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.
Sunday, July 20, 2014
Cool Comic o' the Week: Ghost # 6
Sorry for the delay this weekend, readers. I took the day off yesterday to have some family time and to catch the stellar Dawn of the Planet of the Apes movie. Sunday Triple Play will return next week, so in the meantime, let's have a look at this week's Cool Comic o' the Week selection, Ghost # 6.
Like the Big Two and Valiant have been doing recently, Dark Horse Comics has revamped a few of their old stable characters. These come from when the imprint blew up in the nineties on the backs of popular sci-fi, comics and fantasy franchises like Aliens, Predator, The Terminator, Tarzan, Godzilla, Gamera, The Mask, Hellboy, Usagi Yojimbo and of course, Star Wars, the latter of which they've nurtured for a long time and will soon be surrendered to Marvel. You may recall a number of original character titles Dark Horse unveiled back then (aside from making Sin City a powerful household name in the genre) which launched at a buck a pop, such as X, Will to Power, Barb Wire, King Tiger, Motorhead and of course, Ghost. From these, Barb Wire was made into a pretty awful B movie starring Pamela Anderson.
Thus far, X and Ghost have made a dent on the reboot favorability scale. As of Issue # 5, Ghost has brought on board the new pencil and ink team of Jan Duursema and Dan Parsons respectively. Carrying into the sixth issue, Ghost could become a sleeper hit in due time.
I'm a big fan of Svengoolie. Who isn't? By now, if you don't know who this guy is, you're clueless or you were never weaned on the years of pre-cable VHF channels, home of Saturday night horror movie moguls. The most famous of course, is Dr. Dementia, but where I'm from, we had Ghost Host and Creature Feature out of two different city markets. Ghost Host on Channel 45 had a creepy, chuckling undertaker who spun classic horror films spanning from the Universal monster mashes through the mutated enormity rampages of the fifties and the Hammer classics of the sixties. Creature Feature, the same theme, only hosted by a dashing vampire who also happened to double as the kid-friendly space ranger Captain 20 (as in Channel 20) during weekday afternoons.
If you saw the original Fright Night, you were won over by Roddy McDowell's brilliant salute to these maestros of the macabre, since the Saturday night horror hosts had already suffered a collective demise before that film's release. Svengoolie unapologetically takes up the torch for this lost art, though his shtick is intentionally corny and lighter in spirit than McDowell's vampire hunter or that freakazoid guffawing undertaker I grew up with. I love Sven (real name Rich Koz) and what he stands for.
Thus I was immediately won over by Ghost # 5 and 6. I'll tell you why in a minute. Admittedly, I strayed away from this series, though I'd read the first couple issues of Dark Horse's original launch. There's something about Elisa's spectral form, Ghost, that reminds of Moon Knight, only with cleavage and facial exposure. However, I'm glad I gave this new launch a try. As an effective hunter of supernatural evil, Ghost has the power to morph her body transparent and solidify any part of it in attack mode. She's also one fierce mama. This makes her a formidable fighter and she's well differentiated from Marc Spector.
In this story, Ghost has gotten the ass of beating up ordinary thugs on the Chicago streets and though she's making a difference in reducing crime, Elisa's craving more challenging use of her skills. She's about to get that in a hurry and from a peculiar source. Starting to reassemble her shattered past life by taking up writing assignments from her friend and editor, Sloane, Elisa is drawn to a local television station that broadcasts a cable fright flick show, Von Ghastly.
Elisa and her ghost hunting pal Tommy are watching Von Ghastly and they come to the conclusion the people who are being tortured as part of his segment bits are actually dying on camera. Gruesomely, for that matter. Using her resources to enter Von Ghastly's buttoned-up set, Elisa finds she cannot manifest into Ghost upon crossing the metaphysical threshold and immediately becomes susceptible to pain and injury.
It turns out Von Ghastly is a hellish cult leader who has brainwashed numerous people to offer themselves as five rotating parts in his "Gears of the Wheel" evisceration chamber. As they die violently on his show, Ghost is captured and made a part of the festivities. I'll leave you learn to how she fares in this yarn.
Writer Chris Sebela is obviously a Svengoolie fan since the setting takes place in Chicago, mutual home of Sven. Sebela's script drops anecdotes about Von Ghastly starting out with corny humor and rubber chickens, thus his homage is so apparent you'll be screaming "Berrrrrwyn!" in the back of your head--assuming you're tuned in to MeTV regularly at 10:00 pm on Saturdays. In that respect, Sebela does a terrific job of merging schlock with a contemporary horror edge and this resurrection of Ghost has the makings of something special.
Listenin' to: The Doors - Waiting for the Sun