Monster Mashington DC


The American President.  He (or she, just hang on) is committed to protecting the nation from all enemies foreign, domestic or supernatural, right?  We are assured that the Pentagon has considered plans for a Zombie Apocalypse, but if the movies are to be believed (and why wouldn't they be?) this is not the first time that the President has had to deal with the Undead Un-American Activities.  Many of our greatest presidents have faced down some of our most classic monsters already, and they did not shirk their responsibilities.

What with the internet being the hotbed for "This + That" nerdistry and wannamemes that it is, there are as many spawns of this idea as a hot bed is wont to bring forth, especially with zombies.  There is zombie every-damn-thing on the internet.  Go on, think of a word, add zombie to it and Google.  Yup, there it is.  Zombie Pool, both billiards and swimming.  Zombie Ice Cream.  Zombie Pope.  As such, I'm not addressing every damn variation on this theme, but simply hitting some of the bigger cinematic moments in American Presidents versus Classic Monsters.  Fanfic (and there's puh-lenty) need not apply.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter - 2012

Abraham Lincoln vs Vampires

I was surprised to discover that this was a June release, because it has the key ingredients of a May movie; specifically traditional monsters, a forgettable story, B-list effects and double cheese.  That's not to say that it's bad, mind you.  I often have more fun with May movies than I do with, say, the July ones.  They're frequently more fun, and AL:VH is certainly that.

The film doesn't so much posit an alternate timeline as a secret history.  Lincoln, in his youth, had a run in with some pretty vicious vampires, which led him to a night job as a slayer of the undead while he pursued his legal and political career by day.  He trains with a mentor hunter in the finer points of axe-handling, which you just know is gonna end poorly for the mentor yet motivationally for Honest Abe.  This comes in handy, since there is a much larger vampire threat with endangers the future of American freedom... or something.

The movie makes more than a token effort to fit the vampires in around the events of Lincoln's life.  Sure, whenever you shake a tree like this, four score and seven history nerds fall out to tell why nuh-uh, but for a movie that tell you in its title that it gives not one shit about such fussbudgets, it's more faithful than it needs to be.

The action is slick and cool.  Lincoln is a reluctant badass, much as history holds him to be... plus, you know, the axe.  Lincoln wields it like a kung fu artist and it provides a unique visual profile to what might otherwise have been some pretty rote violence.  The not-terribly-memorable villain is played by an Englishman, because ALL the villains are played by Englishmen nowadays.  The narrative takes itself seriously internally, but it is fully aware that you won't.

Really, the weakest thing about it is that I've seen it twice and I still don't remember the full core story.  I think that's probably because it was pulled along more by the chronology of Lincoln's life (lives being less tightly structured than stories) rather than by A-to-B narrative tropes.

It's good mindless fun that won't fill you up or weigh you down.

FDR: American Badass! - 2012

Franklin Roosevelt vs Werewolves

This movie has every excuse to be terrible, and there's certainly no denying the bargain basement production values, but despite all the obvious shortcomings, it's really rather funny thanks to its script and performers.  I can only assume it was conceived as a low-budget satire on the idea of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, being released straight-to-video within months of the bigger-budgeted film.  Where Lincoln takes itself remarkably seriously, FDR takes absolutely NOTHING seriously, and that is its trump card.

As a younger man, Franklin Roosevelt was good at everything and so beloved by everyone that his massive ego was merely another beloved characteristic.  And then he was attacked by a werewolf, and werewolf bites cause polio, dontcha know?  In a sight gag that will recur throughout the movie, FDR's legs are reduced to wildly quivering children's legs.  That sets the "story" into motion, and establishes the level and premise for much of the movie's humor.  As FDR, Barry "Brad" Bostwick is an over-the-top caricature of the manly man of bygone days.  He drinks hard, he laughs hard at his own jokes, and he's predominantly concerned with how the polio will affect his "cack."  After the werewolf attack, he's more determined than ever to become President.

Little does he know at the time, but the werewolf was a German agent.  It seems that all the Axis powers are werewolves, and werewolves Hitler, Hirohito and Mussolini chat with each other on the phone like teenage girls while making their plans for world conquest.  Fortunately, FDR is a take-charge kind of leader, and takes point on the D-day invasion with his armored and machine gun-enabled wheelchair.

In case I've been too subtle, this is not a delicate comedy of manners.  It's crude in as many ways as possible, but there's an ounce of brain under the hood of it all, as opposed to, say, just another Wayans movie.  My personal favorite joke comes from a left-field cribbing of Bon Jovi lyrics in a campaign meeting FDR has with a struggling constituent.  Some people will be put off by some of the humor which comes across as racist or sexist, but there are enough instances that expose enough awareness to suggest that what they are really mocking is not races and sexes, but racists and sexists.

For a movie that didn't need to accomplish much to attain "so bad it's good" low-low-budget and expectations status, it really seemed to me that FDR: American Badass! delivered more than it needed to, and much more cleverly than is likely to be appreciated.

Bubba Ho-Tep - 2002

John F Kennedy vs a Mummy

Bruce Campbell is a sad old man in a nursing home.  He drifts in and out of awareness, and isn't sure he cares.  He also may or may not be Elvis.

Ossie Davis is his best friend in the nursing home.  He also may or may not be JFK.

Together they become aware of an entity that haunts the nursing home by night, sucking the life energy out of the home's defenseless residents.  He definitely IS an Egyptian mummy!

Jack and Elvis have to push themselves to their limits to confront the mummy and free the souls of their friends.  While it takes the obvious guise of a monster movie, much of what makes Bubba Ho-Tep so good is the way it uses these recontextualized horror tropes to consider issues of age, ability and respect.  The majority of monster movies are about impulsive young people who don't think about what they're doing.  Jack and Elvis aren't like that.  They don't run screaming like a bunch of ninnies.  They face their enemy fully accepting that they will likely die.  It's not about survival for them.  They're past that point.  It's about being useful, having value, and dedicating their lives to doing something with meaning.  They continue to EARN respect, even if no one gives it to them anymore.

Must-see if you appreciate the way that Bruce Campbell can turn just about any line into something hilarious and cool.  Easily one of the best mummy movies ever, which isn't really saying that much.

See also: JFK vs zombies in Call of Duty: Black Ops.

Mars Attacks! - 1996

The President vs Martians

Yeah, you could just as easily put Independence Day in this slot, but Mars Attacks! is the better movie by far.  They're essentially the same movie, but ID takes itself completely seriously, which makes it all the more ridiculous.  Mars Attacks! however, is based on a fan favorite trading card series from the 1960s and takes very little seriously.  ID wants you to care about the outcome.  MA! gives you credit for already knowing that the human have to win in the end, so it doesn't really matter if it's a silly victory.  That approach is woven throughout the movie.  ID teases you with its aliens and insists that they're badass and scary even after it's been revealed that they're cheesy and dopey.  MA!'s aliens fully embrace their anachronistic origins and simply play their required role.  This all frees up MA! to be more creative and fun while essentially doing the same things.

