Month: May 2014

I’M IN THE BAND: Backstage Notes from the Chick in White Zombie

Anyone who has good taste in music will know who White Zombie were and they’ll undoubtedly know who Sean Yseult is too. For the uninformed White Zombie formed in 1985 and before they split up over a decade later they became one of the biggest bands in “alternative” music.

Their music defied categorisation often referred to as Art Rock, Alternative Metal and even Industrial sometimes. They went multi-platinum, were nominated for Grammy awards, their videos were all over MTV (back in the days when they actually showed music videos), they embarked on epic tours and played to thousands of fans at festivals but most surprisingly to some their bass player was a woman.

It seems rather odd now since there’s a whole host of bands from various genres with women in their ranks from singers to guitarists and more. Back in the day though there was only “the Chick in White Zombie” as Mike Judge’s Beavis and Butthead put it. Not only were White Zombie a monumental band that played to audiences of 80,000 or more (as seen on the front cover, that shot was taken at Castle Donnington in ’95) Sean wasn’t trying to be “sexy” and didn’t make a big deal out of being pretty much the only woman in the world of Metal at the time. It was an endearing quality which just made her more appealing and another facet that added to White Zombie‘s distinctly out there freaky appeal.

Whilst Rob Zombie was running around on stage like a man possessed to J’s shredding guitar riffs Sean would be doing her thing, throwing her hair around and looking like one of the most bad ass best bass players ever to take the stage.

Unlike the norm for autobiographical books from musicians this isn’t really an ode to the hedonistic excesses of life on the road. This book is more of a coffee table affair built up around Sean’s habit of writing tour diaries and taking photo’s on the road with the band, that and a hoarding mentality when it came to the bands laminates, flyers and other various items.


A child of “art-and- music-loving hippie bohemian scholars” Yseult was performing with Blues players on stage from the age of 8 in smoky nightclubs and thanks to an overly zealous Piano tutor could read , write and transpose music before reading regular books. That’s along with an avid interest in Ballet, which lead to attending the North Carolina School of the Arts age 12.

An accident during ballet practice would lead to a life changing event,changing to visual arts.

One of the interesting parts of “I’m in the Band” is the embyronic stages of the band. Their first effort dubbed “Gods on Voodoo Moon” was recorded in two hours in a studio picked from the phone book for it’s name “Bat Cave” and its dirt cheap prices.

The band would spend quite some time living on enthusiasm and the excitement of being in a band on the road rather than off food and money since they seldom had either, often sleeping on the floor of the home of someone else in a band in the town they were playing at.

When the band started to make it big as well being a great player Sean would be synonymous with three things her mop of hair, her constantly changing hot pants and her Rickenbacher bass which was covered in stickers.

When they made it to England riding high on the waves made by the band’s last studio effort “Astro Creep 2000” they played Castle Donnington in front of thousands of fans after driving all night and sleeping during the day but no-one woke up Rob or Sean ’til they were due on stage and they were scared they’d be pelted with bottles of piss playing at Reading Festival the next day.

What’s really great about this book is the plethora of photo’s and images of posters, flyers, stage banners and various other things from the band’s history. The design by Yseult stops things getting cluttered and even features a flipbook section so you can see her in all her headbanging glory.

X-Men Days Of Future Past

Loosely based on the fan favourite story from the early 80’s of the same name ,written by Chris Claremont and John Byrne, this is the latest big screen outing for the X-Men. It’s also the follow up to X-Men First Class and the return of Bryan Singer who kickstarted the X-Men franchise and played a major part in the current comic to film boom.

The story has Professor X (Patrick Stewart) and Magneto (Ian Mckellen) utilising Shadowcat (Ellen Page) to send Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) ,or rather his consciousness, back in time to 1973 so that he can help their younger selves (James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender) set aside their differences and stop a dystopian, nightmarish Sentinel-run future ever happening by preventing Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from assassinating Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage).


Unlike other films in the franchise this entry is definitely aimed at fans of the X comics and other X films. There’s no time wasted on origins, establishing the world or introducing characters here, which if you’re familiar with the X comics and films history is great but if you have no idea who Bolivar Trask is or don’t understand the complexity of the relationship between Charles Xavier, Erik Lehnsherr and Raven Darkholme then you might be a bit lost in places.

