with a bow and arrow while on horseback! 2008 saw the release of “Rambo,” the final film in the series thus far that had Rambo saving some missionaries in Burma, and proving that he is a man of honor as he also helps take down an evil general who is committing genocide on his own people. The Rambo films are all badass and rank as some of the best action/drama films ever made! I could go on and on about the films and will in a future review. I just wanted to touch up on the films for this write up. If you have not seen these films, do yourself a favor and go watch them. You can find them on VHS, DVD and Blu-Ray.

2019 is filled with many great films like “Avengers: Endgame”, “Godzilla: King Of The Monsters” and “Star Wars IX,” but for me my most hyped film of the year is “Rambo V: Last Blood”! I have been a fan of not only actor Sylvester Stallone but also the Rambo films for as long as I can remember and to see what is reported as the final film in the series this year is something very special for me as the character has been a big part of my childhood and even adulthood. In fact many people are shocked when I tell them my favorite actor, writer and director is Sylvester Stallone as many people always think that I would say John Carpenter, Wes Craven, George Romero, Tod Browning or some other icon of Horror Cinema. But do me a favor, if you’re reading this and enjoy the Rambo films or even just action films in general, make sure to go to your local cinema on September 20th and see this film as I am sure its going to be one amazing ride as Rambo takes on a drug cartel!

Now let’s talk about the man John James Rambo, who is the son of R. Rambo and Marie Drago. He was born in Bowie, Arizona and in 1964 at the age of 17 he was drafted to fight in Vietnam straight out of high school, and after his tour at war, he returned to the U.S and joined Army Special Forces at Fort Bragg and was trained by Colonel Trautman. Rambo returns to the Vietnam War as part of the SOG brigade in 1969 and during this time he is traumatized by events he sees with one being the death of his close friend Joseph Danforth. He would later also become a POW. and he was repeatedly tortured and only he and one other member of his team were able to escape the camp. A short time later, Rambo asked to return to the war and even learned new skills like how to fly a helicopter. By 1974 he finally was discharged from the military holding a pretty high rank, mostly likely a Captain. Once back home in America he returns to find that people are very hateful towards the soldiers returning home and he himself is dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder. Rambo, now a drifter and homeless, goes to Hope, Washington to visit an old war friend only to find he is dead and that the local law enforcement don’t want him around as they are cruel and try and bully him to leave their small town. Rambo is pushed and he fights back and takes the war to the Sheriff’s office, and it’s only Colonel Trautman that is able to talk him down. After these events Rambo is sent to prison, but Colonel Trautman is able to get him out to do a secret mission for the government to find out if Vietnam still has prisoners of war…Rambo takes this mission and disobeys orders as instead of just taking pictures and reporting back, he saves them and brings them home. In 1988 Rambo is next sent to Afghanistan in order to help the people fight the Russians who have tried to invade their country. In 2008 Rambo is now living in Thailand and makes his living capturing snakes and selling them to locals for fighting as well as giving rides on his boat. Rambo is asked by a bunch of missionaries to take them to Burma that is a warzone in order to help its people with medical and spiritual aid. And after saying no at first, it’s because of a woman named Sarah he agrees to…and once he does his job and the Burmese army captures and kills some of the missionaries, it’s up to Rambo to go in and save them, and of course he does. At the end of this rescue Rambo decides to let it all go and returns home to America. And this is where we are at in the life of Rambo as the events of the fifth film will tell us more about his life and who knows maybe death. Rambo is very layered and deep character, and the film and novel versions have different paths for his life, but one thing is for sure, Rambo is an iconic character of American pop culture.

Rambo has also made it to the world of video games and has had games on systems like Commodore 64, Nintendo Entertainment System, Sega Master System, Sega Genesis, Arcade Machines and as of late a rail first person shooter for PS3 and X-Box 360. The one that most know about is the NES version that has you playing Rambo who is wearing red spandex pants and mostly uses a knife to fight Vietcong, spiders and other animals. This game was also on the receiving end of a review done by The Angry Video Game Nerd for his popular YouTube show. So for those who like Rambo, there are video games out there for you to play. I thought about doing a NES Challenge for the Rambo game but decided that maybe we will tackle that on a later update.

In 1986 Rudy- Spears Productions was at it again when they decided to turn the R rated Rambo films into a cartoon series called “Rambo: The Force of Freedom” in which Rambo was no longer a loner but instead helped lead a group called The Force of Freedom alongside his friend Colonel Trautman into doing battle with a terrorist group code named S.A.V.A.G.E. lead by the General Warhawk who was a trader in his home country in Europe. The series ran for one season and a total of 65 episodes before being canceled, and the episodes would have Rambo and gang stopping such plots as stopping takeovers of small countries, fighting cults, stopping missiles and everything else in between. While Rambo and Trautman were the main attractions, characters like White Dragon and Touchdown Jones were the support that helped make the cartoon series more fun. While it only lasted one season, it had a lot of episodes and helped fans of Rambo with the wait in between movies. Growing up I remember watching this show from time to time and found that all I wanted in the series was to watch Rambo kick some S.A.V.A.G.E. butt! Not a lot of kids I knew watched the series, and by this time a lot of them were watching more Nickelodeon shows or the more popular shows on ABC, NBC and USA. The series did get some VHS releases as well as later some episodes released on DVD.

