The Mighty Titan Atlas

Welcome back to Rotten Ink! For this update I think that we will take a look at another Greek Mythology/Sword And Sandal film icon, but his time it’s not Hercules or Samson, though I have taken a look at them in the past…this time around I am looking at a titan and a man who holds the world on his back, the one and only Atlas! When I was a youngster, Greek Mythology was a something I always tried my best to read about as I found all the Gods, Titans, Demi-Gods and Mortals that made up the myths to be very interesting. When it came to Sword And Sandal films, I was always more of a Hercules fan, but I did enjoy the Atlas movies I watched as well. So if you are ready to go on a big classic hero adventure with Atlas, let’s get this update started, shall we?

Atlas is a Titan and brother of Cronus and was one of the rulers of the world and spawned many children including Hyas and Calypso and was super powerful. When the Olympians went to war with the Titans, the mighty Atlas made the wrong decision and decided to fight alongside the other Titans. When they got defeated, the new king of the gods Zeus gave Atlas a punishment that had him walk to the western edge of the Earth and he is forced to hold up the sky on his shoulders for eternity. And only once was he able to relive his burden of sky lifting when Hercules during his 12 Labors needed Golden Apples from the Atlas’ daughter’s garden that was protected by Ladon, a fierce dragon, and the Titan switches place to get the apples and tried to trick the powerful youngster into just holding the sky up while he delivered the apples, but Hercules did not fall for it and tricked Atlas back into holding up the sky leaving the Titan once more stuck in place. And this version of Atlas’s story is just one of many as there is several variations of it over the centuries, as this is the most known and popular. Of all the Titans I would say that Atlas is the most popular with maybe Cronus being the only one that comes close. And I will say this at some point Atlas and many of the Titans might show up in future issues from Sparkle Comics as this writer and editor in chief has a few ideas knocking around his mind.

In 196,1 the world of cinema was flooded with Sword And Sandal films as movie watchers seemed to not be able to get enough of muscle bound heroes. Italy was the nation to rush them into production to flood the market and quench the thirst of movie goers. During this boom of Italian Cinema, other countries tried to cash in and America of course was one of them as Roger Corman, the master of B-Movies, had to jump on the Sword and Sandal bandwagon and get his slice of the pie when he directed and produced Atlas. This version of Atlas stripped away the Titan mythology and just had our hero as a muscle bound do-gooder who would fight for the weak and do what he thought was right. The film was shot in Greece on a very low budget, and Corman brought in actors Michael Frost, Frank Wolff, Barboura Morris and Walter Maslow with Frost and Wolff being actors he had used in the past. The film did okay when released but did not bring in the numbers or gain the cult statues of the Steve Reeves Hercules film that spawned it. The film at this point in time is believed to be in the Public Domain and has been released on DVD by companies like St. Clair and Cheezy Flicks and has been hosted by Horror Hosts as well as has found itself on multipack DVD releases. On another fun note when the film was being developed writer Charles B. Griffith wanted to call the film “Atlas, The Guided Muscle” because he wanted to base it on the SM-65 Atlas ballistic missile. Atlas is one of those films I have seen many times and while it’s not one of my all time favorite Sword And Sandal films, it is one that I enjoy as its cheesy and fun.

Michael Frost is the actor who played Atlas in 1961, and he has had a long career in the world of cinema and TV. Frost was born Gerald Michael Charlebois on April 17, 1929 in Harvey, North Dakota and had a pretty normal childhood and even went to college where he got a degree in English and Drama. But he discovered that he wanted to be an actor in 1955, and his first role was as Pug in TV series “Lux Video Theatre” and from here he could not be stopped as he took roles in shows like “Highway Patrol” and “Studio 57” and in 1957 he even had an unaccredited role in the Universal Monster film “The Deadly Mantis”! From there he had many other roles in some pretty great shows like “The Adventures Of Rin Tin Tin” in 1957 & 1958, “Zorro” in 1958 and “The Rifleman” in 1959 showing he was making his mark on TV! In 1959 he made his return to Horror Movies when he plays Gil Jackson in the film “Beast From The Haunted Cave” and TV Series “One Step Beyond” in 1960 episode Encounter. With many more roles in film and TV in 1961, he landed the main role in “Atlas” a film directed by the great cult director Roger Corman! Over the following years he would take roles in such shows as “The Outer Limits”, “The Twilight Zone”, “Perry Mason”, “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.”, “Gunsmoke”, “Days Of Our Lives”, “I Spy”, “Branded”, “Gilligan’s Island” and in 1967 he got one of his most popular roles when he played Apollo in an episode of “Star Trek”. And this is just a drop in the hat of films he has done as he is also known to most Anime fans as he has lent his voice to many films such as Crying Freeman, Mobile Suit Gundam, Street Fighter II V and The Twelve Kingdoms, to name a few. And at the age of 90 he is still active in acting with his last role being in 2019 in the short film “When The Train Stops” playing the character Marshal Preston Booth. While he is older, Forest’s love for acting is not slowing down and I hope one day that the Monster Bash will bring him in as a guest at one of the conventions I am attending.

