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, June 30, 2014

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Sunday Triple Play - 6/29/14


This week's Triple Play goes international.  Our first port is Tokyo, Japan and a live rendition of the blistering "Pink" from Japanese distortion wizards, Boris.  Having just reviewed their latest album Noise for Blabbermouth, I'm all energized as hell, just as I am anytime I pull their music down.  This is truly one of the greatest bands on the planet and they peel the paint off the walls whenever they play live, as I've discovered twice.  This clip from MTV Iggy Live is a pretty good taste of this trio's power. 

Our next stop is Africa and a long stint of Rebel Rock/Afrobeat from the late lion Fela Kuti.  Here you get his hip-shaking, venomous "Expensive Shit," which refers to an incident where he reportedly had drugs planted on him by local police in order to make the cuff.  Finally, we visit the UK (and France, by attrition) with Stereolab and their insanely adorable electro-pop ditty, "Cybele's Reverie."

The endpoint to this week's Triple Play is that music is intercontinental and universal, regardless of our differences in culture, race, language and customs.  Music is the great neutralizer to life.  You don't necessarily have to understand what's being sung if the performance is that strong and full of conviction.  Look past your own borders and see what's going on in the world.  Cadence comes from every corner of Mother Earth, so don't take what's force fed you at home.  A global mindset will lead you to some of the finest vibes you'd been missing out on otherwise.


Boris - "Pink" MTV Iggy Live


Fela Kuti - "Expensive Shit"


Stereolab - "Cybele's Reverie"

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Cool Comic o' the Week: Nailbiter


Image Comics might be the most red-hot imprint out there.  They're certainly proving to be one of the most fearless.  It's not so much about the naughty stuff such as cursing, gore and nudity (of which there are plenty in many of their titles) that makes Image fearless.  The projects they back vary in theme, tone and genre you're almost obligated to check out what they're pushing.  The Mercenary Sea, Fatale, Black Science, Ghosted, Sin Boldly, Sex, Sex Criminals and Apocalypse Al couldn't be more diverse from one another, but their common bond is their left-of-center (sometimes outrageous) natures and wide-swung deviation from traditional cape and superpower themes. 

Joshua Williamson (also the author of Ghosted) and Mike Henderson unravel what appears to be another winner in transit for Image with Nailbiter.  Granted, I'm sick to freaking death of cop and forensics stories and shows, but that's where the money in serialized media is these days, along with medical melodrama. 

Serial killer yarns, dare I say at the risk of sounding desensitized, is growing passé as a commercial form of storytelling.  Sick as it may sound, there's little left aside from being confronted with murder firsthand that's genuinely compelling.  Horror films at-large are more consumed lately with barbarism and brutal torture depictions in a desperate attempt to out-schlock Cannibal Holocaust.  This versus focusing on good storytelling, and it's having a gross effect, pun intended.

As Williamson's lead character Nicholas Finch jibes to accused and acquitted serial killer Edward Charles Warren with the mere insinuation of working together in Nailbiter, this isn't Silence of the Lambs.  Warren is no fan of chianti, but he does have a penchant for fingernail gnawing and not his own. 

Thus sets the premise of Nailbiter, the new series that promises to be a bloody affair, but with actual writing depth.  The notorious films Cyrus:  The Mind of a Serial Killer and Henry:  Portrait of a Serial Killer have more in common with Nailbiter than Silence of the Lambs, but this being the comics realm, there's plenty more to, er, chew on in this story.  

With Warren inexplicably getting off of multiple murder counts, he lives on the outskirts of a roughneck town called Buckaroo, Oregon.  In Joshua Williamson's hayseed microcosm, Warren is but one of numerous reported murderers the town has allegedly bred, collectively known as "The Buckaroo Butchers."

The story is set in motion with a detective named Eliot Carroll who busted Warren and is currently in Buckaroo trying to put the pieces together in answer to why so many killers have come from the town.  Carroll, who has been having weekly lunch meetings with Edward Charles Warren, summons his old friend, Finch, a former "information extraction specialist," which translates as an army prisoner interrogator and torturer.  Having seen enough terrors in his lifetime, Finch reluctantly trails after Carroll, who believes he has solved the "Buckaroo Butcher" mystery.

Upon his arrival to Buckaroo, Finch is in search of Carroll, who has turned up lost.  Finch instead finds a specialty shop dedicated strictly to serial killer souvenirs, "The Murder Store."  The owner of the store is the grandson of one of the legendary Buckaroo Butchers, Norman Woods, aka The Book Burner.  With this revelation, it'll be no surprise when someone wearing a Book Burner mask surfaces and torches the hotel Carroll is staying in.

While visiting Edward Charles Warren in search of Carroll, Finch and the town sheriff, Shannon Crane find Warren covered in blood.  As Warren slaughters his own herd for meat, this is the explanation given and their uneasy tryst serves as an alibi when things erupt in Buckaroo and Warren is accused by the townsfolk.  Big-time sidebar, Warren and the sheriff were each others' prom date in the past.  By the end of Issue # 2, however, the Book Burner impersonator has carved up one of his teenage recruits and left the corpse hanging atop "The Murder Store" sign.  Worse, the fingernails have been chewed off of the dead teen, an m.o. that naturally points back to Warren. 

And here's where the story leaves us hanging at this point.  Thus far, a clever bit of trickery on Williamson's part using a unique kill gimmick that hasn't been seen in this medium, much less any other.  His obvious obsession with the topic carries straight into naming certain characters after those from the original Psycho movie.  Nailbiter is thus set to get messy in a hurry.  So bring us the third issue, already!



             Listenin' to:  Mastodon - Once More 'Round the Sun

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Oh Oh Candy-O



Here's a bit brought over from the "Notes From the Old School" segment at my old blog, The Metal Minute:


Those who were Tower Records habitués can hopefully relate to this little nugget from the past.  There was a time when music stores were not just emporiums of sound, but cultural hubs where like minds could congregate, future artists could refine their knowledge and loners could find those special voices who spoke their language on record.  You never knew when the next Jeff Beck, Buddy Rich, Larry Graham or Rob Halford was going to be proverbially birthed from the annals of record shelves and listening booths.   Meanwhile, profiteers sat back and watched vinyl (and later, cassettes and CDs) fly out with the chunks and tings of old cash registers adding a synthetic, commercial glaze overtop whatever happened to be dominating the store loudspeakers.

In Baltimore, we used to have a monster-sized music store that's long gone the way of Colecovision and Frosty root beer, the Record Theatre.  About half the size of a Tower Records and maybe one floor of the colossal Virgin Megastores (both also long gone), the Record Theatre was still the place for tunes in our area, along with Waxy Maxy's, though the latter was located in a different part of town. 

I remember when Record Theatre was flourishing, it was filled with wall-to-wall people, much like the Virgin superplex in Times Square.  I miss both dearly, albeit for me, the smaller homeboy record shop like you'd find in High Fidelity or Pretty in Pink is truly where I'd find myself home.  In Baltimore today, that distinction belongs to Sound Garden and Record and Tape Traders, two music shacks still holding on in tough times and still experiencing a respectable influx of never-say-die tune freaks.