So besides the movies and cartoon on VHS, DVD, Blu-Ray and other home media and the novels and video games, many other very cool merchandise items have been made based on Rambo! Many action figures have been put out and have been done by companies like Coleco, NECA and Toy Island to name a few…my favorite is the Coleco Rambo figure that was based on the cartoon that I had as a kid. Also made were the films’ score soundtracks that have been released on Vinyl, Cassette and CD! These scores are amazing and the song “Home Coming” by Jerry Goldsmith from the First Blood album is powerful and iconic. There were also T-Shirts, Posters, Comics, Buttons, Chewing Gum, Trading Cards, Stickers, Magazines, Lunch Boxes, Halloween Costumes, Erasers, Toy Guns, Arcade Machines and so much more amazing products! So if you are a fan of Rambo, there are many amazing things in the world for you to collect…and I suggest not only the Coleco toy but also do yourself a favor and get the score soundtracks for the film as they are top notch.

So as you can see, Rambo and America go hand in hand and in fact all through the 80’s he was used as an icon to show the American Spirit and even the likes of President Ronald Reagan used him as an inspiration to hype up his run. And now that the burgers are probably almost done and the fireworks are about to fill the sky, we should get to the review of the Blackthrone Comic simply called Rambo! I want to thank Lone Star Comics for having this issue in stock and want to also remind you all that I grade this comic on a star scale of 1 to 4 and am looking for how well the comic stays to the source material, its entertainment value and its art and story. So get your red headband ready as we are going to war alongside the one and only John J. Rambo.

Rambo # 1 *1/2
Released in 1989     Cover Price $2.00     Blackthrone      #1 of 1

Major Valane was a bad apple and was dealing in the black market during his time in Nam and after being investigated by higher ups in the US Military, things turn bad and he is believed to be dead…until he is spotted on a nature documentary. The government sends for Rambo to make sure that he can spot Valane and make sure he is alive as Rambo was one of his solider who witnessed the Major set up his own people and even killed Rambo’s friend Wild Bill and forced a wounded Rambo to be in a prisoner of war camp! So ready for a rematch and revenge against Valane, he heads to Canada and battles the harsh weather until he can track Valane and his band of militant hoods. During his search Rambo is attacked by a mountain lion and is saved by one armed vet Brewster who befriends the war hero and helps him stand his ground when Valane’s men track them down and Rambo comes face to face with the man who helped murder his friends.

Sad to say this is really bad and does not capture the feel, mood or character of John J. Rambo at all and really just feels like a cheesy C-Grade army comic! The plot has Rambo traveling to Canada to find a beloved to be dead army Major who was a trader and a black market dealer that set up his own men leaving many of the dead and Rambo a prisoner. Rambo then fights for his life and finds that his old foe is indeed alive and surrounded by a new group of mercenaries. John Rambo in this comic is a man who loves America and loved his fellow solider who survived beside him in Vietnam, he also is a survivor and is willing to run into danger to get the Intel his country needs. But this does not feel like the Rambo from the films, as he is way to positive talkative, makes lots of mistakes and seems to be really aligned with the army in this comic….so in other words the comic Rambo seems very much off. Brewster is a pretty cool side character who is missing an arm that happened during the war being a hero and lives alone in a cabin in the woods of Canada, and the best part is he is still great with a gun! Major Valane is a scumbag who sold out his own team in order to gain money and now has faked his death and is still doing crime! He is cocky and surrounded by tons of militant soldiers who are willing to kill and be killed for him. He is a great bad guy for this style of army comic and sadly didn’t get to live up to his full potential…and the reason being is that the series was canceled after this issue and we never even get to know how Rambo escaped Major Valane and his goons grip! Yep Blackthrone pulled a Star Comics and canceled this series before it got a proper ending for readers. The cover for this comic is pretty eye catching if you’re a Rambo fan even if the art is only so-so. The interior art is very hit or miss as at times it looks like your standard late 80’s indie comic and other pages almost seem unfinished or rushed, and I am sure artist Aaron Lopresti knows that this is not his best work. Over all this Rambo comic is a big letdown as it does not tell all that great of a story, does not do justice to the character and is over all below average. Check out the art below to see the style used in this comic…and yeah Rambo looks nothing like Sylvester Stallone.

While the comic might have been a letdown, we still have all the movies we can watch to scrub this from our memories. I hope you are having (or had) a good fourth of July as this day is one we should truly take pride in our nation and celebrate our freedoms. For the next update we will be leaving Rambo behind and will be going on vacation to once more visit Monster Bash and talk about Night Of The Living Dead as we spend some time in Evan City Cemetery! So until next time, watch a Rambo film or four, see Rambo V in the theater and as always support your local Horror Host! See you next time as we spend more time with the undead.