It's an ensemble cast, and just happens to include Jack Nicholson in two roles, one of whom is the President.  While one might initially question the judgment of casting Nicholson in two roles when he is always so clearly Nicholson, Mars Attacks! reminds you that it couldn't possibly matter.  The film is full of recognizable faces and at no point does it matter if they embody the role with transcendent gravitas.  It's more like an episode of the Love Boat.  It's just fun to have them there because they're them, and them being them is a convenient shorthand to who they're playing.  There's no extra exposition required, which again, frees up MA! to be the silly fun that it is.

Nicholson's President oozes with transparent people-pleasing charm.  His triteness is summed up with the go-to refrain for late 20th century naivete, "Can't we all just... get along?" shortly before he learned the hard way that the Martians have not come all this way to... get along.

See also: President Colbert vs aliens in Monsters vs. Aliens

Death Race 2000 - 1975

"Frankenstein" vs the President

Death Race 2000 is one of that select class of 70s exploitation films that manages to have it both ways.  It's a brutal satire that gets away with just being brutal if that's the way you watch it.  The premise presages the like of The Running Man, The Hunger Games or CBS's Survivor, where a cross-country race in which hapless victims of automotive homicide are scored for points, all of this in a bread-and-circuses effort to distract from the corruption of the government.  The racers are all over-the-top personalities a la Hanna Barbera's Wacky Races, professional fake wrestling or "Real" "Housewives."

Under the surface of all these goings-on there's the political machinations of the president, and the underground movement to overthrow him.  One of the most successful racers, Frankenstein played by David Carradine, is sympathetic to the cause.  He's seen and been the worst of the best and the best of the worst.

In the interest of full disclosure, Frankenstein is not a Frankenstein's monster.  He's just a man who survived a disfiguring accident and earned the moniker for his appearance.  Nevertheless, it was too golden an opportunity to round out the roster of classic monsters faced by presidents.

Death Race 2000 was a midnight movie classic that has now attained the status of just plain classic.  The satire is still bitingly timely, which says a whole lot of bad things about the ground we've covered in the past 40 years.

Obama vs Zombie image from the internet, no rights or credit claimed

What a Drag It Is Getting Old


Just lately, I happened to watch a few comic/drama movies that all deal with issues relating to old age and death.  I hadn't set out to.  They were all in my drama backlog for different reasons.  It just worked out that way.

Song for Marion - 2012
AKA Unfinished Song
Written & Directed by Paul Andrew Williams

This was on my viewing list because I was on a Gemma Arterton binge after re-watching Byzantium.  While she does deliver one of her most human performances here, it's really a showcase for Terrence Stamp more than anything else.

Stamp plays Arthur, a man of (unsurprisingly) little action and fewer words.  He loves his wife, Marion (Vanessa Redgrave) but struggles to express it.  He allows himself a very limited set of expectations, and finds he's happy enough with that life and outward appearance, which sometimes causes him to struggle to understand or appreciate the less tightly-capped lives of others.  Marion, for example, belongs to a choir group for senior citizens, which Arthur just can't understand.  He sees it as undignified, and he sometimes fumbles in his impulse to deride the group while still adoring his wife.

Arterton as Elizabeth is the school teacher who leads the choir, selecting the kind of modern music like Salt n' Pepa's "Let's Talk About Sex" and Motorhead's "The Ace of Spades" that the middle aged find youthful when sung by the old aged.  The purpose of the group is to have fun and to share fun, and that's just a concept that Arthur struggles to get his head around.

His emotional detachment has left a great rift between him and his son, whose commitment to parenting further shames Arthur, making it even harder for him to feel capable of healing the old wounds between them.  When Marion has a recurrence of the cancer she's struggled with before, it become clear that the end for her is near, and Arthur goes into a full-tilt panic.  He feels more powerless than ever, and CAN NOT face the idea of a world without Marion.  He becomes desperate to protect her, but there's no protecting to be done.  Her fate is sealed, and keeping her in bed isn't going to stop it.  Marion insists on continuing to sing in the choir, and Arthur, more unwilling than ever to leave her side, gets dragged along (with fairly predictable and heart-warming results).

While it would be easy to accuse the film of saccharine or schmaltz or other such unhealthy comfort eating, the performances really elevated it above the level of an after-school special for seniors.  In fact, it probably plays better to people who have aging parents than the aging parents themselves.  It's not hard to imagine our loved ones struggling to remain vital and engaged in their advancing years.  Redgrave brings that vitality to Marion, which makes Arthur's sense of loss palpable.  While Arthur's character is much different, I was reminded of Stamp's performance in The Limey, as a hard man with nothing much to say struggling to express the emotions he never wanted to acknowledge he had.  While The Limey allowed him to express that frustration through violence much of the time, here, Stamp is forced to internalize it, letting us witness his pain, and his pain about feeling pain.  We also discover that he has a shockingly beautiful singing voice.  Gemma Arterton frequently plays women with hard edges; femmes fatale, quite often.  Here, she has none of that.  She has enthusiasm for her work and expresses genuine concern for Arthur's pain and her kindness becomes more beautiful than her, well, beauty.  Christopher Eccelston gets the somewhat thankless role as Arthur and Marion's son James.  Despite the absence of grandstanding opportunities, he brought a kind likeability and a pain only thinly masked by bitterness to the role.  Maybe it's just me, but I've tended to associate him with so many cold and/or villainous roles that his vulnerability here was a real eye-opener.  I found myself genuinely moved by Song for Marion, both to laughter and... that other thing.

Robot & Frank - 2012
Written by Christopher d Ford
Directed by Jake Schreier

It's dark.

Nimble fingers work the lock-pick.  A figure in black slips into the house.  He starts working the place over for valuables.  He becomes more frantic, knocking over a framed photo.  It falls, the glass cracking.  The burglar looks stunned.  His face is in the photo.  It's his house.

The burglar is Frank, played by Frank Langela.  He was a cat burglar, but he's retired now, he just... forgets sometimes.  Frank forgets a lot of things these days.

Frank's kids worry about him.  His daughter Madison (Liv Tyler) video calls as after as she can, but her work takes her overseas.  His son Hunter (James Marsden) calls and drives up to see him every week or two.  Frank resents the concern (as a reflection of his shame over needing it), but he's not always sure if Hunter is a married professional with kids of his own, or a student at Princeton.  His favorite way to fill the day is to walk into town and visit the local library.  Jennifer the librarian (Susan Sarandon) gently teases him about having read the same books over and over.  Frank has a thing for her.  After the library, he likes to have lunch at his favorite cafe.  Wait, where's the cafe?  How did there get to be a Lush here?  He ate here yesterday... didn't he?  To channel his frustration, Frank shoplifts a fancy soap, but the shopkeeper is strangely suspicious of him already.  Back at home, he adds the soap to a cache of similar items.