When growing up, I can remember in Kettering, Ohio a giant workout gym was on Wilmington Pike and they had a massive Atlas holding the world statue out front, and this was something my brother and I when kids always looked forward to seeing when we would be in town to visit family or eating out at Captain D’s that was near by it. When the gym closed a short time later, the Atlas statue disappeared and the gym’s building was turned into many different things over the years like Pep Boys and is now a micro brewery…but I always wondered what happened to the Atlas Statue. I had heard rumors that it was at a car wash on Airway Road, but to my best memory I don’t remember seeing it ever on Airway. But then one day when Juliet and I were driving to Danbarry Huber Heights for a Horrorama event and going down Troy Street at a local gold and jewelry business right out front was the classic Atlas statue and I proceeded to talk to Juliet about it and how awesome it was. And in 2019 when I first started this update I wanted to take a picture of the statue for this blog update, but sadly the Dayton area was rocked by very bad tornadoes in one single night on May 27, 2019 with 15 of them touching down and causing lots of damage and injuries. Juliet and I even had to hide in our basement as the Tornado Warning went off in our area. And during this night of Tornado Terror sadly Troy Street was hit and the Atlas Statue was hit and by the looks of it, the statue was damaged and gone. But thanks to Flickr user Scott for taking this picture back in 2010 (Wow 10 years Ago) I can share this amazing statue with you readers. So take a look at it and enjoy.

So as you readers see, Atlas is a Titan who has the all the power in the world and it’s because of him that the world does not fall into the sun or spiral out of control…or so they used to say. But while he is a Titan, he seems to not be talked about as much as others these days as Cronus seems to always be the most popular. For the comic based on this Titan, I decided to choose the mini series done by Dark Horse Comics. Now I want to remind you all that I grade these comics on a star scale of 1 to 4 and am looking for how well the comics stay to the source material, its entertainment value and it’s art and story. I want to thank Game Swap Kettering and Lone Star Comics for having these in stock. So if you are ready to stand with the weight on your shoulders with Rotten Ink and Atlas, let’s get to these comics!

Atlas # 1  **1/2
Released in 1994     Cover Price $2.50     Dark Horse     # 1 of 4

It’s a normal day in New York, and a group of homeless people are wandering around the abandoned warehouse district looking for a place to stay for the night. The group is lead by old man Monti Harper, mechanic Troy Maxwell and youngster Andrew Ray, and for them this day turns weird when they find a giant that appears to have fallen from Space and crashed into the warehouse! The Giant is holding a goldenrod, and when Monti touches it he feels pain and also sees that this Giant is really a God and was fighting just about Earth with another, and when his friends get him away from the rod, they are all startled when the Giant wakes up and tells them that he is the Titan named Atlas and that the other gods want Earthlings to go back to being primitive so they will worship them once more. Atlas decides that he is going to use the goldenrod and make the homeless group his soldiers to help fight the evil that is coming, but before he can, he captures a little monster that has been set free on Earth by The Keeper who is tracking the Titan in order for an attack to take place on him. Atlas leaves his new “friends” behind and does battle with The Keeper in front of the people of New York, but things turn really bad when another massive Titan like being shows up and clearly wants to do battle!

Let’s start by saying that this is a fun comic that brings the classic Titans and old world Gods into modern times and does a good job of building Atlas as mankind’s protector. The plot has the Gods in the sky being pissed off with the people of Earth are no longer worshiping them and have become too obsessed with electronics, and the only Titan that is on the side of man is Atlas who has stolen the powerful goldenrod and is fighting with his fellow Gods! But when he falls to Earth after a terrible fight in space, he soon finds that he has lead the war to Earth and his only new friends are a trio of homeless people who seem to be craving the power of the goldenrod. Atlas is kind of cocky in attitude, but yet also very heroic and friendly. He can change size from being a massive giant Titan to becoming human size. He is a skilled fighter and with the help of the powerful goldenrod, he is almost unbeatable. The Homeless Trio come off as nice people at the start but after two get a taste of power of the Gods, I do not trust Troy or Monti as they seem more into becoming godlike and not about the fact the world is in big trouble. The Keeper is a freaky monster looking man who holds a box that allows monster to come out and do his will and that includes fighting and tracking, but while he is a fighter, he is also older and out powered by Atlas. I for one cannot wait to see whom the other monstrous Titan is and how the fight between it and Atlas goes! This is a pretty interesting story so far, and I like that Atlas himself mentions that over the centuries he has been called many different names making it clear that all the gods of ancient times are they same ones just given a new name by whatever society worships them. The cover is pretty eye catching and has a Greek Myth meets Indie Comic look to it, and the interior art is interesting and done by Bruce Zick and has an almost classic Heavy Metal Magazine style to it. While this is not a full Sword And Sandal style comic as its based in modern times, I must say this first issue has made me interested in seeing what issue two has in store for me.

