Monster Monday: “Gashunk gashunk” – Juni Ito’s ‘Gyo’ Manga

There are plenty of reason to love Junji Ito’s work.

We’re about to cover just one of them, which should be more than enough for now…

Juni Ito’s manga is unfailingly horrific, disturbing and marvelous. If you love horror of any kind, we can’t recommend his back-catalogue highly enough. For the sake of this Monster Monday, however, we want to focus on his series GYO (The Death Stench Creeps)
and the disturbing, and mostly unexplained, phenomena that it tries to explain. Well, there is a rational explanation given. In the loosest possible sense of ‘rational’. Perhaps ‘plausible’ is the best description for what happens in this manga. It’s really dream logic, which makes it work, the sense of a nightmare you can’t quite climb away from and situation getting worse and worse.

Title page from the first manga novel. Fish with legs. Yes, it sounds silly...at first....

Title page from the first manga novel. Fish with legs. Yes, it sounds silly…at first….

The basic premise of the two book manga GYO (The Death Stench Creeps): Volume 1
is that sea life has started climbing out of the ocean on strange, organically manufactured but artificially installed little legs. The setup is pretty bloody weird already, but the horror doesn’t end there. The first appearence of a ‘fish with legs’ is almost funny. But it’s merely the warning shot of a much bigger disaster for humanity. Because these things are powered by the gassy stench of death itself, and the attacks from the ocean to the land are about to get much more deadly, and much larger, too.

Most notably, starting with this Gshunking monster:

Continue reading

Author Interview: Bruce Brown of Lovecraft for All Ages!

Today I am very happy to introduce an interview with Bruce Brown, creator of two graphic novels (so far) which chart the misadventures of young Howard Phillips Lovecraft and ‘explain’ how he became mixed up with the monsters of the Necronomicron. 

Howard Lovecraft & the Undersea Kingdom by Bruce Brown

The latest graphic novel by Bruce and co-written with Dwight L McPherson

Bruce lives in Springfield, Illinois and you can keep up with his latest work and news through Twitter, Facebook, and Amazon. His co-author, Dwight L. MacPherson’s site can be found here.

The Haunted Eyeball’s recent review of the two graphic novels, ‘…Frozen’ and ‘…Undersea’ Kingdom are here.

Starting ut

Haunted Eyeball: Welcome to the Haunted Eyeball, Bruce. Tell us, which authors did you enjoy as you were growing up?

Bruce Brown: I had so little interest in reading as a child because it was a struggle for me. It was my mother who introduced me to comics in an effort to spur my interest in reading. So, when I was young, all the early comic writers of my childhood drew me into comics but more importantly the joys of reading.

What do you like most about the horror genre?

I love the unknown in horror. I am not a big fan of the scare with the gory payoff.  The horror genre taps into the depths of the mind that lets you fill in the blanks on what is the scary thing lurking in the shadows is; Lovecraft was the master of this.

Do you have a favourite horror film?

Lately I have been watching the old Dark Shadows television show. Granted, I know it’s not a film (but soon will be – HE), but it had stuck with me so, because it was so elegant and subtle in creating this eerie mood. The horror is just right out of your sight, but you feel it. So, at the moment, that is my favorite horror.

Do any graphic novels or comics influence you?

I would say that Christopher Priest’s run on Black Panther. It was so unique and mesmerizing to me. I had never read anything like it and it showed me comics could tell stories in an incredibly unique way.

What’s your favourite H P Lovecraft story? (or top three!)

I would have to say “The Colour out of Space” and “The Shadow over Innsmouth”. They were the first Lovecraft stories I ever read and I was absolutely awed by Lovecraft’s work.

Lovecraft and the ‘Howard’ Graphic Novels

What inspired the creation of the ‘all ages’ novels?

Honestly, I have done other books that weren’t all ages, so I let the story I want to tell dictate whether it is all ages or not.

What part of H P Lovecraft’s work would be too dark to touch in these
graphic novels?

I think nothing is too dark if it is handled right. There are some extremely dark elements in the Frozen Kingdom but all of them are treated off panel.  There are things in the Frozen Kingdom I remember thinking about after the book was done and I was surprised how truly dark it was in certain parts.

Would you be interested in ever doing more adult versions of Mythos
stories?

I actually did co write an adult mythos story with my co-writer of the Undersea Kingdom, Dwight L MacPherson. I really enjoyed working on that story, but as far as Lovecraft mythos, I will probably only stick with my boys Howard and Spot.

The art is very lush, did you consciously go with a less ‘cartoony’ style, especially for the more epic scenes?