The more his memory goes off, the more his kids worry, and the more agitated Frank gets, until one day Hunter shows up with something for his father; a robot.  The robot is programmed to keep Frank active and engaged, encouraging a healthy regimen and a consistent routine.  Frank is, shall we say, not amused, but Hunter won't tell him the password, and so, for the time being, Frank finds himself with a white plastic shadow.  It's not long, however, before he finds that the robot makes a convenient ear for his complaints.  It's not long after that that he discovers (quite by accident) that the robot isn't overly particular about the legality of shoplifting, and Frank adds another fancy soap to his collection.

This gets Frank thinking, and the thinking gets his mind back in the game. He gets more engaged in his own life and the world around him.  He develops more of a relationship with the robot, which is frankly (no pun intended) fairly narcissistic, given that the robot really only acts as an extension of Frank's needs.

Robot & Frank deals with the issue of aging, regret and (most especially) memory in many ways.  There's a major reveal late in the movie that plays a little fast and loose with memory for the sake of emotional impact, but there are other instances which it's more more balanced and thoughtful.  Frank is forced to make a decision about Robot's memory, and while the issue of their potential friendship would seem to be the more obvious cause for his turmoil, I really think that it has more to do with his pain about his own memory.  Yes, there's still a sense of empathy for the "other" for which he has developed some sort of feelings, but then the "other" doesn't HAVE emotions with which to empathize, and again, I believe much of this interaction reflects Frank's narcissism.  That doesn't make Frank a bad guy.  It just means he's scared, and not without cause.

Peter Sarsgaard brings a pretty strong "I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that" tone to the robot's voice, which kept me wondering what he might eventually do.  It straddles the line between calming, and disturbing-because-it's-so-determined-to-be-calming, which I'm not sure is as effective as it should be.  In fact, it was so unsettling that I thought it was Michael Emerson (Lost, Person of Interest) until the credits.

One interesting discovery in Robot & Frank is that Frank Langella has a charming side.  I've gotten so used to his playing villains, heavies and other emotional pressure cookers that I was completely unprepared for how disarming he could be.  Given his responsibility for carrying the film, that quality transfers to the overall product in a highly effective way.

Get Low - 2009
Written by Chris Provenzano & C Gaby Mitchell
Directed by Aaron Schneider

Some actors spend their careers playing a wide variety of characters, putting on accents and trying to lose themselves in the character.  Robert Duvall isn't that kind of actor.  He's rarely done accents, and rather than going wide, he goes deep.  thoughtful southerners with great depth of character.  His characters needn't be specifically southern, but he brings that to them, and whether they're outwardly reserved or gregarious, these things cover and tap a deep well of personal character buried inside of them.  That depth gets an incredible opportunity to stretch its legs once more in Get Low.

Because I had originally added Get Low to my viewing list in the fits of a Bill Murray view-a-thon, it had completely slipped my mind that Robert Duvall was in it when I finally sat down to watch it, for for the first ten minutes or so, I could not identify who was behind the unruly beard and taciturn demeanor of the old country hermit.  Duvall plays Felix Bush, the backwoods hermit in 1930s Tennessee.  Felix is the stuff of local legend.  Kids dare each other to break windows in his cabin, and adults in town gossip about his history.  Did he kill someone?  Did he kill a LOT of someones?  You heard he robbed banks?  I heard something even worse.

When the local preacher visits (at considerable risk to his well-being) to tell him that one of his old associates has passed on, it serves as a conduit for Felix to confront the looming specter of his own mortality.  He hitches the cart to his cantankerous old mule (kindred spirits, no doubt) and ambles up the main street of town to discuss his own funeral arrangements with the parson.  Laying a grubby wad of "hermit cash" on the table, Felix grills the preacher about what he'd say in his memory.  The evasive response which dances around his reputation does not please Felix, and the wad of cash is gruffly withdrawn.  In an economic bit of narrative, there is another family coming into the church on their own business.  The young husband happens to work for the local funeral home, so he picks up on Felix's desires to plan a funeral as well as his dissatisfaction with the church.  His stepmother just happens to be a pivotal figure from Felix's past with whom he's reluctant to engage.  To cap things off, one of the locals decides to demonstrate his manhood by hurling insults and threats at the old man of rumors, and find himself with the "stuffing" kicked out of him in short order.

The young man, Buddy, reports back to Frank Quinn (Bill Murray), the owner of the funeral home, that the notorious old mountain man is looking for a funeral with a wad of cash, and they travel out to the homestead to make their pitch.  Getting a look at the place, Frank immediately promotes Buddy to sales associate and sends him in alone.  Felix's reputation once again becomes a topic of conversation, which gets the old man to thinking.

After the initial reluctance inherent to his character, Felix arrives at a plan.  He wants to plan his funeral.  It should be, he decides, a party, with food, music and the sharing of every story that anyone had ever heard about him.  If that meant gathering the people of four counties, then so be it.  Oh, and one more thing; he wanted it while he was still alive.

Through the process of planning Felix's funeral party and dealing with all of the issues that he and the town had with each other, peeks at his history emerge, hinting at why he sealed himself off from the world some 40 years prior, what his relationship with Miss Mattie (Sissy Spacek) had and had not been, and who the woman was in the old photograph that he talked to at night.  He has his own story to tell, but his own laconic nature, and ultimately his shame present obstacles that seem insurmountable to him at this late hour in life.

And that's what Get Low is really about.  Felix has imprisoned himself in his solitude over the guilt and shame that he carries from his past.  It's a heartfelt and deeply moving portrait of regret turned in upon itself.  As I've been rolling it around in my head the past few days, I've found myself comparing and contrasting it to another of Duvall's greatest performances in The Apostle.   Where The Apostle's Sonny flees his past and can't resist being who he's always been, Felix becomes so trapped in the past that surrenders the gregarious character he once was to sink into solitude and the bitterness that such isolation begets.

And now a brief word about women in comedy...

Psychology Today threw a bunch of troll-bait to the internet the other day with a shallow article about women in comedy. Predictably, the trolls arrived to beat their chests about how women are never funny. I replied with much less cursing than is my tendency...

"Comedy comes from a very personal context, and it's received in a very personal context. It's mindlessly simplistic to chalk all male or female humor up to some gender-specific false category, just as it is to presume that our gendered experiences don't make us different. Joan Rivers (not funny, just self-loathing and hateful) is more similar to Don Rickles (also not funny) than she is to Ellen Degeneres. Ellen (funny) is more similar to Bob Newhart (very funny) than she is to Wanda Sykes (sometimes funny). The broad generalizations (no pun intended) are moronic coming from either end of the spectrum.