Atlas # 2  **
Released in 1994     Cover Price $2.50      Dark Horse     # 2 of 4

Atlas charges into battle with Sh’en Chui, and the gods go at it with Atlas using the goldenrod but not to its full power as he does not want to hurt the people around the docks watching the battle. After the goldenrod is knocked out of Atlas’ hands, he quickly goes into withdrawal as the power it holds is now something he craves, and once getting it back he makes the decision to use its full power and he “kills” Sh’en Chui with a power blast from the rod. As the people watch in shock, Atlas walks away not answering any questions from the press who has swarmed the area. On his way back to the warehouse, Atlas runs into an old enemy named Bol who threatens him that once he gets stronger a rematch will happens and then points out he seems to need goldenrod to fight his battles. Once back at the warehouse Atlas turns it into a home base that now looks like a place from mythological Olympus, and with this he also gives his new human friends a taste of power and gets mad with them when they crave the power. Meanwhile in the land of Gods, Neo figures out a way to prevent Goldenrod that is a living being as well from getting the sun energy it needs to have all its power, and this causes Atlas to be stuck in the middle of nowhere as Goldenrod loses its power while Atlas was trying to find the old God’s hang out to show to mankind to ease their fears.

This second issue has Atlas “kill” another god like creature in front of tons of New York, give and get angry with his human “friends” when they love the powers he gives them and takes back, scares the world with his battle and killing making him realize he needs to show them who he is and why he is…and lastly its clear that he is a junkie for the power that Goldenrod gives him as without it he withdraws! That’s right, Atlas in this issue is like a strung out addict who is also a cold blooded murder who commits his crime if front of hundreds of eyes…in other words while he might be a Titan, he has some major personal issues. We also find out that Goldenrod is alive and that its power comes from the sun and that all Titans and Gods want to control its power. The Homeless Bunch as I am going to start calling Andrew, Troy and Monti as I sadly at this point don’t think they are good people as they just want the power as well, and that’s sad as they could and should have been the true heroes of this mini series and lets hope that they come around and become it. Sh’en Chui, who looks like a badass at the start, gets knocked down to size real quick and is murdered by being blown into chunks, but I have a feeling he or something he will become will return. The Keeper meanwhile seems like a rat as he just barks orders and tells on whomever to get points with those above him. And Neo I am not sure about yet, he is definitely against humans and Atlas but it’s clear he takes orders from someone else. This issue is just an average read with long dialogue coming from humans that drags the pacing way down, and that’s a shame. The art is good again done by Bruce Zick and the cover is eye catching…but to wrap this issue up, it made my excitement sadly slip slightly, and I hope it becomes less talky and more action in issue three.

Atlas # 3  *1/2
Released in 1994     Cover Price $2.50     Dark Horse     # 3 of 4

Atlas is holding a press conference for the people of the world and has given them the locations of God sites around the world so that they can discover the trueness of who he is and the others out in the universe. Once back at his new warehouse home base, he goes into a temple he built that has a statue of his love Eia and talks to it about how much he misses her and her advice…when he talks about Goldenrod loosing power and how he can stop the blocking of the sun rays he gets an idea and sends his homeless friends to go and get some powerful weapons, but this also causes a rift between the friends as Monti does not want to be a pawn in Atlas’s game of War of the Gods, while Troy is selected to go with Atlas in order to free Aox, a God who has been punished by the other Gods. Atlas asks Aox to get energy from a hidden well that has knowledge as the punished Titan is the only one that knows were it is. As Aox and Troy go on the quest to find the well, Atlas gives Andrew and Monti costumes that will give them a little god energy as he can not use Goldenrod. Meanwhile Neo now tells Bol that if he finds the location of the well he can and will give Bol back his beauty that the Gods centuries ago took away. As Aox and Troy enter the underworld, she is able to see a glimpse of the past and future that Aox is feeding her, meanwhile Atlas is feeling all alone and decides that he himself must go on a vision quest.

