They SAW the WEIRD: RIP H. R. Giger and Patrick Woodroffe

TWO VISIONARIES HAVE LEFT US

RIP H. R. GIGER and PATRICK WOODROFFE


The world of the fantastic lost two giants these past few days. Artist/Sculptor Patrick Woodroffe passed away on the 10th of May and Artist/Sculptor H. R. Giger left us yesterday; the 12th of May.  And it’s sad irony that both men were born in 1940.


Both Mr. Giger and Mr. Woodroffe left behind a body of work that affected millions of genre fans of  art, literature, and film.  In comparison, the styles of these two artists stood across from each other as direct opposites. Giger’s was dark and nightmarish while Woodroffe’s was light and tended towards surrealism.

Mr. Giger’s style and subject matter were so brilliantly and grotesquely unique that once seen could never be forgotten. He managed to give a face to our worst nightmares. Like the proverbial car wreck; the viewer is unsettled and wants to look away and discovers, to their dismay, that they can’t. Giger managed to give his nightmarish visions a submerged beauty that only  rose to the surface with repeated viewings. Three words described Mr. Giger’s leitmotif ; Sex, Death, and Bio-Machinery. Or as he termed it, Bio-Mechanics.  Mr. Giger first reached world wide public acclaim with his conceptual and creature design for the film Alien.

If it had not been for the “Face” that Mr. Giger put on the film, Alien would have been remembered as simply an adequate “haunted house in space” film. But thanks to Mr. Giger’s visionary conceptual work, the film has been raised to the status of one of the all time great visonary horror films. I think that it’s a huge tribute to the man’s talent and the mark that he left on popular culture ,that millions of people who know nothing of the man will still immediately recognize his work and be fascinated with it. His 1977 art book Necronomicon, which convinced Ridley Scott to hire him for Alien, has sold millions of copies and it’s companion volume, Necronomicon II, is still in print today.


Mr. Giger was the type of artist whose sort only appears once in life time and one who can never be imitated or copied. His passing has left a great emptiness that will , at least in our lifetimes, never be filled.


Thank you Mr. Giger for giving us such terrible and beautiful nightmares.


Patrick Woodroffe might not have had the world wide recognition that Mr. Giger had, though he more than deserved it,  he still left a mark on the world of fantastic art that will be with us for generations to come. Where Giger was a darkness and horror that simultaneously fascinated and disgusted, Mr. Woodroffe was lightness and invitation.  Mr. Woodroffe was best known for his paperback and album covers back during the 1970s and 1980s. His paintings were bright, colorful and left us wanting more. Once one of his covers was seen it was al but impossible to not want to buy the book and hope that the contents lived up to the promise that Mr. Woodroffe’s cover made. Even a lame piece of 1920s pulp SF like Ralph Milne Farley’s Radio Planet took on an extra level of wonder that was supplied by Mr. Woodroffe’s art work alone. All it took was one look at his covers on some of the 1970s Abraham Merritt titles and you just had to have that book. Even to this day I’ll take these editions down off of my book shelf just to admire the covers and reminisce on the promises they held al those years ago when i wore a younger and less cynical man’s clothes. Mr. Woodroffe’s art was bright, insanely detailed, surreal and some of the most beautiful visions that a fan could ever hope for.


Thank you Mr. Woodroffe for adding so much beauty to the world. you will be sorely missed by us all.

And I hope that those of you who are reading this will enjoy the samples of each man’s art that are posted below.


And whether these works are new to you or old familiar friend, take a moment to thank each of these wonderful artists for enriching our lives dreams and nightmares.


