2010 BLACK FRIDAY CHOPPING LIST: BOOKS & COMICS

There’s something for every horror fan on your gift list in the “books & comics” section of B-D’s 2010 Black Friday Chopping list – from lovers of great poster art to rabid aficionados of indie comic books; from those who tend to engage in thought-provoking academic-minded discussions on the nature of the genre to those who just enjoy taking in as much grotesque, depraved imagery as they can get their hands on, this should prove a great guide for anyone scratching their heads over what to buy for one of those odd people who enjoy, um…whatchamacalit? Oh, yeah. Reading.

COMICS & BOOKS | FILMS | MUSIC | TOYS | GAMES

The Art of Hammer by Marcus Hearn

List Price: $29.95

Release Date: November 23, 2010

In the first ever collection of Hammer’s legendary film posters, Titan Books presents The Art of Hammer, a hardcover tome fit for any horror fan’s coffee table. Inside the book you’ll find nearly 300 poster images culled both from Hammer’s own archive and private collections around the world, featuring the studio’s trademark blend of Gothic imagery and…well, ample bosoms. Annotated by Marcus Hearn – who also authored last year’s delicious Hammer Glamour – and fully authorized by Hammer Films, this collection of beautifully-rendered, macabre poster art would make a perfect gift for both Hammer enthusiasts and/or that person in your life who simply appreciates good art. And boobs.

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The Dylan Dog Case Files by Tiziano Sclavi

List Price: $24.99

This 680-page volume collects seven issues of the popular Italian comic book series that were previously translated into English and released by Dark Horse. The series, created by Tiziano Sclavi, follows “nightmare investigator” Dylan Dog who, along with punning sidekick Felix (known as Groucho in the Italian versions but changed in the U.S. due to a legal dispute with Groucho Marx’s estate), specializes in tracking down supernatural forces. In the manner of James Bond the handsome PI also has a thing for the ladies, often bedding the distressed women who hire him out. Featuring cover art by famed comic book artist Mike Mignola, this will please any fan of the series and help tide them over until the Dylan Dog feature adaptation starring Brandon Routh – sub-titled Dead of Night – is released in March of next year.

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Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King

List Price: $27.99

Release Date: Out now

Just in time for the holidays, the prolific King is back with Full Dark, No Stars, a collection of four novellas that plumb the depths of ordinary men’s capacity for evil. “1922″ has a farmer murdering his wife in cold blood and living to regret it; the I Spit on Your Grave-sounding “Big Driver” concerns a woman out for grisly retribution after she’s raped and left for dead; “A Good Marriage” is about what happens when a woman discovers a box in the garage containing the horrific evidence of her seemingly docile husband’s secret double life; and “Fair Extension” follows Dave Streeter, a man plagued with bad luck who makes a deal with the Devil to cure his cancer in exchange for taking out retribution on his more successful best friend, who he has secretly hated all his life. These tales reportedly represent some of King’s darkest work yet, which should be a ringing endorsement for any aficionado. Since most fans will likely be picking this up for themselves before Christmas rolls around, try buying it for that literary snob in your life who stares down his or her nose at popular fiction and claims King is a second-tier writer – if for no other reason than to piss them off. Maybe include a note with it that says: “try reading him first”.

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Crossed Volume 1 by Garth Ennis

List Price: $24.99

Comic book writer Garth Ennis, best known for working on Marvel’s Punisher series for several years, in 2008 embarked on perhaps his most personal and extreme project yet with Crossed, a post-apocalyptic novel about a group of survivors attempting to survive a plague that causes the afflicted – who can be identified by a rash in the shape of a cross on their faces – to carry through on their darkest impulses. The 10-issue limited series (a follow-up entitled Crossed: Family Values was penned by David Lapham) has now been collected into a single 240-page volume to satisfy the twisted desires of anyone who enjoys viewing senseless acts of depravity, stomach-churning gore, and other hideous goings-on, much of it involving the slaughter of women and children. Do not be mistaken: this is one sick and envelope-pushing series, making it the perfect gift for anyone you suspect may be slightly unbalanced.