Man this series started out so promising and issue after issue it has became a very slow moving overly wordy so-so average read that does not deliver enough action this far. This issue is filled with so much set up as the plot is that Goldenrod is weak and Atlas himself is losing faith in himself and mission. Monti is getting jealous that Troy and Andrew are following the orders of Atlas as they find him wise. While Neo is just around his Kingdom getting updates and barking orders and Bol is just lying around giving said updates. This issue has zero action and is just filled with long drawn out drama and plot that could have been done way better in a faster pace. I do like that Atlas in this issue is more down and out as in the past issues he was very much ego driven as he knew he had the massive power of Goldenrod, speaking of Goldenrod it’s loosing power and life and this is a bad thing as it really is a tool for good…but I guess if evil has control of it bad things could happen. Aox is a Titan who was punished by the Gods and now is helping Atlas and has fallen in love with Troy, who in this issue is clearly the only one of the Homeless Bunch that has potential to be a hero. The rest of the characters are around and do nothing important. I should also say that the chunks of flesh of Sh’en Chui are up to something as they are moving around in the harbor. The cover for this issue is okay and not overly eye catching as it looks more like a pin up in an issue, and the interior art is good and done by Bruce Zick again. Over all this is a bland issue and did zero to build up the final issue in the series and created zero excitement for me to read it, plus it took me days to read this issue as I found myself getting more and more bored after every page.

Atlas # 4  *1/2
Released in 1994     Cover Price $2.50     Dark Horse     # 4 of 4

The chunks of Sh’en Chui has spawned tiny little demon like monsters who are now attacking New York and Atlas along with Monti and Andrew (whom he has give power to via Goldenrod) try and save the day, but the odds are not good. Meanwhile Troy and Aox are still on the quest to the well and as they bond and Troy tells of her time as a nurse in Vietnam they reach they well and soon find that Bol and some demon minions are also there and a fight against the odds happens for them as well. While in New York the demons start to bring down tons of buildings and Atlas turns giant again and holds them up and people below run for their lives and Andrew and Monti have lost their powers and are helpless to save Atlas who gets crushed after all the people below are safe. While back in the Underworld the demons are swarming Aox and Troy as Bol barks out insults and orders and after being beaten down Troy finds her inner strength and breaks Aox free from his captives and he kills Bol and then makes the sacrifice of his life as he takes the energy of the well into himself and they travels fast with Troy to New York and gives Goldenrod and Atlas all of the raw energy and after Atlas and Goldenrod destroy all the demons, Aox falls dead as Atlas and his Homeless friends morn the loss. In the end Atlas and his friends burn the body of Aox and he tells them that this battle might have ended but the war is not over.

This final issue in the Atlas mini series is pretty much a let down and while the issue is action packed, it seems to end way too fast with no real pay off to this lackluster story and they could have done more to make a good ending if they wiped out the terrible long winded dialogue from the previous issues. The plot of this issue has Atlas going to New York and fighting demons and with a weak Goldenrod and Aox killing himself to give power to Goldenrod and in seconds the end battle is over and Aox is dead….yep its that cheesy of an ending and no major clash between good and evil, Neo is never seen at all and all of a sudden Aox and Troy become madly in love…this is just so cheesy. Atlas in this issue is the hero that Earth needs as he fights off demons and then risks his life to hold up tons of crumbled buildings to save lives as people have to run to safety, but think about this Atlas is also the Titan who held up the sky…but buckles under buildings…so they made this Titan a hero but also weak and not living up to his legend. Aox is just around and is creepy flirting with Troy and in the end is the real hero as he gives his life to save Atlas and Goldenrod from being crushed to death. And Goldenrod in this issues is weak, gets a little bit of power to help and then fails only to drain power from a Titan…and then is strong again. Andrew and Monti are a waste in this issue as they get powers for seconds and help a few people while Atlas fights the demons, and we do see that Monti cares about Andrew and looks at him almost as a son. Troy finds her inner power as she lets out her hurt of not being able to save lives in Vietnam, and oddly enough she also finds love with a Titan. Bol who is stuck in the body of an ugly grotesque creature is truly slimy as he finds the well and does what he can to make sure Aox can not save his friend by delivering the energy, but lucky for New York Bol is killed in the fight by the well. Neo and the Demons are waste and have zero backstory in this series and make me as a reader not care. And the end “battle” of this series is just so bad and lackluster it made this series a major dud for me. The cover this time around is good and eye catching and the interior art is once more done by Bruce Zick who tried his best as well writing this boring comic series based on a great Titan of legend. While I am not a fan I would say make sure to check it out if you like indie comic based on Mythology characters. Also check out the art below to see the style of Zick.

