Sunday, December 24, 2023

45 Days Of CCS, #24: 666 Comics

Editor and publisher Ian Richardson loves horror and a good anthology, and he set up a very clever constraint for 666 Comics. There are 6 contributors, each offering up a 6 page story with 6 panels on every page. Ricardson has long been a horror cartoonist, so each of the artists worked in that genre, more or less. There's heavy CCS involvement here, with Richardson, Denis St. John (another CCS artist known for horror) and Iris Yan (an artist known for memoir). In addition, former CCS instructor and horror legend Steve Bissette (Swamp Thing, Taboo) provided striking front and back covers. Even now, after his retirement from CCS, Bissette continues to actively contribute and participate in the projects of his former students. 

St. John has usually walked the path between horror and comedy in his comics, and his "Satan's Log Flume" is no exception. Featuring his "Hellarella" character that's a tribute to schlocky horror-show hosts like Elvira, this story follow two unfortunate Catholic school girls aiming to steal communion wine and pin it on the brutal nuns. Hellarella, barely disguised as a nun, takes them on a theme park ride tour of hell with plenty of wisecracks and puns (the joke about a splash page being more effective on a water park ride but being unable to use it due to the anthology's constraints was especially funny). St. John works in color here, and there are some spectacular pages that lead the reader's eye across the page in gross, hilarious detail. 

Whereas St. John bent and stretched against the layout, Richardson adheres to a strict 6-panel grid. "The Devil's In The Details" is an atmospheric and moody invocation. Working in a black & white with a lot of grayscale shading and other gritty details, the text consists of the instructions for a ritual. The ritual, we eventually learn, involves the young woman we see working with precise determination in panel after panel performing a ritual to resurrect her dead lover. The instructions are from him. Because Richardson locks in text and image on every panel so faithfully, it's especially effective when the actions of the woman veer away sharply from these instructions in the end. Richardson has a clever mind for plot twists like this, making him ideal for the genre. 

Yan's deadpan and sharply-observed humor, along with her commitment to working in an anthropomorphic style, make her an interesting choice for this anthology. Working in color (a rarity), Yan details three, funny bizarre instances of possibly encountering the devil. The first came in a kids' bible class, when one devil-obsessed girl told everyone else that the devil inhabited the letter "S." The second came when a kid stabbed her at a birthday party and she was told that he had the devil in him. Most hilariously was a neighbor who insisted to Yan and her sister that if they took money they found in the street, it could be used as "bait for dark magic." He insisted they pee on their hands to cleanse themselves of it. Yan's sense of humor is precisely my thing, and the matter-of-factness of her figure drawing is part of the fun. 

In the rest of the anthology, Amanda Kahl contributes a Thomas Ott-style scratchboard horror story about a curse that leads to total destruction, ontological and otherwise. The cartoonist HER offers up a moody and psychedelic story about a monster. The highly entertaining Trevor Moorehouse contributes a hilarious, disturbing story about an artist who went to extreme measures in a failed attempt at fame, drawn in a cartoony style. The rhythms of the story perfectly encapsulate both horror and comedy in equal measure. 

Overall, Richardson put together a solid anthology that never wears out its welcome, incorporated its restriction/theme in an interesting way, and explores a wide variety of styles and approaches. 

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