So… I’ve posted a lot about my Lifetime adventures because it’s fun. But what about my career in ART FOR ART’S SAKE? The fun stuff that I really type my soul into and have a lot more control over? (Do you hear my eyes rolling? It’s pretty loud over here.) Well, there’s a long story behind all that. I’ll try to keep it as short as possible. I should, after all, be working. ARRGGGGH, I say.
Those of you who keep up with me regularly have heard the tales of Eibon Press and “Project 51,” “Resurrection Express” and “Metro” and “Shock Festival” and MASTERS OF HORROR and all the other bullet points of my sordid career… but one of the things nobody tells you about when you get into the game of making books and movies is what a fucking rat race it all tends to be. Sure, you can be a dedicated artist with a crazy-ass muse and all that, but you also have to sell a few books and/or movie tickets to have a career. I won’t bore you with the details, but I’ve seen many of the places people call home in these industries and I’ve experienced a lot of what you have to do to belong there… and most of it just ain’t what it’s cracked up to be. It all kind of comes down to this:
Everybody has an opinion about how you should be an artist.
This is probably well and good if all you want to do is make Lifetime movies, where they give you marching orders that you have to follow OR ELSE… and it’s also probably fine if what you want is to publish big novels through major imprints. But you have to pass muster there too. There are “standards and practices” to consider. You have to do it their way.
In 2016, I started a little thing called Eibon Press with my partner Shawn Lewis so that there would be at least one outlet in this whole freaking world where my work would be pure and more-or-less undiluted. Eibon was/is mostly a comic book publishing imprint, and we started it because Shawn and I couldn’t get arrested with something we’d recently come up with together called BOTTOMFEEDER. Even in my perverted career, there have been few things to rival the outright offensiveness of that particular graphic novel project. But the thing is, I didn’t do any of it to be cute. I didn’t do it to make you giggle at what an imp I am. I didn’t even do it for those smug hipster bloggers who (literally) stood in a room and trashed my work without even READING IT as “nothing but gratuitous violence.” No, see here’s the thing: FUCK ALL OF THOSE PEOPLE. That’s my muse talking. He sees through everyone. He speaks truth. He needs to be free and unfettered at least some of the time.
Say what you want, but I will always say this back: BOTTOMFEEDER is, at the end of the day, about something. It’s deeply felt. It MEANS A GREAT DEAL TO ME AND TO SHAWN. Sure, it’s got a nine year old kid smoking crack who gets skull-fucked by a big monster, but so what?
The point is: At Eibon, Shawn and I created a home for BOTTOMFEEDER. One without judgement or censorship. A safe place for bad things. AND, we also had a series of licensed movie comics, which were adaptations of Lucio Fulci’s ZOMBIE, CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD, THE HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY and THE BEYOND. Alongside that, we cranked out an absolutely batshit adaptation of William Lustig’s MANIAC and followed it with a sequel that burned the eyes out of all ten people who read it. Um. That was called MANIAC 2. (Creative, ain’t we?) The reason only ten people read it was that our print runs were insanely low. Usually just 1,000 copies of each issue. So I’m exaggerating a little. (OF COURSE I AM! I’M A WRITER!!) More like five or six hundred people may have actually read it. But we worked hard to make these things genuine passion projects, with blood-sweating craft on every page and the best collector’s packaging on the market. Period. As Shawn often liked to say, Nobody does what we do. NOBODY. He was/is right. For six years if you bought a comic book or one of my short story collections from Eibon Press, what you got was THE BEST AND MOST ORIGINAL PRESENTATIONS OF SEQUENTIAL GRAPHIC STORYTELLING, not to mention some of the purest forms of expression I have yet been allowed. UM. CLICK THAT LINK ABOVE OR RIGHT HERE FOR MORE ABOUT EIBON. (The only other project of mine I can claim such creative freedom on is “Shock Festival,” which is downright willful in its galvanizing nature.) And I hear you already. “But, Stephen, aren’t all those comics all based on other people’s films!???” (Um. If you were thinking that, my muse is screaming FUCK YOU TOO… but I digress again…)
The truth is, I took/take the movie adaptation work just as seriously as anything else I ever did… and never mind that we had BOTTOMFEEDER also, which is crazy-original stuff… and I also got to do WASTELAND 1989, a satire of ROAD WARRIOR rip-off films from the 1980s that became one of my most ambitious and head-trippy projects to date. (See funny gag ABOVE.) And here’s the REAL rub: On these projects I answered to no one but Shawn. And Shawn was a great collaborator because he trusted my instincts as a creative professional. I am the writer AND editor, just like I was on “Shock Festival,” and the end results all sluice into the world on that particular brand of steam, for better or for worse. To do it all, I retired from my career as a novelist in the New York City book publishing scene. I did it because the muse told me to. I supported myself as a writer of TV movies (I still do that) while we shook up the world at this little imprint, which was like having a blood-soaked place to call home.