Absolutely! Both Renzo (Podesta) and Thomas (Boatwright) have such unique styles that they added to the eerie quality of the story. A cartoony style would have been totally wrong destroyed the mood of the whole story. Plus I wanted to mention the beautifully subtle interior cover art of Nicholas Brondo.

How did you decide what parts of Lovecraft’s real life to leave out, and why?

There are so many elements to Lovecraft’s work to play with. I wanted to blend real life things in Lovecraft’s life along with his work.   There are key elements to Lovecraft himself I wanted to include in these stories.

It is difficult to choose what elements of his work to use in the stories; just too many wonderful characters and stories to choose from.

Do you hope this will encourage kids to grow up and get into Lovecraft
and other horror stories?

Absolutely! I truly hope this will encourage younger readers to check
out Lovecraft’s work when they are older.

The Future

Can you hint at what lies in wait for young Howard and his faithful
friend Spot?  

The next installment, if sales allow for another, will really ramp things up for Howard and Spot. I think it is important to expand their universe in ways that also explain the real Lovecraft himself; of course done with a unique twist.

Name of the next instalment?

Well it will always be Howard Lovecraft & The……..Kingdom. But the words, Middle, Hidden, and Underground have been tossed around.

When are you expecting it to be released?

Hopefully it won’t be as long as a wait for the next book as there was for this one.

Any final message you’d like to give to the lovely readers of the Haunted Eyeball?

First, I wanted to thank the Eyeball for allowing me to talk about Howard and Spot and their adventures. Also, I wanted to ask its readers to please check out the Howard Lovecraft series! If you are a fan of Lovecraft or never heard of him, to give it a chance; you won’t be disappointed!

Many thanks for your time and best wishes Bruce!

Also of interest:

First look: You Know, For Squids

Innsmouth PressFuture Lovecraft

Real Ghostbusters:Call of Cathulhu

Lovecraft Week! Video: Lovecraft’s Pillow

And finally….we end the Haunted Eyeball’s Lovecraft Week with a look at a fantastic short film inspired and part written by Stephen King, and directed by Mark Steensland (who also made the terrifying Peekers).

It’s the kind of situation that every aspiring writer could have to face, and hopefully empathise with (OK, part from the actual pillow thing). Don’t be fooled by its low-key approach, this is a great short about the boundaries between reality, madness, and beating the crap out of writer’s block. There’s also a bit of a ‘magic beans’ aspect to it all.

***

While the unfortunate wife probably doesn’t deserve to suffer this fate, this is really an exercise in writerly wish fulfilment! This guy isn’t quite starting with a Stephen King career, you get the sense he’s on his path to success. Just wait until he starts self-publishing…

More info about this short film can be found over here, on IMDB.

The rest of Lovecraft Week on the Haunted Eyeball

Short stories: Two Bite sized Lovecraftian stories by James Pratt

Graphic Novels: “Howard Lovecraft and the….” by Bruce Brown

Anthology: Future Lovecraft by Innsmouth Press

TV: The Real Ghostbusters ‘Collect Call of Cthulhu’

Also check out:

Short horror film: Peekers

Review: Just After Sunset by Stephen King

Review: Innsmouth Press Magazine Issue 8

Graphic novel: You Know, for Squids?

Lovecraft Week! Review: ‘Howard Lovecraft and the…’

While H. P. Lovecraft’s stories are generally filed on the horrific side of the library, there’s no doubt that his writing is accessible to almost any age group. Unpleasant events in his stories generally happen behind a screen of cleverly structured sentences, spawning great unease in a timeless and highly atmospheric manner, and leaving enough to the imagination to scare the bejesus out of any reader. While most of his stories are not graphic in the modern horror sense, they are frequently about abominations squirming their way into humanity’s corner of the universe. This means that there are always lots of monsters in his work. And kids love monsters.

Bruce Brown takes advantage of this by creating two visually stunning graphic novels that follow the (we can only assume) fictional adventures of a young ‘Howard Lovecraft’. In ‘the Frozen Kingdom’, he innocently reads out forbidden passages from his asylum-bound father’s copy of the Necronomicon, promptly getting him flung into the ice-spelled lands of a Kingdom where the Elder Gods hold sway and deadly conspiracies abound. Howard must summon all his courage and daring to survive his journey there.

In the direct sequel, ‘Howard and the Undersea Kingdom’, (co-written this time with Dwight L. MacPherson), our young hero’s troubles only increase. Unpleasant beings from beyond are hunting him and his notorious book, and now his beloved mother is also in great danger. Luckily Howard’s knack for making strange alliances continues here too, introducing a fabulous policeman character who provides some much-needed heavy firepower. There’s also a cat which can more than hold its own against an oozing shoggoth or two, and plenty more insider references for old school fans to enjoy.

