Sunday, February 17, 2013

Advance Preview: Indie Comics TALES OF FEAR

          Since I’ve learned of the Indie Comics business model that shares printing costs while providing independent creators a showcase to a much larger audience, I’ve gained further appreciation for the titles released by small Aazurn Publishing.  I’ve had several email exchanges with editor/publisher Gary Scott Beatty and was given the opportunity to preview this latest endeavor, available now for pre-order through the February issue of PREVIEWS and Diamond Distribution:

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Indie Comics Magazine Presents Gary Scott Beatty’s TALES OF FEAR #1 ( Aazurn Publishing, Spring 2013, $4.75)  Story and Art: Gary Scott Beatty.  Suggested for Mature Readers.

          Described by its’ creator as “classic horror modernized for today’s comic readers”, TALES OF FEAR is “six tales of dread that push the boundaries of good taste.”

          “TALES FROM THE CRYPT (1950’s EC Comics) was groundbreaking, but that was over 60 years ago,” Beatty explained.  “I set out to break away from the mindset that a comic book has to be a CREEPY clone to be a horror anthology.”

          TALES OF FEAR contains 6 complete short horror stories, all shaded in black and white and most between 6-8 pages.  After a quick set-up, each vignette cuts to the chase immediately with an anticipated twist or punch line.  Some may produce a chuckle; some may produce a cringe or shiver. Some push the envelope a little bit, depending on your expectations.  What’s absent is boredom or mediocrity.  This is a very good debut; and I’d welcome another issue or two of the same.

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          The most outrageous and darkly humorous story is the very first offering, “Zombie Porn”.  In a time when zombies are everywhere as well as an age of exploitation, it was only a matter of time before some scheming entrepreneur came up with a way to make money from the living dead.  Zombies can be subdued somewhat, and lose their urge to bite after downing some cough medicine.  Since undead males have already passed through the rigor mortis stage, this leaves them with an eternal erection.  So they become the star attractions in a new style of pornography.

          What caught my attention immediately upon reading this story was the different look to the art. I was reminded of the rotoscoping technique that looks like photographs were traced over. Rotoscoping was employed more frequently in cartoon movies of some decades past (Ralph Bakshi’s The Lord Of The Rings 1978 animated feature, for one).

          The second story, “Giants Fishing”, about fishing with some unusual bait owes some inspiration to a classic Twilight Zone episode involving a group of people trapped in a cylinder.  The art is similar to the first story, but just a little bit different.  Is this original art by Beatty that was then doctored to make it look like rotoscoping?  This continued to distract me as I read further.  Maybe it is the inks or shades used to make it look like photos?  Curiosity got the better of me, and I decided to contact Beatty by email.

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          He replied: “When I first started writing a horror book, I realized I needed to develop a more realistic illustration style to present the gore in the over-the-top way I envisioned.  I ditched the 50’s album cover style I’ve been working in since my “Jazz: Cool Birth” (2008) and leaped in with photos, CGI software, and Photoshop techniques to build what I think is a completely different look.”

          “I think modern CGI cartoons are too slick, and I didn’t want that plastic effect.  I piece together references from different sources on a page and work them over in software for a rougher, painterly feel.”

          “I think the illustrations in TALES OF FEAR #1 set the book apart, with no brushstroke in sight and no India ink blacks.  I’m going for a “video game in watercolor” look.  Readers can decide if they like it or not.  I think it adds some gravity to the gore.”

          The experienced artist in Beatty has never been content to follow the crowd.  His Xeric Grant winning “Jazz: Cool Birth” featured art inspired by 1950’s album cover design.  Unlike that Jazz style, the illustrations for TALES OF FEAR are computer brushed, nearly photo-realistic.  “I returned to my painter training, said Beatty.  “I use today’s computer tools to come up with an in-your-face look well suited to the crime scene documentation demands of grim horror.”

          A street gang that likes to break into meth labs and steal the drugs finds trouble when they enter the wrong basement laboratory in “Crack”.  A disgruntled former employee with murder on his mind uses text messages to terrorize his prey in “TXT”.

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          “Rays List” features a robber using social media to locate his sites and find out when homes will be empty.  All six stories are introduced by a skeletal narrator/host, who wraps up with “Door”, a story of his own demise.  An explorer of dark arts studies the ancient “Aazurn” texts and discovers a special key that unlocks a gateway to various dream worlds.

          “Readers can see if my illustrations are to their taste,” said Beatty.  “I’m sure I’ll get snubbed by traditionalists, but I’d get pretty bored playing it safe, and I’m betting there are comic book readers out there who agree mine is a great style to creep you out.”  (Yes, Gary. We agree! )

          TALES OF FEAR #1 is only available through pre-order using February 2013’s PREVIEWS comic book catalog, listed under Aazurn Publishing. Contact your local or online comic shop to get a copy.   http://indiecomicsmagazine.com/

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