The lack of equity in the industry has more to do with a) the biases of audiences and club owners (and the outspoken bullshit of entitled males) and b) the likelihood of women seeing it as a possible or viable career than it has anything to do with the overall funniness of either sex as a whole.

In other words, because of the imbalance in the previous generations, this generation of women is less likely (than men) to see it as an option, or even to recognize the possibility. This is so ingrained for some people that they will say blatantly idiotic and misogynistic things like "chicks aren't funny" because they see no reason to challenge themselves. Change is hard for simple minds. This generation has more female comedians than the last, and the next will have even more. It will change slower than it should because there's still a lot of dumb people voting with their dollars. They're disinclined to see other kinds of humor as funny because it involves a larger perspective.

As to the perspective, it's generally true that, due to lingering cultural biases, that women are frequently acculturated differently than men. They've been fed an impression that they should be gentler and more modest. In the extreme, that's part of the reason comedians like Sarah Silverman (often uncomfortably funny) and Joan Rivers have succeeded - because they behave in drastic opposition to that acculturation. It's also why Sarah in particular is so polarizing today, especially for men who are clinging to outdated gender roles. My grandfather used to say some pretty horrible $#!+ about Joan (and I loved the guy, but he was never accused of having an abundance of intelligence, humor or compassion); much of it being repeated about Sarah by similarly minded men here today, which makes them even more anachronistically out-of-touch and scared of a world that clearly has other plans.

Because of that acculturation, yeah, certain "female humor" does get expressed differently, and a lot of humor in general gets received differently by a lot of women (see: 3 Stooges, stoner comedy, etc.). That doesn't make it "not funny." It just makes it a different KIND of funny. There IS an acculturated tendency for women to enjoy pure silliness more than a lot of men who feel obligated to posture in non-silly ways (which are actually remarkably silly, despite their intentions) thanks to the burden of their own unfortunate acculturation."

Oh Yes It's Ladies Bite and the Feeling's AR-R-RGH!


What we have here is a small selection of recent vampire movies (or movies with vampires, anyway) that prominently feature female vampires.  I suppose this is something of a response to the whole (ugh) Twilight thing in some way.  The good news is that at least 3 of them take much more thoughtful and mature approaches to the subject & theme, and the other 2 are at least willing to have a sense of humor about themselves.  I find it somewhat interesting that they all feature female vampires as protagonists, rather than mortals facing vampires as deadly foes.  I don't have a theory about that yet.  I just find it... interesting.

Let Me In - 2010
Written & Directed by Matt Reeves
from the book by John Ajvide Lindqvist

I'm pretty sure that I'm legally obligated to mention that Let Me In is adapted from the Swedish book and movie Let The Right One In.  I am not, however, required to care or to complain that the original was better.  The elitism of people who are satisfied with subtitles has been greatly over-inflated and accepted.  The fact is, a layer of text can and does create an emotional distance between viewer and film-world, and I, personally, like to feel what I'm experiencing.  It has nothing to do with intellectuality.  It's a visceral experience.  So, Let Me In, as its own film with its own experience is truly wonderful. 

Owen is a scrawny and evidently friendless 12 year old boy who lives in an apartment with his recently separated mother.  She works a lot and is emotionally preoccupied with the divorce and her own issues.  He's bullied relentlessly at school.  He's a silent outsider, satisfied to observe the lives of others with his telescope.  Being ignored is preferable to most of the attention that he gets.  While watching the courtyard of the apartment complex one night, he sees the arrival of the people who will be his new neighbors, a barefoot girl about his age, and her father.  When he meets the girl, Abby, one of the first things she tells him is that they can't be friends.  Later, he hears them fighting through the wall.  To an adult, it would look and sound a lot like an abusive situation.

Obviously Owen and Abby DO develop a relationship, or it would have been pretty silly to include them both.  They both need something that they find in each other.  Let Me In combines the emotional potency of classic young adult lit with the savagery of a vampire tale that doesn't hold back (but also doesn't show off for gore factor alone).  It manages the discomfort of both components skillfully.  It's not uncomfortable to watch, but it creates a sense of worry.  It makes sense that director Matt Reeves gained his seasoning in television.  He's not over-urgent to fill his allotted screen time with flashy moments.  He fills his moments, instead, with humanity.  I hope he hangs onto some of that as he moves on to bigger and more spectacular things.

Vamps - 2012
Written & Directed by Amy Heckerling

It is vitally important that one go into Vamps with the appropriate expectations.  If you go in looking for a vampire movie that is funny, you're going to get upset.  If, however, you're prepared to accept that Vamps is first and foremost a very silly girl-centric (yes they are women, but very girly ones despite their ages) comedy that just happens to use a little vampire mythos as a conduit for its "be yourself" ethos, then you just might enjoy it.  It's not like it deliberately misleads anyone.  It's more-or-less exactly what one should expect with Amy "Clueless" Heckerling writing and directing for Alicia "Clueless" Silverstone and Krysten "the B---- in Apartment 23" Ritter.

Silverstone & Ritter play Goody & Stacy (respectively), a couple of nutty young "gal-about-town" roommates who just happen to be vampires.  But of course they're really good vampires.  I don't mean they're good at being vampires, but they're creatures of the night with hearts of gold.  They take classes, belong to a support group for vampires who eschew human blood, feed only on mice and still feel badly about it.  That's the closest vampires can get to vegan, who of course are the only truly decent people in the world, or so I've been told.

Much of Vamps hinges on one of the more optional Vampire Rules -- that killing a sire will remove the curse from all vampires descended from them.  You see, when Stacy is impregnated by a mortal, the only way to insure the baby's survival is to lift the curse by slaying their mutual sire -- the vampire that made them both.  Two twists; they don't know where their sire, Cisserus (Sigourney Weaver) currently lairs, and lifting the curse will cause them to physically become their natural age.  Goody hasn't told Stacy that she was born in 1840.

What will happen?  You can probably guess.  I can't really recommend Vamps, but I can give you a couple of tips with which to guide yourself.  If you're someone for whom "cute" is considered a valid compliment for a movie, then you might have some fun with Vamps.  If, however, you demand ANY amount of horror from your vampire movies or out-loud laughs in your comedies, you're just going to end up griping on the internet, and haven't we all had enough of that?

Byzantium - 2012
Written by Moira Buffini from her play
Directed by Neil Jordan

I almost don't want to explain what Byzantium is about, because its narrative reveals itself so beautifully piece by piece.  Clara (Gemma Arterton) and Eleanor (Saoirse Ronan) are vampires posing as sisters.  Clara works as a stripper and sometime prostitute.  Eleanor, being younger, is a perpetual student who writes their story out again and again then releases it to the wind, because no one can know what they are.  They're forced to move to a new town when their past catches up with them, and their patterns of behavior begin anew.