The dark future is surprisingly grim for the film’s low rating, with ruined a city scape and emaciated mutants being herded in a vast hi tech prison camp whilst futuristic Sentinel craft fly over head. An opening scene has an ensemble of characters including Shadowcat, Bishop (Omar Sy), Blink (Bingbing Fan), Warpath (Booboo Stewart), Sunspot (Adam Canto), Colossus (Daniel Cudmore) and Iceman (Shawn Ashmore) fighting against the deadly adaptive sentinels that have found their sanctuary. It doesn’t hold back either, this isn’t an everything’s going to work out in the end affair, there’s a really sense of impending doom.

Not only is this a chance for a great action oriented opening which showcases some great FX, Blink’s portals being a highlight, it also really sells the group dynamic and makes it believable that they’ve been together and fought side by side for a long time.

There’s shades of The Terminator both in the nightmarish future but also in the seemingly unstoppable Sentinels as they close in on the X-Men’s hideout.


Back in the past there’s plenty of 70’s hallmarks from lava lamps and some pornotastic guitar music to Pong and the story incorporates several real historical events into the X universe like The Paris peace accords, the JFK assassination, President Nixon and the missing 18 minutes from the Watergate tapes.

A standout scene involves Evan Peters as Quicksilver, it’s an impressive display of portraying what could be seen as a “boring” power really well.

Aside from Halle Berry’s Storm who seems utterly superfluous everyone has a part to play in the narrative. There’s plenty of nods to the X timeline too with Jackman’s Wolverine meeting a young Stryker one at point amongst other touches. The cast on the whole are great and the spiky dynamic between McAvoy and Fassbender contrasts sharply with that of their older selves played by Stewart and McKellen, which and the way the narrative shifts from the past to the future is handled really well.

Also the story avoids becoming “The Wolverine Show” rather well.


One of the best things about X-Men Days of Future Past though is Lawrence’s Raven/Mystique. It’s rare to have a story with a female character that is integral to the plot but not because they need rescuing. The whole story hinges on the dynamic between the shape shifting mutant and both of her surrogate fathers.

Despite the machinations of both Magneto and Raven/Mystique there’s an ambiguity to their actions and neither are “evil” in the standard sense, the real villain of the piece is Dinklage’s Trask, the X films equivalent of notorious Nazi sadist Josef Mengele. The grim future isn’t too subtle in its depiction of how things will go, which is all the more powerful given Eric’s own back story.    

There are a few problems due to the convulted and tangled storyline if you line up all the films, especially where Wolverine is concerned but this is to be expected when you have several different writers. That post credits teaser at the end of The Wolverine doesn’t connect with this film at all, there’s no Emma Frost despite what happened in X-Men First Class and Alan Cummings Nightcrawler despite being one of the stand outs of X2  doesn’t feature here either.

This works better than having characters there just for the sake of it though.

There’s a lot of fan service here, most of the characters in the future are little more than extended cameos but well utilised none the less. It might confuse those not familiar with the X comics and films (there’s even some connective tissue with the maligned The Last Stand) but this is by far one of the best X-Men films to date.

All Star Western #30

Integrating Jonah Hex into the DC Universe sounded like the worst thing that could happen to the ill tempered , scar faced Old West bounty hunter. TheALLSW_30_3-665x1024 idea of Hex bumping into Superman or some other superhero or villain is so utterly removed from Hex’s adventures it seems bizarre. Long time writing buddies Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti (now veterans at writing Hex with over 70 issues) have managed to handle this really well and in surprising ways though, even if they might have alienated the odd reader along the way.

Following his time travel misadventures Hex now finds himself back in the Old West and it’s a sombre affair as Hex goes about burying Gina his paramore from the future who died in mysterious circumstances.

What makes Jonah Hex so good is he isn’t a superhero and he doesn’t have powers either, which makes him considerably different to most characters in DC’s pantheon. Despite being reintroduced to the DC Universe he still du9ced5j0d0l6t45b5h5m5dikpretty much exists in his own realm with its own characters as well as outlaws, moonshine and six shooters. Like most fringe characters you either get it or you don’t.

