Damn, I’m busy these days. A million things to report from the battlements. My time has been in such heavy demand that I didn’t even do a proper Julia Starchild wrap-up. So we’ll cover that first.
As a few of you know, my first big new project of the year was a serial novella in six parts which I posted here for free, starting in March and wrapping up in April. Most of the chapters were accompanied by blatherings here at The Express and over at Dread Central. But in case you missed some of it, here’s a link to the whole thing:
Julia Starchild has now been “collected,” sort of, with each volume fully illustrated and linked to the next consecutive entry in the series. If you are a fan of crappy low budget space movies and crappy low budget Emmanuelle movies, that’s where the fun begins . . . but, of course, it ENDS in a very different place, with musings about humanity, love and family generations. Julia becomes Sarah, and Sarah carries the flame into the future. It is, word for word, one of the most challenging things I’ve ever written and I think I’m pretty proud of what it is. It may also be one of the more “hopeful” stories I’ve done, though I would argue that “hope” is a four letter word. Meaning mostly that “hope” is usually where you find it. Many people live lives of weird, quiet desperation. Many people have no idea what it is to have “hope.” So hope becomes laughable. I think my fascination with the darker heart of humanity partially springs from that, and in the good we can potentially find in these awful, awful places. I believe in love, too, obviously, as I have also reported here at the Express. And I DO love everyone. But “love” is also a four letter word. “Love” is complicated and difficult. There are many kind of love. They can all hurt.
I write both fiction and non fiction in its purest form to explain these things to myself. I go deep into the dark to find new questions, and maybe a few answers—even if they are weird and/or unhappy. I think there is odd nobility in that. It’s like being a crusader on the outer rim. Or at the very least, some sort of monster who watches other monsters and tells you what to look out for. Jesus, what a thought.
But, well . . . you can only write about slobbering lunatics who murder people and ass-rape their victims for so long before you need a fucking break.
I finished a long-gestating novella earlier this year while I was taking care of my sick father in Houston. The novella was called ROSE .45. During that mission of mercy, where I holed up at dad’s place and looked after him, my plan had been to catch up with real work—the more commercial stuff that pays bills—but I found my mind was more attenuated to the pure creative nebulas while I was there. This may be because my father is an artist who is a slave to his muse. This may be because I was on a sort of “vacation” and my tortured overworked noodle refused to allowed me space to be commercial with my writing. See, the short stuff I do has always been pure expression. I’ve done some great work in short fiction recently that is the darkest, most agonized shit of my entire career. That’s saying quite a lot, too, because I’ve written some pretty dark and agonized shit in the past. (If you have a copy of SAFE IN THE WOODS, you’re prolly nodding vigorously with a weird little smile on your face right about now.) ROSE .45 was as pitch-black/rock-bottom as it gets, people: A story I started before my crippling accident of 2014 that I was only able to return to and finish after my crippling accident of 2014. This is darkly ironic and weirdly fucked-up because ROSE .45 is literally about a man who wakes up in a hospital bed and discovers that he’s crippled. Most people who know me and my work will automatically assume I came up with this AFTER the accident. But this is not so. And it doesn’t stop being weird there.
See, as I returned to the scenario of ROSE .45, and began to see the dark threads that would lead to it’s even darker conclusion, I realized something incredibly telling. It might even be cosmic, some kind of proof of God, or a Star Wars-like force, or the power that we humans have to will things into existence by sheer obsessive mind-power. It also may be a series of completely baffling coincidences. In any event, it all scares the living hell out of me and blows my mind a little more every time I sit down and think about it.
And what I realized was this:
People waking up in hospitals and/or in operating rooms with something terribly wrong with them has been a theme in my work for ten years. It happens in my comic book PHANTASM: OVERMINDS and in PHANTASM FOREVER, the aborted film version of that comic. It happens in my novels SAFE IN THE WOODS, RESURRECTION EXPRESS, BEFORE THE FALL, METRO . . . and I started to make it happen in ROSE .45 about three years before I was run over by a truck and woke up in a hospital and/or operating room with something terribly wrong with me. You have to remember, I came up with all that shit BEFORE my accident. And I never even realized it was a running gag in my work. Was I writing to a fixed pattern? Was I seeing my own future? Or was I manifesting that future?
This was a terrifying series of questions I pondered whilst finishing ROSE .45 and those questions may have been the reason for its ultimate darkness. I may have been attempting to make sure I was bloody well finished with the idea. I certainly drew on my own experience this time, in terms of recovery and PT. And I am almost certainly bound and determined never to write another hospital story again, for better or for worse.