Back to Record Theatre, however, the place seemed like a castle to young eyes such as mine in the late seventies and early eighties.  Being stationed in an urban location, I always thought the owners were shrewd in catering to all tastes, even if R&B sold more than rock 'n roll (albeit the Stones sold more than anyone, period), but that wasn't always the norm depending on what time of day diverse pockets of clientele would show up.  At one point, the Record Theatre hired some punks and metalheads who worked certain shifts and they hijacked the store stereo to spin hardcore and thrash.  I tended to show up during their shifts on purpose, just so I could hear new things I identified with and to have someone who knew what made me tick behind the register.

Before all that, the store was supported mostly by soul and pop sales, thus walking in would submit you to a lot of Rod Stewart, Luther Vandross, Donna Summer and even Kiss.  I remember buying "I Was Made For Lovin' You" on 45 there when I was a kid and my folks had stopped at the store with an uncle of mine.  I can't remember what they were after, Conway Twitty or Willie Nelson for I all know.  The Record Theatre had the area's best country selection, go figure, and I've only just become an old-school country convert about a decade ago.  It was one of the few times I'd been allowed to venture on my own and since I was a Kiss loyalist at the time, I had to have that damned 45.  I'd been teased by one of my cousins-in-law for picking up "I Was Made For Lovin' You" because Kiss had done the unthinkable by going disco.  In hindsight, they were right for harassing me, but I digress.

What was eye-popping about Record Theatre aside from the neon piping along the perimeter that was precursor to the tubular glitz of eighties' arcades, was the giant framed album cover art mounted around the circumference of the place.  They collectively propagated a pseudo pop art gallery of its time as they were glaring advertisements, yet many of those hoisted pieces never came down until the store went under in the late eighties.  Some of those remained up for an eon and one of those eternal holdouts was The Cars' Candy-O.

If I owned a record shop today, I would have Candy-O along with Roxy Music's Country Life, Roger Waters' The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking and Robert Palmer's Pressure Drop high up on the wall of my hypothetical store.  Whitesnake's Lovehunter would probably be a must as well, even if that does cross into actual porn territory.  Call me a pervert if you will, it's all good, but I maintain that each of these risqué album covers are boundary-pushing fine art of the modern age.  The art world has been historically consumed with interpreting the nude in poetic manners, and while Roxy, Waters and Palmer's album covers contain nudity, they're reasonably tasteful.  Appositely, the nudity is merely suggestive in the case of Candy-O, and that one fascinated me the most as a kid.  Hell, it continues to titillate me today.

Alberto Vargas gave us a rock 'n roll masterpiece on Candy-O that sums up the entire ethos of the genre upon the hood of a prototype street beastie with its alluring tamer spread across the hood.  Today I find fascination with "Candy-O's" gravity-defying bosom that hardly seems logical in such a perpendicular position, not without one of those missile-cone bras of the fifties.  And is that really a clean-shaved camel toe?  The sheer fabric Vargas enshrouds his honeypot muse in suggests she's full-on beneath and as a young boy, I was completely entranced by it, slightly exaggerated or not.

It was the fiery red hair and the shadowy belly button that first attracted me at nine years old.  I knew vaguely that men and women and boys and girls had different anatomy and that (in most cases) they were drawn toward each other.  It wasn't until I'd learned more about sex itself later that year after tripping over a stray copy of Hustler magazine when the rest of Candy-O's attributes became apparent to my greedy eyes.  As I got older and able to process desire for consummation with the other sex, I wanted Candy-O.  Who didn't?  The Cars had scored a home run by flashing Vargas' fleshly beacon call overtop their wax, and that's before listeners could dive into "Let's Go," "Double Life," "Lust For Kicks," "Got a Lot On My Head," "Dangerous Type" and the title track. 

It was vintage marketing.  Sex sells better than a glittering testimonial from God Himself.  The 1978 self-titled album had been such a powerhouse that Candy-O was going to be a hit by attrition.  The Cars merely sweetened the deal for one of their future classics by thrusting a smoking hot aphrodisiac upon the packaging.

When I first beheld Candy-O on the upper tier of the Record Theatre, that disco Kiss slab in my paw suddenly grew icky.  I felt a then-unfathomable urge to betray my kabuki heroes and beeline for The Cars on the sales racks.  My mom, being ever vigilant while loosening the leash, did a beeline of her own for me once she'd seen what had ensnared my attention.  "Eyes down, honey," she'd told me in a gentle voice and steered me away from Candy-O's svelte and sleek invitation.  Kiss remained in my hands and thus came home with me, paid for with my dollar-a-week allowance.  Yes, I remember when 45's were only 99 cents, much less remembering them at all.

The more frequently we attended the Record Theatre as a family, it became a bit of a sport for me to sneak passing glances at Candy-O.  My mom knew all the time what I was doing, and it's to her credit she'd thrown the boundary lines at me while my sexual hormones were starting unravel by the time I hit age 11.  I think it was well-smart of her to hold me in check and now as a father, I hide all of the album covers I mentioned earlier from my son.  He's not yet ready for any of that, but I'll understand wholeheartedly when someday I catch him trying to sneak a peek at Candy-O and that bare-bottomed one-night-stand from Robert Palmer's voguish playboy days.

When the Record Theatre announced it was closing, I was in my late teens and hitting the place on a regular basis.  Some of the routine customers were being offered pieces of the store to keep as mementos.  You can bet what I requested when they asked me if I wanted something.  She was still there in her glory on the high end of the wall, oozing overtop the jazz section as she always had since I'd first set foot in the place.  I've always loved that dichotomy, such a jazzy chick spilling rock 'n roll wantonness overtop a style of music that's subliminally sex-driven instead of outright sleazy.  When I asked if I could have Candy-O, I was given a laugh and told, "She's already claimed, Ray, sorry."  Instead, they sent me out with an album promo cutout for Elvis Costello's Spike, still a couple months ahead of its official release.  That was kinda cool, actually.  It gave me a taste of my future, having access to music in advance.

Like the eighth track on Candy-O, you can't hold on too long to much of anything and nowadays whenever I pass the exit from the beltway that used to lead to Record Theatre, I routinely sigh.  Nobody but me knows why I do it, but I miss the hell out of the place and I miss that giant Candy-O wall mount.  She was my first adolescent fantasy.  Blondie told me to call her over and over from my turntable, but Candy-O summoned me, if you will.  I used to have innocent crushes on Barbara Eden and Catherine Bach prior to, but Candy-O was there to prompt my first wet dream.  When I think about it, that gal popped my cherry long before the real event occurred.  Candy-O, I needed you so, apparently.