The “Eibonites” and “Psycho Fans” who supported us were a small but dedicated group of mayhem-seekers, whose hard-earned dollars kept us on the air for six years, as we cracked out issue after issue. It was an amazing, exhilarating time. I wouldn’t have traded it for anything. (In fact, as I mentioned, I’d already traded in a “respectable” career for this.) But there were certain intrinsic problems with our business model. For one thing, we wanted to stay totally outside the “system” that normally published comics. That meant reaching fans directly and selling books on our website only. That meant doing special editions unlike anything else out there, so people would want to seek us out and buy them. Part of what made our enterprise valid in the old days was Shawn’s fanbase from his Rotten Cotton horror T-shirt business, which allowed us to reach out to thousands of potential customers. Shawn actually funded the launch of Eibon with sales from that other business, which was amazing, of course… but it was a “certain crowd.” Those customers were mostly big time horror fans who went in for extreme gore and other related stuff… all of which is fine. We love that. It’s fun. And it put us on the air. I’m damn grateful for that. But Shawn and I had other things we wanted to do. We had a revenge story in the blaxploitation mode, for example, that we were both in love with… but Shawn eventually got cold feet about going for it, without some sort of gimmick that would hook the fans or maybe a create new ones.
Who could blame him? Our other non-horror projects crashed and burned pretty hard. We still have tons of LASERBLAST and WASTELAND gathering dust in the warehouse. (Though god knows I tried to make even LASERBLAST as bloodthirsty as possible!) As I mentioned before, having the muse is fine and well… but you gotta sell some books, too. Running a company like this is hard. You have to roll with things. You have to seek new horizons. And you have to keep moving forward with projects that will pay the rent at the same time. I must remind you that this company never had anyone but just Shawn and myself running the show. We had no staff, no assistants, no shipping department. It was all run out of our homes. Everything you ever held in your hands as a result of clicking an order button at our site was a personalized product, made by just two guys with a great deal of love, and countless MAN HOURS that made us both into gray old men way sooner than we should have been. When times got tough, we had to take out loans. To pay back those loans, we had to double down on books. To make people aware of our books so that they would sell, we had to bust ass in every spare moment promoting on social media and at the news blogs. It was like being a shark. SWIM OR DIE. Eventually, all these frustrations balled up at the head office as sales dropped off… and by the year 2022, it looked like we were finally up the creek. By the end of the original incarnation of Eibon Press, I was paying thousands of dollars out my own pocket just to take care of the artists on books that nobody was ever gonna get to see. (This was fair irony: Shawn had paid out of his own pocket to start Eibon!) I lost the house I had lived in for fifteen years and Shawn’s family damn-near ended up on the street due to the enormous amount of work we had to do and the debt we were in. In the crossfire of all that, MANIAC 2 was unfinished. WASTELAND still needed two issues to be complete. And all those dream projects….
I mean… damn, man.
As some of you know, however, that was NOT the end of Eibon Press.
See, when you create something beautiful…. well, chances are, someone’s gonna notice, right? It turned out the “Psycho Fans” of our work, who had been with us from the very start and bought multiple copies of everything we did, no matter what it was… well, those guys were the ones who saved us from oblivion. As we went under, I received many emails from the fans, a lot of whom offered to help us out if they needed to. They LOVED what we did and did not want to see it end. Those offers were mind-blowing, but Shawn and I decided we could not take them. It was time to make our bows gracefully and hope one day we could return on our own steam. He had a new job, which was becoming a new career. I was still writing movies. We were both making peace with how this was all going down.
Until Justin came along.
More exactly, he was an actual Psycho Fan named Justin Tsantsa, who also happened to have an important position as director of merchandising at Vinegar Syndrome, the baddest-ass “underground” video label on earth. He called us up and asked how they could help. Vin Syn helped by saving the company from oblivion. They took over the business end and kindly offered me the gig of keeping everything on the air, in the same lavish tradition our fans had become accustomed to.
