When I saw the picture of the homicidal Easter Bunny, I HAD to know more about the creators of BURLAP. Not only did I learn much about the comic creation process, but I got to see how much creative people have in common.
With the world around us filled with content, both good and not so good, Jesse James Baer and his colleagues are people we must watch out for. I would like to thanks Jesse in advance, for his participation in this interview and for contributing creations to the Horror genre.
With all the creative outlets available to you, why write comics?
So, as a kid I always loved comic books and superheroes. I had them all: Batman, Spider-Man, the X-men, you name it. In elementary school, I’d ask to stay inside during recess to draw and write my own comics instead of going outside to play kickball.
Growing up, I had many creative passions. My main passion was writing. I’d write short stories, plays, novels and film scripts. Eventually, I would make it my goal to become an independent filmmaker, attending Bucks County Community College and Temple University to attain a degree in cinema production. I took part in several indie film productions, but as I got older, filmmaking became more and more difficult.
In March of this past year I met comic creator Buz Hasson (The Living Corpse), at Monster Mania Convention. We got talking, and he offered his talents to draw a concept sketch of my short film’s lead character. The whole process of working with him opened my eyes to my old passion of making comics. I saw it as a great way to visually tell the story I wanted to tell and there were no limits! I wasn’t constricted by a budget or actors or locations! I could write my story however I wanted with no constraints. So I set to work re-writing my film script as a comic script and have been truly invested in writing comics since.
My relationship with horror has been quite the roller coaster. I grew up with a mother who loved horror movies, she had every one on VHS. Of course, being one of three boys, my brothers would often “borrow”, a horror movie when our parents were away. Safe to say, these movies scared me half out of my wits! I was six, and had been witness to movies like Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween, Leprechaun and Child’s Play. I constantly had nightmares.
But I also found a love for horror in the form of books and stories. I was obsessed with Mary Shelley, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Edgar Allan Poe. I then discovered the Universal monsters: The Wolf Man, Frankenstein, Dracula.
Growing up, I often felt like an outcast. Horror was filled with relatable characters that I came to love. So when I started writing my own stories, I was drawn directly to horror as a way to express myself and escape the problems of the real world.
List some of your favorite writers or pieces, and tell how your work has been influenced by them.
My biggest influences when it comes to writing are from a couple of different mediums. Comic book-wise, my biggest influence is James O’Barr (The Crow). He, like me, used writing and creating comics to deal with trauma he suffered in his life, and that inspired me to do the same. When it comes to novels and fiction, the writer A. Lee Martinez (Gil’s All Fright Diner, The Automatic Detective) is my “go to”. I always loved the way he could blend any genre with comedy, which influenced me to add bits of humor to my writing. He creates these amazing characters that you just fall in love with.
Of course, the greats, like Stephen King and Poe were very influential for me growing up and I learned a lot about conveying human emotions from their depictions of humanity and people. Last but certainly not least, are the great Pulp writers like Mickey Spillane, Dashiell Hammet, and Raymond Chandler. Pulp noir is one of my favorite genres and their work really influences the dark and mysterious/gritty tones I use in my writing.
How does a story start? An idea, thought, message, scenario, etc.?
I always begin with a character. I get an idea for a person, I figure out who they are, what they look like, and what their motivations and background is. From there, I build a story around that character. The story almost writes itself. The characters I create start to breathe life into the stories themselves.
Tell me about your writing process.
My writing process always starts with a notebook and pen, creating character webs and bullet pointed plot lines. Once I know what I’m getting into by brainstorming and outlining, that’s when I sit down at my laptop and start churning out the actual story. My ideas hit me at random. Sometimes, in the middle of the night, I’ll suddenly figure out the next plot point or a scenario, and run straight to my notebooks to write it down.
My writing also comes from a very personal and emotional place. Getting lost in my own stories became a sort of therapy for myself. BURLAP was a way for me to release all my anger and sadness after I unexpectedly lost my older brother in 2018. I took all my rage, and aimed it at fictional villains through my lead character.
Which piece are you most proud of, and why?
That would definitely be the first issue of my new comic series, BURLAP, a twisted tale of murder, revenge ghosts, gypsy curses, forbidden romance… and a homicidal Easter Bunny. It began as the script for a short film. I spent almost two years writing and rewriting the script. In the end, I’d written six drafts, the seventh being the comic book version. I’m most proud of this because I spent so long with it, trying to make it a reality. I had finally done it!
I’ll never forget coming home to the package on the front step, opening it to find my first self published printing of the comic. Just holding it in my hands and seeing my words brought to life through the amazing artwork of Zoran Jovicic, was absolutely thrilling.
BURLAP would not have been possible without the illustrations and lettering by accomplished artist Zoran Jovicic, of Novi Sad, Serbia. Zoran was born in 1984 in Mrkonjic Grad, a city in the Republic of Srpska. In Belgrade, he graduated at the Higher Vocational School, Department of Industrial Design. His first comic was Kosingas-Order of the Dragon, and recently has done the artwork for the comic book Memento Mori.