Julia Starchild was, in her own twisted way, designed to break that cycle. So I could look forward into a slightly less doomed future. Oh sure, there’s still death and murder and blood and sweat and drug addiction and all the other humanity in Julia’s story . . . but maybe I don’t need to wake up in a fucking hospital again. Maybe love is truly the only thing worth owning in this life. Lighten up some, man. You’ll live longer. Maybe.
Beating the nightmare hospital was just one of many reasons the story of Julia came out the way it did. But there’s another reason it went down that way . . . and I’m here to tell you I have no idea what those other reasons are. I just invented a reality and started writing it. The best work of my life has been done this way. Just scribbling it down for hours and hours until an end is found and a meaning is achieved. I never think about plotting and characters or pure theme when I’m writing books. I never rely on structured rules. Even RESURRECTION EXPRESS, my most widely acclaimed “thriller” was written this way. Just put the throttle down hard and go for hyperspace. Just see what happens. In this way, my method (which is the same method used by Stephen King, Joe Lansdale and William Gibson, three of my all-time heroes) is very much like living life. You experience it as you do it. And so it becomes a sort of reality.
So no more hospital stories.
I’m done with hurting all the time.
I hope Julia was fun for you, and if you haven’t read her yet, I hope she will be fun for you. I hope you’ll learn something valuable. And if you don’t . . . well, I hope you enjoy the pretty pictures. I’ve had great epiphanies writing her and drawing her, obviously, and it’s time to move on to new horizons. This is probably another reason why I’ve given her away at no charge here. She is free love to everyone and a deliverance from darkness. (God, what a preachy asshole; somebody shut this motherfucker up before he starts telling us to watch WHAT THE BLEEP DO WE KNOW?)
THAT SAID . . . I’ll never turn my back entirely on the dark. Because the dark is just too goddamn amazing to a guy like me. Which brings us to . . .
EIBON PRESS is another reason I haven’t come around much these days at The Express. Yes, in my infinite wisdom I have started a goddamn fucking publishing company. And not one of those pussy print-on-demand outfits either. A real, hands-on publishing company that makes actual quality books that are worth owning and collecting. Eibon will be the home of my short story collections and some of my darker novel-length fiction for the foreseeable future . . . but it will mainly be the home of really cool comic books. Like:
Yes, my old school FULCI COMICS are coming back. In style. It’s journey I began many years ago—in 1998—and has been derailed for years, due to many mitigating factors. I’m happy to say, however, that those mitigations have been mitigated and we are now finally able to present my bold adaptations of Lucio Fulci’s great horror films, ZOMBIE and CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD, in their entirety. And as they’ve NEVER been seen before.
I’ll explain a little for those who may be new to all this.
Back in 98, I was working a lot with a publisher named Shawn Lewis and we did a full length graphic novel adaptation of Fulci’s THE BEYOND. I was never all that happy with the results, though, and when we decided to follow up with ZOMBIE, we learned from our mistakes and got it right. Problem was, Shawn had gone broke doing THE BEYOND and we couldn’t afford a decent printer on the second book. Plus I didn’t know anything about how to edit a comic book back then and the DIY printing industry wasn’t a tenth as easy to navigate as it is today. So it all came out for shit. ZOMBIE was eventually “published” in 2000 as a graphic novel, and even though the art and writing was lots better, the printing was so terrible and the print run was so tiny (just 700 copies!) that it STILL made us all look like complete fucking amateurs. Which I guess maybe we sort of were. I mean, I was still just 27 when I made that stuff.
Anyway . . . I teamed up with one of the inkers on ZOMBIE and we set to work on yet a third Fulci adaptation—GATES OF HELL, inspired by the classic sleaze-pit horror film CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD. This project took me about a month to script. It took Derek over ten years to complete the art. This was for a galaxy of complicated reasons, not the least of which was our ill-advised venture into single-issue comic book publishing, which lasted only two or three years in the early 2000s and met with astonishing doom and spectacular failure. Our books looked like crap. We had no business plan. I still have tons of those shitty comics lying around as reminders of what untrained, half-assed punk rockers we were back then . . .
At least we were doing SOMETHING, right?
And you always learn from SOMETHING.
I moved on to many other projects. 15 years passed. I became a real writer. I did movie stuff and published books through the biggest imprints in the world. I mean the people who publish James Patterson and Stephen King. Everything I ever did in the real world of high-stakes NYC publishing and film development was informed by those early years of doing the punk rock thing. I am extremely proud of the work I did, particularly SHOCK FESTIVAL, which was truly one of the most innovative books ever put out by anyone, anywhere, ever. I’m not just saying that, either. It really was. And because I was not only the book’s writer, but also its key illustrator, designer and editor, the experience was also a sort of graduate training in book production, where I finally learned how this shit is really done, from the first line of copy to the last copyright notice. This even allowed me even to become a professional designer, which I still do to this day.