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American Vampire Vol. 1 by Scott Snyder

List Price: $24.99

This gorgeously illustrated, 200-page volume collects the first five issues of Scott Snyder’s American Vampire comic book series, featuring two stories – one written by Snyder and the other by master of horror Stephen King. King’s story is set in the Old West in the late 1800s and concerns Skinner Sweet, an outlaw who runs afoul of a vampire gang and goes after them for revenge after they leave him for dead. Snyder’s story takes place in the glamorous world of Hollywood in the 1920′s and follows Pearl, a young starlet ambushed by a bloodsucking producer (literally) and his group of vampire cronies. The paths of Skinner and Pearl cross when Skinner discovers the young woman dying of blood loss in the desert and turns her into a vampire to keep her “alive”. Following Skinner’s footsteps, Pearl then goes out to on a mission of bloody revenge to get back at those that wronged her. With illustrations by Rafael Albuquerque and the first original story King has ever written specifically for the comic book format, American Vampire is a thoroughly American slice of vampire fiction and a damn fine read that should please any fan of gritty, beautifully-rendered horror. This first volume boasts extras including an intro by Stephen King, variant covers from the five collected issues, cover sketches and character designs by Rafael Albuquerque, and sample script pages by Snyder and King.

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The Horror! The Horror!: Comic Books the Government Didn’t Want You to Read! by Jim Trombetta

List Price: $29.95

For anyone on your list who couldn’t get enough of all those horror anthology series growing up, The Horror! The Horror! should make for the perfect gift. This massive book – over 300 pages in all – was culled from the personal collection of author Jim Trombetta, and focuses on the pre-Code comics of the early 1950s, before Congress stepped in with claims that the shocking imagery was contributing to rampant delinquency in America’s youth. The collection includes images from more than 200 covers and complete stories from these early horror comics, accompanied by Trombetta’s informed analysis and commentary about the hysteria that came to surround them. It also comes with a bonus DVD entitled “Confidential File”, a rare 25-minute TV show that first aired on October 9, 1955, about the “evils” of comic books and how they were contributing to the downfall of American children. As the Committee of the Judiciary said back in 1955, “THIS BOOK CONTAINS: MURDER! MAYHEM! ROBBERY! RAPE! CANNIBALISM! CARNAGE! NECROPHILIA! SEX! SADISM! MASOCHISM . . . and virtually every other form of crime, degeneracy, bestiality, and horror!” Happy holidays!

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Four Color Fear: Forgotten Horror Comics of the 1950s edited by Greg Sadowski and John Benson

List Price: $19.99

If you have a little extra cash to spend on your horror comic-loving friend or family member and you’re looking for a companion for The Horror! The Horror! to stash beneath the Christmas tree, Four Color Fear is probably your best bet. This collection, edited by Greg Sadowski and John Benson, focuses on rare titles from less-well-known publishing houses that enjoy quite a bit less modern-day attention than the old EC comics but often boast the same level of quality. Benson and Sadowski went through hundreds of virtually forgotten pre-Code horror comics, choosing those that represented the best in non-EC storylines. They also include extensive background notes on the artists and companies involved in the production of the chosen titles, as well as digital restoration (“to correct registration and printing errors”) to recreate the full luster of the original printings. Four Color Fear is 304 pages of a fascinating chapter in comic book history that, were it not for the likes of Sadowski and Benson, could have very well been consigned to oblivion.