One of the characters that inhabits Hex’s world is Tallulah Black, who makes her return in this issue. The Ying to Hex’s Yang she is his counterpart, a scarred bounty hunter with a tortured past and the pair have a history and Tallulah’s reaction to Hex’s new unscarred face is deftly handled.

Staz Johnson provides some sublime moody art which features some classic Old West imagery aided by a suitably moody colour palette from Michael Atiyeh. All Star Western shares the same layout style featured in the pairs pre 52 Jonah Hex title featuring bold chapter headings.

The return to an inclusion of a back up story, this issue featuring Madame 44, gives All Star Western an anthology feel again which is both hit and miss, it’s always interesting seeing Palmiotti and Gray work on another character in the same world as Hex but it also means there’s less of Hex.

MULP: Sceptre of the Sun #1

MULP Sceptre of the Sun is an all ages tale published by Inky Little Paws which introduces Jack Redpath and his associates as they become embroiled in atumblr_n2omterLKS1s5h6cdo1_500 tale of mystery and intrigue which involves ancient treasure connected to a discovery at an archaeological dig.

Compared to the output of the rumbling juggernauts that are the “Big Two” ,which is contrained by the numerous rules of the comics publication machinery,  MULP is a breath of fresh air and a reminder of what makes indie comics so good.

This the first of five parts introduces the characters and the world of MULP and that world is a joy to behold,  a world populated by anthropomorphic mice. Imagine Indiana Jones or the adventures of Allan Quatermain with mice. It should be noted that this setting this isn’t a case of an interesting world being the hook making up for an uninteresting story far from it.

tumblr_n2ond1L3Tk1s5h6cdo1_500The story from writer Matt Gibbs is one which takes its cues from classic pulp adventure stories. It opens up on a bustling market in the heart of Egypt and the reader is quickly introduced to Jack Redpath and Cornelius Field as the two head towards a dig site where there’s been trouble with thugs raiding the dig site and one of the research assistants has gone missing. It doesn’t take long for the pair to become embroiled in a globe spanning adventure.

To go with Gibbs story there’s some gorgeous art from Sara Dunkerton. There’s some great character designs and the action is handled brilliantly but what really stands out is the little details which add to the world. Details like “Acorn Airways” being emblazoned on the side of a plane seen in one of the first panels, the numerous real world landmarks that feature in the story like The White Cliffs of Dover and The British Museum and loads of other things, like a Rhinocerous Beetle being used like an ox to pull a cart in the background of one panel and mice riding lizards like horses. It’s great world building which makes a great setting for the story.

MULP is a brilliant example of what comics are about.

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Chaos #1

Chaos! Comics was one of the surprising successes of the 90’s. Brian Pulido and Steven Hughes created their own publishing company as a home forLayout 1 their expanding range of characters. The name is mostly associated with T&A Bad Girl horror comics, one of the most well known characters being Lady Death. There were several other Bad Girl characters including Purgatori, Chastity and Jade amongst others. Evil Ernie is one of the most well known characters outside of the Bad Girl pantheon that Chaos! Comics are known for.

These characters would feature in intertwined stories often first appearing in one title before getting their own. Squarely aimed at older teen male readers chock full of violence and scantily clad anti-heroines, they were crass and lurid but that was part of the appeal and they were a big hit.

Lady Death became the archetype for a whole subgenre of comics pretty much.

When Bad Girl comics went out of favour though Chaos! Comics went into decline and then bankrupt, with Pulido selling the rights to the characters. They eventually ended up at Dynamite with the exception of Lady Death which went to Avatar.

Chaos is Dynamite’s first publication featuring the characters (aside from a mini series featuring Evil Ernie) written by Tim Seeley with art from Mirka Andolfo.

The story, as explained in a foreword, is a war of attrition between three different factions with Earth the battleground. Purgatori the vampire goddess seeks revenge against nemesis Mistress Hel and her accomplice Evil Ernie who are trying to bring about the apocalypse whilst The Chosen – a group of supernatural mortals – face off against both factions and the various creatures they employ.