However, you don’t need to be a Lovecraft buff to get quickly drawn in by these stories. Although substantial liberties are taken with what’s known of H P Lovecraft’s life, this is a beautifully illustrated and often very funny introduction to the Cthulhu Mythos and its gruesome gallery of monsters. The dialogue is hilarious, and the increasingly terrifying situations are played with a tongue firmly in cheek, especially when Howard acquires his new best friend, ‘Spot’, who is an utterly charming and thoroughly unlikely side-kick. The powerful artwork also keeps the mood strange but wholly accessible.

In fact the illustrations, rendered in both novels by Renzo Podesta, are truly gorgeous. A lush approach to line and colour breathes sweeping life into the endless frozen wastelands and deep green undersea landscapes, as well as giving a vast scope to the towering eldritch abominations. The monsters look appropriately sinister, yet some are strangely appealing (Spot!). Happily there’s no skimping on the tentacles, or on the potential horror of the situations. This is adult horror gentled through a child’s eyes, playing on Howard’s joyful wonder and feeling more like a coming of age quest, or a decent 1980s teenage-orientated film with a very large budget. While there are somedark moments, there certainly aren’t any decapitated heads in here, but it doesn’t hide the bleak, shadowy nature of the dangerous dimensions where Howard winds up.

Bruce Brown’s graphic novels are a brilliant introduction to H P Lovecraft and certainly are suitable for ‘all ages’. You’ll laugh, you’ll groan, and you’ll cheer, and then quickly check the back of your sofa for shoggoths. A gorgeously presented collection, these two books really aren’t enough. Luckily, it seems likely that there’s another sequel on the way!

Highly recommended.

View all my reviews

Also related:

You Know, For Squids…

Lovecraft Week on the Haunted Eyeball:

Review: ‘Future Lovecraft’ anthology by Innsmouth Press

1980s cartoons & Lovecraft: The Real Ghosbusters ‘The Collect Call of Cathulhu’

Bite sized Lovecraft stories by James Pratt

Lovecraft Week themed week ends tomorrow, but horror and H P Lovecraft especially will always be a recurring subject here on the Haunted Eyeball!

What Has Washed Up On The Shores Of South Carolina?

Amazing creature, just what is going on in the depths of the ocean? Fantastic blog entry by Unspeakable Gibberer.

Unspeakable Gibberer

So something else has crawled out of the depths of the ocean to land on our shore. Though it looks like something new, and unnamable, the South Carolina sea monster has been identified as a prehistoric Atlantic Sturgeon. Sturgeon have been around for approximately 100 million years. They have survived extinction after extinction, and have been around for most of the big changes our planet has gone through. But even with a hide of stone, these unique creatures have met their match.

For over a century these creatures, who swam with the dinosaurs, have had a lot of trouble with mankind. About a hundred years ago it was common, and very popular, for fisherman to come across one of these plated beasts harvest their eggs for caviar. This was done no other way than to sacrifice the female and harvesting the eggs. This is how Sturgeon began to disappear. Pollution…

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Lovecraft Week: Real Ghostbusters ‘The Collect Call of Cathulhu’

People who love horror often started their fascination early on. For instance, if you grew up in the 1980s, it seemed you could scarcely move for cartoon monsters, demons and Dungeons and Dragons. Even My Little Pony had a particularly nasty beast at one point. But the The Real Ghostbusters in particular stand out from its animated peers. Spawned from the phenomenal success of Ghostbusters (1984), the early seasons of The Real Ghostbusters were created with the full blessing and influence of Dan Akroyd and co. It also had some very decent writers, most notably J Michael Straczynski. Upon revisiting, some twenty-plus years later, The Real Ghosbusters remains streets ahead of many similar shows at the time, especially in terms of unusual storytelling and enjoyably snarky adult characters.

Although the animation isn’t as lush or fluid when compared to modern cartoonage, it’s extremely well produced and the sheer inventiveness of the ghosts, and the cynical banter between the Ghostbusters themselves, are a real joy. The lesson here is that cynicism doesn’t age! No part of pop culture or ancient history, was out of bounds and it drew from anything and everything, ranging from Citizen Kane to Norse Mythology, and of course, good old Howard Phillips Lovecraft.

Which explains the episode ‘The Collect Call of Cathulhu’. Punning on Lovecraft’s famous Call of Cthulhu story, and written by Michael Reaves, we can assume that the misspelling of ‘Cthulhu’ in in this title is so the kids watching won’t be confused about how it’s pronounced. Equally, it could have been done to piss off rabid H P Lovecraft fans. Your call, Eyeballers.