Listening to Candy-O on CD doesn't have quite the same verve as spinning on it vinyl.  Somehow, the turntable rolls a little extra revolution as if by naughty instinct and Candy-O's tunes sound sweatier on slab than on the digital transfer, "It's All I Can Do," "Night Spots," "Shoo Be Doo," "Got a Lot On My Head," "Double Life" and "Candy O" being the biggest distinctions.  I could be wrong, but I think Candy-O prefers things faster and wetter in that respect, ruby rings, sharp stilettos and all.  Ric Ocasek would say she's a lot like you...


                         Listenin' to:  Judas Priest - Painkiller

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Truth.




                Listenin' to:  Judas Priest - Redeemer of Souls

Monday, June 23, 2014

An Evening With Hank, III


As I mentioned in yesterday's Triple Play, I had the pleasure of coming down to Ram's Head in Baltimore, Maryland to catch a four hour, ten minute set from Hank Williams, III that ran a round robin of country, bluegrass, punk, doom metal and grinding cattle 'core. 

I'd been invited down by David McElfresh, with whom I've opened a nice little friendship after reviewing Hank's current album A Fiendish Threat and subsequently, David's side project, Moonbow over at Blabbermouth.  We'd talked about Hank's upcoming tour a couple months back, but with the scattershot craziness of my life, I'd forgotten to check the local venue itineraries this week.  I'd received a message from David about the show and since I'd previously given my word I would come down to the gig, I was fortunate to be in the position to keep my promise.  I've been a fan of Hank's music for a long while, anyway, so it was a win-win to come down and see David and to meet the third in a lineage of country music royalty.  Not that Hank, III cares anything about prestige.  The cat's one humble mofo.

Hardly my best photography work, this shot below is from Hank, III's two hour country and bluegrass set.  To describe the atmosphere of the rafters-packed Ram's Head during the country portion of Hank's show is to pull to mind any cliché you know about rowdy honky tonks and country bars.  Stuffed with hosses, honeys and hellbillies, the crowd was whooping it up as if the Mason Dixon line had nudged Baltimore due south.  Screaming and hollering prevailed, along with beer, beer and more beer, while certain daring souls lit up their stashes, despite the no smoking policy of the venue.  This was essentially a no-rules mindset from the audience and within forty-five minutes of the country set, I was watching a lumbering drunk parade stagger every which way.  I was doused in beer from one blitzed fool who'd wasted good money by showering people with his can.  Meanwhile, more than just one cup of beer came flying at Hank from the crowd as suds twirled in perpendicular arcs.  I'm just grateful nothing fried the band's equipment.  I also thought to myself that at least it was beer flying onstage and not the old punk days of gobbing. 


Those who weren't absolutely shitfaced were shifting their eyes around the room, some of the burliest men scanning for potential scrapping partners.  The fisticuffs came toward the end of the country leg, though sanity prevailed and security cleaned those duking polecats out the door.

As Hank shifted gears to the punk portion of the evening, he focused on tracks from A Fiendish Threat before the house lights dimmed and Hank let his long strands fly free as he began an hour-plus doom metal set from his alter ego band, Attention Deficit Domination.  In the vein of Neurosis, the white backdrop behind him ran through a two hour-film filled with classic movie monsters, sci-fi and in-between, political chopping and flashed anecdotes about human atrocities.  The metalheads who'd hung through the country portion now owned the venue and though a quarter portion of the country-only audience had hit the bricks, Ram's Head was still heavy with supporters.

Throughout the night, crowd surfers were rolling along the tides of obliging hands, though to me it looked downright silly during a pure country segment.  Later, the surfing got out of control and it was those who were the most bombed that kept trying to get put up for a surf.  One kid who looked barely old enough to drink kept bugging the snot out of me and others in my vicinity for anyone to lift him up.  As wrecked as he was, no one was going to let him potentially bust himself to pieces.  Of course, for our consideration of his well-being, we were called "pussies." 

Later, in the slam pit, the heavier Hank cranked it onstage, the more insane this one obnoxious lummox of a guy got.  Nearly twice the size of those in the pit, he invited anyone who dared to wrestle-dance with him.  Where moshing devolved into this horsecrap is beyond me, but that went to hell in a hurry as one smaller guy with enough booze in him kept at it with this guy.  The wrestling turned ugly as the bigger asshole finally choke-slammed the smaller one to the floor in front of us and gave him a pop in the face, screaming "Get up, man!"  Ahh, just another night at the ol' concert hall.

For me, the climax of the entire show came with the 3 Bar Ranch portion, which was, on-album, Hank, III shredding guitar and laying down sicko drum beats to a backdrop of rhythmic cattle calls.  Presenting this live, it went far deeper as he, David McElfresh and drummer Phil Cancilla donned cattle rustler garb and torched the venue with blazing grind metal that was so precise yet rambunctious it was the perfect closure to a mind-blowing marathon of diverse music theories.


After the show, I met up with David McElfresh, who was immediately hospitable toward me backstage.  In the meantime, Hank, III had not even finished unplugging after the 3BR finale before he jumped overtop the barricade in front the stage on the floor to meet his fans.  This I absolutely must flag about the man.  He's been praised and he's been villainized.  He's run his gauntlets amidst family and peers.  Pure country folk get on his butt about his other musical affinities.  I appreciate his maverick ways and salute the fact he can give multiple demographics of music fans something to gnaw on.  He's prolific and he means whatever he says.  His mission to have his grandfather Hank Williams reinstated at the Grand Ole Opry is to be commended, even if that struggle continues on fruitlessly.  Best yet, he's more than decent to his fans and supporters. 

While David and I were talking a while, Hank ran out of the venue and invited those he hadn't yet met with to follow him to the bus lot.  I was invited to hang out on the bus for a bit while Hank continued to hang with his fans.  I watched a younger girl burst into tears after getting his autograph and a photo with him.  It was endearing to me, since the jaded world being what it is today, you just don't see that kind of mutual appreciation between artist and fan as much as you used to. 

On the bus, I was handed another beer and talked briefly with Phil Cancilla and Duane Denison of Tomahawk and Jesus Lizard, who is part of Hank, III's country ensemble for this tour.  The tour manager made sure I was good and asked if I'd yet met Hank.  I've seen many piss poor tour managers over the years, but there are plenty of good ones out there and this one ranks amongst the good.  Finally, I was able to get a minute with Hank and as you can see, he obliged me a couple of photos.  The last one, he took himself, which I dub "3 Dude Selfie."  I was honored that he'd remembered my reviews over the years and it closed a memorable evening of music and meet 'n greet. 

I want to thank both David McElfresh and Hank, III for their hospitality and for taking good care of me all evening.  Let me also give David his props for being a terrific multi-instrumentalist who hung through the entire show.  He moved from fiddle to slide guitar to keys and electronics and then second electric guitar.  Very impressive work, my man.  Ditto for Phil Cancilla drumming away all night.  The three of them killed it during the 3 Bar Ranch portion when other bands would be ready to drop at that point.