The Undead Files: The Dead

What is it about zombies that strike not only fear but also entertainment value with people? TV is filled with shows like The Walking Dead, Z-Nation and iZombie. Video games like Left 4 Dead, Dead Rising and Resident Evil are strong sellers. Not to mention comic book shelves are filled with many undead titles like ‘68, Walking Dead, Marvel Zombies and many Night Of The Living Dead titles. But what is it that draws us to the notion of the dead coming back to life to eat our brains or flesh? Why are we so obsessed with zombies, and why are they so ingrained into our culture now? In this Undead File Update, we will be taking a look at a comic book series made by Arrow Comics that pushed the envelope of gore and started many comic readers’ love for the underground gore comics and a series that inspired many artists and writers to make zombie comics of their own, The Dead. So be prepared to walk among the dead as we talk about this cult comic series among other things of the living dead nature.

Zombie Hand Coming From The Grave

The Lane To The Dead is an urban legend around these parts that was brought to the light of day thanks to the book series “Haunted Ohio” written by Chris Woodyard, who did a small write up about it.  I also heard other stories from people who claimed they knew about it as well. The story goes that there is abandon graveyard that sits deep in the woods that is walled off with not only brinks but also barbwire and razor wire to keep people out and something in! You see the graveyard in this undisclosed location is said to house zombies that were created by the government during experiments and when they found that they could not kill them…again they trapped them all in this cemetery that acts as a dumping ground for them. It’s said that you must walk a long dirt lane that leads to woods and when entering them you must walk miles deep to get to the cemetery, and you know when your close as the moans and noises of the zombies can be heard. When living in Waynesville when I was like in 4th or 5th grade a classmate who’s dad worked for the government told him that they have reanimated bodies but that they can only keep it “reanimated” for seconds before they pass again, does this story fit in with The Lane Of The Dead…I doubt it as I don’t believe what my classmate told me as almost the whole school watched Night of the Living Dead on TV the weekend before. When I was in my late teens Josh Weinberg and I tired all we could to find the Lane To The Dead and failed, as it’s doubtful it’s real…but if it is the undead walk among us here in Ohio!!

What I Think Lane Of The Dead Looks Like

The Toraja people of Indonesia have a ritual for burial and death, their culture has a fascination with it and can be seen all over their villages. You see they believe in the afterlife and this leads to them the funeral that can some times take place weeks or months after death as all family members must be present. The bodies are stored in the church in limestone caves or even in the house of a loved one, during the wait the corpse is cared for as if it’s still alive given baths, groomed, dressed regularly and even offered meals! Once the family is all present and the money raised for burial the funeral starts that can as well last for days as depending on the wealth of the family consists of feasts, mourning the dead and animal sacrifices that they believe the dead animals will help the soul of their loved one cross over to the other side faster. The bodies are placed in a wooden coffin and then placed in a burial chamber carved into the side of a large rock as they think this is the between Heaven and Earth and will help the spirit find its way…but wait this is not the last you will see of your loved one! Once a year in August loved ones will pull out their dead loved ones and wash, groom and dress them, then make repairs to the coffin and then “walk” them to their place of death and than back to their coffin. And this repeats forever no matter how long your loved one died you show them this respect. And some smaller tribes of people claim that the dead are walking themselves, while others claim its all a trick done by the funeral people. Does the dead truly walk or is this all some sort of tradition that we all just don’t understand, one things for sure and that these peoples loved ones are never forgotten. Below is some photos of the “walk” of the dead.

Toraja Dead 1Toraja Dead 2Toraja Dead 3

I love independent horror films and that’s why I have made my own No Budget Epics and have produced Horror Films for such directors as Andy Copp, Henrique Couto and Chris Seaver over the years and that’s why I have chosen this zombie film that should and could be made into a comic series called Zombie Chronicles that was released in 2001 and put out by Sterling Films and Brain Damage Films on VHS and DVD. The film is about a reporter who picks up an old man named Ebenezer Jackson who is heading to the same small town as her, along the way they make a stop and he shares some real life zombie stories with her! In the end she finds out he himself is a ghost and she might be the real target of the living dead. The film is as backyard as they come and looks as if it was shot on Super VHS or something along those lines and the effects are pure backyard stuff with some being really good including one woman who’s face has been ripped off and she gives her last dying breath. Most of the zombies are in cheap looking masks or terrible Halloween makeup bought on discount from K-Mart. But this could be a great series of comics and follow Ebenezer as he wonders around America finding people on lonely stretches of Highway and tell them chilling stories of the undead, with no budgets holding it back this could be as brutal as any zombie comic in history. Each issue would have a motorist, traveler or drifter coming in contact with Ebenezer who would tell them two to three zombie stories while they traveled the road or even stopped for the night at a rundown motel or camp site aside the road. After each issue the person hearing the stories would be marked in some way from not just physical but mentally as well. This would have to be done as a independent comic in order to truly up the gore and pack in some nudity as well, I would say a company like Rough House Publishing or even Studio Akumakaze would be great companies to make this comic come to bloody life and out of my artist friends that would make this amazing would be Rachael Lare, Damien Brunk or Jeff Potter all who would capture the horror nature of the series. This comic series would never happen sadly as no one remembers it nor when it was released did it come out to major fan fare as it went direct to video and faded away into horror film obscurity. Oh yeah the film was directed by Brad Sykes who made such other low budget films like Camp Blood 1 & 2, Demon’s Kiss, Death Factory and Mad Jack to name a few, the film also stars Janet Tracy Keijser who is easy on the eyes even if she is a little off acting in this film. Z-Grade flick check it out of you like your horror with a little cheese.

