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, September 13, 2014

Cool Comic o' the Week: Alice Cooper # 1

Uncle Alice, the Prince of Darkness, the Lord of Nightmares, Steven, Spider.  Call him whatever you like, but Vincent Furnier has had more lives, figuratively speaking, than a cat with an ankh charm on its collar.  As Alice Cooper, the original shock rocker, he's come and gone and come again in regular intervals in the music scene.  He haunted the Muppets a long time ago, he rubbed elbows with Jason Voohees in the video clip for "He's Back (The Man Behind the Mask)" from Friday the 13th Part IV:  Jason Lives and with far less theatricality, Alice has lit up the links as a diehard golfer. 

As a multimedia sensation through five decades and running, Alice Cooper is no strange to the comic book realm.  You'll recall the 1979 Marvel comic for Alice and his Marvel-backed media crossover project with Sandman maestro Neil Gaiman:  The Last Temptation album and comic.  The latter is scheduled for re-release this year as a 20th anniversary hardcover compendium. There's also the "100% Unauthorized Material" comprising Rock 'n Roll Comics' take on Alice.  Alice even contributed a storyline to Bongo Comics for Bart Simpson's Treehouse of Horror series, where, ironically, Homer Simpson turns into a Jason Voorhees-inspired mass murderer.  How could an artist whose ghoulish stage persona where guillotines, hedonistic re-enactments of murder, lopped baby dolls and monster dispatching not be tailored for comic books?

Dynamite Entertainment (who will also be responsible for The Last Temptation hardcover redux) has initiated a brand new Alice Cooper comic book, this time as a regular series and in many ways, the rules of have changed.  Writer Joe Harris and artist Eman Casallos aren't concerned as much about comical beheadings and monster dogs with Alice Cooper.  In this series, Alice is split into two apposite personalities.

Cooper himself has historically used his alter ego Steven in his recordings such as Welcome to My Nightmare, Alice Cooper Goes to Hell, Hey Stoopid, The Last Temptation and his most recent sequel album, Welcome 2 My Nightmare.  Fans can speculate if Harris and Casallos are trying to subversively bring Steven to life in this series, but one half of Uncle Alice appears to be trapped in purgatory, resurrected by his pet boa, Kachina.  The other half is embodied (purportedly) in the real world as a snuffed star and slave to the system (this being of the more hellbound variety), victim of a changing entertainment climate that's grown hostile toward rock music.

In this first issue of Alice Cooper, Harris snipes at the music industry (and with good reason, given the less-than-favorable sales returns of conventional music formats) with the second half of Alice being exploited by a pint-sized, nihilistic manager, Lucius Black.  It's safe to assume Black is a tool of the devil.  Alice is engineered by Black as an underling, forced to sign a boy band singer, Jordan James to soul-selling contract.  Consider all of it parable and metaphor on Harris' part.  Once this side of Alice Cooper rebels at this mistreatment, we're left to wonder just where in the hell this series is going.

The subplot involves a persecuted youngster, Robbie, who is handed a freebie of one Alice Cooper's albums on vinyl at a yard sale.  Tormented by bullies who have no clue who Alice Cooper is or ever was, they shatter the album to spite the kid.  Unfortunately, Harris borrows liberally from the heavy metal horror flick Trick or Treat (starring Marc Price with cameos by Ozzy Osbourne and Gene Simmons) as the album supernaturally mends itself and plays backwards, summoning the top hatted, carny-huckstering Lord of Nightmares side of Alice Cooper into the picture.

Tres bizarre, suffice it to say.  Despite the Trick or Treat swipe, Joe Harris thus far offers readers something nobody expected.  Even more interesting, Dynamite permits a few hard expletives, boob cracks and the mention of a "b.j." (use your imagination there), which is a bit strong for their norm, never mind the occasional bare butts that have cropped up in Vampirella, Miss Fury, The Blood Queen, Warlord of Mars and even Red Sonja.  Sidebar, the skinny-dipping scene in the Red Sonja vs. Thulsa Doom miniseries is the hottest, most risqué sequence Dynamite's ever published.

That being said, it stands to reason how far Dynamite's going to go with Alice Cooper.  This ain't your papa's Alice Cooper comic, even if it's mainly papas who will to flock to this thing.

                          Listenin' to:  Sodom - Agent Orange

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