Tag Archives: gothic

Alice Cooper: Issue #3

AliceCooperComic_03

Last night I watched “Good to See You Again, Alice Cooper” at a friend’s house. The film documents the infamous 1973 Billion Dollar Babies tour and is interspersed with comedic shorts. Since I had issue 3 in my stack of things to be read, I couldn’t resist bumping it to the top of the pile.

The comic opens with scenes from a concert at the Philadelphia Spectrum in 1975, which stirred memories of going to concerts in the 70’s, a much more Dionysian era.

In times past, this was your scene, your church, your glory. You drove a crowd into a frenzy, nightly. Then called them back to do it again and again. All carefully designed and planned, a delicate mix of the macabre and the theatrical… the dark, and the delightful… all while walking a line between what was real, and what was show… and what was both to a delicate, deliberate degree.

For me, this perfectly captures the experience of an Alice Cooper performance and what defines stage performance as art. It is the blending of the real and the imagined. You have actual individuals on a stage, and we then project our hopes and fears onto them based upon their actions (act being the root of the word). The fact that real people are before us allows us to suspend belief in a way that film can never quite accomplish. It’s why a Shakespeare play is always better than a film adaptation.

So far, I am enjoying this series. The Alice Cooper persona lends itself well to the graphic novel genre. As a bonus, here’s a clip from the film I watched last night. If you’re an Alice Cooper fan, you should check out the film. Rock on!

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Halloween Hamlet Quote

Image Source: Wikipedia

Image Source: Wikipedia

Since today is Halloween, I figured it would be appropriate to quote the original goth-emo dude – Hamlet.

Tis now the very witching time of night,

When churchyards yawn and hell itself breathes out

Contagion to this world: now could I drink hot blood,

And do such bitter business as the day

Would quake to look on.

Enjoy your Halloween, and read something appropriate.

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Alice Cooper: Issue #2

AliceCooperComic_02

Since I was a kid, Alice Cooper has been the soundtrack to my October nights, filling the air with the dark sounds of the macabre and the gothic. Tomorrow night, I will see him once again in concert, and to say I’m excited is quite the understatement. So to get myself in the proper state of mind, I decided to read the latest installment in the Alice Cooper graphic series.

The truth be told, I’m such a huge Alice fan that even if this series sucked I would still read it and like it, and while this new comic is not on par with Neil Gaiman’s Alice Cooper comic series, it is still good.

In this issue, Alice, the Nightmare Lord, strikes a deal with the bullied kid Robbie. Robbie, who had inadvertently bound the dark lord, promises to release Alice if he assists in getting back at the bully who torments him. While all this is transpiring, Lucius Black’s brother, Andronicus, is scheming to recapture the Nightmare Lord. Near the end of the issue, the threads of the tale begin to entwine together and we are left with a nice cliffhanger.

My favorite part of this issue is when Alice manifests to the bully. The surprised teen asks who Alice is, and Alice responds with the following.

Once upon a time, I could live rent free in that mind of yours, stealing your potential… rotting your brain with my special, signature raison d’etat… I stuck a stick of dynamite up rock n’ roll’s ass and pushed the art of the stage show out of the juke joints and the back rooms with morbid theatricality… along with macabre panache! I made the nightmares happen, and I thought it’d last forever.

Tomorrow night, I will once again experience the morbid theatricality and macabre panache which is an Alice Cooper concert. Thanks for stopping by, and may your Halloween be filled with thrills and chills!

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Wraith: Issue #1

Wraith_01The other day I went to the comic store to pick up the latest issue of The X-Files comic, but alas, its release was delayed a week. Wanting to support the local store anyway, I perused the shelves looking for something of interest and spied the first issue of Wraith. I had read that comic aficionados were excited about this and I have to admit that I was intrigued by the cover, which hearkened back to the horror comics I read as a kid. I also found the license plate to be quite punny (NOS4A2 = Nosferatu). I asked the store owner what he knew about it. He told me he had not read it yet but planned to, since the writer was one of his favorites (Joe Hill also wrote Locke & Key). I decided to give it a shot.