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The Weird World of Eerie Publications: The Comic Gore That Warped Millions of Young Minds edited by Mike Howlett

List Price: $32.95

Release Date: November 30, 2010

Eerie Publications, run by notorious comic book artist and magazine publisher Myron Fass, is fondly remembered by many horror fans who grew up in the 1960s and ’70s and were corrupted by the ultra-gory covers and stories contained inside. With titles like “Horror Tales”, “Terrors of Dracula”, “3-D Monsters” and “Tales from the Tomb”, Eerie was a rather down-market publisher of horror comics that featured some of the goriest artwork of that time, though because they were published in a magazine format they didn’t require the seal of approval from the Comics Code Authority (which heavily regulated sexual and violent content in the industry at the time). Therefore, the books were able to get away with quite a bit more than other horror comics of the day. Over 340 pages (bound in hardcover) The Weird World of Eerie Publications has editor Mike Howlett delving into the background behind the infamous publisher, in addition to reprinting some of the gloriously depraved artwork that should take those of a certain age back to the days of hiding copies of “Witches’ Tales” beneath their mattresses.

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The Fall by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan

List Price: $26.99

The Fall is the second book in the “The Strain” trilogy, penned by director Guillermo del Toro and co-writer Chuck Hogan (author of Prince of Thieves, the novel that was adapted into this year’s Ben Affleck-directed The Town). The first book in the series, released just last year, followed Dr. Ephraim Goodweather of the CDC as he unraveled the plot of a group of ancient bloodsuckers to transform the population of the world into vampires by unleashing a horrific virus. The Fall picks up where the first one left off, as the strain takes over the city of New York and begins spreading across the U.S., with Dr. Goodweather leading a band of survivors to try and stop the vampires from taking over. The books, del Toro’s first foray into the world of literature, are the result of his stated attempt to return vampire fiction to its early, gritty roots in folklore and away from the romanticized version currently dominating pop culture. As such, they should serve as a welcome diversion for any Twilight hater on your gift list.

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The Passage by Justin Cronin

List Price: $27.00

Justin Cronin’s highly-acclaimed third novel, the first in a planned trilogy that Ridley Scott is already developing as a film franchise, is similar to del Toro and Hogan’s “Strain” series in that it concerns a virus that transforms its victims into bloodthirsty vampires, but with a more pensive, Cormac McCarthy-esque consideration of what it means to be human in a world gone horribly mad. The first half of the novel focuses on the origins of the virus as a secret government project to develop super-soldiers that goes horribly wrong, while the second half draws us into the struggle of a surviving group known as “The Colony” one hundred years after the initial outbreak. When a young girl wanders into their midst who shows all the symptoms of those afflicted with the virus – namely their extremely slowed-down aging process – minus the insatiable thirst for blood, they attempt to unlock the key to her condition in the hopes of finding a cure. Told through a combination of storytelling techniques that includes newspaper articles, diary entries and email conversations, The Passage is a dark dream that recalls dystopian classics such as The Road and The Stand but presents a terrifying vision all its own.

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Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame–Smith

List Price: $21.99

The latest novel from Pride & Prejudice & Zombies author Seth Grahame-Smith, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is written as a biography of our 16th president, albeit one told through a series of journal entries written by the man himself – who it turns out moonlit as a slayer of bloodsuckers (a menace he apparently never saw fit to warn the American public about). If you can suspend disbelief long enough the book is an enjoyable diversion that should satisfy fans of Grahame-Smith’s previous work, which similarly inserted supernatural overtones into the fictional world of Jane Austen. Overall it’s a quick, breezy, gruesome read that may not amuse historical purists but should prove reasonably entertaining for anyone who doesn’t take it all that seriously.