While I hate to say it this Indie Comic mini series by Bruce Zick and released by Dark Horse Comics was just not a well told story and has so many plot holes and filler that it makes for one boring read. And while the comic ends with the door wide open for a second mini series, it would never see the light of day as far as this blogger could tell, and while I was not a fan of this series and its style of storytelling, I would have for sure checked it out to see if Zick’s writing would have changed to deliver a solid Atlas comic story. But for our next update we will be walking away from the old sky holder and into the world of the seven seas as we take a boat ride with Morgan The Pirate, that’s right we will once more be taking a look at a Steve Reeves movie and the comic based on it. So until next time, read a comic or three, watch a movie or two and as always support your local Horror Host. See you next time for a High Seas adventure!

From Horror Movie To Horror Comic: M (1931)

Greetings, everyone!  Juliet here once more taking the blog reigns from Matt temporarily.  Today I’m going to take you From Horror Film to Horror Comic with a look at a film that made a huge impact on me, both on its own and because of its influence on the larger world of filmmaking that came after it.  I’m talking about Fritz Lang’s M, a serial killer story that helped set the stage for so many of the movies we know and love and celebrate as classics today.  So let’s get to it with a look at the killer Hans Beckert.

When we first meet Hans Beckert, he appears as a shadow on the poster warning villagers of the child murderer in their midst.  Although his first line is seemingly innocent enough, telling Elsie he likes her ball and asking her name, it’s chilling — especially for those of us who grew up in the era of Stranger Danger.  Although we never see it in the film (one of the many awesome things about M is that the murders are up to the audience’s imagination), it’s implied that he stabs or butchers his victims, likely very brutally.  Among his advantages are Beckert’s ability to blend into society seemingly undetected until it’s too late, but being a mere man he’s subject to the same harm any man can fall victim to.  Beckert’s mental state is another weakness; it drives him to kill despite his realization that it’s wrong, which pushes him to near madness and helplessness.

Now that we’ve met the titular “M” from M, it’s time to look at the film itself.  The description will be taken from IMDB, and then I’ll follow with some production history and my own history with the film.

“In Berlin in the early 1930’s, children are being lured to their death by a psychopathic killer. In the space of a year, 8 children have been murdered. The police have redoubled their efforts to find the guilty man but have yet to find him and citizens are beginning to dispense their own justice on otherwise innocent people. The heads of the city’s criminal element are paying a high price due to the increased police presence and decide to find the psychopath on their own. They approach the beggars union to have their members blanket the city with spies. They’re successful in finding the killer and put him on trial in their own special court but the police make progress and have their own views on how justice should be administered.”

Dubbed the Master of Darkness by the British Film Institute, Austrian-born filmmaker Fritz Lang began writing some ideas for films when he was recovering from injuries and shell shock he sustained while serving in the Austrian army in WWI.  Once he was discharged from the army in 1918, Lang worked briefly as a writer before being hired as a director for Germany’s UFA.  The Expressionist movement was at its zenith, and Lang would quickly claim his place among its makers with his particular talent for combining the visual techniques of the movement with popular genre storytelling.  

In 1930, Lang announced that he was making a film called Mörder unter uns (Murderer Among Us), which was to be about a child murderer, but when he went to begin shooting, he was denied access to a shooting stage because the head of the studio, a Nazi himself, assumed based on the title alone that the film was meant to depict Nazis in a bad light.  However, when he found out what the film was actually about, Lang was given access to the stage. M would go through several other names before its simple title was adopted.  The film was shot in six weeks and featured real criminals as extras in many of the mob scenes.  

As with all of his films from this era, Lang co-wrote M with his then-wife Thea von Harbou.  As of part of his research for the film, Lang spent time in a German mental institution talking to serial killers including Peter Kürten, known as the Vampire of Düsseldorf, who many people thought was a direct inspiration for Peter Lorre’s character, Hans Beckert, though Lang denied that.

Prior to his casting in M, Lorre was a comedic actor, but it’s said that Lang had him in mind for the role of the killer in M while the film was still being scripted.  It began Lorre’s first starring role, though it also began a trend of the actor being type-casted as a villain that would follow him to Hollywood. 

M was also, and perhaps most notably, Fritz Lang’s first sound film.  Unlike other, sometimes disastrous first forays into sound, M’s soundtrack is complex featuring narration, off camera sound, and narrative silence to build suspense.  It’s much more in line with what modern audiences are accustomed to the the majority of the “talkies” of the era.  The sound element most people instantly remember from M, however, is the whistling.  Using the tune “In the Hall of the Mountain King,” Lang used an opera technique called leitmotif where a melody is associated with one character throughout the entire story. Fun fact: Peter Lorre couldn’t whistle so the whistling you hear in the film is Fritz Lang himself. 

