Tag Archives: urban legends

Rockstars: Issue #01

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When I first heard about this new graphic series, I was immediately intrigued. A series about rock and roll excess, occult, and urban legend drawing inspiration from bands in the 1970’s seemed right up my alley. I added it to my pull list at my local comic store and patiently waited. This week, I finally got the first issue and it is everything I expected.

The tale is basically about two young people—a rock conspiracy theorist and a music journalist—who meet while looking into the mysterious deaths of young women, which they believe to be connected to black magic rites orchestrated by a mysterious rock guitarist.  The opening lines sucked me right in to the story.

Rock ‘n’ roll has always had its secrets. From backwards messages on classic albums, woven references to drugs and madness, or homages to fallen legends and lost friends. Hidden declarations of sympathy for the devil are as stock and trade as anthem calls to both the faithful and the damned.

Author Joe Harris credits the book Hammer of the Gods as an inspiration. I remember reading this book in my younger days and the glimpse it provided into the dark and mysterious world of rock and roll. I would never listen to a Led Zeppelin song the same way afterwards.

Already, this series makes references to some of the great rock myths: the infamous mudshark, the synching of “Dark Side of the Moon” to “The Wizard of Oz,” Jimmy Page’s obsession with all things Crowley, just to name a few. If you were a rock music fan in the late 70’s and early 80’s, you will undoubtedly catch and appreciate these references and how they are masterfully strung together with artwork that evokes the essence of that era.

I highly recommend this and eagerly await the next installment.

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Magneto: Issue 13

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Just as I was thinking about discontinuing reading the Magneto series, I was reminded of how good it is and how thought-provoking the writing is. This issue is excellent and explores something I find fascinating: how stories affect our concept of reality.

Stories, when repeated, become part of the fabric of our collective consciousness. They teach us things about ourselves and build a bond which helps hold our society together. On a level, we know that these are just stories which, although fiction, express universal truths regarding the human experience. But sometimes, as this comic points out, people begin to accept these stories as facts which lead to the birth of urban legend, and in more extreme cases, self-deception.

What is the appeal of ghost stories? Gathering around a darkened room… speaking in whispers… recounting the tales of monsters that lurk in shadows. Is there comfort there? The reminder that… while we speak of the dead… we are all truly alive, or is it purely for the thrill? The pumping heart… the racing blood… the trembling flesh. Among these tales of terror… the “true” ghost story is among the most offensive. “Listen,” you say. “This is what happened to me.” You know the entire time that your every word is a lie… and your audience realizes the same… although they force themselves to believe. And so it is the ghost stories we tell ourselves… when no one else is listening… that are the most egregious. Lies for our own benefit. “This really happened to me.” Lies we force ourselves to believe.

This hit painfully close to home. When I was younger, I lied to myself as a way to justify my actions and to absolve myself from guilt and shame. In these stories I forced myself to believe I was the hero. I twisted history to view myself as making the right decisions, to validate the choices I made, to make it easier to live with myself. It was a coping mechanism for me and one that I suspect many people still rely upon. It is painful and difficult to look at yourself and judge your actions honestly, but it is important to do so. This is the only way that you can grow as an individual.

As you know, I love stories, but I must be careful not to allow stories to distort my view of reality. It is appropriate to use stories as a way to interpret reality, but it can be a slippery and dangerous slope when we allow stories to define our reality.

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The X-Files: Year Zero – Issue #2

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It had been a little while since I read the first issue in this series, so I had to go back and reread it to refresh myself. Basically, Mulder and Scully are investigating a case regarding a possible shape-shifter which has similarities to the unsolved first X-Files case from 1946. Both involve a mysterious Mr. Zero (or Mr. Xero from 1946).

This issue continues the parallel storyline with Mulder and Scully in the present day and Special Agent Bing Ellinson and Special Employee Millie Ohio in 1946. The dual storyline was what caused me to have to go back and reread, because I couldn’t recall what was what, but after I got my bearings, it worked well for me.

The most interesting part for me was at the end and is part of the 1946 string. Ellinson and Ohio track down a Native American youth named Ish in Glacier National Park. He informs the agents that the “person” they are searching for is a manitou, “An evil spirit with a bloodlust greater than that of the fiercest beast.” The issue ends with the manitou bursting up out of the floorboards of the cabin where the three are hiding.

So far, I am enjoying this comic. The story is interesting and I like the “film noir” style of artwork used in the panels. I’m also curious how the two stories will eventually connect, or if they end up taking divergent paths. I’ll review the next issue when it comes out in about a month.

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Witchblade Issue 156: The Space Between Us

Witchblade_Issue156

I LOVED this issue! Not only is the writing flawless and well-crafted, but the artwork is superb. In addition, while it ties in with the larger Witchblade story, it is a stand-alone piece that can be read on its own. Basically, Sara Pezzini is investigating an apparition’s recurring visit. The spectral woman, who howls in agony, appears to her boyfriend who is tormented by his inability to end her anguish. It draws on the theme of the transition between life and death, particularly the purgatorial realm between the planes.

Early in the episode, Sara muses on the reasons why displaced spirits haunt particular places.

They say that haunted places are the home to people that couldn’t move on. That the ghosts found comfort in their old stomping grounds.

I see this as true on a psychological level also. As humans, we seek solace in those places of our psyches that are comfortable to us, that we associate with our ideal of what was good about our pasts. I have often found myself retreating and haunting the areas of my mind that are connected with pleasant memories. I see spiritual “hauntings” as the physical manifestation of our innate desire to return to a place of safety and familiarity.

The purgatorial space between dimensions populated by ghosts is referred to as the Ashen Lands. It is visually depicted as a spectral realm, void of color and painted with shades of grey. One of the ghosts explains the main reason why they choose to remain in the Ashen Lands: fear.

It’s the world beyond the Ashen Lands. Where the dead are meant to be. None can know if it’s heaven or hell, or an eternal, silent sleep. Those of us here… we were too afraid to go.

There are two appendices to this comic. The first is a supposed excerpt from a book that discusses The Ashenlands. It works really well and there is a great passage that describes the difference of appearance between the living and the dead.

You may think me mad to have such a preoccupation with hues after such a traumatic event. But when one walks the Ashenlands, one comes to learn that it is the colour that sets us apart from the dead.

Finally, the part of this story that I found the most fascinating is the inclusion of urban legends. The second appendix is a recounting of a Chicago ghost story that is referred to in the comic, that of Resurrection Mary. I did a search online and found plenty of sites discussing what is deemed as Chicago’s most famous ghost story. Click here to read a short summary of the tale.

I love stories that blur the lines of distinction between real and fantasy, between life and death, and between the conscious and the subconscious, and this comic does that masterfully. If you can find this issue at your local comic store, I highly recommend that you pick it up and read it. You won’t be disappointed.

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