The Zombie Chronicles 1The Zombie Chronicles VHSThe Zombie Chronicles 2

When WWE bought out ECW and tried to re-launch the brand on the Sci-Fi network in 2006, it was a shell of what it was.  Gone were the days of New Jack using a cheese grader on Hack Meyers as blood poured out.  Gone were the days of Raven fighting Tommy Dreamer in a barbwire match all for the attention of Beulah, and what we got instead was a watered down version with Big Show being a top star as well as supernatural wrestlers like The Boogeyman, vampire Kevin Thorn and yep, The Zombie! Tim Roberts was the man with the cheesy gimmick who made his debut on the first episode of ECW on the SCI-FI Channel and was quickly beat down by The Sandman and his Singapore cane, you see the network wanted “monsters” added to the roster and this was the WWE’s way of saying we will add them and they will be used as jokes and get beat down fast and easy. The Zombie would float around for a short time loosing matches until he quietly disappeared from the company. Roberts was better known under the ring name Tim Arson and was a pretty big attraction in multiple Puerto Rico wrestling federations and won many belts over his career there, he also toured independent federations and even took on Matt Striker under the Arson gimmick that aired on WWE Heat. After becoming The Zombie for ECW he would also take bookings under that gimmick for small wrestling promotions. Sadly on January 7 2015 Roberts died of unknown causes at the age of 38. While he might not have been a household name here in America his fourteen year long wrestling career sported him fans all over the world.

ECW Zombie 1ECW Zombie 2ECW Zombie 3

People love zombies so much that Adult XXX films have been made about them! Yeah films that have male and female zombies getting busy with humans and each other have seen the light of day. These kind of Adult Films just shows you how much the American Culture loves Zombies that they want to see them not only eat humans but also do it with them! Many of these films also have a Horror Film nature to them and add gore and twisted storylines to these films, while others have no plots and are just scenes of goofball actors in masks and cheap Halloween makeup doing the deed with females who are there to collect a paycheck. There are parodies of George Romero dead films as well as The Walking Dead and everything in between, so if this is your thing and you find Zombies sexy I am sure one of these odd adult films will be sure to please.

Dawna Of The Dead PosterWalking Dead XXX Female ZombiePorn Of The Dead Poster

Here in Dayton, Ohio we have lots of Food Trucks and one of the most popular is a gourmet hotdog truck called Zombie Dogz that people line up for rain or shine to get a tasty large sized hotdog! Each hotdog has a horror themed name like “Hunk A Hunk A Rotting Flesh,” a tribute to Elvis Presley that is a hotdog with bacon, pan seared bananas flambéed in banana liquor topped with homemade cashew butter.  Or you could try “Gem City Slasher” that has the hotdog with avocado salsa, white truffle oil, red onions, bacon bits and cilantro sour cream! My favorite one is called “Calling In Dead” that has truffle oil mac n’ cheese and cracker crumbles all placed on top of the hotdog! Besides the Dayton area, you can also find Zombie Dogz as a food vendor at Horror Hound Weekend Convention in Cincinnati, and for comic book readers they are also spotted many Fridays at Bell, Book and Comic. If you’re ever in the area and enjoy a good specialty hotdog, check them out as I am sure you will not be disappointed.

Zombie Dogz logo

Arrow Comics was created by Ralph Griffith and Stuart Kerr in 1985 and was a black and white independent comic company that the pair started by publishing a magazine called “Fantastic Fanzine.”  After seeing how much of a hit the first issue of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was, they decided to open a comic book branch and gathered local talent like Guy Davis, Susan Van Camp, Randy Zimmerman and Vincent Locke to name a few and Arrow Comics was born! Issues of titles like Deadworld, The Realm, Tales From the Aniverse, System 7, Oz and Nightstreets hit comic shops, but by 1989, they were in trouble due to revenues for some of their top selling titles being tied up, causing them to have to move some of their titles to Caliber Comics. After a few years of silence, they tried to make a comeback in 1993 and released a savage zombie comic called The Dead, but sadly the re-launch was very short lived. In 2008 they made another comeback and started to make webcomics called Spank The Monkey and Rebel Nun and plan on giving many of their titles comebacks in this modern world of comic books. Being a long time comic reader as well as a Monster Kid, I can remember seeing these issues at local comic shops and even had a few of their OZ titles, but never did have any of the zombie ones as I think most of those were behind the counter kind of titles and I was too young to buy them. But while Arrow Comics was never as impactful as many of the other small companies of the time like Malibu, Now or Innovation, they still made huge impacts on their readers who enjoyed something different than Superman or Captain America. I must also state, I love their motto “Our Target Is Entertainment; Our Aim Is Quality”.