Without going into detail, I still want to discuss how important those patterns of behavior are to Byzantium's narrative.  Being dead things, they're not particularly prone to personal growth.  They both continue to behave much as they did in their lives.  Clara had plenty of reasons to despise men, and she treats them as tools and/or food because they have so little else to offer her.  Eleanor is an eternal teenager, feeling outcast and afraid of the world's capacity for betrayal.  She empathizes deeply and feeds only upon those near death, often releasing the old and infirm from their suffering.

Byzantium takes a unique approach to vampire mythology, and despite the standard elements which it eschews, it doesn't feel arbitrary the way it often can when writers take liberties.  It has its own internal consistency which is revealed along with, and in the context of the story.  This is a strong contender for my favorite vampire movie ever.  That's how beautiful and thoughtful the narrative and the performances are.

Kiss of the Damned - 2012
Written & Directed by Xan Cassavetes

Kiss of the Damned isn't for everyone, but the people who it is for will be grateful for the consideration.

Djuna is a ridiculously gorgeous vampire, living in a huge country house in Connecticut.  The housekeeper comes during the day, takes phone messages, and mops up the occasional stray bits of blood.  Djuna rents videos and hunts deer by night to sate her thirst.  It's an existence that benefits from a low profile.  Then she sees Paolo, a handsome young screenwriter while browsing for movie rentals.  Her immediate sense of attraction frightens her and she struggles to keep away from him, while powerfully compelled to consume him in one or more ways.  She finally succumbs, and after a furious torrent of passion, Paolo finds he suddenly has an eternal girlfriend.  Things are good for them, exploring the exciting early stages of a relationship and for Paolo, a new consciousness.  That's when Djuna's sister Mimi shows up.

Mimi is an undying trainwreck.  She's been sent to stay in the house by its owner, their mutual friend Xenia.  Xenia is an actress, staying in the city while starring in a hit play.  She's also something of a dame in their vampire community, and Mimi was stirring up too much trouble, killing humans and leaving messes as she recklessly careens through undeath.  Naturally this arouses considerable conflict between Djuna and Mimi and puts Paolo in some difficult positions as he is processing everything new in his life.

This didn't necessarily need to be a vampire movie, but the vampirism serves as a catalyst for exploring different themes.  It is loneliness.  It's sexual yearning and risky promiscuity.  It's addiction.  It's the venue for meeting a loved one's insufferably self-involved friends.  It's the good & evil of action versus identity.  It's betrayal.  Someone could have made a very similar film without vampires, but it would have taken a lot longer.

Those who should particularly enjoy Kiss of the Damned are fans of 70s horror.  Particularly in the first act, the film powerfully evokes the slower, quieter building of unease.  Strange behaviors often go unexplained until the context establishes itself.  This isn't a vampire movie for teens on spring break.  It's for adults, and not just because it's intensely sexy.

Speaking of vampire movies for teens on Spring Break...

Vampire Academy - 2014
Written by Daniel Waters
from the Book by Richelle Mead
Directed by Mark Waters

I hope you're not chomping your popcorn too loudly or trying to do that yawn-arm thing with your date too early while watching Vampire Academy, because it's going to throw a lot of exposition at you pretty quickly.  There are 3 kinds of vampires.  The Strigoi are the savage ones that will tear a human's throat out, and they're pretty much excluded from polite vampire society (polite being a relative term here).  The Moroi are the arrogant, classist vampires who cling to royal bloodlines and only feed on voluntary vampire groupies, but they're essentially peaceful.  They also have a bit of magic going on, but this varies from individual to individual.  The Dhampir are half vampires who can handle their sunlight and protect the Moroi.  Why the Dhampir even bother with the Moroi is a question that Vampire Academy would prefer you to ignore.

Our primary players are Rose Hathaway (Zoey Deutch), a teenage Dhampir and not-yet-fully-sanctioned guardian of Lissa Dragomir (Lucy Fry), the last surviving member of one of the noble Moroi bloodlines.  Honestly, it's Rose's movie, or rather, there wouldn't be a reason to care about the movie without her.  As we join the story (already in progress), the two of them are living life on the downlow in Portland, Oregon, having ditched the Montana-located academy, St Vladimir's, and who can blame them?  Jeez, just trying to explain the set-up if becoming overly complicated, that's how much they throw at you.  VA is adapted from a series of young adult novels and was brought to the screen in part of that post-Twilight-post-Harry-Potter wave.  It's more watchable than, say, Twilight or Beautiful Creatures, but the school setting really serves to highlight the ways that it falls short of Harry Potter's achievements or even I Am Number Four's more economically and deftly delivered narrative.  The screenwriter is pretty guileless about the narrative choices he made, and it becomes painfully obvious where he decided to just lay a chunk of exposition on us that could have been casually glossed over and would have only bothered the books' most obsessive fans.  Six -- six books, I checked.

This is not to say that it's not an enjoyable movie.  Zoey Deutch as Rose really makes it work.  She's the wisecracking center of their self-serious world.  She gives us someone to root for and fills the film with enough personal appeal to keep us engaged.  While everyone around her poses with tragic gravitas and seethes with conspiracy Rose leads the chorus of snickers at all the melodrama, and allows us to join in on the fun.  So, yes, Vampire Academy is clearly targeted at teenage girls (well of course the big dance is a big deal), but it does have enough action and humor to make it a good time.  Just don't worry if you don't catch ALL the exposition or keep up with all the names of secondary characters.  It's ultimately not as important as the screenwriter thought it was, and the director seemed to understand that.

The Monster Mash-Ups - Part 10: El Hombre Lobo Appendix


After having published all the monster mash-up movies I'd been able to find, I had moved on to a new, short piece about recent films with vampire women. That was how I stumbled across mention of a movie called The Werewolf vs The Vampire Women (AKA La Noche de Walpurgis) from 1970/71.  This led me to Spanish actor Paul Naschy, which would in short order reveal to me an entire series of films -- TWELVE of them! -- in which he starred as Waldemar Daninsky, El Hombre Lobo, and that virtually ALL of those films were monster mash-ups.  I haven't finished digging through all the information yet, but he may have even had others outside of the series.

Rather than rushing to cram a bunch of "This exists but I haven't seen it" listings into the preceding article, I'm just going to list them here, and then move them into the main article once I get a chance to see them.  I'll be honest with you; it seems unlikely that I will get to that many of them unless I really enjoy the first couple that I see, or I get an offer to expand The Monster Mash-Ups into a book  I'd watch everything if I got a book offer -- including Twilight, Monster Mash and (mwulf) Monster High -- so consider that a dare, book publishers.  Make me really suffer for my art.