I got home at 3:30 a.m. and was back up an hour-and-a-half later to do a 5K walk that was held to bring awareness to ovarian cancer.  I was plenty jazzed from the show that I licked those three miles with ease and enjoyed making new friends at that event.  Those are some special women, including my stepsister Tina (a survivor), for whom I was walking, but all of that's an entirely different bowl of enchilada for another story.


                         Listenin' to:  Hank, III - Risin' Outlaw

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Sunday Triple Play - 6/22/14

I had the pleasure Friday night of watching four hours of dynamic, hellraising live mayhem from Hank Williams, III and I was so jazzed from the experience that I was able to complete a 5K walk the following morning on only one-and-a-half hours' sleep. 

I crashed to my face later in the day of course, but there's something to be said for the power of full-frontal, no-holds-barred live music.  Thus, this week's Sunday Triple Play brings three in-your-face live selections from Hank, III, The Clash and Faith No More.  In Hank's cut from 2010, you'll be given a  history lesson how his grandfather, Hank the elder has been shafted by the Grand Ole Opry before III's ensemble rips into "If You Don't Like Hank Williams" thereafter.  It's just a small taste of how powerful Hank, III can be live.  Stick around for his ADD and 3 Bar Ranch sets after the country leg, and you won't be the same thereafter.

The Clash's version of "The Magnificent Seven" from 1981 on The Tom Snyder Show is indeed magnificent here.  It's set on full throttle and dispenses with the funk strides of the original recording.  The Clash go straight to the edge on this performance and it's one of the most urgent sounds you'll hear out of anyone.  Sidebar, this clip can be found on the mandatory Live Revolution Rock DVD along with "Radio Clash" from the same t.v. appearance and likewise, "Radio Clash" is pushed hard instead of dancy.

Faith No More fans have a way of testing people about the band with one simple question:  "What's your favorite Faith No More album?"  If you don't answer with King For a Day, Fool for a Lifetime, chances are, the convo's gonna end right there.  FNM always delivered a frantic performance live.  I was there in 1989 when they and Soundgarden open for Voivod.  Yes, opened, since neither FNM nor Soundgarden had broken out yet.  That gig was the second best live show I've ever seen, but no doubt, this live rendition of "The Gentle Art of Making Enemies" from King for a Day is so hyper and heavy, it gives perfect argument why that album reigns as Faith No More's supreme effort.


Hank, III - "The Grand Ole Opry (Ain't so Grand)/If You Don't Like Hank Williams," Live in Denver, CO  4/10/2010


The Clash - "The Magnificent Seven" Live, The Tom Snyder Show, 1981
 

Faith No More - "The Gentle Art of Making Enemies," Live in England 1997

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Cool Comic o' the Week: Vampirella Volume 2 # 1


As they did recently with Red Sonja, Dynamite Entertainment hits the reset button on their other big moneymaker franchise, Vampirella by hauling in a major player writer to start over from scratch.  For Red Sonja that was Gail Simone, and in this case, Bram Stoker Award-winning author Nancy A. Collins (also of Swamp Thing and Jason vs. Leatherface notoriety within the comics realm) vows to bring the buxom nosferatu back to her horror roots.  Thus far, she makes good on that pledge.

Since 1969, ol' Vampi has emerged as a supreme badass from her black-and-white gestation during the Warren Publishing years.  Archie Goodwin's cult heroine of course predates Marvel's masculine vampire assassin Blade, who thrust his alpha-smothered katana into the hearts of nihilistic bloodsuckers during the nineties.   Blade was portrayed on celluloid by Wesley Snipes to usurp the limelight in this fiercely contested bracket of horror-grounded comics.  Prior to Blade, Marvel had Morbius, who has tormented Spiderman on occasion and returned now and then to haunt readers on his own.  Let us not forget other fang bang comics over the years such as The Tomb of Dracula, Planet of Vampires, I, Vampire, The House of Mystery, 30 Days of Night, Vampire Tales and the red-hot contemporary series American Vampire.

Under Dynamite's umbrella, Vampirella has regained her prestige in the wake of onscreen vampirism vogue such as The Vampire Diaries, True Blood, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and of course, the adolescent-targeted cash cow Twilight series.  Personally, I would flag the sensational Swedish film Let the Right One In and its equally powerful American remake Let Me In as not only the finest horror fiction story in more than a decade, but the primer to making a schlock queen like Vampirella a returning overnight sensation.

With the revived interest in Near Dark, The Lost Boys, Fright Night, Max Schreck's immortal Nosferatu (my vote as the best vampire flick of all-time) and Christopher Lee's Dracula portrayals for Hammer Studios, Vampi's resurrection in the care of Eric Trautmann turned out to be a bigger success than even Dynamite themselves probably anticipated.  As with Red Sonja, the imprint has spun off numerous Vampirella miniseries, one-shots and crossovers to the point some might argue she's become a pop Drac, an older comics world equivalent to Kristin Stewart.  In other words, Vampirella Lite.

Already the feeling to Vampirella Volume 2 # 1 haunts of classic Vampi.  Eric Trautmann rebooted Vampirella properly when taking charge of the franchise for Dynamite in 2010, but the publisher's decided necessitation to go back to the primitive in 2014 rings not to high heaven, but you-know-where.  Nancy A. Collins goes straight for the jugular (no pun intended) in the first issue of the six-part "Our Lady of Shadows" story arc by thrusting the daughter of Lilith upon the feet of Ethan Shroud and his nefarious Cult of Chaos.

Vampirella is sent by the Vatican to investigate the kidnapping of a little girl, Emma Baxter.  Emma is marked as a sacrifice to be performed on The Feast of Shadows, one of Chaos' most holy (or unholy, if you will) days.  As it turns out, the girl's father, Bill, happens to be a member of the cult.  Having had plenty of her fill of the dreaded warlock and high priest Shroud in the past, Vampirella begrudgingly accepts the task set before her. 

Things don't go well for Vampi as she's captured and submitted to a brutal ritual, branded as a future vessel for Umbra, the Lady of Shadows within Chaos' unsanctified realm.  There's nothing at all pop-minded and pretty to Collins' exposition in this story, in particular the gruesome final stanza of issue # 1.  Chaos has eviscerated Mrs. Baxter and left her for dead hanging upside down.  The biting (pun intended this time) closure to this opening act finds Vampirella forced to surrender to her bloodthirsty impulses by feeding on Baxter. 

Collins immediately turns the Vampirella ethos on its head with this scene, given the fact our scantily-clad heroine has sworn to protect humanity by destroying her own kind.  In this issue, Vampirella is twice a victim of obligation and having to disavow her principles this quickly into the new series is, well....cool.

Dynamite's officially on a hot streak with Gail Simone's brilliant overhaul of Red Sonja, plus The Twilight Zone and their John Carter of Mars books.  Debuting this month as well and likewise as promising as Nancy A. Collins' charged-up debut for Vampirella is Troy Brownfield's The Blood Queen.  Okay, Dynamite, you're now forgiven for canceling Miss Fury.