Doug Draa


H.R. GIGER

February 5th 1940-May 12th 2014



PATRICK WOODROFFE 

1940-FEBRUARY 10 2014


Shigeru Mizuki's The Dunwich Horror: By Zack Davisson

Shigeru Mizuki's The Dunwich Horror

By Zack Davisson

Shigeru Mizuki is Japan’s grandmaster of horror manga and weird fiction. Although his name is only now becoming known in the U.S., in his native Japan he is a household name on par with Walt Disney and Charles Addams. His yōkai comic Gegege no Kitaro (published in the US by Drawn and Quarterly as Kitaro) has been continually published since the 1950s and is responsible for almost every weird monster and bizarre bit of folklore to come out of the country in the post-war era. For fans of films likePacific Rim and anime like Neon Genesis Evangelion, the very first Giant Robot vs Giant Monster battle took place in the pages of Gegege no Kitaro. Shigeru Mizuki’s name is as synonymous with yōkai and monsters as H.P. Lovecraft’s is with cosmic horror.

 

Knowing that, it should come as no surprise that Shigeru Mizuki is well versed in world horror and weird fiction. Beneath his beneficent smile and charming penchant for cheap hamburgers lies the brain of one of the world’s great expects on mythology, folklore, and the weird world of monsters. He has a deep love for Western horror comics and weird fiction, and versions of classic horror tales pop up all over his work—either shoehorned into his famous comic Gegege no Kitaro or as straight adaptations in their own right.

 

Mizuki owned the book series Sekai Kyofu Shosetsu Zenshu (世界恐怖小説全集; The Complete Collected Short Fiction of World Horror Stories) which formed much of his education on world horror and weird fiction. The multi-volume series collected horror classics from all over the world, including French and Russian literature as well as American pulp fiction. Mizuki became acquainted with H.P. Lovecraft through this series. He first read the story Dunwich no Kai (ダンウィッチの怪; The Dunwich Mystery) in volume 5, which collected tales of kaiju (怪物; monsters).

The tale stuck with Mizuki, and in 1962, he adapted it for the rental manga market in a 300+ page comic published by Bunhana Bookshop. The rental manga market was the precursor of the modern Japanese comic industry that worked like a paid library. In post-war Japan, people had little pocket money so they rented their entertainment when they couldn’t afford to buy it outright. Mizuki decided that what the suffering children of Japan needed was a good dose of monsters and cosmic horror to take their minds off the actual day-to-day horror that they lived with.

Mizuki retitled his adaptation of The Dunwich Horror, calling it Chitei no Ashioto (地底の足音; Footsteps from the Depths of the Earth). He drew it as a more-or-less straight adaptation of Lovecraft’s original story, although Mizuki made a few alterations, presumably to make it easier for a Japanese audience.

The main change is that he reset the story in Japan, and made the characters Japanese. The rural town of Dunwich became the mountain village of Hatsume; Wilbur Whateley was renamed Adachi Hibisuke, and runs around in a kimono to hidehis misshapen body; Professor Henry Armitage of the famed Miskatonic University is instead Professor Aoyama from Toritaka University. The Necronomicon itself became “The cursed Shiro Kaiki (死霊回帰; Book for Calling Back the Dead), written 800 years ago by the mad Arab Galapagos!”

Perhaps the strangest change of all, however, is that Adachi Hibisuke’s otherworldly father is no longer the dread Yog-Sothoth, but is instead the monstrous—Yōkai Yogurt! 


 

Monstrous yogurt aside, Chitei no Ashioto is a beautiful combination of two masters of weird fiction. His plain-spoken dialog is far away from Lovecraft’s verbosity, but Mizuki’s own grotesque art style beautifully captures Lovecraft’s masterpiece of cosmic horror. Lovecraft has never adapted easily to comics, but Shigeru Mizuki’s version ranks amongst the best.

Along with Lovecraft, Shigeru Mizuki adapted many other classics of world horror and weird fiction. His works include versions of Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s Narrative of the Ghost of a Hand, HG Wells’ The Crystal Egg, Richard Matheson’s Blood Son, F. Marion Crawford’s The Screaming Skull, and Arthur Machen’s The Novel of the White Powder. All these treasures lie hidden in musty old bookstores in Japan, just waiting for someone to discover them.

Zack Davisson is a translator, writer, and scholar of Japanese folklore, ghosts, and manga. He is the author of Yūrei: The Japanese Ghost and the translator of Shigeru Mizuki’s Eisner-nominated Showa 1926-1939: A History of Japan. He also created the popular Japanese folklore website Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai.

