As horror fans we are often drawn to the little things. Covers and titles are hugely influential to many of us, particularly as we seek to expand our horror experiences. For many folks of my generation we remember the joy of walking down the horror aisle of the local Blockbuster Video or spinning the racks of comics at the local book store. So, when I came across a booth at WonderCon 2019 for a group called Sex and Monsters, and read the title of a comic called Tiki Surf Witches Want Blood, I was intrigued.
I am pleased to reveal that that title is exactly what you get with this comic and more. You not only get Tiki Surf Witches, but blood craving, and even better, a whole array of tasty recipes for great island drinks! I reached out to the team behind the comic, Will Penny (the writer) and Nik Poliwko (the artist), with some questions, and as a bonus we even have a preview of the book, exclusively for Haunted MTL. Oh, and beware, the comic is NSFW for blood, breasts, and witchcraft.
Will, where did the idea come from to mash up a horror story and cocktail recipes?
Will: I’ve always been into the horror genre, but back in 2016 I was really getting into tiki culture too. So I thought it’d be fun to create a tiki-themed horror comic. While I was brainstorming story ideas (and probably after too many rum cocktails) I struck on the idea of creating a comic book that also doubled as a cocktail-recipe book. I figured the combination would create a bit of extra escapism for readers.
Will, the story has a very old school feel to it, what horror works and/or writers influenced you as a writer on this project, Will?
Will: The story probably gets its “old school feel” from the fact that I decided to write something that wasn’t too cynical.
Tiki culture has its roots in the ‘30s, when Donn Beach created the first tiki bar in Hollywood, but things really took off for “tiki” in the ‘50s, after American GIs returned home from war, having served time in the South Pacific. So when I decided to make a tiki-themed comic, I wanted the artwork to serve as a visual reference to that specific time period. So the “look” of the book is definitely inspired by all those classic EC horror comics from the ‘50s. Fortunately, I was lucky enough to have Nik Poliwko illustrate the book, who really nailed the visual vibe I was shooting for.
In regards to the actual story, I was inspired by a lot of late-night b-movies – particularly the work of Roger Corman and Del Tenney. But I also wanted to make sure the story would stand on its own merits and not just be something that MST3K could lampoon. So I tried to make sure each of the characters – particularly the female characters – had their own specific traits and motivations that would move the plot forward.
My real goal (and challenge) was to use the visual language of black-and-white b-movies and pre-code horror comics to tell an engaging (and even romantic) story that could still appeal to a modern audience.
Nik, your illustrations have a very classic, E.C. Comics style to them, were those comics a primary influence on you?
Nik: Love the EC stuff, although the Warren mags (Creepy, Eerie and Vampirella) were more prominent for me. My influences tend to be more the artist than the comic, and a few EC artists do show up. Russ Manning would have to be my first major influence, followed by Alex Raymond, Hal Foster, Will Eisner, Al Williamson, Frank Frazetta’s comic work, and of course Wally Wood. On the horror side of things, Bernie Wrightson would be a major influence, on the EC side of things it would be Jack Davis’ horror work, Graham Ingels and Bernie Krigstein. Some others would be Jack Kirby, Jim Steranko and Barry Windsor-Smith.
Will, Are there any other plans for tiki-influenced horror projects?
Will: Yes! On June 1st we’ll be launching our first Kickstarter campaign to fund the creation of a “magic” Zombie cocktail glass. Donn Beach created the original Zombie cocktail back in 1934, and traditionally served it in a tall chimney-style glass. The drink was so popular that the glassware it was served in became known as a “Zombie glass.”
So I’m working with Nik Poliwko again to develop an authentic-style Zombie glass that will incorporate Nik’s fantastic artwork and — for the fist time ever — will cause the dead to rise whenever a cocktail is poured into it! It’s going to be a real fun (and functional) art piece for anyone who likes horror, tiki culture, zombies, or just wants to drink cocktails while learning how to raise the dead!
I don’t want to give away too many more secrets or surprises, but if people want to stay up-to-date on this project, they can follow us on Instagram @sexandmonsters or sign up for our newsletter here.
Nik, your work is recognizable from The Creeps Magazine, do you have any particular stories you contributed to for the magazine you’d want people to check out?
Nik: Heh… people should check out ALL my stories in The Creeps! A few faves of mine include issue 11’s “If You Knew Sushi,” written by Don Glut, “Mary Shelley in Frankenstein’s Castle,” in issue 12, written by Nicola Cuti, and another Cuti masterpiece, “Graveyard Dance,” in issue # 13, which reveals the origin of “The Old Creep,” the host of The Creeps. And another Don Glut thriller, “Interview with a Werewolf” in issue 15.
Of the cocktails in the book, what is your personal favorite?
Will: My personal favorite tiki cocktail is the Zombie! Not only because it’s a strong and well-balanced drink, but it also has a rich and fascinating history (that people can read more about in Sippin’ Safari by Jeff Berry).
I’m also partial to the Surfer’s Blood – the climax cocktail of the book. It’s inspired by a type of Mai Tai served at Old Tony’s — one of my favorite bars in Redondo Beach, CA. It’s boozy and tart, and includes a “secret ingredient” called kook juice (a mix of Tang and sparkling lemonade)!