I found this comic interesting and I think it has potential. The comic is based on the metaphor of the road, which represents psychological pathways. Be warned—it is a very dark road that is taken and this is definitely a comic for mature readers. The protagonist, Charlie Manx, recounts the grim story of his childhood to a frightened young girl who is his passenger on the road. He recounts how his pain, suffering, anger, and disillusion led him to seek escape from reality by speeding down roads, which symbolize the pathways to the darker regions of his psyche.

For a time, I went to sleep inside and learned to dream through my days. Not that it made me one lick happier. Every dream I dreamed—all those other places I’d never see, other women I’d never hold, other lives I wouldn’t live, other roads I’d never drive—was another bitter sip of poison.

Manx discovers that he has the power to transform his dark dreams into reality. It is almost like creative visualization with a macabre twist.

If you can dream a thing, then it has a kind of reality in your thoughts. And if you dream hard enough, and you have the right vehicle—a vehicle you really love, a part of yourself—you can slip right out of reality and into that other, better, imaginary world, where the only reality is the one you allow.

The Wraith is Manx’s vehicle for escape—a black, gothic, antique Rolls Royce which carries him along the highways that meander through the darker realms of his consciousness.

Although Manx is a sinister character, you cannot help but feel some empathy. He was abused, he suffered, and he reached his mental breaking point where he had no place to turn but into his own mind for escape. Under the right circumstances, any one of us could snap psychologically and barrel down the road in an attempt to escape. But the sad reality is escape is really just another illusion. There is no place in our minds, no matter how deep or dark, where we can completely escape from ourselves.

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“The Minister’s Black Veil” by Nathaniel Hawthorne

MinistersBlackVeilYesterday I told my daughter what I was doing as far as blog posts for the month of October. She quickly suggested that I write a post about The Minister’s Black Veil. She said it wasn’t exactly horror, per se, but it was definitely creepy in a psychological sense. The fact that my daughter would suggest Hawthorne made me a proud father indeed, and the fact that the story she suggested was one that I was unfamiliar with solidified this as the choice for my next post.

It was no surprise that this is a very symbolic tale. In fact, the subtitle is “A Parable,” which implies that there is a moral lesson to be learned and that lesson is likely represented symbolically in the story. To briefly summarize the story, it is a tale about one Reverend Hooper, a minister in a puritanical town, who makes the decision to wear a black veil for the rest of his life, without providing a reason to any of the townsfolk. The townsfolk are horrified by the veil, which they view as a “symbol of a fearful secret between him and them.”

The veil separates Hooper from the rest of humanity. It represents a wall behind which he is trapped, a prisoner within himself. He can never truly connect with another person because there is always a part of him that is hidden, some dark aspect of the self which can never be shown.

All through life the piece of crape had hung between him and the world: it had separated him from cheerful brotherhood and woman’s love, and kept him in that saddest of prisons, his own heart…

Hawthorne is essentially asserting that we all have dark secrets, aspects of ourselves of which we are ashamed, afraid, or disgusted. We harbor thoughts and memories of things that make us sad or fill us with anger and remorse. As a result, no one can really know another person completely. There will always be thoughts or feelings that are not expressed, which remain hidden behind the veil.

“Why do you tremble at me alone?” cried he, turning his veiled face round the circle of pale spectators. “Tremble also at each other! Have men avoided me, and women shown no pity, and children screamed and fled, only for my black veil? What, but the mystery which it obscurely typifies, has made this piece of crape so awful? When the friend shows his inmost heart to his friend; the lover to his best beloved; when man does not vainly shrink from the eye of his Creator, loathsomely treasuring up the secret of his sin; then deem me a monster, for the symbol beneath which I have lived, and die! I look around me, and, lo! on every visage a Black Veil!”

Reverend Hooper claims that a time will come “when all of us shall cast aside our veils.” But this will never happen as long as we harbor prejudices against others and hide our thoughts. Humanity as a whole must attain a level of acceptance where we realize that we are all the same, that we all have our dark secrets and our inner fears. Once we can accept that about ourselves and others, we can start to open up and hopefully shed our veils.