You can visit Zack HERE!

 

Fan Fiction: That Strange Sparkle by Adamo De Tremblay and Noemi Passamonti

We held a Fan fiction contest back on the 2nd of May. We asked our feed subscribers to write a short story based on the photo below. We received so  many excellent submissions that it was not easy choosing the winner, so I copped out and decided to pick two stories instead of just one. The following tale is the 2nd place winner! 



That Strange Sparkle

by Adamo De Tremblay and Noemi Passamonti 

I don’t think I have much time left. I am trying to fight shivers and a stabbing pain to conclude this –last– letter in order to all the inhabitants of C. find out about the horror which is threatening us –a horror which may be capable to have at the whole human race. Most of my body is spinning out of my will, it is only a matter of time before they end their lusty banquet among my synapses. Everything began about three months ago. The priest’s servant came and woke me up in the dead of night, because the priest had been feverish for five days. As only doctor of C., I had to forsake my straw bed where I find rest in the damp, endless lagoon nights, to go to the old priest’s house. I remember that night was oddly silent; in that period frogs usually emerged from hibernation and blustered croaking, and we clearly could hear the arias they dedicated to the moon, from our village, which is few hundreds of meters far from the swamp. That time, instead, there was a strange stillness among the reeds and the morasses, the water thundering between the underbrush and the underwater roots was barely perceived. I didn’t give importance to it, but now that I have looked into the abyss, I know that night nature foresaw the blasphemy of the events. As I arrived at Father Alfio’s house, I found my patient completely buried in quilts. His teeth were chattering, despite at least five woollen bedspreads of different colours, and he was violently shivering, as if he had been picked up and exposed naked in the polar circle cold. His blank eyes and his paleness –by far greater than the whiteness of his hair–, made me think the situation was more difficult than expected. The priest’s servant wanted to inform me that the man had reported an intense and constant headache, in conjunction to those evident symptoms. As I took a more carefully look at him, I noticed an odd swelling of the veins of his forehead and an unnatural tension of his neck. I began with the usual questions every Hippocrates’s son is duty bound to ask. The old woman answered every doubt of mine, and was interrupted only by the patient’s meaningless stammering. As it was deducible, I could not find any interesting information. After all, which occurrence –so terrible to put him in touch to an illness which has the same violence as some tropical fevers– do you expect to happen in an old country priest’s life? I sketchily saw him, because he was semi-unconscious and it was impossible to hold him back. I gave him something to reduce fever and I hoped for a miracle that didn’t arrive. I spent the following days studying the medical books. The symptoms were too generic to let me find the key to the problem; besides, all the pathologies I read about were too absurd to be attributed to an old priest, whose greatest threat to health came from the consecrated wine and the cold of the nave. I kept on visiting Father Alfio every six hours, and every time I found him worse than I had left him, under the heavy, woollen bedspreads and among his servant’s rosaries. But one evening I was late. The sun was going beyond the horizon and few candles weakly lighted up the house. A greenish sparkle –never noticed before that– above the shelves of the enormous bookcase caught my eye. I got closer and found out the luminescence came from a stone laid on a stack of books about St. Augustine’s life. Moreover, I noticed that as I got closer, it seemed to die down. It was like that luminescent halo was only visible from a certain distance, in a quite dark ambiance. It was a spherical stone, smoothed as a cobblestone, but at the same time pitted by