                Listenin' to:  Hank3 / 3 Bar Ranch - Cattle Callin'

Friday, June 20, 2014

The Morning After...



If you're a writer, this should ring familiar and you know what it's like slugging through an intense editing session of a project you're about to submit for review.  This most certainly was me last night.  My sleepy head crashed into the keyboard at least once, but the work is finished to my sheer delight and to the Blabbermouth review queue I turn.

Coffee, work your mojo today and to my script I've just wrapped on, take your wings, child, and soar...


     Listenin' to:  Hank Williams III (aka Hank3) - A Fiendish Threat

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Ovarian Cancer Walk




This Saturday, June 21st, I plan to walk with my sis, Tina, at Bakers Park, Frederick, Maryland for the Ovarian Cancer Walk, sponsored by the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition. 
 
Tina's a cancer survivor and it's my honor to tag along in support of this cause. If you're inclined, please visit her team's donation page at this link below. Your support is appreciated.

http://nocc.kintera.org/faf/donorReg/donorPledge.asp?ievent=1098591&lis=1&kntae1098591=60AD4584F4BD4324BE61CD8F7A5030DF&supId=400532941&team=0&nmv=true
 
 




                                Listenin' to:  Tesla - Simplicity



Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Most "Blab" Worthy Album of the Prior Month for Blabbermouth


As I get ready to field another month's worth of reviews for Blabbermouth, it's time to flag what I felt was the most "Blab" worthy album from May's queue.  The honor could've easily gone to Prong, John Garcia or Crowbar, who all entertained the snot out of me with their diverse and equally badass new offerings.  However, ex-Megadeth shredder Marty Friedman delivers a smoker (pun intended) of a solo album, his first U.S. released album in years, Inferno.  I was truly astonished by this record, as summarized in the final paragraph of my review here:

"This is a brilliant recording that satiates, delights and marvels on every song. Marty Friedman bravely takes on just about anything that constitutes metal and minces it all together with spectacular fret work and external effects that makes Inferno a monster album. Better, he has the ingenuity to toss in standard songs so that all of the instrumental pieces radiate even more. The gorgeous "Undertow" is the only respite from Marty's brute force you're going to get on Inferno and even that song is delivered valorously. This album was far more than anyone could've expected, Marty. Thank you."
 
 
               Listenin' to:  Judas Priest - Defenders of the Faith
 

Monday, June 16, 2014

More of My Recent Reviews for Blabbermouth Are Live




Up at Blabbermouth, a mega-sized batch of my reviews for Ronnie James Dio:  This is Your Life, Gamma Ray, Annete Olzon, Krokus, John Garcia, Mongrel, Sabbatory, King Buzzo, On Top, Voyager, Adestria, Sylar, Ogre, Klogr, Mach-22, Blitzkrieg Baby, Rubicon Cross, Invertia, Gunpowder Gray, Buried in Verona, Grayson Manor and White Appice Mendoza Iggy.



                        Listenin' to:  Zombi - Escape Velocity

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Happy Father's Day, Lads...


Six years ago, my life was radically changed. The foster system placed a frightened, crying six-month-old baby boy into my arms. Two days later, I was laid off from my job.  I'm not sure who was more scared between the two of us.

Suddenly responsible for a new life, I learned in a hurry how to be a father, which entails far more than just daily kiddo maintenance, which is cumbersome enough.  This is my flesh and blood, even though he comes from a stranger's womb.  I'm proud to call him my son and feel he's inarguably the most righteous thing I've done with my life.    

To all the fathers who treat this sacred job with diligence and respect, here's to you, brothers.



Listenin' to:  The (International) Noise Conspiracy - A New Morning, Changing Weather

Sunday Triple Play - 6/15/14 Noise Therapy for Dads Father's Day Edition

Let's face it, dads, the job ain't easy.  We all wanna rage from time-to-time, since raising chitlins is more ingrained the female DNA than ours.  We sometimes have to work a bit harder to get our acts together when our children drive us bonkers.  It's no lie; kids are hard to like at times, especially (as a generalized statement) with the piss-poor raising values from the younger generations of parents. 

I'm an old dog daddy to a six-year-old.  Just like when I was pissed off as a teenager, I turn to music to purge those rotating feelings of anger and anxiety when all I want to do is jump into a hole and hope everything annoying blows over when the role of fatherhood sends things to flash point.  There's no such luxury, obviously, so I take it upon myself, as a father to lay down some crazy racket (usually in the car) so I can go a little wacko and then come back to the table with all my cards lined up. 

For all you dads out there, you know what I'm talking about.  You may or may not jive with these three noise bombs, but they're all pushed to edge, exuberant, honest, raw, loud as hell and hopefully you'll take their intended vibe.  They're the sounds of rebellion, because we, as fathers, need to always remember what young angst feels and sounds like once our collective brood hits that critical teen junction in life.  We can stay empathetic accordingly, and in the process, go freaking nuts ourselves for a little bit.

Cheers, dads...


The (International) Noise Conspiracy - "The Reproduction of Death"


Refused - "New Noise"


Reverend Horton Heat - "Psychobilly Freakout" Live at Studio 22, 2001

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Cool Comic o' the Week: DC Bombshell Covers


Girl power!

I'll be honest, when I returned to comics, one of my initial gripes was the "variant" covers.  Marketing being a major part of my college studies, I totally get it.  There are plenty of obsessive comics readers willing to plunk down the extra three to four smackers a pop for differing cover images of the same story each month.  I'm not one of those readers, albeit I'm not going to shy away if I find a red-hot variant sitting in my pull queue. 

During the nineties, gimmick covers were all the rage, i.e. prism, platinum, foil, trifolds, embossments, holograms, everything but motherlovin' steel.  It got to the point during that decade of excess in the comics world that enough was enough, since it became more about the danged covers than the material inside.  This was the high age of "collectability" and nothing was out-of-bounds, not even those infernal bagged issues which you were guilt-tripped into never opening, not unless you were willing to depreciate their value.  Thus, gullible nerds were found buying both the standard and bagged issues in said cases.  I used to work in comics retail at the time and saw these things fly off the shelves, even if in the back of my mind, I was thinking, "dirty pool."


In the current market of comics, variants have become the profit-generating rage of the publishers.  Two, three, sometimes four different covers hit the market for titles each month (Dynamite and Zenescope being two of the guiltiest offenders) and often a paltry limited run of retailer incentives featuring either virgin art only on the covers or, for the sex hounds of the collecting world willing to pay seven bucks extra, "risqué" editions featuring nudity.  Again I flag Dynamite, who have to be mighty proud of themselves with Warlord of Mars for this very reason, since the already scantily-clad Dejah Thoris gets to strip tease even more on those variants.

Yes, variants in general tend to piss me off since one (especially a yeoman buyer) can blindly walk into a store and buy two of the same issue with different covers, obviously to the capitalist glee of their producers.  One has to be diligent in what they're buying if his or her main purpose in buying comics to actually read them.