See, here’s the thing: I don’t just write and edit these books. I do all the lettering. I design all the logos and graphics. I am involved at every stage of production, from the first scribbles on paper to the final lines of copyright information scrawled in tiny letters on the indicia pages. That’s all my work. And the trick is to make it all look really slick and super pro, like we have a big Image Comics staff. To be honest, I often wonder what all those people in the credits of an EVIL DEAD book do all day long, mostly because I basically do ALL those jobs right here at this desk. Vin Syn put me on salary to do it for them and to preserve the proper legacy of Eibon Press. The idea was to keep that tradition going, and expand the operation so more could be done… and more people could be reached. This blew my mind because I, myself, had been a huge fan of Vin Syn for years and always supported their projects when I could. I was even a “yearly subscriber” before the dark times. The owners of the company turned out to be really cool guys who were in it to win it. Their mission was to make sure this DID NOT DIE. In fact, it would be REBORN in a whole now and totally amazing way. And they were good people, too.
We announced the merger at the start of 2023. Since then, this year has been mostly spent getting a new business model set up in terms of finding new methods and vendors for printing and packaging, new distribution concepts, product expansion, all new titles… and of course, rereleases of all the old ones, in deluxe new editions.
This has not been easy.
I know some of you out there have been frustrated at the lack of info and silence from both Vin Syn and Eibon over the past six months. But believe me, folks, it hasn’t been for nothing. We’ve been super busy. Like, HUMMINGBIRD busy. We’ve been surmounting enormous obstacles and finding clever new solutions to old problems. It’s been a long process. But we’re coming into a place now where I can reveal some of what we’re working towards, and what you’ll see from the new Eibon, in partnership with Vinegar Syndrome Publishing.
I am obviously excited about the new editions of our catalog titles, which we have been busting butt to bring out to you and which are extremely special. I will speak of all that in a moment… but first I want to tease some stuff I am very excited about. I’m even gonna share a few images with you. This is all first-drop exclusive stuff, so hot damn, right? Don’t you feel special? World without end, amen, hallelujah and all that shit. Okay, here goes…
First of all, one of the best things about being a part of the Vin Syn family is that they believe in the power of story and the value of artistic expression. There is no censorship here. There is nobody telling me how I should be an artist. Plus, as I may have already mentoned, they’re really cool guys who love the things we love. They got into this because they saw the absolute awesomeness of what we were doing and valued the artistic side of it as passionately as they valued restoring amazing old horror films and putting out the most cutting-edge indie and vintage movies with their partner labels. One of the first things they got excited about when we started talking was the cool blaxploitation revenge story Shawn and I cooked up so many years ago and were forced to abandon. They wanted that right up front as one of our brand new flagship ORIGINAL TITLES. And so that is one of the things we’ve been working very hard on. I’ve been instructed not to reveal the TITLE just yet, but I can drop a few deets.
It’s the story of a young black girl in the 1970s who is wronged by a terrible act of cowardice and winds up in a coma for seven years… only to emerge as something more. Gifted with an angelic singing voice, but now forever blinded by the punks who did her wrong… she discovers that her songs can heal the sick… but her lust for revenge can pervert her gift into something horrible. It gets into many complicated questions about the nature of punishment and revenge. It’s one of the darkest, deepest things I have ever written, and I am damn proud of how it’s coming together. It’s based on a story sketch by Shawn, which we workshopped together into something super cool, which is similar to the way we did BOTTOMFEEDER. And guess what? It’s about something. Also, there is a certain… dare I say…. sensitivity to the story, which is unlike anything we’ve ever done. Oh sure, the blood will flow. This is dark work about fallen souls. But BOTTOMFEEDER was, front to back, a story about how despicable one man could be, and approached a form of satire in how over-the-top it all was. It was loaded to the gunwales with gallows humor. What we’re doing here is dynamic and measured. In my search for the perfect artist to tell this story with just the right mixture of love and intensity, I found the amazing HANK LA MARCA, a fellow Italian, whose work brims with passion. He’s having a ball on this series. Check out a small sample right here.