Arrow Comics logo

In 2015 Rough House Publishing, a comic company run by Derek Rook, who was the man behind Xmachina Comics, the company who brought you the “Gates Of Hell”, “Halloween: The Return To Haddonfield” and “Phantasm” comics as well as worked on the adaptation of Fulci’s “Zombie” graphic novel, released an amazing graphic novel called “The Dead: Omnibus” that collected all issues of the Arrow Comic series and more! It’s a must-have comic for fans of horror comics and for those looking for something more brutal than Walking Dead.  It’s my honor to present to you this 5 Questions with Derek Rook, the man behind Rough House Publishing and the rebirth of The Dead.

rough house publishing logoDerek RookThe Dead Omnibus

Matt: Welcome to Rotten Ink, Derek, and thanks for taking time away from your busy schedule to chat with me. Growing up were you a comic reader, and if so, what comic characters did you like?

Derek: Thank YOU, Matt! I appreciate the opportunity to hang with you. I WAS a giant comic book reader as a child. When I was young, I’d go grocery shopping with my mother and I would always hope that she had a couple bucks to spare so I could grab some comics off the news stand. I wasn’t aware of comic book shops at that time, so I’d get mine at grocery and convenience stores and sometimes at a Mom & Pop book corner store. I always loved The Incredible Hulk (especially the adult-oriented Marvel Magazine The Hulk), Rom – The Space Knight, Moon Knight, Conan, Godzilla…I always enjoyed characters that were misunderstood loners as I too was one of those as a child.

Matt: What was the first comic book you ever made of your own, and what was it about?

Derek: The first comic book I ever formally published was called NIGHTFALL. I published it in high school and with the help of my art teacher, Joseph Degnain, The book was standard slasher fare, but was heavily critical of religion, government and of many world views that we are dealing with today. We printed off 50 copies using all of the schools resources and equipment. In some ways, he believed in my dreams more than I did as he was responsible for the entire output process. All he wanted in return was one singular copy. I sold them to students for $1 and sold out in four days.

Matt: You have done some great comics based on such films as Gates of Hell, Zombie, Halloween and the upcoming Nightmare City remake – what has been your favorite one to work on?

Derek: It’s popular to answer that question by saying, “it’s like picking the favorite of your children”…and that’s true, But that’s not hard for me. If my books are “children”, then some of them were some real fucking bastards (laughs). Thus far my personal favorite as far as just my art would have to be THE GATES OF HELL. That book was a decades long journey through one of the most formative and tumultuous years of my life. I think the determination to complete that project shows in the finished product. It’s a great body of work. My favorite publication as a whole would hands down be THE DEAD – OMNIBUS. We all were just an unstoppable freight train during that project. There’s so much love and pride there, it’s staggering.

Matt: What three horror films would you like to turn into a comic book series or adaptations for Rough House Publishing, and why?

Derek: As we go forward with ROUGH HOUSE, I think you’ll be seeing us move away slightly from licensed projects, in lieu of more creator-owned stuff. Licensing is sometimes hard to get with the type of stuff we are interested in making books out of…BUT, if I could magically do three more, I personally would want to do THE BRONX WARRIORS (as a trilogy), the un-filmed original script for George Romero’s DAY OF THE DEAD and probably CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST. If you ask some of the other Rough House crew, you’d probably have an even bigger list.

Matt: With The Dead: Omnibus being one of your first releases from Rough House Publishing, I would guess you grew up a zombie comic fan. What is some of your favorite zombie or even horror comics going now?

Derek: Sadly, I’m not a fan of most modern comics in general anymore. Most of them lack the spirit and savvy and genius of some of the comics I grew up with. Maybe I’m just bias. The entire institution has become very corporate and are usually a means of advertisement for a much bigger and more profitable franchise. I think Image is publishing some interesting stuff like AIRBOY and BIG MANS PLANS. The original Garth Ennis’ CROSSED by Avatar Press was ground-breaking at the time, I loved SATELLITE SAM by Howard Chaykin and Matt Fraction…as you can see, most are not horror. HAUNTED HORROR is the closest ting publishing to my favorite comic book being published today, but those are are all reprinted stories from over 60 years ago…so I guess you can see where my roots are truly planted.

Matts: Thanks, my friend, for taking your time to chat with me!