Although M isn’t technically the first film to portray a serial killer (both The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and Hitchcock’s The Lodger had already done so prior to M’s release in 1931), it’s considered by many to be the first official serial killer film in a lineage that includes Shadow of a Doubt, Psycho, and especially the boom of films in the late 80s and early 90s that includes Silence of the Lambs, Henry Portrait of a Serial Killer, and Manhunter.  It gets this distinction because of its exploration of the complicated psychology of serial killers (without straying too far into the sympathetic) AND the conditions of a society where serial killers can thrive, if only temporarily. M, along with Lang’s other German films, is also considered to be one of the films which helped pave the way for film noir, both in terms of storytelling and theme elements and in terms of visual style.  

I first saw M when I was in film school in the early 2000s.  Although I left that program and pursued another major after two years, one of the things for which I’m most grateful from that time was discovering the German Expressionist movement.  Although I was aware of a some of the films from the movement (Nosferatu being the most obvious choice) and I was already a fan of silent cinema, getting to really know the work that paved the way for some of my favorite historic and modern genres (horror, science fiction, and film noir) was amazing, Lang quickly emerged as my favorite director and the subject of several of my papers.  Although Metropolis remains my favorite of his films, M is just stunning.  It’s a long film (nearly two hours), but it’s filled with incredible angles and lightning that make you want to watch multiple times — for the story and for how the visuals help tell the story.  You really can see the technical throughline from M to some of Hitchcock’s more seminal work to film noir to the serial killer films of the 80s and 90s. It had actually been a while since I watched M all the way through, but upon rewatching it to prepare to write this blog, I found myself once more enchanted and excited by this film…and wanting to do a full Lang rewatch.

Before I dive into Fritz Lang’s entire film catalog, however, it’s time to dive into the 90s comic miniseries based on M. Thanks to Bell Book and Comic and Lone Star Comics for having these issues.  As usual, we grade these comics on a scale of 1 to 4 and look for how well the comics stay to the source material, their entertainment value and their art and story. So whistle an eerie tune, and let’s see how a tale of murder translate from the silver screen to the page.

M # 1  **1/2
Released in 1990   Cover Price $5.95   Arcane/Eclipse   #1 of 4

In a German town, children play and sing a playful yet cautionary song about a murderer who will chop you up if you’re not careful.  In a tenement, neighbors go about their days work.  One wishes the children wouldn’t sing “the murderer’s song,” while another says that as long as the children are singing, their parents know they’re safe.  While her mother sets the table for dinner, young Elsie plays outside with her ball and encounters a shadowy figure who compliments her on the pretty toy. Soon the town receives news of a new murder, and the police receive a letter from the murderer saying that he could be anyone among them.  The townspeople take this idea to heart as anyone perceived as behaving suspiciously is indicted by the mob.  Meanwhile the police are working through their official investigation, trying to figure out patterns among the clues to narrow the search and figure out who might fit the psychological profile of the killer.  The assumption, of course, is that the killer must be part of the town’s seedy underbelly. The denizens of said underbelly, however, are equally frustrated – the murderer on the loose is making it difficult for their usual criminal activity to go on undetected, and it’s scaring their children.  The crime lords discuss this while they await Schranker, who, upon his arrival, tells his colleagues that they have business to discuss. 

The first thing that struck me about this comic book adaptation of M is how of its era it is with art and layout styles feeling right at home with other dark/horror titles of the late 80s and early 90s, which would pave the way for companies like Vertigo a few years later. That said, I wish that the start of this book had richer coloring/shading.  Although beautiful, some of it felt too soft for a film that’s noted for its high key, pre-noir style lighting and use of shadows.  By and large this was a good, albeit abridged adaptation of the film’s opening in terms of the story itself, but as with the shading, it fell a little flat for me when it came to capturing the chilling intensity of Hans Beckert’s encounter with Elsie.  Perhaps it does go back to the shading, but the lack of real, substantive shadows for Beckert in those panels made that moment less effective. All told, however, the first issue of the adaptation makes me want to continue reading the series. The sparing use of color is something I’ll discuss in regards to one of the next issues as I want to see how it plays out further into the story.  Before we get to it, I want to note that this issue came with (or comes with if you’re lucky enough to get an intact copy) an tear out record featuring an original score composition to accompany the comic on the A side and “Hall of the Mountain King” on the B-side.