Of course, the episode’s plot is just a little hokey – some mook from the Miskatonic University opts to display the notorious Necronomicon at the New York Public Library (did the Ghostbusters ever dispatch their first ghostly encounter there?) Of course the tome gets stolen, our guys are called in to find it, and the Ghostbusters soon face off against some aggressive and fast-regenerating Cathulhu(sic) Spawn underground. This sewer attack is actually played pretty straight, the guys look absolutely terrified (and they’re hardened ghost fighters after all!) so the Cthulhu/Cathulhu awakening is really a pretty big deal. It could even be considered pretty dark.

Cathulhu, Cthulhu, Ghostbusters, Collect Call of Cthulhu, H P Lovecraft, horror

However, including overt references to the Cthulhu Mythos (mainly from the August Derleth perspective, it seems) in a show ostensibly aimed at kids really isn’t so surprising. Let’s not forget that the first Ghostbusters movie is effectively a Lovecraftian movie all on its own. The live-action Ghostbusters battled Gozer the Gozerian, the Destructor, ender of reality and turner of innocent apartment dwellers into giant monstrous ‘dogs’. Oh, and several makers of the original Ghostbusters film also worked on Heavy Metal, an animated film not without its own blatant Chthulhu references (and a few more nekkid boobs, too)!

Including Cathulhu/Cthulhu in the plot here just seems like a natural step. It’s not taken too lightly, either, even though there are some priceless lines such as “Anything that looks like Godzilla wearing an octopus hat shouldn’t be hard to find.” – Pete Venkman.
To emphasise just how serious the threat of Cathulhu’s return actually is, Egon points out that Gozer is “Little Mary Sunshine” in comparison. Yikes. (Think how big that Twinkie must be!) This neatly provides viewers who’ve never heard of Cathulhu/Cthulhu (for instance, all the under-fives in the audience at the time of broadcast!) with a sense of the scale of a ‘dreaming’ god that could kick Gozer’s ectoplasmic rear back across infinity. Again, yikes.

So, how do the Real Ghostbusters cope with battling the greatest threat to humanity to world has ever known? Check out the video of the episode just below to find out:

For sheer fan service, The Collect Call of Cathulhu is an outstanding episode. From Pete Venkman lusting over Ms Derleth, then battling ‘Cathulhu’ with a proton pack from a moving rollercoaster, to Egon basically saying ‘we’re screwed’, and Ray’s love of Weird Science magazines helping them to win in the final showdown, frankly it’s all over a bit too fast.

Points if you spot the blatant Scooby-Do ending, too. Also, South Park also seem to have been influenced by this episode’s approach to the Mythos in their recent episodes. It can’t be a total coincidence that Cartman meets his own Cthulhu while he’s on a rollercoaster, can it?

Coming up tomorrow – Innsmouth Press presents Future Lovecraft stories

Coming up on Thursday – H P Lovecraft and the Frozen Kingdom by Bruce Brown

Don’t miss:

Lovecraft week, day one – James Pratt’s bite-sized Lovecraftian horror stories reviewed 

Also of interest

You know, for Squids!

Innsmouth Magazine Issue 8 reviewed

Author Interview: James Pratt (Part 3 of 3)

Black Scarab picture, James Pratt,

Meet James Pratt (disguised as The Black Scarab)

Welcome to the final part of the Haunted Eyeball’s interview with horror author James Pratt. Today we discuss Inspiration & Publicity.

Part 1: Writing Process

Part 2: Inspiration and Publicity

Part 3: Lovecraft and Horror! – TODAY

James Pratt likes to create realistically flawed but basically decent characters and have them cross paths with serial killer angels, redneck vampires, slithering horrors from other dimensions, and the end of the world. He also likes to write stories that demonstrate how the ever-present darkness threatening to wash over the world like a wave of endless night can be held back with a little courage and a big shotgun (assuming one hasn’t already used both barrels, of course). Some take place in the distant past, others in the far future, and still others somewhere between eight minutes ago and twelve minutes from now. Whether sci-fi, adventure, or straight-out horror, the running theme is that the universe is very, very big and we are very, very small.

His books are available on both Smashwords or on Amazon. You can also follow James on Goodreads and Twitter.

Lovecraft and horror! 

Haunted Eyeball: What’s the first H P Lovecraft story you remember reading?

James Pratt: The Shadow Out of Time. I found it confusingly fascinating.

What drew you to Lovecraft? Why are you still a fan?