Derek Rook At Work

As always Derek is a class act and a true artist in the world of horror comics and one of my favorite artists going today alongside Javier Trujillo as both capture the true nature of horror. So for about a year now I have been itching to check out The Dead as Rough House Publishing put it on my radar with their release of The Dead: Omnibus.  This started my quest to find the single issues that were released just so I could finally read them and cover them for this Undead File update! Thanks to Ebay and Lone Star Comics, I was able to track them down and enjoy them for the first time in all their gore-tastic glory! But before we walk among The Dead, I should remind you that I grade these issues on a star scale of 1 to 4 and am looking for how well the comic stays to the source material, its entertainment value and its art and story. So with that out of the way, let’s see what all this brain eating and gut munching horror is all about!

The Dead 1

The Dead # 1  ***
Released in 1993    Cover Price $2.25    Arrow Comics    # 1 of 2

Davey is a young man who is going to be a military man someday soon and is on a camping trip with his family and friends.  They are having a good time, and it seems like a perfect trip complete with campfires, fishing and walks in the woods making it seem like nothing could go wrong. As the wives are alone, a knock on the door leads to death as a farmer zombie in overalls and a shotgun blows one of the mom’s heads off and then proceeds to eat the breasts off the other! The Zombie Farmer is not alone and as the other zombies start to eat the flesh of the woman, the husbands show up and they as well become lunch as once more the Zombie Farmer uses his shotgun to blow the head off of one of them! Davey is smart enough and gets all the kids into the RV and saves their lives as they head to the nearby town for help they soon find out it has been set on fire.

This is a perfect example of an underground horror comic as it’s packed with lots of gore, boobs and monsters and is done in glorious black and white. The story is about two families on a vacation in the woods that are attacked by zombies who seem to not only want to eat them but also get enjoyment from killing humans. The story follows Davey as he tries all he can to save his siblings and young friends from a brutal death, all the while having to come to grips with the fact that his parents are dead. Davey is a interesting character who’s young but yet acts mature as his goal in life is to be a military man just like his father.  Despite the shock of seeing his parents slaughtered, he is still smart enough to use his brain and get in the RV and get the heck out of dodge as he sees the zombies coming for them. The rest of the kids are your normal generic kids who sneak and smoke pot and act silly and tough when you know without Davey’s guidance they would all be zombie lunch. The Zombie Farmer is one twisted sick undead psycho who not only kills his victims but also psychologically tortures them by allowing them to beg for their lives only to kill them with a brutal glee. The things we know about Zombie Farmer: he can use a shotgun and is good with it, he loves female boobs and he cannot die with damage to his body. The rest of the zombies seem to listen to what the Farmer says and are into eating the victims and causing chaos and mayhem. The comic is filled with lots of blood, brains and head exploding, all things that horror comic fans love and crave. The issue’s story and plot was done by Ralph Griffith and Stuart Kerr with art done by Jason Moore that is a very fitting style for a independent horror comic from the 90’s. The cover for some reason reminds me of Raiden from Mortal Kombat and is eye catching but in no way warns the reader of just how brutal the comic is! So far I’m very much enjoying this comic and am looking forward to issue two as well as the second volume of The Dead so let’s get to issue # 2!

The Dead 2

The Dead # 2  **1/2
Released in 1993    Cover Price $2.25    Arrow Comics    # 2 of 2

Davey and the gang watch as the town is burning and come up with a plan to try and get food, medical supplies and weapons from a trading post deep in the woods run by an old man named Zeke.  As they start their journey, Zombie Farmer in a pick up truck packed with zombies tries to stop them using firebombs and bricks to slow the kids down, but Davey has a plan that has motor oil being flung onto the windshield of the truck causing the Zombies to crash off a tiny bridge and explode! But before they get to the post, a zombie is able to get into the RV and bite one of the girls on the neck before it can be bashed leaving its brains all over the floor. The group tend to the wounded girl as Davey and the guys go into the post that has been clearly attacked by the undead.  They scavenge for food and get 10 boxes worth before Zeke shows up, now a zombie, throwing knives that injure one of the boys’ legs before they escape and head back to the road and the unknown! It ends with a naked woman who’s a prisoner of zombies who must rat out a location of other humans, and for her help a zombie eats her private parts!