M # 2: Crackdown  ***
Released in 1990   Cover Price $4.95   Arcane/Eclipse   #2 of 4

Schranker calls the meeting of the crimelords to order saying that someone outside their union is making it impossible for their work of organized crime to continue.  As the criminal leaders of the community, they must do something about this interference. Meanwhile the police discuss how to enlist the public’s help in identifying a killer amongst them without inciting a mob.  Schranker and the crimelords make better progress with their plan, enlisting the beggars’ union to help keep watch on suspicious activities and individuals.  As they station a man on every street corner, the police go door to door investigating a list of individuals who’ve been released from mental hospitals in the last five years.  An officer arrives at the building of Hans Beckert, and after chatting with a neighbor, he searches Beckert’s Room for clues. Meanwhile Beckert himself is wandering the streets whistling, lost in his own torment. He focuses on a girl, presumably his next victim, but abandons that course of action when her friends arrive.  Instead, he stops in a small eatery for a coffee and brandy, but leaves just as quickly as visions of dead girls are everywhere he turns.  Beckert’s whistling tips off a blind beggar who had been vending balloons the day Elsie was killed, and a chain of actions is set into play resulting in a chalk M being placed on Beckert’s jacket to alert the criminal mob to give chase.  But Beckert’s would-be victim notices the chalk, and when she offers to clean it off, Beckert realizes he’s being watched.

One of the things that M the film does really well is that it uses crosscutting to juxtapose the crime lords and the police planning and beginning their respective investigations.  This issue of the comic portrays that really well with the tinting to clearly indicate each group being a nice visual touch. Like the first issue, however, there are also moments that fail to capture the magic of the film.  This time around it was the whistling scenes where Beckert is grappling with and being tormented by his need to kill. I get it – it’s hard to translate something that’s so sound-dependent into a strictly visual medium.  The other thing of note is Beckert doesn’t quite look like Peter Lorre; my guess is that was necessary/intentional because of likeness issues.  It’s not a huge problem as writer/artist Jon J Muth captures the feeling of the scene with the chalk M well, it’s just a bit of a disappointment as so much of what makes that and many other scenes in the film is Peter Lorre’s facial expressions and acting. I did really like the way the final scene of the issue was drawn.  The chase on top of the train is so iconic, both for its role in this film and for all of the imagery it begat in thrillers to come to, and I thought it translated well to the page.  

M # 3: The Hunting  ** 1/2
Released in 1990   Cover Price $4.95   Arcane/Eclipse   #3 of 4

Having lost Beckert during their chase in the train yard, the crime lords and their men are on the lookout and receive a tip that their suspect is hiding in the railroad’s office building.  Meanwhile the police have returned to Beckert’s apartment for a stakeout, having discovered several clues in their previous visit linking him to the killer’s letter.  Schranker and his men perform an elaborate scheme to gain entry to the railroad office building after it is closed and neutralize the building’s guards without triggering any of the automatic alarms that will alert the police.  They want Beckert for themselves and will go to great lengths to extract him from the building.  As the police read a letter meant for Beckert that casts doubt on him as the suspect, Schranker’s men seemingly have Beckert trapped, but one of the building’s night watchmen manages to trigger the alarm.  Schranker and his men only have mere minutes to flee the building with their prisoner.

Have I mentioned that M also has elements of a classic heist film?  Well it does, though the target of the heist is a murderer not jewels or riches.  This issue of the comic book focuses, by and large, on the “heist” section of the film, and while the pacing is pretty good, this is the first issue of this series where I wonder if someone who’s either never seen or isn’t super familiar with the film would understand everything going on at the beginning with Schranker’s men getting into and searching/breaking into various parts of the building.  The end of the issue, however, is super solid and the back and forth between the action and Beckert’s reactions as his pursuers get closer is really great. The action is coming to a head so let’s get to the conclusion of the film and comic. 

M # 4: The Trial  **1/2
Released in 1990   Cover Price $5.95   Arcane/Eclipse   #4 of 4

Franz is in police custody, one of the criminals left behind in the confusion at the railroad building.  The police are willing to let him go free as long as he provides them with information about who the criminals were looking for and where they’ve taken him.  The answer is that Beckert has been taken to an abandoned distillery building, which Schranker and his men are using as a kangaroo court.  As the trial gets underway, a near mad Beckert launches into an impassioned speech about how he didn’t ask for and can’t control his murderous urges but that all of the people trying him are criminals by choice.  The criminal acting as Beckert’s lawyer argues for mercy, but the mob is thirsty for justice and blood.  Before they can be satisfied, however, the police arrive and Beckert once more stands trial, this time in a legitimate courtroom, as the mothers of the murdered girls look on and lament not keeping a closer eye on their children.