The horror community and comic book communities alike will very much enjoy BURLAP. My goal was to create a character that was part Batman/The Punisher and part slasher-killer like Michael Myers/Jason Voorhees. It takes the slasher formula and flips it, the silent stalker in the mask is actually the hero and his victims are the villains! Instead of focusing on the hero, BURLAP mainly focuses on the rogues as they struggle to survive, much like a slasher film mainly focuses on the slasher killers victims. My artist and I have worked hard on creating a cast of wild villains I believe the readers will love to hate.
Where can I find your work?
My comic series, BURLAP will be available from Covenant Comics, later this year. Currently, you can find great info including a preview of the book, cover and concept art, and some great background info on myself and the project here.
Covenant Comics and myself will be releasing a Kickstarter campaign in March of 2020, to raise funds to keep the series going! We’re really hoping to rally the horror community around BURLAP and acquire the means to share it with the world!
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Blood Meridian, a Book Review
Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West, (1985) is a Western (or Anti-Western) epic novel by Cormac McCarthy.
Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West, (1985) is a Western (or Anti-Western) epic novel by Cormac McCarthy. This review discusses the digital copy of the First Vintage International Edition.
The kid wanders the West as a survivor and thug. After getting caught up with the ominous Judge Holden, his life remains forever entwined with the cruel force of the man. The kid becomes a soldier, a scalper, and an outlaw but always finds Judge Holden somewhere in the distance. Civilization approaches the untamable West, which forces the kid adapt or die. But it is Judge Holden who remains: an unchanging force of cruelty.
What I Liked
Cormac McCarthy remains one of the most brutal authors, both in narrative and writing. You will feel the danger of the West, its inhuman cruelty, and fear for the kid. Many often call Blood Meridian McCathy’s magnum opus. As a result, if this brutal novel satisfies your readerly tastes, you’ll have his entire collection to sample.
Judge Holden remains a true force of evil and cruelty masked in human form. McCarthy likes to represent forces of nature through his antagonists. Judge Holden doesn’t always directly antagonize, but his role becomes increasingly clear as the novel continues.
Few authors convey cruelty like Cormac McCarthy, who structures his writing so that sentences bleed into each other in frantic syntax. I mean this somewhat literally as he removes quotation marks in dialogue or creates blunt sentences to reflect the mood he wants to display.
Tired Tropes and Trigger Warnings
Era-appropriate (using “appropriate” loosely here) racism encompasses this novel in a rather uncomfortable and upsetting way. We are dealing with the West, where scalping earned payment and slavery was a debatable issue. McCarthy doesn’t shy away from this reality. It also should be noted that some characters thrive in such industries. This reality certainly doesn’t make the reading any less harsh.
There is graphic violence and cruelty in every chapter, altogether influencing nearly every page. It will be a hard read for those sensitive to any kind of abuse, because all kinds appear in this novel. Few horrors depict the cruelty of man like a Cormac McCarthy novel, and Blood Meridian is no exception. In fact, it might be the leading example.
What I Dislike, or Food for Thought
McCarthy provides brutal and challenging prose. Blood Meridian is more accessible than many of his other novels; regardless, it still provides a difficult reading experience for those unaccustomed to his style. After the first two chapters, you’ll grow accustomed to the style, or it might be a skip. I say the first two as Chapter 1 runs through the boy’s life to the point of his adventure, which might be its own sore spot for some readers.
Don’t expect realism in the novel. As mentioned, McCarthy favors villains that represent a force of nature. This stylistic choice often makes his characters, largely the antagonists, superhuman forces.
Following down this criticism, or consideration, also extends to realism holistically. McCarthy brings life to his interpretation of the West, the States, and Mexico. Don’t expect accurate descriptions of locations or historical events. I didn’t note many historical inaccuracies, however I’m also not versed in that era.
Blood Meridian deconstructs the pop-culture West, lingering on the horrors of the era and the indifference of the West. Expect the psychological nature of man to be the center of its haunting.
Cormac McCarthy earns his reputation as one of the great living American authors, and Blood Meridian remains one of his most haunting novels to date. Few authors dare to display the cruelty of man, producing emotional truth and horrid images that can twist a reader’s stomach. Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian dares all that and more.
(4 / 5)
A Pilgrimage of Swords, a Book Review
A Pilgrimage of Swords (2019) is the first novel of a grimdark fantasy series (The Seven Swords) authored by Anthony Ryan.
A Pilgrimage of Swords (2019) is the first novel of a grimdark fantasy series (The Seven Swords) authored by Anthony Ryan. The book is technically a novella, running slightly short of a novel-length, but reads like a collection of short stories. This review will cover Subterranean Press’ digital copy of the novella.
Desperate to change his fate, Pilgrim forfeits his name on his quest to meet a mad god. He and his fellow pilgrims travel a dangerous road filled with abominations and horrors in the desperate hope that they might have one prayer answered. With a twisted sentient sword, he fights his darkness and the God’s abominations in the hopes of something better.
What I Liked
As mentioned, this novella reads like a collection of short stories. Each story tackles a specific challenge and region. The strategy works well in building the torment of the journey and keeping the reader consistently engaged.