This is a work-in-progress from the first issue. It will be in color, of course. There will be three more issues in the first limited series, and then a sequel with another four issues. It’s our epic exploitation film series, done in comic book form! It’s finally COMING SOON, kids! The dream Shawn and I had has become real! Hallelujah, indeed!
Ahhh, but didn’t I promise you MUTANTS?
Yes. Yes I did.
This is another project I am screaming-girl happy about, because it dates back to the actual 1980s. We’re talking 1987 to be exact, the year I created the UTWM. It was a flagship year for genre cinema; when films like PREDATOR and EVIL DEAD 2 and ROBOCOP were answering the call sent out by 1986’s one-two-punch of ALIENS and THE FLY. (Oh, not to mention some little movies like BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA, TOP GUN, LABYRINTH and CRITTERS.) Man, if you were alive back then, it was amazing to stand witness before. A real fringe moment, fueled by perverted, exploitative magic. The video stores overflowed with trashy brilliance like MUTANT HUNT and CREEPOZOIDS. The theaters reeled you in with MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE done by Golan and Globus. Everything was a copy of a copy somehow, with everyone trying their damndest to make THIER NEW VERSION the King’s Shit. I’ve always loved this type of shameless exploitation cinema. (No kidding, Stephen?) It speaks to adolescence, yet challenges the more creative among us to go the extra mile. You know, to make it all work? Some great cinematic art was done in this decade, in the “ripoff” mode. Of particular inspiration to me were BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS, and GALAXY OF TERROR, both early-eighties Roger Corman films crassly constructed on the surface as STAR WARS and ALIEN steals… but when you looked deeper, they were… well… deeper, man. They ware also, technically and artistically, some of the best movies of their kind, due in no small part to major contributions by future Oscar winning film professionals like James Horner, Robert and Dennis Skotak and James Cameron himself, in the days just before ALIENS.
I wanted to make a movie like that. Something that mixed-and-matched and hit some sort of perverted pay dirt. I wrote many pitches for many film projects during that time… but the one I was most in love with was the one about the UTWM. It was just the kind of crazy, adrenaline fueled turbo-tale you’d expect a 17 year old child in the late eighties to concoct: ALIENS meets BLADE RUNNER on the set of ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK and THE ROAD WARRIOR… with the CHUDS coming at ya. I pitched it as a movie to places like Concorde/New Horizons and Empire Pictures in 1987, but nobody bought it. I kept the story with me for years as an artifact of my wasted youth until I first used it as one of the fake movies in my book “Shock Festival.” I got excited after that and wrote it as an actual screenplay, which was optioned three times and never made.
Now, we’re making it.
I’ve teamed up with an amazing up-and-coming artist to do this one. I saw something special in his approach to cyberpunk style speculative fiction… and he drew the hell out of my monsters. BE VERY AFRAID. This one is mutating amazingly well and I’m pleased as a pig-in-bloody-shit to tease it here for the first time. It will be one of our flagship releases for 2024.
And what does UTWM stand for?
Heh. You’ll find out soon, kids . . .
Those of you who have followed us know that we started a Niki Crypt serial comic in the newsletter brochures that come as bonus features in all our sleeved comics, and that’s getting an upgrade too. There will be new and INSANE single-page Niki adventures in all our books moving forward, such as this one, which tells the truth about werewolves:
That’s the amazing David Cabrera on art duties, and he’s also taking point on yet ANOTHER all new ORIGINAL title, which is top secret for the moment… but I can share some sneak peeks soon.
Meanwhile…. here’s a sneak peek at some cool art from something else I can’t talk about at the moment, but will be coming soon:
Because, yes… there’s a fuck ton more. One of the new projects is really big. So big, in fact, that we’re keeping it under wraps for just a bit longer. But it will be announced in time for Halloween, hopefully. On that project, our star artist PAT CARBAJAL is doing mighty double-time duty, kids. It’s a super ambitious and incredibly horrific tale based on a beloved and CLASSIC horror novel.
Oh… and are we still doing movie comics?
Bet your sweet patootey we are!
In fact, first up at the new Eibon, and releasing TODAY, is the deluxe four-issue box set of LUCIO FULCI’S ZOMBIE. It’s a complete reimagining of the entire presentation, with all new covers, all new Eibon sleeves, over 50 new bonus pages and ALL NEW EXTRAS, including an art card series by Puis Calzada and much more. This will be followed by similar box sets for our other catalog titles. You’ll get tons of extras like making-of books, trading cards, art prints… and for the first time ever, you’ll be able to see the wild books we were working on when the company went under last year. It’s real passion project stuff which has never been released to the public. That includes the final issues of ESCAPE FROM THE BEYOND and WASTELAND 1989, which is being rebranded as APOCALYPSE JANET: 1989.
