Horror as a genre has long since permeated the mainstream audience. From H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulian imagery, to the flood of late 70’s/ early 80’s slashers, and to the Saw torture porn of today (I guess that is an example of evolution). While I do not reside in the humble realm of the Freddy and Jason fans stereotypically associated with the genre, I do enjoy horror. If you don’t count gore/satire films like Dead Alive or Tokyo Gore Police, I usually frequent the works of Junji Ito, Jacen Burrows, and John Ajvide Lindqvist (whose second American released novel just came in from Amazon). Maybe there is some connection as to why my favorite works all seem to come from creators that have names starting with “J”. Tonight, we will be sitting down with the Australian horror anthology, Kagemono: Flowers and Skulls, which I promise will not disappoint.
Released by a small publisher Black Glass Press in late 2010, Kagemono: Flowers and Skulls is a comic and essay anthology molded together by writer Jason Franks. Outside of writing many of the titles in this anthology, he worked as editor and designer. I feel the madness within these pages stems from his vision. As with any anthology, Franks gathered up many of the local Australian writers and artists, and collected their works into Kagemono. I decided to choose a few of these based on best story or art.
Smells Like Teen Something
Jerry, a maybe sixteen something kid, is being nagged by his mother to take out the garbage. He, like you would expect, complains all the way. What makes this story different is the way he gets to the trash. See, Jerry walks through his darkly lit house, at one point trying to pawn off the job to his father, who is chair-ridden with a broken foot. In the kitchen, he puts on this armor that is very reminiscent of the ones worn in the Starship Troopers’ movies, and dons this big gun. After stopping once more to talk with his little sister, Jerry ventures out to “take out the garbage.”
Carlen Lavigne, writes the story in a way that takes “taking out the garbage” to a new level. The armor and gun respectfully have the words “ZDL” and “AA12” on them. Now the armor’s acronym makes sense once you have read the final page, and from what I could find online, the AA12 is a combat shotgun with a magazine cartridge that makes it look like a Thompson (think of the machine guns from any mobster film).
In what I consider to be homage to the film I Confess, a priest is deeply concerned with the confessions of one of the members of his church. See this story is about a man (also named Jerry, of course) who goes out looking for woman to rape and murder, after which he returns to the priest for forgiveness. Jerry claims he has these “urges” that take over and makes him do these things. This goes on for a while until the priest dreams about turning into a lizard monster and killing Jerry. This becomes true the next day when he sees Jerry during the day harassing a woman. The priest takes him into the alley and kills him in the name of god. But the priest’s torments do not end there…
I was under the impression that I was not going to like Absolution (I read it after almost every other story), but it is a generally good story. Out of every quick revelation that this anthology has, “Absolution” carries the most impact. David Scherwood raises the tension then at the breather lets it explode.
Nicholas Hunter’s fantastic cover is by far the biggest reason I, like many others, would pick up Kagemono. He also drew the art for The Key In The Wall. The first thing you realize when you see his work is just how clean it is. While there seems to be a lot of hand drawn panels (for instance a cross weave pattern in the clothing), I want to say that he uses rendering software, but I cannot say that without proof. I am led to believe this because of the way he draws people’s faces, considering that all of them seem to have a heavy dose of gloss around the nose and eyes.
From what I have seen of Leigh Kuilboer’s other illustrations, the motorcycle heavy biker fantasy that is Desert Leviathan comes as the perfect fit. Kuilboer’s artwork seems to be focused on what a biker tattoo artist would draw if they also happened to be a classic horror fan (it reminds me of an older men’s version of that race competition from Scooby Doo And The Ghoul School). From pin-up girls and muscle cars, to everything in between; Kuilboer drives (ha ha) home Desert Leviathan’s “more bike than man” Ghost Rider premise.
Pros: Has enough diversity in the choice of stories and artwork for each to stand out on their own. Has nice dark humor (especially in A Special Occasion and Memorial Soup) that does not hold any punches. It is a nice looking release for an independent publisher.
Cons: Some of the stories are just not suited for the low page count.
Since Kagemono is an indie anthology, buying a copy takes some effort. I bought my copy at a convention from one of the authors. Amazon has a few copies, so I suggest checking there. Black Glass Press sells their works straight from their site. Kagemono: Flowers and Skulls is worth adding to one’s collection.