Nik: I’d have to say I love me a good “Zombie,” with “R.I.P. Tide” coming a close 2nd. Really hard to pick favorites as all the recipes are so good!
Will, Can you talk to us a bit about the origins of Sex and Monsters? What does the future hold for the studio?
Will: Sex and Monsters was just a silly name that I came up with for my personal webcomic about 10 years ago. But after awhile, the name grew into its own publishing brand, and now I work with a variety of artists and writers to make a bunch of fun stuff.
After we launch our “Zombie glass” Kickstarter, we’ll be publishing a comic adaptation of Edgar Allen Poe and H. P. Lovecraft material, we’ll also be featuring more work by the extremely talented and hilarious Alison Zai, and finally we have a soundtrack to “Tiki Surf Witches Want Blood” coming down the pike — a 7 inch vinyl record by our pals Dom Kreep and the Grim County Coroners.
Nik, were your illustrations for Tiki Surf Witches Want Blood traditionally done or digital? Do you have a preference for most of your work?
Nik: “Tiki Surf Witches…” was all digital, as is all my work these days. I’ve worked traditional for many years and when I picked up a Wacom Cintiq tablet back in 2010, it’s been digital ever since. Personally I love it, and at this point, prefer it over drawing on paper.
Will, what is it that you think allows horror and sexuality to blend together so effectively?
Will: I’m by no means an expert in this field, but I imagine the combination of sex and horror in fiction has been around since people first started telling stories. We certainly see this combination presented in the subtext of Victorian era Gothic fiction (like Dracula), and we see it become more overt in the early 20th century with pulp detective novels. In fact, the very first horror comic book published in 1947 – Avon’s Eerie Comics #1 – combined elements of sex and horror on its cover through the juxtaposition of a menacing ghoul and a scantily-clad female.
But I wasn’t really thinking about this history when I chose the name “Sex and Monsters” for my publishing company. I just thought it was a catchy name, and would let people know right off the bat that we’re not afraid to produce stuff that’s a bit offbeat or more quirky than mainstream publishers. And even though the name may imply that our work features gratuitous nudity and violence, I try to invert those expectations, and present the elements of sexuality and horror in a way that has purpose, or is in service to the overall story we’re trying to tell.
…Of course, it’s always fun to be a little gratuitous once in awhile too!
Enjoy this preview of the bloody fun inside Tiki Surf Witches Want Blood, including the recipe for the classic island cocktail, The Zombie!
Oh, and beware the boobs!
Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for more interviews here at Haunted MTL.
The Roots Grow Into The Earth
Launching next month The Roots Grow Into The Earth was a delightful read. It’s the premiere novel by horror author Bert S. Lechner. And after reading it, I hope it’s not his last.
The Roots Grow Into The Earth is a collection of nine short stories and novellas, including three previously published stories. The tales are all part of one larger story. A story of darkness, and madness. A story of a creature released that should never have been. That begins then to sink its roots into the Earth and infect innocent people far and wide.
One such example is The Wall. This is the story of a man named Sam and his wife Nat. They have a lovely normal life full of morning coffee and weekend pizza nights. Until Sam notices something on the wall of their home. While it appears to be nothing, a vision starts taking shape. With Sam’s help.
Another story that really moved me was The Orchestra.
Let me first stay that this was not a particularly fleshed out story. We do not see The Conductor before she’s infected. We don’t see the fallout. No real picture is painted for us, it’s more like a sketch.
In the case of The Orchestra, though, this is exactly the right choice. We don’t need to see the whole picture in gruesome technicolor to get what’s happening in this ill fated concert. We understand perhaps too well what’s occurring. And I thought that was brilliant.
I just want to start by gushing over this storytelling style. Short story collections always have a soft spot in my heart. In the case of The Roots Grow, all of the short stories come together to create one truly dark tale.
I also loved the clear Lovecraftian influence of this story. It’s clear that this was something that the author was going for, from interviews and social media comments. But I could tell before I saw any of that.
The story in The Roots Grow is one of madness. But more than that, it’s one of madness and destruction that the victims could not have avoided. There was no being clever enough to avoid these dark roots that touched them. There was no being strong enough, or selfless and good enough. If the roots reach out and touch you, you’ve already lost.
Finally, I want to extend some praise to my favorite character, Joanne. She is dealing with her own madness, her own demons. But she still finds kindness and strength to help others when they need her. Even against some truly dark odds.
What didn’t work
All that being said, I will say that some of the short stories felt incomplete. One prime example is What Lies In The Icy Soil. This appears to be nothing more than the tale of a person possessed by the need to dig. He digs up something that for sure shouldn’t be dug up. But there’s nothing more to the story. We don’t know who this person is. We don’t know who might be missing him, or what might come of this thing he dug up. As a part of the whole story, it fits. But if we are to consider every tale by its own merit, this one doesn’t have much of anything going for it.
That being said, this is one story in a round ten that wasn’t much of anything. The rest of the stories were wonderfully eerie, both on their own and as part of a whole.