In this conclusion to M, we see some larger deviation from the film in Beckert’s hallucinations of his victims.  Although this doesn’t appear in the film, it’s a nice addition given how much adaptation had to be done to Beckert’s monologue.  As for the monologue, I think it worked, but this was definitely the place where it was most noticeable that they weren’t using Peter Lorre’s likeness for Beckert.  Not only were his incredible facial expressions missing throughout, but in this issue Beckert looked almost like a young Johnny Depp, really placing us in the era in which the comic was made, not necessarily the film.  Overall, this series was a really solid adaptation of the classic film.  Did certain things get cut?  Of course.  Having just recently written a film adaptation for Sparkle Comics, I have a renewed appreciation for the choices that have to be made when translating a film to comic.  So I don’t begrudge Jon J Muth his choices.  I also don’t begrudge him the graphite artwork, which I didn’t love in the first issue but got used to by the end of the series.  It’s not the style I would choose for this story, but it was really lovely. See below for some examples.

 Although M the comic doesn’t quite do M the film justice, it’s still an interesting read and worth checking out for fans of the films, especially those who are also fans of late 80s/early 90s comics.  Speaking of the 80s and serial killers, for our next update, Matt will be exploring 80s talk show The Morton Downey Jr. Show with a special focus on the slashers episode.  So until then, read a comic or 3, revisit your favorite classic films, and stay safe.

The Beyond # 1 Preview!!

Welcome back to Rotten Ink! If you’re a first time visitor, this is a blog where I talk about things I enjoy from comic books to horror hosts and everything in between. For this quick update, I want to take a moment to tell the world about a comic company that I feel is doing amazing top notch comics.  That company is Eibon Press, and they have a big release coming out soon: The Beyond, an adaptation of the classic Lucio Fulci film! I’m going to do something a little different, and I am going to talk about a comic before it’s even out, so sit back and enjoy this quick update!

For those of you who don’t know, Eibon Press is a comic company run by Shawn Lewis (of Rotten Cotton fame) and Stephen Romano that delivers very high quality comics based on many amazing films. They currently have two different comic lines going. First is Fulci Comics, based on the Godfather of Gore, Lucio Fulci, adapting and extending the stories of films like Zombie, Gates Of Hell and House By The Cemetery.  All are done in amazing color and shipped in what’s called an Eibon Sleeve. What are Eibon Sleeves, you ask. They are a cardboard protective sleeve that goes over your comic that has a very cool design  and is also packed with goodies like stickers and, in some cases, soundtracks and trading cards. Think of it like a record jacket for you vinyl collectors among my readership. Eibon’s second comic line is called VHS Comics and released books based on films like Maniac by William Lustig, Laserblast by Full Moon. And I can’t forget to tell you that Eibon also releases original comics as well like BottomFeeder that was at one time going to be a movie. All of the above titles are future updates for Rotten Ink, so keep your eyes open for that.

The Beyond is slated next for release from Eibon Press and Fulci Comics and is one of the director’s biggest movies so it’s perfect to get the comic book treatment. While a graphic novel based on the film was released in 1988, this new comic series is the must-have for horror comic readers as it’s surely going to chill your bones and give you nightmares. The Beyond is slated to be a four issue mini series that serves as both an adaptation of and prequel to the film as readers will get to experience characters’ pasts as well as The Beyond gateway. The plot of The Beyond is about a hotel that sits on a gateway to the Beyond, a Hell/underworld-like place that is filled with the undead. But when the hotel owner makes the mistake of wanting to restore the structure, she unleashes horrors the world of the living is not ready for. The Beyond was released in 1981 and also goes by the title “7 Doors Of Death.”

For the release of The Beyond # 1, the Eibon team is doing something very cool. If you buy any of the editions, you get a CD soundtrack of the score to the “7 Doors Of Death” version of the film that had a totally different score from the original release. This is amazing news as this is the first time this version of the score has ever been released! I am a massive fan of horror movie scores, and I cannot wait to listen to this CD while I read the first issue.

Eibon Press really is one of my favorite comic companies going today as they put so much heart and soul into their releases, and I cannot stress enough that if you have not picked up any of their comics, you need to do yourself a favor and go do so now…go on I’ll wait…I recommend any of them but would say start with Zombie or Maniac as both of them are amazing reads. The Beyond # 1 goes up for preorder via Eibon’s website on October 25, 2019 ,and I assure you this is going to be a must-read comic. Once all four issues of The Beyond are released I will 100% cover it here on Rotten Ink. So until next update, read a horror comic or three, watch a horror movie or two and as always, support your local horror host. And really readers, make sure to check out companies like Eibon Press, Rough House Publishing, Camp Comix, Full Moon Comix and Blood Scream Comics as all these companies are making top notch comics that blow away everything from the mainstream.