Per the nature of grindhouse cinema, many of these were given altered names for American theaters and/or video releases.  As in Godzilla movies, continuity is of only the most marginal importance.  Sometimes there's a reason El Hombre Lobo is back from the dead, and sometimes there isn't.  Sometimes he's already a werewolf, and sometimes he becomes a werewolf all over again.  Don't worry about it.  If they were in business to make sense, they'd open a bank.

Mark of the Wolf Man - 1968
AKA Frankenstein's Bloody Terror
AKA La Marca del Hombre Lobo
Written by Paul Naschy
Directed by Enrique Eguiluz

Featuring: werewolves and vampires

Despite the American retitling of "Frankenstein's Bloody Terror," there is no Frankenstein in this film.

The Monsters of Terror - 1970
AKA Assignment Terror
AKA Dracula vs Frankenstein
AKA Reincarnator
AKA Los Monstruos del Terror

Written by Paul Naschy
Directed by Tulio Demicheli

Featuring: aliens, a werewolf, a mummy, a vampire and Frankenstein's monster

Aliens from space, using a carnival as a front, revive the monsters to better understand human fear in a bid to conquer Earth.

The Fury of the Wolfman - 1972
AKA The Wolfman Never Sleeps
AKA La Furia del Hombre Lobo

Written by Paul Naschy
Directed by JM Zabalza

Featuring: werewolves, a yeti, assorted living dead

Though originally made for a 1970 release, it didn't come out due to a lack of funding and poor quality.  Naschy hated it and blamed director Zabalza.

The Werewolf vs The Vampire Woman - 1971
AKA Walpurgis Night
AKA The Werewolf's Shadow
AKA La Noche de Walpurgis

Written by Paul Naschy & Hans Munkel
Directed by Leon Klimovsky

Featuring: a werewolf, vampires and a skeletal knight

This opens with a medical examiner removing two silver bullets from the heart of the late Waldemar Daninsky, just to prove that he wasn't a werewolf.  You can imagine how that turns out for him and his associate.

Then we join Elvira and Genevieve, a couple college girls on a trip to a fairly isolated village in France where they intend to research the notorious Countess Wandessa.  The Countess was found guilty of murder and witchcraft during medieval times and rumored to be a vampire.  When they get lost ('cause, you know, girls) they stumble upon moody loner Waldemar Daninsky who offers them a place to stay and assistance with their research, whatever it is.  He becomes eerily silent when they specifically mention the Countess over dinner.  It turns out that he's not as much of a loner as he appeared when his mentally unbalanced "sister" appears in the girls' bedroom at night, threatening Elvira.  When Waldemar shows up in their room, all of Elvira's misgivings about his strange behavior suddenly go away, despite the fact that they were largely on-point.

The next day they find the countess' unmarked grave, which is marked with a massive slab of marble engraved with specific instructions to stay the hell out.  Naturally they open it.  At that point Elvira decides she's had enough and heads to the ruined abbey to wait for the others while Waldemar and Genevieve go right ahead and open the coffin.  In absolutely no time, Genevieve has removed the silver cross from the skeletal remains, accidentally cut herself, and bled into the mouth of the corpse.  If only she'd been warned!  Meanwhile at the abbey, Elvira is chased in slow motion by a skeletal corpse in knight's robes, and Waldemar shows up just in time to knock it down.

You can pretty much guess most of the rest.  Naturally the more obvious party girl of the pair (as evidenced by her funky hat, ultra sheer babydoll nightie for a research trip and general fun-loving attitude) gets bit by the Countess that night.  She menaces Elvira on subsequent nights.  You probably weren't expecting Elvira to get kidnapped by the village pervert, but that happens.  And then, of course, we've got a full moon every night, so Waldemar is out getting himself into trouble.

It's about what I should have expected from a partly arty, partly exploitation 1970s European horror movie.  Everyone is deeply serious and emotionally intense.  There's both too much and not enough explanation of certain events; deaths in particular.  But there is a nice spookiness to things.  Director Klimovsky uses frequent slow-motion, particularly in vampire sequences, which gives them an unearthly sense.  Unfortunately he uses it so much that it's hard to tell the dreams from the actual events, and I was surprised to figure out after the fact that one scene portrayed real events, when another one just like it had merely been a nightmare.  On the one hand, it contributes to an overall spooky unease, but on the other, don't go into it with high expectations for clarity.  Also lending some nice creepiness are the authentic old ruins, rather than sound stage sets.  To Naschy's credit, despite werewolf make-up not all that much more advanced than Lon Chaney's, he does a pretty good job at selling the ferocity, and I suppose that's why he WAS el hombre lobo.

Naschy considered this one of his favorite Hombre Lobo films and Klimovsky one of his best directors.  It's going to be pretty interesting comparing this with some of the others.

Dr Jekyll & the Wolfman - 1972
AKA Dr Jekyll & the Werewolf
AKA Dr Jekyll y el Hombre Lobo

Written by Paul Naschy
Directed by Leon Klimovsky

Featuring: the werewolf and Mr Hyde

Waldemar Daninsky seeks out Dr Jekyll to find a way to control his lycanthropy.  This seems like a good idea to no one but him.

The Return of Walpurgis - 1973
AKA Curse of the Devil
AKA The Black Harvest of Countess Dracula
AKA El Retorno de Walpurgis

Written by Paul Naschy
Directed by Carlos Aured

Featuring: werewolves, witches

As far as I can tell, despite being released under the title of The Black Harvest of Countess Dracula at one time, there are no vampires in this film.  Also, despite the original Spanish "Walpurgis" title, it's a completely different continuity from La Noche del Walpurgis.  Go fig.

The Curse of the Beast - 1975
AKA Night of the Howling Beast
AKA The Werewolf and the Yeti
AKA Hall of the Mountain King
AKA La Madicion de la Bestia

Written by Paul Naschy
Directed by Miguel Iglesias

Featuring: werewolf, vampires and a yeti

Despite the ever-changing continuity and origins, Naschy continues to play a character named Count Waldemar Daninsky in all the Hombre Lobo films.  In Fury of the Wolfman, it was a yeti's bite that transformed him into a wolfman.  Although he's in Tibet again, seeking the yeti, this time it's a couple of vampire women that turn him.  However that works.

Return of the Wolfman - 1981
AKA Night of the Werewolf
AKA The Craving
AKA El Retorno del Hombre Lobo

Written & Directed by Paul Naschy

Featuring: werewolf, witches, vampires

Essentially a remake of La Noche de Walpurgis, Naschy considered this the best of his Hombre Lobo films.  Some jobs you just gotta do yourself.

The Beast and the Magic Sword - 1983
AKA La Bestia y la Espada Magica

Written & Directed by Paul Naschy

Featuring: werewolf, witches

Notice how this one doesn't have a bunch of extra titles?  That's because it's never been released in English, or indeed anywhere outside of Spain.