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Horns by Joe Hill

List Price: $25.99

Author Joe Hill, writer of the Locke & Key comic book series and son of horror master Stephen King, released his first novel, Heart-Shaped Box, back in 2007. His second, Horns, is about a man named Ignatius Perrish, who wakes up after a night of hard drinking and “doing terrible things” to discover he has…well, horns growing from his head. Though he initially believes the horns are a hallucination resulting from his grief over the rape and murder of his wife Merrin a year ago – a crime for which a cloud of suspicion has fallen over him – he soon comes to realize they are all too real. Not only that, but they come with a set of powers that, among other things, causes those he comes in contact with to confess their darkest, ugliest secrets to him – including his own family, who he comes to discover actually believe him to be guilty of murdering his wife. Using these newfound powers, Ig sets out to find out once and for all who committed the crime and wreak his revenge. Critics have called Hill’s writing accomplished, chilling, and darkly comic, and reviews for Horns have been overwhelmingly positive, with The San Francisco Chronicle commenting that the novel is “[A] fresh, tough-minded take on what it means to make a deal with the devil and your own worst nature.” Turns out the apple really doesn’t fall far from the tree.

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X’ed Out by Charles Burns

List Price: $19.95

The latest graphic novel by Black Hole author Charles Burns and featuring more of his outlandish artwork, X’ed Out is another bizarre story about a young man named Doug who alternates between the worlds of fantasy, flashbacks and reality (but which is which?) while recovering from a head injury. The first in a planned series, X’ed Out is a typically bizarre, hallucinatory outing for Burns, alternating between snippets of Doug and his dysfunctional home life, wild teenage parties filled with a coterie of stoned slackers, and a horrifying secret world – discovered by Doug when he follows his dead cat into a hole in a brick wall – featuring deformed beings other grotesqueries. Fans of Black Hole and Burns’ other work should eat this one up with the same relish, though its relative brevity (52 pages) will also leave them salivating for the next chapter in the series.

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Unexplored Worlds: The Steve Ditko Archives (Vol. 2) edited by Blake Bell

List Price: $39.99

Release Date: December 17, 2010

Though it won’t be released until mid-December, those searching for the perfect gift for fans of classic comic book art would do well to pre-order this, the second volume of original Amazing Spider Man artist Steve Ditko’s lesser-known horror/sci-fi output. Presenting some of Ditko’s finest work from his pre-Marvel career, this volume features 224 pages of glorious four-color comic book art that was compiled by Blake Bell, author of the critically acclaimed Strange and Stranger: The World of Steve Ditko, a retrospective of Ditko’s career that was released in 2008. The hardcover tome opens with an introduction by Bell discussing the historical context of the artwork presented here, as well as a consideration of Ditko’s profound influence on further generations of comic book artists.

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The Philosophy of Horror (The Philosophy of Popular Culture) edited by Thomas Richard Fahy

List Price: $35.00

The Philosophy of Horror would make the perfect gift for that person on your list who enjoys reading more into seemingly self-explanatory ’80s horror movies than meets the eye – i.e. just what is the underlying social message of Jason Takes Manhattan? Professor Richard Fahy takes a serious approach to the horror genre, collecting a multitude of scholarly essays that deconstruct everything from real works of cinematic art like 1934′s The Black Cat and The Birds to a cheesy reality television show (Ghost Hunters). In the process he attempts to paint a broader portrait of the horror genre as an area worthy of academic research, one that can serve both as a lightning rod for important cultural discussions and ask relevant questions about the nature of being human.

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American Horror Film: The Genre at the Turn of the Millenium edited by Steffen Hantke

List Price: $50.00

Like The Philosophy of Horror, American Horror Film also takes a scholarly approach to the genre, but unlike the previous entry sets its focus on the last decade – from the withering of the “self-aware” teen slasher, through to the “torture porn” craze and beyond. Individual essays cover a wide variety of topics, from an assessment of Alexandre Aja’s body of work to a reconsideration of the critically-panned Feardotcom from 2001. Indeed, one thing that makes this collection interesting is its specificity, with some essays examining particular sub-genres, including the serial killer film and teenage slashers. It’s a little pricey, sure, but you can bet that literary-minded, intellectually curious horror fan friend of yours will thank you for it – or perhaps you could give it to that movie snob in your life who doesn’t consider horror to be a legitimate starting point for intelligent conversation.

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