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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.

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Book Reviews

Brutality, Motherhood, and Art: Nightbitch Review



“In the distance, she heard her husband in the backyard call for her , but she was not that woman anymore, that mother and wife. She was Nightbitch, and she was fucking amazing. It seemed she had been waiting for this for a very, very long time.” -pg 89, Nightbitch by Rachel Yoder

Nightbitch is the debut novel of Rachel Yoder about a stay-at-home mother coming to terms with the loneliness and brutality of motherhood. The main character, only referred to as The Mother, begins to undergo a frightening change as she sinks deeper into a depressive state. She transforms into Nightbitch, an animalistic creature full of anger, bloodlust, and freedom. The Mother must utilize the help of a strange book and a group of multi-level marketing mommies to harness her newfound strength before she loses herself or her family.

The novel is a stunning commentary on the everyday violence of motherhood centered within the context of werewolf and mystical woman mythos. The Mother spends much of the book contemplating her future and the abandonment of her dreams. Specifically, she grapples with the loss of her ability to create art, her longtime passion. On a larger scale, Nightbitch examines how many women are asked to stop being individuals after having children and only become mothers–existing only in the presence of their child. The message is clear, poignant, dark, and at times, hilarious. The prose and structure of the book are abnormal, however, it works with the overall messaging and plot. 

As far as negatives go, Nightbitch was pretty ambiguous. This was by design, and created an aura of magical mysticism around many of the characters and events. The Mother is the definition of an unreliable narrator. However, towards the end of the book, I would have liked a little more clarity in what certain characters knew. 

Nightbitch is a must read for any parent. As a non-parent, I highly recommend it for those interested in feminist horror or more avant-garde approaches to horror narratives. Those who don’t like books with heavy introspection or ambiguous storytelling may enjoy something else, however I still think it is an interesting read nonetheless. 

4.4 out of 5 stars (4.4 / 5)

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Book Reviews

Gothic, Ghosts, and Tlachiqueros: The Hacienda Review



“Dread washed over me. Had she been sitting there, watching me sleep, the whole night? Her skin gleamed like candle wax in the light; then she grinned and whatever color her eyes had been before, now they turned red. In an instant, her skin transformed, dried and desiccated into leather, and her teeth grew long and needle sharp.” -pg 214, The Hacienda by Isabel Cañas

The Hacienda is a gothic horror novel by Isabel Cañas set in the wake of Mexico’s War for Independence. The debut novel by Cañas, it delivers a classic haunted house tale with a twist of Mexican high society. Recently made homeless by the execution of her father, Beatriz marries Don Solórzano to escape her cruel treatment by her relatives. However, once she joins him on his estate, she finds that the promise of a new life holds dark secrets and darker spirits. She enlists the help of a priest, Andrés, to uncover both. Together, they find the home has more dangers than they bargained for. And more threats both supernatural and far too material await every corner.

I adored The Hacienda from start to finish. Cañas’s prose was accessible but full of deep imagery. While told from the perspective of both Beatriz and Andrés, neither outweighed the other. The perspectives were interesting and the transition between the two was well executed throughout the novel. I usually don’t seek out romantic books, but I loved the romantic and sexual tension between the two main characters. Specifically since the romantic tension developed within both perspectives, the relationship’s “will-they-won’t-they” felt both plausible and full of stakes. And of course, The Hacienda was spooky! I loved the way the spirits manifested and the impact that had on the characters.

My only minor criticisms would be the resolution was fairly quick and mostly offscreen. Though maybe I’m just saying that because I wanted to keep reading, even after the book ended! I also found myself slightly annoyed at the characters for not picking up on some of the more obvious clues to what had happened in the house. 

A thoroughly enjoyable gothic (and dare I say, romantic) novel that kept me on the edge of my seat, I highly recommend The Hacienda. If you enjoy haunted house tales, you will enjoy this book. 

4.8 out of 5 stars (4.8 / 5)

Preorder Isabel Cañas’s new book Vampires of El Norte now!

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Book Reviews

“The Family Game” Glimpses Into The 1%



Are their traditions innocent or are they darker than they seem?

The Plot

Harry, short for Harriet, is a British writer gaining popularity after the publishing of her first novel. She meets Edward, a member of the widely known Holbeck family, and the two strike up a relationship. The Holbecks are high powered executives, running family businesses that bring in massive amounts of wealth. When Harry learns she is pregnant, the couple decide that it is finally time for her to meet the family.

During her first meeting with the family, Edward’s father, Robert gives Harry a vintage tape that he says holds a story that he’d like her to listen to. As Harry listens to the tape, she begins to believe that the Holbecks have done some very bad things.

As she continues visiting the family, their strange traditions are revealed to her. The games that they play traditionally involve darkness and fear. Can Harriet find out the truth about the mysterious Holbecks?


The Verdict

Catherine Steadman outdoes herself in The Family Game. She creates such a mysterious family in the Holbecks and their dynamics are intriguing. Readers will follow Harry as she tries to determine the truth about Robert’s misdoings. The cast of family characters are a wonder to watch. We’ve all always wondered what the extremely rich live like. Harry shows us their virtues and misdeeds.

The novel really remarks on the power of wealth and the wealthy’s ability to commit audacious crimes and pay for them to go away. Robert, as the patriarch of the family, is a prime example of such. As Harry begins to discover that Robert may be confessing to a series of murders on the cassette tape, she must decide how to proceed. She knows that the power that Robert holds cannot be taken lightly.

As Harry navigates potentially deadly Christmas traditions, she races for the truth, unable to forget once she finds it. Harry is such a compelling character – a developing mother willing to risk life and limb to protect her unborn baby. Harry is brave and unapologetic and is a true testament on how to write a female main character.

It was very difficult for me to decide between 4 and 5 Cthulus, so we will call it 4.5. This is a novel I highly recommend thriller lovers check out. 4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)

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