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.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Cool Comic o' the Week: The Tick Free Comic Book Day edition 2014

So how'd y'all make out on Free Comic Book Day, everyone?  Get some cool goodies?  Hopefully you supported the store you raided by purchasing as well as pilfering.  I was happy to grab a nice handful of books, as was my son, who did well with the junior leagues of books offered on FCBD.  Thus far, I've enjoyed Sherwood Texas from 12-Gauge Comics, Xenescope's Grimm Fairy Tales # 0 and Top Cow's zero issue launch of Marc Silvestri's new series, Rise of the Magi.  I still have yet to read Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy FCBD shot, Bongo Comics featuring The Simpsons, Valiant's Armor Hunters and Avatar's Uber:  The First Cycle.  My kid beat me to the punch on DC's Future's End, so Daddy will need to do a little late night snooping to catch up with that one.

For me, it's all about The Tick on Free Comic Book Day.  Since 2010, New England Comics have reliably issued a book for The Tick and better yet, they're filled with original, full-fledged stories.  They don't just give you a half glass promotional or reprint here.  NEC's FCBD offerings of The Tick are always the best of the lot and if you're one of the loonies who camped out for the event, I sure hope you got your copy of this one. 

As ever, Jeff McClelland delivers a chuckle-filled satire of the superhero ethos with The Tick.  It's a shame the Fox t.v. series and subsequent cartoon were never really given the opportunity to mature, but then, it makes the long wait in line (depending on where you go for FCBD) well worth it if you snag this one each year.

This time, The Tick and his bunny-eared sidekick, Arthur are pitted against The Hoarder, a bloated bobcat space alien designed to rip on both DC and Marvel's space collector villains.  The Hoarder has zapped and bottled up The Tick and Arthur's home city as they enjoy lunch and spend an hour yakking over the merits of tax reform.  Of course, this being Arthur and The Tick, you can imagine how that conversation goes:  one-sided intellect from Arthur and The Tick posing the use of a cereal box decoder ring to resolve their "debate," if you want to call it such.

For extra comedic effect, McClelland takes a nod out of It Came From Outer Space by dropping in a rugrat-sized alien with a broken down space roadster.  Out the gate, the crash-helmeted alien "envoy" gets one of the book's first gut-buster lines as he's being interrogated by Tick and Arthur:  "How do you know I had anything to do with that?  I'm not a sinister guy.  That's profiling!"   Somehow coming to an agreement, the alien agrees to help our heroes chase down The Hoarder within the solar system to retrieve their city.  Tick yells "Shotgun!" more than once in this tale as they tote inside the cramped spaceship, and you automatically know this is going to a bumble-filled ride to the finish.

The Tick FCBD 2014 is another winner and I roared as Tick finds a pile of comic books circa the 1990's amidst massive piles of junk and he yells with glee, "These must be worth a fortune!"  You had to have been around comics during that decade to get McClelland's in-joke.  I worked in comics retail in 1992 and '93, so my laughter came a very empathetic place.

Then the back story with Tick parading childishly as "The Lone Santa" is a quick-fired crackup that leaves a hilarious final stamp upon the issue and upon Free Comic Book Day itself.  There's still time to get to the head of the line for 2015, ya know...

                         Listenin' to:  Redd Kross - Neurotica

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