microscopic dips and tiny perforations. Its gloomy colour and consistency reminded me of that lava rocks you can find nearby volcanos. While I was analysing it more closely, I remembered of having read about the discovery of some substances which had the same bright properties and about some people –I think French ones– who were studying it. Completely uninformed, I asked the servant what it was. She answered me the priest had found it thanks to its sparkle, during a walk in the hills, at dusk. In the following days, Father Alfio got drastically worse. He began raving and shivering at the same time, having hallucinations, punching his own head and contorting himself with his eyes wide open. He did nothing apart from repeat disjointed phrases about star-shaped-head demons and cities submerged in the sky, while interposing this apocalyptic visions with out-and-out lines of the sacred text. Unfortunately, there had been nothing to do. He gave off one night, while repeating unknown names which seemed to belong to ancient Aztec divinities. The Curia Romana sent a priest to celebrate the man’s funeral. The same day he was buried in the city cemetery, in the place assigned to pick up the churchmen’s remains. The servant left the house and C.. The village –shocked by such an unexpected death– returned to normalcy. Some days followed quiet one another, until the farmer Elia’s four rifle shots burst into the night. His son woke me up. He informed me his father had just shot a man in their property. I quickly got dressed and got out, headed for the farm, with the boy. As I arrived, I found the old Elia with his wild look, who was barking at his relatives and ordering them to stay locked in the house. After I had tranquillised the farmer, he told me he had heard some noise coming from the metal leaf which covers the well in the farmyard. After getting the rifle, he had gone out and been attacked by a bright-headed man, so he had shot to defend himself. I was worried and on the point of verifying the man’s conditions, when Elia caught my arm and confessed he had done everything possible to kill him and it had been better in that way. I was confused by his words, so I got closer to the body and I noticed a luminescence around the corpse’s head: it was similar to Father Alfio’s one. I was getting more and more gobsmacked, so I got much closer and the luminescence wasn’t the only familiar thing any longer: because that corpse was nothing more than the priest’s body –dead a second time. I fell on my knees and plunging my hands in the ground. I –a doctor– barely held a retching. Because among that obscenity, that absurd lack of logic and that absence of natural laws, the living image of Father Alfio –now dead again– left space for unfathomable abysses. The body didn’t present clear signs of rot, after all it was normal if considering it had been buried few days before it. The head was back-to-front, rotten and torn in more than one point. From the brain, which was swollen and unnaturally pulsating, a multitude of yellow filaments which were similar to maggots or tentacles poured out and contorted themselves sparkling of a greenish light. It was as if a horrible mould had taken possession of the old priest’s soul through his body. Those similar-to-mushroom things seemed to be alive and reacted when in contact with everything surrounding them. Father Alfio’s face was blank, every part of his body lied rigid and his chest was perforated by the rifle shots. I had read in some botanical volumes about a particular race of tropical mushrooms called Cordyceps unilateralis, which are capable to take control of ants, by grafting themselves into the cerebral cortex of ants in order to use them as a mean of transport and, in the end, to kill them by

scaling their bodies. I thought it was a brutality of nature that was destined to be confined in a microscopic world. Instead, in front of me, I had a human flower that had opened itself at the top in pulpy petals and had shown an androecium made of hundreds of receptive fungous excrescences. Elia got closer, whispered mumbling something I didn’t understand and set the lifeless body alight, after catching it and throwing it on a sheaf. After gathering courage, I made for the priest’s house –I did want to solve the mystery. I picked the lock and entered the darkness. A weak sparkle led me to the bedroom: it was that miserable rejected-by-Hell stone. My attention was caught by a sparkle with the same intensity as the other one, which came from behind the bookcase. I grabbed the dusty side of the ancient piece of furniture and I moved it with violence –I disclosed the obscure treasure which was hidden like a trunk. I was invaded by the same stink of arcane death you can perceive by taking off the lid of a sarcophagus and it penetrated my cortex. It is impossible to describe what I saw with human words. A whole pulpy and primordial forest brightly extended on the wall behind that bookcase. A thick stratum of mould and tentacular mushrooms was corroding the wood of that house, in the same way it had already corroded the body and soul of its lodger. Among the pinnacles and plumes of that living colony, light shining greenish spores were moving, as if they were ships full of conquerors who are ready for enslaving new surfaces and living beings. I was stunned and weak at the knees, I fought my way out of that hell and passed out on the pavement. That night terrible headaches and shivers began. I dreamt of worlds made of peaks eaten up by something thirstier than time. I feel those maggot-shaped mushrooms fighting their way among my brain cells, by ripping up my cerebral matters and nourishing themselves with my rationale. The great cancer has released from the prison beyond the stars, it has come to us on that stone –felt from the sky in the Walpurgis Night; it will blindly satisfy its thirst, as long as it will be forced to absorb itself –the last thing left. Set fire to that house! Let me burn in the flames! Look for the servant! Because she breathed that nightmare, too and the germ of evil could be alive in her.