There’s some great potential with so many colourful and twisted characters to play with so it’s disappointing that this is so underwhelming. Seeley is the creator and writer of Hack/Slash ,the popular long running horror title, which makes it all the more disappointing. Introducing a host of characters in a single issue is always tricky and readers not familiar with the characters will find themselves somewhat lost, wondering just exactly who’s who and what’s Layout 1going on due to a disjointed narrative.

Introducing the majority of your characters at the end of your first issue is a rather bizarre move narratively speaking and seemingly indicates that Seeley is just expecting readers to know who these characters are and not expecting anyone who isn’t a fan of old Chaos! Comics to pick it up .

The art from Mirka Andolfo fails to impress for the most part lacking definition and the murky colours courtesy of Walter Baiamonte really don’t help matters.

Updating Chaos! Comics characters wasn’t going to be easy without taking away the reasons they were so popular in the first place, i.e gratuitous T&A art and brutal violence. Chaos! Comics aren’t remembered for their in depth multi-layered narratives this should be crass and bad taste and gory but this is sanitised, bland and rather toothless. There’s definitely a market for (im)mature horror comics even if it’s as a Guilty Pleasure , Avatar publishes several.

Chaos could’ve been a flagship title for Dynamite but fans of old Chaos! Comics will be left wanting and new readers will just be bewildered.

One of the biggest ironies is a host of great artists have provided excellent covers including J. Scott Campbell, Carlos Rafael, Monte Moore and Tim Vigil amongst others.

American Mary


Mary Mason (Katherine Isabelle) is a medical student on her way to becoming a surgeon. The path to living the American dream is strewn with obstacles though. Her financial woes are not only distracting her from her studies, bringing conflict with her tutor Dr Grant (David Lovgren), they also mean the bills are piling up.

Taking on a job as a dancer through sheer desperation she meets club owner Billy (Antonio Cupo). Following a chance to make some quick money using her skills patching someone up in the basement of the club and a brutal and disturbing encounter at a party Mary soon finds opportunities for both work and revenge in the body modification community.

Soon Mary is soon altering her aspirations whilst altering her clientele.

Fresh off the back of a sold out screening tour of the UK and a screening at Film4 FrightFest. The latest from from Jen and Sylvia Soskia aka the Twisted Twins is a memorable deconstruction of the American dream, an engrossing character study, a twisted tale of revenge and introduces one of the most iconic characters in horror in years.

 Katherine Isabelle already known to fans of cult horror for her role as Ginger in the memorable Ginger Snaps films eclipses her previous character here and is sure to be remembered as ‘Bloody Mary’ from now on.


 With an endearing and powerful performance Isabelle’s Mary starts off a naive student desperate to please, whether it’s her Nana who is constantly calling Mary for updates on her progress (unaware of the bleak reality of her financial hardship) or her tutor the arrogant Dr Grant (an antagonistic and callous turn from Lovgren) and becomes something entirely different by the time the credits roll.

Often when a film has vengeance on perpetrators of a brutal sexual assault in it’s DNA its makers tend to be more interested in portraying the sexual assault, the more explicit the better, than the vengeance ,which is generally an afterthought justifying the former. Here things are handled differently and this subtlety makes what unfolds all the more harrowing. It’s disturbing imagery and feeds into what happens as the story unfolds. With Mary returning galvanised and wreaking vengeance on her tormentor and finding acceptance from those that others would look down upon.

The Soskia twins themselves feature as clients of Mary’s, playing the goth styled hosts of a well regarded body mod website wanting more work done.

 With her sheer black hair, bright red lipstick and ice-cool demeanour along with her fetish inspired wardrobe it’s not hard to fall for Mary and Cupo’s Billy quickly becomes enamoured, he doesn’t act on it through fear though.


 There’s more going on besides body horror though with some black humour to be found, one scene has a client in Mary’s appartment/bodyshop being thrown out for asking for tribal tattoos. There’s a murky ambiguity to Mary’s story too, one which hulking doorman and muscle Lance (Twan Holliday) makes even murkier by relating a tale of how a relation was callously murdered.

One of the most endearing things the Soska twins achieve is crafting a film which features a subculture which is completely misunderstood in mainstream media at its heart, crucially though it doesn’t mock, judge or demonise its members.