Tomb of the Werewolf - 2004

Written & Directed by Fred Olen Ray

Featuring: werewolf, vampire/witch

This final appearance of Naschy as Count Daninsky was produced in Hollywood from a non-Naschy script.  It was intended as a comeback for Naschy (like the non-monster mash-up Licantropo before it), but by most reports, it was essentially softcore porn.  Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Outside of the Count Waldemar Daninsky/El Hombre Lobo films, Naschy made other monster mash-up appearances.

Buenas Noches, Señor Monstruo - 1982

Featuring: werewolf, Dracula, Frankenstein's monster & Quasimodo

This was a Spanish children's special in which he played a non-specific werewolf and took home a paycheck.  Never exported.

El Aullido del Diablo - 1987

Written & Directed by Paul Naschy

Featuring: a werewolf, vampire, zombie, Frankenstein's monster, Mr Hyde, Phantom of the Opera, Quasimodo and the Devil

Naschy made this film for Spanish television, starring in multiple roles as multiple monsters.  It actually sounds pretty brutal and perverse for TV, but then the Inquisition has been over for much longer in Spain than it has in the United States.  Never officially exported.

Paul Naschy (born Jacinto Molina Alvarez) wrote, directed and appeared in numerous horror films in his career, playing virtually every classic monster in one form or another (okay, not Godzilla).  On the one hand, I'm appalled that I didn't come across his films until I had almost finished publishing The Monster Mash-Ups.  On the other hand, however, it seems apt that I should find myself giving him his own entry.  His films embody the spirit of the monster mash-up.  HE embodied the spirit of fun, cheap thrills, goofy seriousness and serious goofiness and of course, buxom damsels in distress.  He may not have been proud of Buenas Noches, Señor Monstruo but I love that it's part of his body of work, because it's clear to me now that cornball monsters for kids are part of the history of monster mash-ups.  This guy WAS Señor Monstruo and I can't think of a better way to cap the series than this.

Come back tomorrow and... read something else on Media Bliss!  There are no more parts to this series, but that doesn't mean there isn't... more!  And consider becoming a follower.  I'm planning more original content for the future and I promise NEVER to care who got pregnant in Hollywood unless I did the impregnating!

Of course if you missed anything, you can read all 10 parts of The Monster Mash-Ups starting from The Monster Mash-Ups - Part 1: the 1940s & 50s!

The Monster Mash-Ups - Part 9: Comics Appendix


Okay, I said I wasn't going to do this, but here I am doing this.  The thing of it is; monster mash-ups in comic books went some truly crazy places, and I'd just feel like I'd done an incomplete job if I didn't at least try to drive past that cemetery on our way home.  I'm still going to do an incomplete job, but you'll have some kind of idea what has been going on out there.

Casper the Friendly Ghost & Friends
Harvey Comics - 1952

Casper began life (so to speak) as a cartoon from Famous Studios, and he was, in fact, first introduced to comic books in 1949, but it's his association with Harvey Comics that is best known.  In the 30 years that Harvey published Casper, his cast expanded to include friends like Spooky the Tough Little Ghost, the Ghostly Trio, Hot Stuff the Little Devil and Wendy the Good Little Witch.  Now that I'm reminded of them, it's startling to consider that they may have been a large influence on me as a young child.  And believe me, that's the only startling thing about these ghosts.

Warren Publications - 1964, 66 & 70, respectively

In the 60s, publisher Jim Warren took the idea employed by Mad Magazine -- publish magazine sized comics in black & white for the newsstand rather than the comics rack, thus escaping the scrutiny of the Comics Code Authority -- and applied it to horror comics.  These tended to be more monster oriented than the EC comics which inspired them.  With the addition of Vampirella to the line-up, the "host" character moved into the spotlight, and Vampirella had her own adventures which strayed, on occasion, into the other titles.  More than a mere vampire, Vampirella came from Drakulon, a planet of vampires where the rivers flowed with blood.  The character gained her own cast of characters, including ties to Dracula and Lilith, mother of demons.  She has also crossed over with other comics LIKE CRAZY.  There's a movie too, but you didn't hear that from me.

Dell Comics - 1966

Amid the monster craze of the late 60s, Dell Comics tried to get in on the action with three interrelated monster-themed superheroes based on the Universal Monsters.  They each lasted only 3 issues, across which the same creative team was spread.

The Frankenstein character had a sidekick named Miss Ann Thrope.  That should give you some clue what we're dealing with here.  Frankenstein ranked "highly" in the World's Worst Comics Awards.

You know, I'm honestly not sure that they even lasted long enough to meet each other, but it seems pretty evident that they were intended to form a team.  A terrible, terrible team.

Swamp Thing
Created by Len Wein & Bernie Wrightson
DC Comics - 1971

Swamp Thing was first introduced in DC's horror anthology House of Secrets, then moved to his own title in short order.  While the character (in its original incarnation) owed elements of story and tone to Gothic horror like Frankenstein, the character was an original creation.  Nevertheless, he would soon encounter a Patchwork Man, werewolves and much more as he went about his life of existential torment.  The character has gone through many changes over the past 40 years, but he remains the DC Universe's central figure in matters of supernatural horror.  Yes, Marvel's Man-Thing (obligatory snicker) predated it by a few months, but that character was never as well developed as Swamp Thing.  Then again, with Alan Moore delivering a large part of his narrative in the 80s, very little else comes close.

Tomb of Dracula
Werewolf by Night 
Monster of Frankenstein /Frankenstein's Monster
The Living Mummy (in Supernatural Thrillers)

Marvel Comics - 1972

In the early 70s, the Comics Code Authority loosened some of its restrictions (which were arbitrary and self-imposed in the first place) on what comics could depict, and Marvel took full advantage of their new freedom by introducing a whole line of comics based on classic monsters.  Not only did these monsters then cross over with each other, but they were considered part of the greater Marvel continuity, and crossed over with everyone from the X-men to Spider-man.  As a matter of fact, Marvel's first significant film success came from the Blade, a character that first appeared in Tomb of Dracula #10.

I've only read a couple issues of these, but I'd really like to read more.  It's my understanding that some of the comics are really pretty good.  Tomb of Dracula has some pretty extraordinary art from the legendary Gene Colan, and the great Mike Ploog took turns on both the Frankenstein and Werewolf titles.

Marvel's Man-Thing (which I was shocked to learn, predated DC's Swamp Thing by months) also crossed over heavily with the rest of their supernatural horror line.