More twisted and gruesome moments are packed into this growing story of Davey and the kids trying to get help and get away from the living dead who are out for blood and guts and a murderous good time. This issue’s plot has Davey and the kids trying to get to a safe place to gather supplies all the while dodging zombies who want to stop them and kill them. Throw in a strange zombie at the end who is forcing a living female for information and you have this strange issue summed up. Davey becomes more in charge as it’s clear they are being targeted by the zombies.  He comes up with the idea to get the Zombie Farmer off his back as well as comes up with where to get the supplies they will need to survive. The rest of the kids are becoming more useful and understand now that they are all in danger and when one of their own is bitten on the neck by a zombie, they know that death could await them at any turn. The zombies are very mean spirited and use bricks, cocktail bombs and knives to attack and they will not stop until the kids can escape them or kill them. Zombie Farmer returns for a short time and is driving a pickup truck and is trying to run the RV off the road, and is only stopped when his truck drives off a bridge and explodes, is he dead or not I cannot say for sure. The issue is packed with more gore that includes a neck bite, knife to the leg and a woman’s private parts being eaten by a zombie showing that they were all about the blood. The cover I have to this issue is X-Rated and depicts the poor woman being eaten by the Zombie, and this I am sure was never on the shelf at Mavericks Cards and Comics or The Bookie Parlor. The story and plot was once more done by Ralph Griffith and Stuart Kerr with Moore doing the art again that is super fitting for a comic of this nature as he understands the style of making a good zombie attack come alive. The downside is that the story is not finished as only two issues were made for Volume 1 so I am hoping that Volume 2 finishes this story or at least tells us the readers what happened to Davey and his siblings and friends. This comic series seems like fans of The Walking Dead could enjoy it if they don’t mind crude gore mixed in with their Horror Drama. And yes, the green zombie heads added to the cover was because I had to censor it, sad to say.

the dead vol 1 art 1

So that was volume one of this series so up next lets take a look at the second time around they tried to deliver The Dead to Horror Comic Readers with this 1998 released zombie romp issues! Does this series follow what happened to Davey….I don’t know but I hope if not they at least make a small attempt to tell what his the teens fate was, but lets not waste no more time the living dead is starting to crowd around and I don’t know about you but I sure don’t want to be bitten.

The Dead 2.1

The Dead # 1  **
Released in 1998    Cover Price $2.95    Arrow Comics    # 1 of 3

Jerry, Marcus and Megan are paramedics who are responding to a terrible multiple car wreck in Chicago that has many injured as well as many dead. They rush to the hospital with two survivors but quickly find out that the hospital is a warzone as the dead are coming back to life and eating the living! Just then one of the wreck victims dies and comes back to life and attacks Marcus and this causes Jerry to wreck the ambulance, this leads to Megan being thrown from the wreck and attacked and killed by Marcus who is now a zombie who turns Megan into a zombie who bites Jerry who escapes but is now on the run from his two former partners as well as the two wreck victims who are also flesh eaters! Jerry runs to a nearby gas station and meets a young woman who thinks he’s crazy as he rambles on about zombies, but she soon finds out he is no crazy as the zombies come for them and they both must run for their lives. The second story takes place in Michigan and has an old man fishing and drinking beer watching as a young couple is attacked and zombies come from the lake, he rushes to get his guns and warn the couples friends but it might be to late as they think he’s crazy and open the door to the living dead.

Right off the top I must say this second series lacks the gore, nudity and characters of the first series and while good felt a little lack luster. Plus this far we get zero follow up on Davey and his crew and instead we are following new characters as they are dealing with the zombie outbreak. The plot is broke into two parts with one following Jerry a paramedic and the other following an old drunk man and his dog as they deal with zombies and the people around them. Jerry is kind of a moron who does not help Megan who is begging for help after her injuries that was caused by his crappy driving, once he let her day I found myself shaking my head and wondering when he would die and hoping it was gruesome. The Old Man who has yet to be named seems ok this far and was just wanting to drink some beer, hang with his old dog and fish, but when the zombies come he at least tries to save others. The zombies are your Italian Zombie movie style who go for neck bites and are slow and only driven by the hunger of flesh. Over all not feeling this first issue as much as I did the 1993 The Dead issue 1 as this one kind of sadly feels generic in some ways, again not terrible just average. The cover is bland and shows the old man with his gun, and the art inside is pretty cool and classic 90’s horror comic stuff and is done by Matt Mason. I am hoping that issue two packs a little more blood and gore punch as series one set the bar very high and this issue felt like a light Marvel Zombies issue.

The Dead 2.2

The Dead # 2  **1/2
Released in 1998    Cover Price $2.95    Arrow Comics    # 2 of 3

The Old Man who’s name is Rick fights off the zombies and pushes them out of the cabin, but not before one boy is bitten by one that snuck into the house via the back window! The Old Man’s plan is for them all to load into the van out front and drive into town to get help, but the zombies have other plans as they block the path to the van. Rick sends some of the kids including Jennifer out after they find the keys to a four-wheeler, the injured boy goes with her and they travel to the neighbors house who own a truck. While there the boy turns into a zombies and the neighbors are all ready zombies and Jennifer must blast her way through them to get the truck to pick up the others just in time as the zombies were about to over take them. Now back to Chicago where Jerry and the female gas worker are running the streets for their lives away from the zombies that are all around, the bite on Jerry’s arm is getting worse as the pain is becoming unbearable. Meanwhile the Zombies are attacking and killing anyone they come in contact with and a brutish biker saves Jerry and the Clerk from a zombie attack and warns them to leave town and to get away as far as they can! The clerk and Jerry steal a car as his pain is getting worse they soon find themselves in a zombie traffic jam.