One of the most intriguing characters in the film is Beatrice (Tristan Risk) a stripper who has undergone numerous procedures to resemble cartoon character Betty Boop, with some masterful prosthetics from MASTERSFX . Despite standing out as being “a freak” in the eyes of most Beatrice is an eternal optimist and quickly becomes friends with Mary and has her own story.

 Shot on a low budget but still looking slick and polished there’s shades of Takashi Miike’s Audition, Mitchell Lichenstein’s Teeth, Mary Harron’s American Psycho and David Cronenberg’s body horror all shot through with the Soskia twins aesthetic vision.

 Whilst it’s ending seems a little clunky American Mary is one of the most original and engaging horror films in years and deserves the cult admiration it will undoubtedly get.

Hellboy II The Golden Army


When Prince Nuada (Luke Goss) of the mythical realms returns from exile determined to awaken an ancient indestructible army to wreak vengeance on humanity in violation of a sacred pact it’s down to Hellboy (Ron Perlman), Liz Sherman (Selma Blair), Abe Sapien (Doug Jones) and the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defence to stop him.

 Contrary to what you might think Hellboy II really doesn’t fit easily into a pigeonhole, there’s so much going on. Del Toro’s second film based on Mike Mignola’s creation builds on the impressive original in every way and then goes even further.

 Starting out with an endearingly animated prologue explaining the reason behind the creation of the Golden Army, an immensely powerful army of automatons created to win a war only for the king Balor their controller to see the error in his ways resulting in a pact of peace between the mythical races and man. The crown which controls the army is split into three pieces with one given to man which causes Prince Nuada to dissappear vowing to return to claim what is his as Man hasn’t earned their place in the world.

 Present day and we see Prince Nuada training in a subterranean chamber in an impressively dextrous manner slicing a drop of water in two in slow motion before seeing a train drive past in the background showing that this subterranean chamber is infact not too far below the streets of unsuspecting citizens. This is just one of many images that really shows this is far removed from the image associated with films based on comic books.

Film Title: Hellboy II: The Golden Army

 It has to be said that the cast are exemplary in their roles and no other actor could portray Hellboy other than Ron Perlman but the characterisation built into the script by Del Toro and Mike Mignola makes everything click together like the pieces of an awe inspiring puzzle.

 Relationships and characters have changed since the first film. Liz and Hellboy are having relationship troubles and it’s the inherent believeability of this relationship which is just one of the amazing but subtle charms of these characters. Hellboy is getting bored with being cooped up in the basement and the BPRD operating in the shadows and is having constant arguments with Manning (Jeffrey Tambor) who is trying to keep a lid on Hellboy’s existence.

 Beneath it all this is a love story and an incredibly endearing one, a scene where Hellboy now out in the open thanks to some reckless behaviour on his part is hit on the head by a stone thrown by disapproving member of the public really shows why, with Liz stepping in front of her considerably larger partner protectively as Hellboy has a look of crestfallen confusion in just one of the pairs many great character moments.


 Whilst it might be Hellboy’s name in the title there’s plenty of other characters worth noticing. Abe Sapien (Doug Jones) gets his own love story becoming enamoured of Princess Nuala (Anna Walton) the twin of Prince Nuada and the normally eloquent and well spoken Abe becoming tongue tied when talking to her is another great character moment.

 A scene where both Hellboy and the normally teetotal Abe both feeling rejected and confused get drunk and end up singing along to Barry Manilow’s ‘Can’t smile without you’ is poignant rather than just being played for laughs.

 Prince Nuada isn’t just some stock ‘evil’ character but rather more layered and his impassioned plea to his father King Balor isn’t without merit.  Things aren’t black and white in this world and Goss’s performance just adds more to the character and his dialogue with Hellboy really plays at his vulnerabilites pointing out he has more in common with him than the humans.

Mr Wink Prince Nuada’s right hand man is a thing of beauty, a huge cave troll with a mechanical hand which can be fired off and then crawls back to him and despite what you will inevitably think this is all done via real practical effects with minor tweaking with Brian Steele playing Wink.