Derek and Shawn and Mike went on to their other projects too. Somehow, during that time, Derek found the precious moments to finish the GATES OF HELL art. At one point, he even had plans to publish the thing himself, along with ZOMBIE. But that never happened. Again, there are many reasons for that. I’ll keep them to myself. It’s all weird and complicated and probably not even that interesting to anyone who wasn’t there.
But I will tell you about a bizarre and telling thing happened.
In 2014, I ended up in hospital and/or operating room with something terribly wrong with me. While I was in that hospital, old Shawn Lewis called me up and asked me to come back into comics with him. I said yes because I knew somehow it would save my life.
A year into our first comic in 15 years—a nasty original number called BOTTOMFEEDER—he called and asked what it would take to come back and finish the Fulci stuff we started.
And this was the beginning of Eibon Press.
At first, Eibon had been designed merely as a way to have paper between me and Shawn on BOTTOMFEEDER—it was a partnership designed to give us equal shares on our print ventures together and a brand name to put on any comics we sold to larger publishers. That was our plan at the start. To make our comics and sell them to the big boys. We might have naively assumed that someone “big” would buy a book as darkly obsessed, morbidly hilarious and fetishistically violent as BOTTOMFEEDER, but hey . . . we also had ZOMBIE, a comic based on a pretty legendary horror film from the 1980s. How could we go wrong?
Well we didn’t, really.
The plan went just the way we’d planed it. We made our comics, complete with lettering and coloring, shopped them and got offers from people.
But then we started thinking.
REALLY started thinking.
What if we went out there did something truly special with these books?
What if we could figure out a way to make owning and collecting comics into something exciting again?
We took a look around at today’s market and the various delivery systems for comic books, and we saw a lot that was missing. And while I don’t think there’s anything wrong with DIGITAL BOOKS theoretically, it becomes a little bit sad when that’s the ONLY way so many people enjoy these things. (My book METRO is currently banished to digital limbo, unfortunately.) What about quality printing and coloring and slick paper? What about a few ideas that have never even been attempted before in terms of premium packaging? Would it be possible to start a comic label who’s mission was to make each and every copy of each and every issue of each and every title a bona fide collector’s item, instantly valuable on the order of say, a MONDO product—and also FUN TO READ??
We thought it could.
So here we are.
Our inaugural release is LUCIO FULCI’S ZOMBIE #1, which is the first 30 pages of the old graphic novel, completely re-jazzed for the digital age, re-lettered, re-edited, re-drawn, re-written and more amazing than it’s ever been. In fact, the production samples just came in the other day and I’m proud to say that the finished printed book of #1 is literally THE most lavish and impressive project I’ve ever been in charge of from top to bottom. And that’s saying a lot because I’ve been in charge of some pretty lavish and impressive projects from top to bottom. (I’m actually happier with this than SHOCK FESTIVAL for a number of reasons.) But don’t take my word for it. Look:
You can see that we’ve put a lot of love in here.
And this is only the start. ZOMBIE is now officially-licensed and will continue as an ongoing series, with new issues past the film adaptation. GATES will be followed by more Fulci stuff. And we have BOTTOMFEEDER and other originals coming as well. Plus some all-new movie comics too that will blow your mind. This is an exciting new time. A new beginning.
And that, finally, is the point of today’s blog. From INVASION OF THE MUTANOIDS to MASTERS OF HORROR, from ROSE .45 to Julia Starchild, my life has been a series of weird alchemic turns. All of it has been magic begetting magic begetting magic. Some of it is dark. Some of it is light. All if it is life.
I think it’s more than a little telling also that the creation of EIBON PRESS coincided almost exactly with the publication of Julia—a story meant to break a certain cycle of alchemy in that life. This was not intentional. It just happened.
Read what you will into that.
And come around for more about Eibon. Our website goes live on the 6th on June. You will ONLY be able to get our books THERE. I’ll be linking the site at the Express and talking about it as much as I can, though I WILL be quite busy getting these books ready. Follow us at @eibonpress. There’s fun there too, and LOTS of crazy Fulciphilles.
If you are a new fan, I say thanks for joining us. If you are an old fan, I say thanks for sticking with me. There’s a light of love in the universe that saves us all. No bullshit.
Peace in the galaxy.