Despite this little rant, I'm going to turn hypocrite this month.  DC Comics already turned a profitable hit with their 3-D Villains Month covers as prelude to "Forever Evil" not long ago.  This month, they're doing a bit of cross-promotion with their "Bombshell Covers" to twenty titles from their New 52 lineup.  This is based upon the statues available in comics and hobby shops that depict some of their most popular female characters like Wonder Woman, Harley Quinn and Batgirl in throwback pinup depictions. 

These alternate covers are generated from girlie calendars, magazines, Depression era advertising and plane art from the thirties through the mid-sixties.  While you're not going to see anything as steamy as Dejah Thoris minus her golden nipple covers, I'm going to throw in the towel and say these ingenious variants are sexy.  Better yet, they're classy. 



The affected titles are Action Comics # 32, Detective Comics # 32, Green Lantern # 32, Batgirl # 32, Batman # 32, Green Lantern Corps # 32, Justice League United # 2, Superman/Wonder Woman # 9, Batman and Ra's al Ghul # 32, Batman/Superman # 12, Batwoman # 32, Harley Quinn # 7,  Justice League # 32, Red Hood and the Outlaws # 32, Wonder Woman # 32, Aquaman # 32, Catwoman # 32, Justice League Dark # 32, Superman # 32 and The Flash # 32.

Poison Ivy's nod to Bettie Page on the Bombshell cover of Detective Comics # 32 is about the hardest DC pushes the boundary line with these covers, while their inspired salute to Rosie the Riveter on the Wonder Woman # 32 variant serves as a reminder when America still had something to fight for.  It's patriotic, even though non-comics folk will dismiss it as corny.  We need heroes and heroines these days, and not just from a Hollywood profiteering perspective.  Okay, some of the Bombshell babes are villainesses.  Semantics.



The Bombshell covers take us back to a time when the United States' citizenry was bit more naïve and happily so.  Now we live in a pessimistic, jaded society.  Our cost for enlightenment is automatic skepticism and suspicion of one another.  That's just how things are.  Comic books are about escapism for those fifteen minutes one is engaged with them and therein, I believe, makes the Bombshell covers work, even if the subliminal design is to huckster high-priced collectibles outside of the books.



Listenin' to:  The (International) Noise Conspiracy - Survival Sickness

Friday, June 13, 2014

A Brief Word About Me Heading Into the Weekend

Not much I do in life is easy, nor is everything appreciated or rewarding. I don't subscribe to "It is what it is." Instead, I make the most of what's good in life and find solace in having the wisdom to savor those moments.



         Listenin' to:  Robert Plant & Alison Krauss - Raising Sand


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

"'Captain America: Homecoming' is Hardly a Cash Cow Tie-In," a Piece by Ray at ReadWave Comic Books



Over at ReadWave is my piece "Captain America: Homecoming is Hardly a Cash Cow Tie-In."
Link up here:

http://www.readwave.com/captain-america-homecoming-is-hardly-a-cash-cow-tie-in_s46745




                           Listenin' to:  Tracy Chapman - s/t

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

A Few of My Current Reviews for Blabbermouth Are Live



A handful of my reviews of the latest from Tesla, Prong, Black Label Society, Arch Enemy, Marty Friedman and Crowbar are live at Blabbermouth.  A heap more are set to go up in the immediate future. 



                                  Listenin' to:  Isis - Oceanic

Monday, June 9, 2014

Hands-down...




                         Listenin' to:  Blood, Sweat & Tears - s/t

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Sunday Triple Play - 6/8/14


Welcome back to another Sunday Triple Play!

I've been heavily spinning Depeche Mode's catalog this week since one, they're a favorite of mine and two, my son's taken a keen interest in them.  Unfortunately, I have to skip past some of the more sexual-laden Depeche Mode songs while my son's present, so let's kick up their sultry classic "Stripped" from Black Celebration while my little man sleeps.

Killing Joke's another band close to my heart.  I've twice interviewed Jaz Coleman and both times were remarkable moments for me, as the man is hardly short of words.  The first time was over the phone and even overseas, he generously kept pushing long past our allotment.  The second time was in-person at Union Transfer in Philadelphia and we'd had a very engaging chat, which prompted Jaz to invite me to hang out backstage after we were through.  Then he humbled me by showing me his personal writings that have yet to be published.  An amazing night I'll never forget, and it's such a gift the original lineup pulled back together and released two devastating albums in a row, Absolute Dissent and MMXII.  I could pull one of Killing Joke's numerous heavies, but their gorgeous alt-pop tune "In Cythera" from MMXII seems appropriate this time around.

Finally is the mighty Judas Priest, who are set to release their new slab Redeemer of Souls in July.  What I've heard so far of the album is back-to-basics, straightforward metal instead of the adventurous and experimental Nostradamus, which fell upon many deaf ears.  Because seldom few Priest fans mention "Hot Rockin' " from Point of Entry as a favorite cut, I'll lead the charge.  The video is a laugh a minute, but the riffs and groove are undeniably badass.


Depeche Mode - "Stripped"


Killing Joke - "In Cythera"


Judas Priest - "Hot Rockin' "

Cool Comic(s) o' the Week: Of Bats, The Force and Black Science

This week's Cool Comic o' the Week installment goes plural in honor of two of my very favorite scratches of pop culture, Star Wars and Batman, which are both running through a new Renaissance of fab in the comics world.  Add to these, one of the most mind-blowing new series out there, Image's Black Science. 


Batman # 31 continues the second act of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo's "Zero Year" arc, "Savage City."  This is one of the Riddler's best-shining moments (if you will) in Bat history, as he's usurped Gotham City by methodically submerging and decimating it.  He offers to relinquish Gotham with a challenge of intellect (of course):  only whenever someone comes forward who can stump him with a riddle will he vanish.  Challengers who lose obviously lose all.  Batman, who took a hell ride and expository shake-up in the first part of "Zero Year," has been knocked out from Riddler's cataclysm.  Now Bruce Wayne goes through twice the agony to reclaim Gotham.  Snyder can't lose, I'm telling you.  This is nearly as epic as "Court of Owls" and we're hardly done here. 


Let's also give Snyder a hand for the damned-fine Batman Eternal weekly series that's kept its juices flowing with very little pause.  At first, I was dismayed by seeing the return to the gang war theme that ran rampant through Bat-books of the nineties, but again, Snyder, in company with James Tynion, IV, can't lose.  The last two weeks prior to Issue # 9 were explosive leading to the introduction of a rogue operative in Hong Kong this week, who turns out to be an apparent relative of Bruce Wayne's trusty butler, Julia Pennyworth.  Gotham is about to be rocked to its foundations with returning kingpin Carmine Falcone engineering a bloody trail of vengeance.  Commissioner Gordon's been framed, his replacement is a corrupt SOB and Professor Pyg (brought to the limelight in Cartoon Network's Beware, the Batman) has been played as a pawn.  He naturally extols his own gory retaliation.  Penguin's taken his licks and the Bat army from Batman, Incorporated (thus far represented by Batwing, Batgirl and this week, Jiro, aka The Batman of Japan) are merging themselves into the ever-winding plot.  Two months down, with nine to go for this series, Batman Eternal is red-hot.