A voice plagues Pilgrim, constantly antagonizing him at every step of their journey. The style in which this “voice” delivers their intrusive thoughts, while not inherently unique, remains an enjoyable and satisfying read. The voice itself becomes a favored character of mine. Pilgrim and “voice” share a dynamic of brooding hero and antagonizer. Again, not unique, but done with great effect.
Despite the tight word count, several twists effectively engage the reader, helping to add to the world that we only get a glimpse of.
While the supporting cast doesn’t have as much time dedicated to them, they collectively add to the experience with unique perspectives and dynamics.
In terms of horror, the final chapter provides the most stunning examples. This review is spoiler-free, but the build-up certainly exceeds expectations for the first read.
Tired Tropes and Trigger Warnings
A Pilgrimage of Swords resides on the lighter side of grimdark high fantasy, but it remains grimdark. The world of A Pilgrimage of Swords is uncaring and cruel, producing characters that reflect that, functioning as opportunists.
Animals do die, and children are equally prone to potential death. Again, not entirely out of character for the setting, but it should be mentioned for readerly consideration.
As the description might indicate, torment and suffering are recurring motifs in the story. While the tortures certainly are sadistic, readers get the aftermath. The novel doesn’t linger in its sadism.
What I Dislike, or Food for Thought
As A Pilgrimage of Swords is a high fantasy novel with light grimdark elements, the horror reflects that concept. There are tense moments, and characters are prone to danger, but genuine horror remains lacking. The novel doesn’t claim itself as such, but our audience should consider this. However, walking gods of madness twisting their environment to reflect their psyche shouldn’t be ridden off too quickly.
While I mostly enjoy the brevity of the story and how the chapters read like short stories, it limits the time we have to invest in the characters and setting. This novel is the first of a continuing series, so this criticism doesn’t inherently apply to the other novels. This first introduction remains easy to recommend for those looking for a quick read, not a long investment.
Many plot beats are predictable and can somewhat underwhelm a reader when the obvious thing happens. I will admit that this isn’t too often a hindrance but compromises to accommodate the tighter word count. Luckily, there are plot twists to minimize this underwhelming predictability, but the chapters could still utilize an extended word count.
The name doesn’t exactly fit this first entry of the series. It might be a perfect name for the series, but this novel’s pilgrimage has little to do with swords.
A Pilgrimage of Swords has a few haunting moments but is an otherwise enjoyable and quick read. If a grimdark set in a high fantasy where cruel gods walk the earth sounds like an interest of yours, this will certainly satisfy that itch. While it remains a little too brief, this is by design and part of a larger narrative.
(4 / 5)
Horror in graphic novels
Creepy Comics Collages by Jennifer Weigel, Part 5
Well, you won’t get rid of me that easily… Ha ha, I lied about coming to the end and the afterlife in the Creepy Comics Collages segment, it was just an opportunity for rebirth. Besides, it’s World Collage Day! So having come into another comic book to rework, here we go again…
Creepy Comics Story 9: The Voice (of God or Reason or perhaps an homage to my ex)
“Come to me my children, the voice of God awaits!… Don’t let them escape!” Please beam me up out of this weird comic collage alternate reality. “God I am your hand! Lift me… to your place. I commend my spirit!” I want to go back to dreaming about starfish.
The computer programmer behind the scenes turns to face us and smiles. “Guardians! This is a place of God!… Come to the true voice of God!” “I am everything.” “Come to the voice!” And the horrific AI generated creatures abide by his every coded word.
Just like last night in the — signs posted for Nightmare, No Exit. The deer spirit faun screams in surprise, “Eeek!” “No! I defy you!” She returns to the form of a little girl with arms outspread to the open sky. “Y’know, a day like today makes all the stuff that happened last night seem just like a bad dream!” The dream seems so real…
Somewhere in the city, the computer programmer sits up at night in pensive monologue, “You try to make a difference… But it doesn’t really matter.”
Creepy Comics Story 10: The City (Metropolis becomes self-aware)
This segment is brought to you by Dead Artists and Talking Dinosaurs. No really, wait for it…
Woooooo Uhhhh Wooooooo Uhhhh… Wump! Uff! Wump! Uff! “She belongs to The City!” The Glenn Fry 1985 hit single looms ominously overhead as Metropolis becomes self-aware. “The City… will live!… The City… will breathe!” The City gasps for air, “Got to… breathe!… Got to… Breathe!“
Her breath is the wind… Her eyes are windows. Her heart pumps fluid through buried plumbing… “I’m The City!” Her mind is The City!
And we have a celebrity appearance by Rich Koz “Son of Svengoolie” WFLD 1973: “I take a nap for 10,000 years and look what happens… some-body builds a city!” Kerwyn chimes in, “Geez! Somebody’s been busy!” And we cut out to a scene of Svengoolie standing alongside his coffin.
Well, that’s all folks. Or is it? For now, any way… until I get more comic books… Duh duh DUHHHH…
If you want to see more art, check out more of Jennifer Weigel’s work here on Haunted MTL or on her writing, fine art, and conceptual projects websites.
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