The Roots Grow Into The Earth comes out on October 7th. And I think it would be a perfect addition to your Halloween reading list. (4 / 5)
Strange Eons Review: Cornfields and Eldritch Gods
“The elder gods arrived in the sky in early September, like an unholy aurora borealis stretching across a midnight sky. Their vastness blocked the sun, an unending eclipse, a liminal state, a breath that was inhaled but never let go. Lovecraft got it wrong, I think. It was not the sight of the gods that made humanity go mad. It’s what they destroy that hurts us. Somehow, these elder gods, these aliens, had killed time itself.” – Strange Eons by Keria Perkins
Strange Eons is a short story published in Bourbon Penn Issue 30 by Keira Perkins. Perkins, is an Indiana writer of short fiction and poetry that has also appeared in Non-Stalgia and The Heartland Society of Women Writers. Bourbon Penn is an online and print journal that specializes in speculative, odd, and surreal fiction. All issues are available to be read online for free or can be purchased as a paperback from Bookshop.org.
Strange Eons follows a young woman struggling to adjust to a life post-Lovecraftian apocalypse. This is a cozy story, the majority of which takes place as the woman lays in a cornfield and hides from well-meaning but unhelpful family members. While cozy, the piece is ominous, tackling the terror associated with pregnancy. Specifically, the terror that comes from living in a Red State and finding a significant lack of resources or options.
As a Hoosier capable of becoming pregnant, Strange Eons resonated with me. The imagery of cornfields and cicadas were very Indiana. However, so is a young woman covertly asking her sister to drive her to Illinois to receive healthcare. I loved how Perkins merged cosmic horror with the horror of receiving reproductive healthcare in Indiana but also the United States as a whole. All that was missing were predatory billboards advertising fake pregnancy centers! Talk about maddening and terrifying! Throughout the short story, the most horrific part of the young woman’s ordeal is not the eldritch gods appearing but her rather typical, hellish circumstances.
Aside from content, Strange Eons is well-written. It keeps you guessing where the story will go next. If you like a non-tropey cozy take on Lovecraftian horror or have struggled to receive reproductive healthcare, I highly recommend checking out Strange Eons! You can also check out the other stories in this issue of Bourbon Penn here. Or you can see what else Perkins is up to on her website.(5 / 5)
Walking Practice – A Book Review
Walking Practice is Dolki Min’s debut novella about an alien named Mumu, who must learn what it is like to perform as a human. Victoria Caudle, the translator of this unique Korean story, experiments with the English language to properly convey Min’s style. This, complimented with Min’s various drawings of the story’s protagonist, creates a poetic, outlandish reading experience that keeps you hooked from beginning to end.
Walking Practice: Never Enough Practice
After the destruction of their home planet, Mumu crash lands their spaceship in a desolate forest far from human life. They survive by having sex with humans then, with graphic violence and great diligence, eats them.
Mumu has a strict schedule and regimen for this process; they must shapeshift their body to the specific gender and personality their date is attracted to. While this process of gender conformation is a difficult one (as the alien will often tell us), it is nowhere near as hard as the ridiculous habit humans have of walking on two legs. This is one of the many obstacles Mumu must struggle with while playing the game of life.
Mumu is a rich, self-aware character who seems to trust only one human: the reader. They address us directly, asking questions and indulging us with their theories on what it is to live on Earth. They are knowledgeable about the complexities of personhood, and aware that a person’s gender and sex are complex and not one-size-fits-all. After years of experience in multiple genders, the alien theorizes that humans are treated as people as soon as they have a sex and gender assigned to them. However, depending on the sex and gender, that treatment is never equal.
While Mumu performs various genders and personalities to match the sexual desires of their future prey, they do not identify as human. At the end of the day, they go home, stock their human leftovers in the fridge and freezer, and unleash their natural form. Their only priority is their own survival and pleasure (which, arguably, is their most humanlike quality).
“I’ve learned that my face arouses homicidal impulses”
Walking Practice uses horror, science fiction and satire to create a passionate queer narrative. While Mumu is a serial killer who prides themselves on their murderous skills, it is hard not to feel for them when karma strikes back and they are hurt. The poetic elements of Min’s story and Caudle’s translation support our empathy for such a vicious character
Min’s artwork, depicting Mumu’s alien forms, complements Caudle’s stylistic choices. There is enjambment in several paragraphs, (which can be interpreted as the alien either having a flair for the dramatic or genuinely pausing to find the right words), thus enhancing their internal dialogue. There are moments when the Mumu’s stream of consciousness confuses reality from imagination. They will also lose all learned human skills and revert to their mother tongue; words either run together or are spaced apart, and sometimes there are unintelligible symbols. At the surface, it looks like a linguistic nightmare. Once immersed in Mumu’s narrative, it is a work of art.
Walking Practice‘s balance of ambiguity and transparency keeps the reader close while also allowing an array of interpretations. It is an eccentric piece of fiction that plays with the literary status quo, resulting in an entertaining affair with an unforgettable alien. (5 / 5)