Ray Van Horn, Jr. is a veteran entertainment journalist whose writing and live photography has been featured in Blabbermouth.net, Dee Snider’s House of Hair Online, Fangoria.com, Horror News.net, About.com Heavy Metal, MetalManiacs, New Noise, Music Dish, AMP, Hails & Horns, Unrestrained,Noisecreep, Impose, Pit, The Big Takeover.com, Rough Edge.com, Pitriff and others. His blog The Metal Minute won a “Best Personal Blog” award in 2009 from Metal Hammer magazine and he wrote and produced his own hard rock e-zine, Retaliate.

He has contributed essays to UK author Neil Daniels’ Iron Maiden and ZZ Top biographies. Ray’s fiction has been published in various periodicals and anthologies, including his flash fiction piece “Off the Record” for Akashic Books’ “Mondays Are Murder” noir series. His recent short stories “Before the Ball” and “Widow” were featured in subsequent editions of Alex S. Johnson’s Axes of Evil anthologies. Ray wrote serialized original superhero fiction for Cyber Age Adventures and five of those stories appear in the anthology Playing Solitaire. He was the winner of Quantum Muse’s fiction contest in 1999.

Ray is a former NHL game analyst for The Hockey Nut and one-time host of the forum “Comic Books” at ReadWave. He has done beat reporting, photography and lifestyle articles for Metromix, an affiliate of The Baltimore Sun, Carroll Magazine, The Northern News and The Emmitsburg Dispatch.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Cool Comic 'o the Week - 3/15/14: Dynamite's The Twilight Zone

Anything bearing "The Twilight Zone" brand is guaranteed to grab my attention, since it's my favorite t.v. show of all-time.  I still feel to this day, there hasn't been a finer piece of televised drama than the "Eye of the Beholder" episode from The Twilight Zone and yes, I was greatly offended when they remade it for the Forest Whitaker-hosted version of the show.  It was as pointless as the by-numbers remakes of Psycho and The Omen.

As a mainstream culture, we've moved on from fantastical storytelling that was a reliable measure of success through Rod Serling's original run of the show. Serling and Richard Matheson have had as much an impact on my writing as Stephen King, Ray Bradbury, Garth Ennis, Alan Moore and more recently, Ron Marz, Matt Hawkins and Gail Simone.  The Twilight Zone is still popular, but mostly to a quiet demographic who circle their calendars for the three-day weekend episode festivals or they DVR it from MeTV.  It's really a shame that cop and hospital shows have been the primary source of fictionalized television, unless you want to count "reality" programming in that fiction category as it thus deserves to be.

I'm not going to lie, I was initially skeptical when Dynamite Entertainment, specialists in franchise resurrections, offered a new comic series for The Twilight Zone.  The last few attempts to do new Twilight Zone series in any medium have been fair to midland to straight-up flat.  The eighties flick was entertaining, if nothing more than a (for its time) glossier do-up of pre-existing episodes.  The Vic Morrow tragedy unfortunately rings louder than Twilight Zone:  The Movie 1983 itself.

Even though I initially passed on the debut issue of Dynamite's The Twilight Zone, something egged me  to give it a try.  In the hands of sci-fi and comics master J. Michael Straczynski, I soon gave in and I've been following the new series through the first three issues, which concludes its initial story arc in Issue # 4.

What Straczynski has successfully accomplished to this point is recreating the mystique and the subversive noir feel of the original series with a brand new story.  To quickly summarize it without giving too much away, Trevor Richmond is a sleazy corporate executive who's been busted for engaging in some underhanded deals.  To escape his fate, Richmond opts to have a clandestine operation named Expedited Services Limited arrange a brand new life for him, complete with physical changes and a new identity.  The catch is, someone else takes the real Trevor Richmond's place and presumably takes the fall.  Not so, since this is The Twilight Zone. 

If you're a fan of the series, check this book out.  It's a big step away from the Gold Key comics' Twilight Zone books of yesteryear and J. Michael Straczynski's series is thus far slightly leaned toward a mature audience.  Let's not overlook Guiu Villanova and Vinicius Andrade's atmospheric art and coloring.  Thank God someone's getting it right.  Sidebar, Straczynski also has a new miniseries called Apocalypse Al that's also hooked me.

**Programming Note:  Originally, this was going to be a monthly feature of the site, but it will now be changed to weekly as I profile current and back issues for your edification, given the upbeat response to this post.  Stay tuned for another Cool Comic selection this coming week!

      Listenin' to:  Ennio Morricone - The Complete Dollars Trilogy

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