Here’s a look at a couple of the covers from the new rebranded ZOMBIE release, which in my humble opinion, are hotter than fire.
We commissioned all-new Eibon Sleeve covers also for this new release, and here’s a look at a couple of those:
PAT CARBAJAL proves himself a master of this sort of thing every time he steps up. It’s really great work and I’m damn proud he’s with us.
In keeping with the Eibon Press tradition of nobody-does-it-like-we do, the boys at Vin Syn geniused up a new approach to presenting these full story arcs by encasing them in TWO PART INTERLOCKING COLLECTOR’S CASES that have to be seen to be believed. It’s taken more than half a year of R&D to pull this off… but we promise when you see these things, you’ll know where every second of every hour you waited went. Here’s the full specs:
This dropped just today at Vinegar Syndrome. You can even click that IMAGE ABOVE and order one for your very own self. It represents many years of work, starting in 1999 when I first wrote all these comics, and ending RIGHT NOW, with the definitive edition.
Our other movie series will re-release and continue in this fashion… and next up will be MANIAC and MANIAC 2 done the same damn way. I have another posting coming up about all that.
And for the true Vinegar Syndrome die-hards, there is also cause to rejoice, because we are at work on TWO ALL NEW FILM ADAPTATION SERIES, direct from the VS archives, and they are gonna blow your fucking mind. One of them is a classic 1980s horror film (of course), and the artist/writer is none other than JEFF ZORNOW… but you’ll have to wait a little while longer to find out what it is.
The other one, I’m writing, editing and lettering personally, and it’s a real dream project.
When the bosses at VS put their list of films in front of me and asked which one I REALLLLY wanted to do, I did not hesitate. I chose one of my absolute favorite 1970s exploitation pictures and adapted it into a graphic novel, in the same wild style as our other stuff. It’s like nothing I’ve ever done before and nothing we ever would have been able to do at the old Eibon because it’s technically non-horror. We’re pretty sure all the VS peeps are gonna go apeshit for this, though, because we’re talking about a fairly legendary film. I’m over the moon about it, kids. I’m working with the insanely talented Bill Scarpitti, who is an artist to be reckoned with and a force of nature. Check out a tiny teaser snippet:
WHAT IS THIS, you ask? Not telling. But we will soon. And you’re gonna love it.
And remember that NEW YORK RIPPER comic we teased so many years ago, kids? It’s being drawn now by one of the most talented up-and-coming artists in the industry. He’s kicking ass all over the place and we can’t want to show you his work on the series. I, of course, wrote the book. It’s a one-shot 56-page SEQUEL that I promise you will never in million real-time years forget.
ARE YOU EXCITED YET?
All of this is coming and much more, kids. 2023 has been our year of getting it all set up and well-oiled. As the year closes and 2024 rolls out, you’ll start to experience the real fruits of these labors… and it will all still be indie as hell, folks. No Diamond/Previews. You’ll only be able to order these books for yourself or your comic shop through our website. We’re still standing outside the system and keeping these books wild and collectible. But they will also be more affordable. Shipping will be cheap and sometimes free. Orders will never be late. There will be lower-priced un-sleeved single issue retail editions available to fans and to comic shops on every title we do. Now that we’re part of Vinegar Syndrome, everything Eibon Press ever did… will all be done better.
We’re very happy about this, kids.
I’M very happy about this.
It’s a lot of hard work, more than I have ever done before in my life… but these dreams are worth fighting for. Worth bleeding for. Worth getting pneumonia for. Of course they are. And hey… if you are one of our old-school fans reading this, I’d like to thank you for being there. Shawn thanks you too. BOTTOMFEEDER will live on also in one of these insane box set releases and there will even be a BOTTOMFEEDER 2. This is why we went with the guys at VS. To preserve, enrich and expand our legacy.
The kid in me thanks you too. After decades of wishing…. he’s finally getting his UTWM. And I have a feeling someone out there is really gonna have fun reading about them. That puts a big bloody smile on my face. It’s why I’m still here.