I was drawn to Lovecraft by the vast scope of his imagination and ability to convey an absolute sense of cosmic wonder and dread. I now read his works with a more mature and critical eye, but I’m still a humongous fan. His contribution to modern horror is undeniable and the sheer ambition of his stories has yet to be matched.

What do you most enjoy about mixing up genres and mixing in Lovecraft and horror?

I like the idea that the Cthulhu mythos has always been there, subtly infiltrating and influencing history and providing the foundation upon which many myths are legends were unknowingly built. The desolation of the mythic Wild West is a perfect setting for Lovecraftian horror. And the mythos’s fluid nature and resistance to continuity makes it extremely flexible for use in unconventional settings and genres far removed from traditional horror, like say for instance Winnie the Pooh’s Hundred Acre Wood. Not that anyone would be sick enough to write a Lovecraftian Winnie the Pooh story, of course.

How do you feel about ‘torture porn’ and other labels ascribed to modern horror films and books?

Unfortunately, in many cases it’s an accurate label. Personally, I find horrors movies that are essentially pretend snuff films extremely boring. I like monsters and supernatural weirdness, not women being raped with chainsaws. Being explicit for its own sake isn’t the same as pushing the envelope. That being said, I have to admit I was fascinated by the wonderful grotesqueness of Clive Barker’s Books of Blood.

What’s the last horror film or book you read or watched?

I’m ashamed to answer this one. I think it was ‘The Convent’, a movie about demonic nuns. It was pretty cheesy, but on the plus side Adrienne Barbeau was in it.

Horror writers can get jaded! What film or book (or picture!) last really scared you?

I found the first ‘Paranormal Activity’ movie genuinely creepy. ‘Insidious’ also had its moments. I loved the demon. And I can still watch ‘The Exorcist’ and feel a bit uneasy. I really wish it was possible to ‘delete’ experiences so you could see a film or read a book for the first time over and over again.

Do you have a survival plan for the end of the world? Which end of world scenario – zombies, bunny overcrowding, owl infestation, would you rather end up facing?

I’ve mapped out which neighbors would be easiest to handle in case I have to resort to cannibalism. My favorite end of the world scenario would of course be the return of the Old Ones. I won’t have to face it though. As a worshipper of Cthulhu, I’ll have the honor of being eaten first.

Which character you’ve created is your favourite (so far)?

I really like my version of Elvis in ‘Cthelvis’ but he’s based on an actual person and to be honest it didn’t take much work to turn the real thing into a wonderfully weird character. If I had to pick one, it would probably be Horton the rockabilly vampire from ‘Horton Hits a Ho’, closely followed by the brothers Sanjay and Umesh from ‘Incident at the 24-7’.

Are vampires losing their bite? (y’know…Twilight…) or is more variety a good thing?

As fictional creatures, vampires can be whatever a given writer wants them to be. That said, I HATE what vampires have become. Dracula wasn’t a love story, it was about ego and obsession. And what happens when you piss off Vengeful God (as opposed to Loving God). When the monster becomes the cool kid, he’s no longer the monster. Or maybe he’s just a different sort of monster, and definitely not the kind you want to root for. To me, Christopher Lee’s Dracula was the quintessential vampire. He wasn’t a hopeless romantic trapped in an immortal body but a monster whose human appearance was just a disguise. Vampires are supernatural parasites. They can’t give, they can only take. But that’s just my opinion. If somebody can make a living writing schlocky romance stories about star-crossed (undead) lovers, more power to them.

The future!

What are you currently working on (scary, I know)?

Trying to finish a fantasy novel with Lovecraftian overtones, sort of a cross between The Lord of the Rings and The Shadow Out of Time.

Are there any other writers you’d like to work with?

Yeah, but they’re all dead. I’m sure there are plenty of writers out there, indie or otherwise, that I would love to collaborate with but like I said, I haven’t even begun to tap the full potential of social media and connect with any of them. I’ve got to get my act together.

And finally…

 Any message you’d like to give to the lovely readers of the Eyeball?

If you wish there were more non-conventional books and films out there, then support what you like. YOU determine the market, not the other way around. If you want to make a living doing something creative, don’t wait for the world to come knocking at your door. Go out and create.

Thank you for reading this interview with the wonderful James Pratt, you awesome Eyeballers.

Don’t forget, all of James’ books are available right now at Smashwords, Amazon and check him out over on Goodreads and Twitter.

Also of interest:

Part 1 of this interview.

Part 2 of this interview.

James Pratt’s work has already been reviewed right here on the Haunted Eyeball!

5 Stories That Bite by James Pratt

When Dead Gods Dream by James Pratt

Other Author interviews:

A recent Eyeball Interview with urban horror writer Chris Davis