This second issue brings back blood and gore and adds enough survival horror drama that you find yourself as the reader being drawn into the plot and wanting to see how any of the survivors will make it out alive. The plot for both stories has our heroes and fellow survivors trying to escape the grips of the living dead and coming up with plans to do so. Jerry this time around while as useless as ever at least saves the clerk from becoming zombie lunch, but does just yell at the zombies instead of fighting them like a man. The Female Gas Station Clerk is by far the bravery of the two and wants to not only find help for Jerry but also get out of town and save her own butt. The Old Man Rick is one bad mofo as he blasts his way through zombies as well as comes up with a plan that works and gets the survivors away from the lake and cabins that are being over run by the undead. Jennifer who is one of the young ladies at the cabin also seems like she could be a player in the survival game as she is very strong willed and understands that she needs to fight to stay alive. The Zombies are as always brutal and craving flesh and will not stop no matter how many gun shots you pump into them, unless you aim for the head. The gore and blood are back and while not as brutal as it was in series one, it still great to see in this series. The cover is better and has zombies eating a man and the art inside is good and done by Matt Mason again. Solid brutal issue with lots of zombie horror fun, looking forward to the third and final issue in this second series and see if it has an ending or if Arrow leaves us hanging again.

The Dead 2.3

The Dead # 3  **1/2
Released in 1998    Cover Price $2.95    Arrow Comics    # 3 of 3

The Store Clerk gets Jerry through the zombie roadblock, but Jerry has died and is becoming a zombie! Jerry is not just some ordinary zombie as he can talk and think and wants nothing more than to rape and eat the clerk! He tricks her into stopping at a drug store by saying he needs medication and bandages for his bite wound and then has her follow him into the back storage room as the zombies start to break in.  He attacks her and leads her into the zombies who all listen to him.  He tells them to eat her and claims he is the King of The Zombies! The second story follows a group of teens at a house babysitting, eating pizza and watching some flicks when a police officer who’s the brother of one of the girls shows up and warns them all to stay inside as murders are happing all over. In the end the parents of the young kids show up and are infected, and the teens lock themselves in the house and prepare for a horrific night of terror.

The story of Jerry has an ending as he becomes the first smart and talking zombie of this series, he is so slimy and only wants to feed his urges of human flesh both in a hungry way and a horny way! I 100% hate Jerry and so wanted the Female Store Clerk to survive and blow his brains out….sadly this did not happen as she became zombie dinner. I however must say I did like the journey of Jerry from being an every day guy doing his job to being bite by a zombie to being in pain and dying from said bite to finally becoming a zombie and learning he has powers the others don’t like speech and a mind that still works for plotting. The second story is pretty cool and reminds me of my friends and I getting together back in High School and having Horror Movie Marathons in my parent’s basement. But while the story on that one was just getting started from all I could gather the 4th issue never came out and left readers hanging once more. The story of Rick and the lake survivors as well did not get a closing as in this issue they are not shown at all. The issue showcases some blood and gore as well as nudity as the Female Gas Station Worker has her top ripped off by the sleazy zombie Jerry. This second series while good failed to capture the raw magic of the first series, and with that said I still enjoyed these three issues and they were well worth tracking down for this update. The cover on issue three is pretty cool and just showcases a zombie and reminds me of pure independent punk rock horror comics, the art inside is Matt again and is good stuff and very fitting for the nature of this series. One thing I should point out about this series that was really cool was that you could pay to put yourself in the comic! You could pay a fee from $250 to $25 and select to be a zombie, a victim or a Zombie Hunter and even pick just how gross your death would be! That’s a fantastic gimmick and one that should be in use today, oh wait “We Kill The Dead” the new upcoming Horror Series did do something like this for their Kickstarter…Good Work Guys, as I find this to be an outstanding idea. Over all The Dead’s third issue is much like the first two in this series good stuff and worth a read for zombie comic fans like myself. Below is some artwork form this second series.

the dead vol 2 art 1

The Dead is clearly one of the horror comics alongside the George Romero Dead films that inspired The Walking Dead as lots of elements seem to be borrowed from each in the comic as well as the show. If you enjoy your zombies dripping in blood, guts and gore and enjoy a little nudity thrown in for extra sleazy, I would say The Dead is for you, as I found myself loving every black and white page of the undead on a rampage for flesh and glory. Make sure to check out The Dead: Omnibus by Rough House Publishing as they collect all the issues as well as unprinted stories in one glorious book! And keep an eye out for more of their releases as they are the true horror comic fan’s outlet for amazing titles. For the next update I am going to try and have a showdown with an NES game that has foiled my attempts to beat it for years, but now I am ready to beat Werewolf: The Last Warrior as well as review the mini comic that came with the game on release! So until next time, avoid the dead, read a comic or three and as always support your local Horror Host!

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