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“Young Goodman Brown” by Nathaniel Hawthorne

YoungGoodmanBrownI heard that this month is National Short Story month, or something like that, so I decided to reread one of my all-time favorite short stories: “Young Goodman Brown” by Nathaniel Hawthorne. I love a good horror story and this one is about as good as it gets without having to rely on gore. In addition, there are a lot of thought-provoking ideas woven into the story, which makes it all the more interesting to read.

The story takes place in old Salem, where Goodman Brown takes leave of his wife, Faith, to venture into the forest at night for some unstated work that must be done on this specific night between dusk and dawn. On his journey he meets the devil and follows him to a ceremony, possibly a black mass or a witches sabbat, and there he witnesses all the upstanding citizens from his town, including church elders, participating in the dark ritual. He also meets his wife Faith, but before he takes the plunge into sin, he looks upward and prays for the strength to resist the evil one, and awakens unsure whether it was all real or a dream. He then lives the rest of his life as a cynic, distrusting the hypocrisy that he sees around him.

There is so much that I could write about this story, but I’ll try to keep it short. First, I’d like to talk about Faith. Goodman Brown’s wife symbolizes Brown’s own faith and virtue. But his faith is lost when he realizes that all people are essentially evil. At the ceremony, the devil states: “Now are ye undeceived. Evil is the nature of mankind. Evil must be your only happiness.”

One of my favorite metaphors which is prevalent in American literature is wilderness, representing the dark side of the human soul. This tale takes place in the wilderness, down “a dreary road, darkened by all the gloomiest trees of the forest, which barely stood aside to let the narrow path creep through, and closed immediately behind.” Goodman Brown plunges into the wilderness, into the darkest corners of his own being, with complete abandon: “The road grew wilder and drearier and more faintly traced, and vanished at length, leaving him in the heart of the dark wilderness, still rushing onward with the instinct that guides mortal man to evil.”

In the end he discovers that evil resides within himself, just as it resides within every hypocrite he sees on the streets in his village. He has lost his Faith and no longer finds solace in her bosom. He dies miserably, and “they carved no hopeful verse upon his tombstone, for his dying hour was gloom.”

There is not much that is cheerful in this story. It is dark all the way through and ends in cynicism. That said, it is such a great story and it forces one to look around and question notions of morality. Even if this is not the type of story you generally read, I highly recommend it. Click here to read it online.

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“To My Mother” by Edgar Allan Poe

EdgarAllanPoeThis was not the poem I intended to read this morning. I wanted to read something by Poe and was planning to read “The Conqueror Worm,” but as I was flipping through my volume of The Complete Tales and Poems, I came across this sonnet. The title caught my eye, particularly since it was Mother’s Day recently. I decided to read this one instead.

The rhyming scheme of the poem is that of a Shakespearean sonnet: a-b-a-b, c-d-c-d, e-f-e-f, g-g; with the last two lines forming a rhyming couplet. Since it is short, I figured I would include the poem in the blog post rather than link to it.

Because I feel that, in the Heavens above,
The angels, whispering to one another,
Can find, among their burning terms of love,
None so devotional as that of “Mother,”
Therefore by that dear name I long have called you—
You who are more than mother unto me,
And fill my heart of hearts, where Death installed you
In setting my Virginia’s spirit free.
My mother—my own mother, who died early,
Was but the mother of myself; but you
Are mother to the one I loved so dearly,
And thus are dearer than the mother I knew
By that infinity with which my wife
Was dearer to my soul than its soul-life.

This sonnet is directed toward Poe’s mother-in-law, the mother of his wife Virginia. Poe’s birth mother died early and it seems that he viewed his mother-in-law as the one who filled that maternal void in his life. He also expresses gratitude for the fact that she brought Virginia into the world, the person who is dearest to his soul.

I can relate to this poem. My mother died young and her passing left an empty space in my being. Anyone who has experienced the death of a mother knows that this loss is not something that heals quickly, nor can it be immediately filled. But it seems that Poe found someone who was caring and nurturing enough to fill that void. I guess that it was no coincidence that I discovered this poem today.

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