 Another agent of the BPRD has been sent in to curb Hellboy’s reckless behaviour and here we have one of the other standout characters in Johan Krauss (John Alexander) a German who’s body has been rendered into an ethereal gaseous state and as such inhabits a suit, a bit like an oldschool diving suit. He’s fastidious and by the book which impresses Manning and Abe and promotes a feeling of jealousy from Hellboy which culminates in an impressively comedic face off in the locker room.


 Jeffrey Tambor is great as the official of the BPRD who is clearly terrified of what Hellboy and his team have to deal with but still likes to lecture the team on how they’re supposed to be a covert facility.

 There’s also the awe-inspiring scene in the Troll Market, a unique trip into Guillermo Del Toro’s imagination realised via a homage to Jim Henson’s Creature Shop looking like a mash up of Mos Eisley’s Cantina and the market scene of Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark. All manner of bizarre creatures are seen mingling in the bustling crowd all of which are realised via prosthetics, there’s no way the likes of Cathedral Head could come from any other film maker.

A later encounter with the Angel of Death is yet another reminder of Del Toro’s amazing imagination.

 It’s also highly accomplished on a technical level with numerous long tracking shots with one being reminiscent of Men in Black as Hellboy and Manning walk through the BPRD facility whilst all manner of bizarre carnage rages behind them as they casually walk on by.

 The choreography of the action scenes is impressive and there’s no jittery headache inducing snap cuts or shaky camera, Del Toro treats the framing of action with the same level of skill and attention to detail as quiet character moments and a big action scene involving a towering elemental is clearly a love letter to Kaiju films but rather than having some huge hideous beast smashing up buildings it’s a thing of beauty and also serves as the ambiguity which is at the core of the story writ large.

 With action, comedy, a love story and more Hellboy II plays more like a feature length episode of an excellent TV show rather than a film thanks to it’s great ensemble cast. The ending is a bittersweet affair given the troubles the long mooted Hellboy III faces.

Fables: Cubs in Toyland


Therese Wolf one of Snow White and Bigby Wolfs seven children finds herself wanting after her sister Winter being crowned as the new North Wind. With her father busy preparing Winter for her new role and her mother busy taking care of her brothers and sisters a toy boat received from an unknown 1f6bee5a7d6cd599db6951a74ef365bfbenefactor is little distraction. This toy boat is more than it seems though and Therese finds herself going on an adventure to the strange land of Discardia the realm of broken toys, these toys are broken in more ways than one though.

 With Hellblazer’s cancellation Bill Willingham’s Fables will officially take the mantle of being Vertigo’s longest running comic with issue #126 out this month. This latest volume collects together issues #114 -123. This longevity is starting to show though, after the war with The Adversary, the main underlying driving narrative for the series was resolved in the War and Pieces arc finishing in issue #75 (around the time when most Vertigo series tend to finish) there’s been an evident lack of focus or drive in the series since.

 Therese’s time in Discardia is one of the darkest periods in Fables thus far, very much a twisted and grim take on the fairy tale trappings which the series is built on. The way this manifests shows Willingham clearly doesn’t lack for a45202c58599fc0f25e69f905dd834c3imagination or an ability to go into darker places. The underlying theme of this story is innocence lost and redemption and relates to the prophecy mentioned in the previous book Inherit The Wind.

 There’s plenty of darkly surreal imagery and characters, Mr Ives a large, ragged stuffed bear being just one of them.

 As well as Therese her brother Dare also plays a fundamental part in this story with her fearless brother determined to find her.

 Epilogue story The Destiny Game makes impressive use of its setting and its concise narrative

 The art by long time artist Mark Buckingham is as good as ever, especially at conveying the more disturbing elements featured in the Cubs in Toyland story with Steve Leialoha’s inks amplyfing the effect but Gene Ha’s art for The Destiny Game stands out with its more classical fairy tale elements.

 The sprawling ensemble cast of Fables and its numerous awards (14 Eisners and counting) ensure it will no doubt run on for a considerable time, at times though the lack of focus does make you wonder whether that is a good thing. The main narrative drive for the series is somewhat of a mystery now with The Adversary now dealt with and Mr Dark in the rear view mirror too, and the prophecy relating to Bigby’s cubs doesn’t seem big enough to hold things up. So the series is driving along but no-one besides Willingham knows the destination and some readers may not be willing to ride shotgun for the journey.

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