Godzilla: the King of Monsters
Marvel Comics - 1977

Godzilla has been licensed to a number of comics companies over the years, but naturally it was during his two-year stint with Marvel that he did most of his crossing-over.  He mostly encountered super-teams like the Avengers (sadly the Hulk was not with the team at the time) and the Fantastic Four (so at least he met the Thing), but he did also clash with Marvel's own Godzilla knock-off, Devil Dinosaur.  Marvel created the Ren Ronin character for the comic.  Ronin was a Mazinger-like giant robot who would then filter back into the periphery of the Marvel Universe after the Toho license expired.  The greatest missed opportunity was that Marvel's publication of Shogun Warriors overlapped with Godzilla, and despite planning a crossover, they didn't get it together before the license ended.

In the 90s, Dark Horse published a one-shot called Godzilla vs Barkley featuring basketball star Charles Barkley.  Despite some super-growth, Barkley isn't strictly a monster.  Now, if it was Shaq...

Creature Commandos
DC Comics - 1980
Created by JM DeMatteis

The Creature Commandos were a special ops type unit during WWII.  They made their debut in DC's Weird War Tales anthology title in 1980.  The team included a vampire (named -- I kid thee not -- Velcro), a Frankenstein's monster, a werewolf, a gorgon (Medusa, for our less literate friends) and a normal human leader (such bigotry!).  Oh, sometimes a robot.  They were originally introduced into DC's Weird War Tales shortly before the "DC Implosion" when the publisher scrapped a bunch of titles and fired a bunch of talent.  Despite this, and at least 2 universal reboots, DC actually brought the concept BACK in 2000 and again within the past year in Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E.

Doc Stearn... Mr Monster
Created by Michael T Gilbert - 1984

Though loosely based on a twice-published 1940s Canadian comics character of the same name, Michael T Gilbert's Mr Monster is his own character.  He's a superhero, albeit one strongly influenced by the pulp heroes of the 30s and 40s.  He fights all manner of monsters with blazing pistols in both tribute to, and satire of superheroes and the monster movies of the 30s, 40s and 50s.

The books don't seem to have gained traction with readers, although more 10 publishers have been willing to present Mr Monster's adventure across that past 30 years.  You have to admire Gilbert's tenacity and commitment to a vision. 

It just seems bizarre to me that Mr Monster and Hellboy haven't had a crossover.

Aliens vs Predator
Dark Horse Comics - 1991

Once Dark Horse had acquired both the Aliens and Predator licenses for publication, it was only a matter of time before they figured out that the should meet... and kill each other.  The core premise is that Predators are the ultimate hunters in the galaxy, and Aliens are the most deadly game, so there's an honor principle at stake for the Predators.  The combination proved so popular that numerous miniseries have been published to date, also spawning a video game and returning the concept to movies.  While the comics occupy a future continuity that makes sense in the context of the original films, the movies based on the comics based on the movies have been set in contemporary times -- one presumes to reign in costs, since a future setting would cost more to design and build, taking away from the monsters budget.  Comic books cost the same to produce, no matter where and when they are set, nor how large the explosions or rampaging creature hordes.

The rivalry has spilled over into crossovers with Top Cow Comics' Witchblade & The Darkness, DC Comics' Superman & Batman, and The Terminator, also licensed to Dark Horse.  Both Aliens and Predators have crossed over with Judge Dredd in comics as well. 
The Terminator
Dark Horse Comics - 1991

Comics based on the Terminator films had been done before, but it was when Dark Horse started buying up licensing rights in the late 80s and experienced success with the Aliens vs Predator crossover that things really got rolling.  In addition to crossovers with AvP, Terminators have had miniseries meet-ups with the RoboCop (also published by Dark Horse) franchise and DC's Superman.  After all, what is RoboCop if not a Frankenstein in armor?  RoboCop vs Terminator also spawned a video game.

Dark Horse Comics - 1993
Created by Mike Mignola

The comic upon which the movies are based.  I love the movies but the comics are even better.  They're such a pure expression of Mignola's creative vision, combining Lovecraftian mythos, legends and folklore from around the world, re-imagined Universal Monsters and good ol' silver age face punchin', all told in his oft-imitated yet inimitable graphic arts style.

For an hilarious variation on the whole Hellboy thing, seek out the Hellboy Junior specials which put a Mad-Magazine-but-more-gross spin on the character, thanks to Bill Wray and other extraordinary talents.

Image/Wildstorm - 1994
Created by Whilce Portacio & Brandon Choi

When comics readers razzed Image Comics for struggling with schedules in their early years, they were mostly talking about Wetworks.  It wasn't the only one that struggled, but it was the longest delayed, and nobody really cared if Rob Liefeld wasn't taking a steaming dump on the comic racks for another week.  When the comic DID finally come out, it was about a black ops team (because ALL the image books were about black ops teams) that were armored with golden symbiotes.  Two members of the team were werewolves, and many of their foes were updated versions of classic monsters.  I know there was a pretty cool Frankenstein's monster in there, because I have the action figure and the head broke off.  Crap was always breaking off on those cheap/expensive McFarlane toys.  Oh yeah, Wetworks also had a crossover with Vampirella (but then who hasn't; you know what I'm sayin'?).

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 8
Dark Horse Comics - 2007-continuing

A few years after the seven season run of the TV series, many of the writing talents behind the show got together to create a new "season 8" in comics.  Each writer took an arc within the greater "season" telling a story that built up to a whole.  There had been Buffy comics before, but excepting a few instances, they had been made by comic writers meddling within the established chronology.  Season 8, however, was considered new canon.  The transition to comics allowed the series to deal with all variety of monster madness on the much larger scale (think: Tokyo) that the narrative development really demanded.  The Season 8 arc has concluded, and the series has continued into Season 9.  With the success of the Buffy continuations, Whedon & Co have also been producing Angel and Spike comics which serve to continue from the end of the Angel series as well as bridging with Buffy.

What I read of Buffy was (mostly) good, but I must admit, I have considerable catching up to do.

Frank Frazetta's Dracula Meets the Wolfman
Image Comics - 2008

There aren't too many people in comics who can get their name above the title without actually doing anything, but Frank Frazetta is one of them.  Frazetta painted the image for the cover of Creepy in 1966, and then 42 years later someone else wrote and drew a comic book based on it, and he still got paid.  THAT is what you call solid brass BALLS, my friend.  What's more, it's not even the first time he's done it.  His Death Dealer painting spawned TWO comics series, in addition to being the main reason anyone ever bought a Molly Hatchett album.  You can also buy a statuette of the Wolfman wailing on Dracula for $225.


And with that, I can't think of a more appropriate bookend to an article that began with Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man.  Thanks for hanging in there, monsterphiles.  It was a gas, gas, gas.

Okay, so the facts have made me a fibber once again.  This was intended to be the final entry in the series, but new information has necessitated one more Appendix, so READ ON, dear reader for the FINAL final chapter, The Monster Mash-Ups - Part 10: El Hombre Lobo Appendix!

Or take it from the top, which is actually on the bottom, with The Monster Mash-Ups - Part 1: the 1940s & 50s!