Once my pick as the best comic book on the market, Batgirl has suffered a slump through the past few issues, though no fault goes to trusty pen of Gail Simone.  Issue # 31 (and Annual # 2, for that matter), gets us away from a disillusioned vampire, Silver (who looks more than just a shade like Jackie Estacado from The Darkness) and an alternate world, "Zero Year" tie-in Batgirl.  Ragdoll, assumedly borrowed from The Batman cartoon series, makes a terrific debut here and he escalates the tension in Batgirl's world (always at shatter point through the first 26 issues) that was the hallmark of her New 52 resurrection.


All-star writer Matt Kindt leads Marco Castiello and Dan Parsons through a four-issue miniseries, Star Wars:  Rebel Heist.  Set five years after the Battle of Yavin (i.e. A New Hope), this intermediate story (noted to be prior to The Empire Strikes Back) finds Han Solo and Princess Leia on separate missions, effectively as mentor operatives for new Rebel recruits.  To this point, Han has been captured and brutalized by the Imperials.  Kindt utilizes an unorthodox POV to open the miniseries with the first trainee, Jan, who both glorifies and condemns Han within his narration.  The latter deceptively maneuvers around the enemy, then inexplicably surrenders to his Imperial captors.  Of course, we know as Jan observes, Han is a "tactical genius disguised as a master of improvisation."  Something's cooking, naturally.  Is Jan really as disgusted by Han and the Alliance as he purports, or is it a clever ruse?  Meanwhile, Leia has gone undercover on the neutral pleasure planet Feddasyr.   Having inadvertently blown the cover of her assigned rookie, a rare red-colored Twi'lek, Sarin, Leia's cloak and dagger skills (with Sarin providing tail and cover) find her in the company of a rogue Stormtrooper pivoted into her ally, albeit, she too is captured by the Empire.  In both issues, Han and Leia implore their green associates to trust them, which creates its own sense of hubris, as hubris becomes a point of contention in Jan's case.  This series is set to detonate as Chewbacca figures to play into the next issue, and assumedly Luke in final chapter.  Dark Horse Comics will soon be ceasing publication of Star Wars comics as the licensing has been procured once again by Marvel.  Consider Rebel Heist a valiant salutation.


Dark Horse also finishes their eight-issue adaptation of George Lucas' original script for the sci-fi action film that changed everything.  Originally titled The Star Wars, this was a pretty magical job executed by J.W. Rinzler, Mike Mayhew and Rain Beredo.  If you missed it, the collected trade paperback is on its way.  Everything you know about Star Wars will be changed after reading it, guaranteed.


Rick Remender has written a near-masterpiece through six issues of the stellar Black Science.  This series has been unique, edgy and bizarre with that always-prevalent pulp nuance to Remender's work.  Anyone who can come up with a sect known as "The Anarchist Order of Scientists" has my attention.  Grant McKay has unlocked a portal to alternate dimensions.  Simple enough of a premise.  Nothing else is simple with Black Science's themes of betrayal, adultery, thievery and idiosyncratic planes of existence that would hardly jive outside of the comics realm.  As razor-sharp as anything produced during the glory years of Heavy Metal magazine.


               Listenin' to:  Depeche Mode - Music for the Masses

Friday, June 6, 2014

Deadpool, You're Such a Rube.


Courtesy of my friend and fellow zombie walker from the indie flick, Bane, Kevin Smith.



               Listenin' to:  Tori Amos - From the Choirgirl Hotel

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Sample Pages from "No Stone Unturned," Script by Ray Van Horn, Jr. for Top Cow Comics' 2013 Talent Hunt



So I recently took a shot and entered Top Cow Comics' 2013 Talent Hunt.  The time, preparation and resource gathering invested was one of the most massive undertakings for a project I've yet done in my career.  I worked to the point of obsession and surrounded my writing microcosm with Witchblade, Artifacts and The Darkness books and images.  I mapped out timelines, considering the imprint had already shaken up their stable with the "Rebirth" event that changed everything.  I whispered character names aloud and inside my head like buzzing little mantras.  Sara Pezzini adorned my computer wallpaper, the spaces surrounding my desk and my office bulletin board.  Only does a writer get away with such conduct that would ring "stalker" from anyone else. 

Six hundred-plus aspiring writers also took their shots.  Unfortunately, I wasn't one of the selected winners.  In what was probably the single biggest disappointment I've faced in the past couple years, I brooded for a few hours after the formal announcements were made by Top Cow.  I drank a beer, then a hot tea.  Yin and yan.  I read a Thor comic and spun some Sisters of Mercy to calm myself.  Afterwards, I turned my eye toward my review queue for Blabbermouth and went right to work.  The next day, I opened other comic scripts I've written and worked on polishing them up, as well as cracking into short stories that need an ending and one of four novel projects that has more verve than the others at this point.  In other words, I got over losing in a hurry, because I refuse to give in to negativity.  The universe gives what you put into it, thus I optimistically soldier on.

Nonetheless, I have this little script that was the focal point of my world for a couple months.  In the interest of sharing with my loyal readers here at The Crash Pad, I'd like to toss up a few sample pages from my entry script.  Looking back at "No Stone Unturned," I have no sour grapes.  I enjoyed the opportunity to enter Top Cow's contest and I was glad for the practice. 

I invite any comments, criticisms and (hopefully) invitations for writing work from a comics publisher or anyone currently in the industry.  Comics have always been one of my life's passions and writing for the medium has been a yet-unrealized dream come true.  I wrote original serialized superhero fiction eons ago for Cyber Age Adventures and five of my stories were collected in the trade paperback, Playing Solitaire.  That was a nice start, but I'm after the real deal. 

Hope you all dig.  If you want to know more about the crux of this 22-page story that focuses largely on Patrick Gleason, former partner and love interest to Sara Pezzini of Witchblade (who has a cameo during the intro and outro), hit me up off-site.  I'd be glad to get into it with you.  As always, thanks for reading.



Sample Pages from "No Stone Unturned," for Top Cow Comics' 2013 Talent Hunt.  Witchblade and Artifacts characters are the property of Top Cow Comics.  Original story concept and script writing by Ray Van Horn, Jr.


                                 PAGE 8

PANEL 1:  Close-up of Gleason from the left profile.  In the background are metalheads facing toward the stage as Shallow Graves prepares to begin their set.

1 Gleason (caption):  “Looks like ol’ Finny f’ed up again.  Lost the Glacier Stone here in the big metropolis, his old stomping grounds.   

