A rabbit meets an owl in the snow.
A rabbit’s tracks end.
So I was looking for something to get me in the mood for Prometheus this week. I of course had the option of rewatching the first two movies again, but to be honest, I probably know those forwards and backwards. So I hit the long boxes and dug up some Dark Horse comics from the 90’s. ALIENS: Labyrinth was a six-issue series that came out in 1997. Aside from Genocide, Purge, and Pig from that same year, it is what I consider the companion piece to Alien: Resurrection, if not the apology for it. And for those of you right now overselling your butt-hurt, note that I said companion first before apology, so don’t be pricks.
Labyrinth, by Jim Woodring and Kilian Plunkett, follows two marines as they uncover the secrets of a seemingly legit military research facility. While the whole mad scientist trope has been tread and retread a dozen times over, Woodring manages to weave a tale with an engaging backstory that takes us where none of us have ever been — into the heart of the hive itself. If you think getting taken by xenomorphs and getting face-raped all in the space of a few hours is bad, try two weeks. Three. Yep, this story goes there.
Plunkett’s art is bold and unapologetic. While the Aliens franchise has always conjured up thoughts of dark corridors and elaborate shadowplay, Labyrinth boasts a very stark European feel, with not as many pitch black scenes as one would expect. The horror is out in the open, and whether that’s to the story’s detriment or not is debatable.
The titular labyrinth is an actual physical place in the story, an atrocity that is made all too clear as our two heroes delve into the myriad secrets of the sinister science facility. But the title also serves as a theme for the series as a whole — something akin to being lost in the darkest recesses of one’s mind, and in our most desperate final moment, realizing that the monster was you all along.
Ridiculously talented artist and good friend Miko Punsalan brought this little gem of alternate religious history to my attention a while back, and it struck me as something rife with storytelling and story-making potential. Another one for ye ol’ research notes:
Briefly stated, the “serpent seed” doctrine revolves around an interpretation of Genesis 3:15 which states that there are races of mankind on earth which are directly descended from Satan himself. This doctrine maintains that Satan (the “serpent”) cohabited with mother Eve and engendered a race of men, which are not descended from the direct union of Adam and Eve. It also maintains that this “serpent seed” race is yet present on the earth, and the Blacks and/or the Jews are generally alleged to be the products of this Satanic union with Eve. There are variations on this belief, at least one of which is that the serpent seed race now on earth descended from men of a pre-Adamic race; that they came from the “Satanic” world which preceded the Adamic age, and are not descended from Adam at all. Another is that Cain was the son of Satan and Eve, not the son of Adam and Eve (this variation is utterly ridiculous since Genesis 4:1 states “Adam knew his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain”).
— excerpt from Steven M. Collins’ “Serpent Seed Heresy” essay
This notion makes a point of noting that the serpent wasn’t cursed to crawl on his belly until after he was cast out of the garden, which hints that he appeared as a man-like creature to Eve. In any case, while I am in no way supportive of racial and anti-semetic sentiment of any sort, some interesting elements of this may come in handy in a future story. We’ll see.
The Blair Witch.
The Ghostly Old Woman from Insidious.
The Woman in Black.
What is it about crones that hints at something so malignantly evil? Do you simply not live to be that age without snacking off a crib or two?
To continue my sporadic series of favorite pieces by my favorite artists, I’ve decided it’s time to talk about an artist whose work I was probably way too young to be looking at when I did. I was in my preteens and the local magazine shop thought Heavy Metal was a comic book with regular kid-friendly superheros. ‘Nuff said.
Simon Bisley has become a name synonymous with bulging muscles, voluptuous vixens, and all around craziness. I remember the first thing that ever grabbed me about his art, aside from the obvious overly endowed women, was the dimensionality of the characters. They looked like sculptures animated by way of a fever dream. Frenetic. And it is with this admiration of his art that I bring you my top five favorite Biz pieces.
Disclaimer: I don’t know the proper titles for a couple of the pieces on here, in which case I just made something up. Allow it.
Hellblazer 263 (Cover)
This image of John Constantine smearing a bindi is as striking as it is simple. His is an expression that is equal parts worry and dread. The light emanating from below gives the scene an ominous mood while the tight shot gives a sense of active participation in the scene. A character as closely associated with Catholic-themed horror as Hellblazer isn’t easy to drop into Hindu culture, and it’s even tougher to pull off with just one image. Bisley doesn’t go mainstream too often, but when he does, he makes it count.
Speaking of religion, this here is probably my favorite piece from his Bible-themed artbook. The angel Gabriel appears as a haunting cloaked spectre and looks more like a ghost than a messenger of God. Mary’s humble circumstances are lit by a single light source, instantly giving the piece a sense of focus. From the torch our eye follows down along the angel’s other hand as he greets the virgin with a message. My favorite little detail is the woman’s slight paunch, hinting that she may be with child.
And then of course, there’s the women. I mean… there had to have been a reason why I spotted him on Heavy Metal first, right? The theatrical lighting on this piece (focused on her bum, no less) gives it a very staged look, which is always a nice irony for jungle and wilderness-themed pieces. The woman’s pose echoes that of her striped friend, and in place of the cat’s teeth is a long dagger in her hand. Her expression is one of curiosity and playfulness, a stare so piercing it has reduced the jungle in the background to the shapes and colors that define it.
This and the previous piece are absolutely in the spirit of Frazetta. That is, if Fraz was on LSD. This image of the wild man in what appears to be a jungle graveyard is a powerful example of Bisley’s command of atmosphere and mood. The slightly yellow hue to the greenery hints at a sense of rot and decay, and the skulls are concealed enough that you don’t spot them on the outset. To sell it, bats hover over our heroes head, as would opportunistic flies looking for a free meal.
Beauty and the Beast
Again with the bats. This is easily one of my favorite takes on Frankenstein’s monster. He’s got the classic Boris Karloff melancholic expression and flat head, but with steam punk elements like the valve in the knee joint that apparently releases pressure. Bisley’s mastery of the female form is showcased without having to show too many naughty bits. The final element of the swamp gas and foliage completes the scene and allows us to almost hear the muddy waters being disrupted as the creature lurches away with his prize.