2 Gleason (caption):  “Wonder what had him back in New York to begin with.

 
PANEL 2:  Establishing view of the stage from behind Gleason’s head and shoulders.  Show a large crowd of people all the way across the panel in front of the stage.  The members of Shallow Graves are on the stage tuning up, with Rod prominent.  He is wearing black jeans and a muscle shirt with a goat’s head and pentagram on the front.  He has dark hair pulled into a ponytail and he has a few tattoos on each arm, plus a nail-studded bracelet.  The Glacier Stone is dangling from his neck.

3 Gleason (caption):  “There’s my mark and he’s got the ice.  Ugh, Sara’d torch me for that.

 
PANEL 3:  View of stage left from a distance.  Approach from behind the merchandise table previously referenced with the back of a merchandise girl dominating the right side of the panel.  We see she has green pigtails and black spaghetti straps overtop pale shoulders.  A pair of male metalheads are holding money in their hands.  One is pointing over the merch girl’s head as she hands the other a t-shirt.

Silent panel
 

PANEL 4: View of the venue floor and audience from Rod’s point-of-view.  We see only his chin down to his pelvis as he’s twisting pegs on his bass with the hand bearing the nail-studded bracelet.  The Glacier Stone glistens beneath the glaring stage lights upon his chest.  Someone in the crowd is yelling at the band to begin.  We see minute details of Gleason in the crowd.

4 Gleason (caption):  “Rod must be carrying wood along with that gem on his neck. 

5 Gleason (caption):  “I’d wonder why girls like Francine waste their time with creeps like Rod, but then, I stuck it out with Sara no matter how ugly it got between us at times. 

6 Gleason (caption):  “Frick, I still miss her.

7 Metalhead in crowd:  "Get on with it!"


                                PAGE 9

PANEL 1:  View from behind the merchandise table again, revealing more of the merch girl from behind, concentrating on the thighs up through the shoulders, with traces of the green pigtails dangling from the top of the panel.  She is wearing a low-cut, black, spaghetti-strap body suit with a pair of high-cut denim shorts overtop.  Accent the curves of her rear through the fabrics, jutting partially from the bottom frays of the cutoffs.  With no customers now, her left arm is reaching backwards and pulling a small NAA Guardian automatic from the center hem of her shorts.  The gun has been stashed inside the shorts above her butt.  We see a “IV” branded on the upper section of her left arm.

 Silent panel
 

PANEL 2:  Establishing view panning the crowd, tightening on Gleason from the waist-up, but allowing for enough of a view in the distance past the crowd of metalheads to include the merchandise table, still with no customers. We should see slightly more indication that the merch girl is an Aphrodite IV unit.  Her hands are clasped at her crotch, concealing the gun, but her chin is down and her face is partially silhouetted as we’ve not yet seen the confirmatory green spot upon her cheek, nor her green lips.

Silent panel
 

PANEL 3:  Expansive view of Shallow Graves pounding into action onstage, Rod and his band mates flailing away at their instruments.  Reduce the illumination and douse the band in scarlet stage lighting.  We see a handful of horns-up symbols from the crowd poking up from the bottom of the panel.

Silent panel

  

                                      PAGE 10

PANEL 1:  Show the mayhem ensuing from the crowd before Gleason.  We’re looking in around him, off-center toward the right.  Show metalheads dashing and shoving each other in a mosh pit, with other metalheads giving them distance, but headbanging or throwing horns in the air.  Gleason is standing rigid from what we can tell at his back.

1 Gleason (caption):  “I’ve seen some weird things in my life, and most of it’s focused around Sara.

 2 Gleason (caption):  “The Brooklyn Bridge turning into some monster bastion out of Krull during that scrap between her and Dani comes to mind. 

3 Gleason (caption):  “Sara getting pregnant by Estacado while both were dead asleep?  Tops, right there.

4 Gleason (caption):  “But what makes people willingly crash into each other like these ass-clowns?

 
PANEL 2:  Medium close-up of a young female crowd surfer tumbling overtop upraised hands pushing beneath her butt and back, keeping her elevated.  She looks ecstatic.  Gleason is nearby, looking appalled.

5 Gleason (caption):  “Now that could be statutory rape in the making.  Dumb kids.       

 
PANEL 3:  Angled view of Shallow Graves in action onstage.  Rod dominates the left side of the panel, pushing his bass neck out into the crowd and screaming at them.  The Glacier Stone swings forward as well.  Show the crowd reaching out and yelling from behind an iron barrier and three muscular bouncers between the barrier/crowd and the stage.  One metalhead is pumping his fist and another is giving the band the middle finger.  Shallow Graves’ singer is barking into a microphone.

6 Shallow Graves’ singer:  "Step into the abyss, your new Lord is awaiting you…

 
PANEL 4:  Medium view of Gleason, catching a teenaged male mosher who’s stumbled backwards out of the slam pit.  In the background, a female bartender yells to Gleason through the noise.  Gleason doesn’t hear her.

7 Bartender:  "Nice catch, old man!

8 Mosher:  "Whoa, thanks, dude!

 9 Gleason:  "Word."
 

                                    PAGE 11

PANEL 1:  Bird’s eye view of the club floor where we can see the full mosh pit whirling in a circle with the band thrashing about onstage.  One of the bouncers is reaching forward to catch the female crowd surfer at the iron barrier.  At the bottom left, we see Gleason, almost by himself toward the back of the crowd.  To the right, we only see the top of the Aphrodite IV unit’s green hair with pigtails and a partial view of her frame, still in the same posture as Page 9, Panel 2. 

Silent panel

 
PANEL 2:  Extreme close-up of the Glacier Stone swinging to the right across Rod’s chest.  Shallow Graves’ singer wails from off-panel.

1 Shallow Graves’ singer (off-panel):  "From beneath the remains of this wretched land, a new Paradise welcomes you!

 
PANEL 3:  Extreme close-up of Gleason, now wincing from the decibels and his repulsion by the death metal lyrics. 

2 Gleason (caption):  “Freaking mutants, singing about Hell like it’s some sort of utopia. 

3 Gleason (caption):  “If these guys ever saw what I’ve seen from Hell, they might change their tune in a hurry.

 
PANEL 4:  Extreme close-up of Gleason from the nose-up.  Shadowed over his head is one of the horned demons from the “Paper Monsters” story in Witchblade 140-141.

 4 Gleason (caption):  “Those Neumann kids and their creepy demon art that came to life, as if opening a portal for Satan’s minions…

 
PANEL 5:  Same scheme as PANEL 4, only this time show a shadowed depiction of Sabine thrusting her spear toward the reader and a feral expression upon her face.

5 Gleason (caption):  “Even those supposedly representing the light can turn on you.  That deranged hitwoman for the Angelus, Sabine, almost killed me ‘n Sara.

 
PANEL 6:  Angled view of Gleason continuing to watch the show.  More moshing fills the remainder of the panel.

 6 Gleason (caption):  “The Pagans celebrated death like it was a rite of passage.  These clueless pricks are no better."
 
 
 
             Listenin' to:  Depeche Mode - Delta Machine