    

Copyright 2014  Adamo De Tremblay and Noemi Passamonti 

Fan Fiction Contest 1st Place: COLORE by Patrick Oakley

We held a Fan fiction contest back on the 2nd of May. We asked our feed subscribers to write a short story based on the photo below. We received so  many excellent submissions that it was not easy choosing the winner, so I copped out and decided to pick two stories instead of just one. The following tale is the 1st  place winner!

Colore

By Patrick Oakley

 

Martin laid flat on his back, staring at a birds nest that lay under the bridge he sometimes called home. It was one of many homes, for Martin was a drifter, he hated the term “homeless”. A term dubbed by those who were more fortunate than him, or perhaps merely different. Three baby birds awaited their mother, and Martin waited for night. His high was wearing off, and he felt that itchy, nauseous feeling again.

He began thinking again. Martin didn’t like to think too much, it made him remember things he oft try to forget. He scratched at the track marks on his arm. The night brought opportunity, the same opportunity it presents every night in the city. The sun goes down, so the heat wears off. The police become scarce, so the heat wears off.

For a drifter, Martin actually had a pretty steady routine. He’d make the same walk, down the same streets, often bump into many of the same people. People a lot like him. Drifters. Many of them addicts in one way or another. To Martin, EVERYONE was an addict in one way or another. Whether it be drugs, love, possessions, power, all the same to him. He just chose the one that didn’t effect anyone else, he was okay with just hurting himself. He was okay with being a junkie, he was okay with being a drifter.

Martin begged for his money most of the time…”begged”…another term he didn’t like. He saw it as he asked, and they chose to invest in a feeling of their own self-worth. They didn’t give him money because they wanted him to further his habit, they gave him money to feel better about themselves. In his eyes, they were doing wrong, and he was performing the good deed. Any reasonable person could deduce what he would use the money for, he didn’t even feed them lines of how he would try to get clean with their donation, or buy food because he was hungry. No. He merely asked, and they’d often give. Humans are selfish he thought, even in the case of charity. The charity that kept him going every day and every night. The very same charity that fed his veins.

The sun started to go down, and Martin began his routine. He took the day off from giving people their self-worth because his last score was seemingly tainted. It didn’t last long enough, and the come down was one of the worst he had experienced. He had hopes of running into a usual familiar face that would share, or if all else failed, go back to the same shifty bastard that gave him the last batch and complain until he got a front, or maybe a little for free. Something is better than nothing he thought, and he wasn’t afraid to agitate an already burning bridge the way he saw it.

He passed a few blocks and stared at the pavement mostly, only looking up to try to catch a face. He didn’t even look up for the stars anymore, the light pollution tainted them enough, the thoughts that came with them tainted them even more, and merely furthered his want to use. I’m insignificant he thought. We all are. The planet- a giant ant farm. People- the ants. He was thinking too much again. He scratched his arm again. He lay his eyes back on the pavement. Much better.

Martin had been walking for an hour or two now. The sun long gone, and the night heavy with little moonlight. Barely noticeable with all the artificial lights that the city basked in battling the cosmic beauty out of the landscape. Not one familiar face. Martin was puzzled. He felt like there was a party going on that he wasn’t invited to. The streets were fairly quiet though, almost peaceful if it weren’t for the hate of his own inner voice. He began to feel addiction climbing up his spine as if to sit on his shoulder, or was it desperation? At this moment, one in the same.

He visited all his usual stops. No one. He felt desperation grasping his shoulder now, like a set of talons latched on prey. At least he had company he thought, chuckling maddeningly at himself. His sad mockery of laughter was disturbed by a real presence, and from this presence came a stiff, low yet loud enough voice. “You lookin’ to score?”

Martin was startled, and leapt back a little. His eyes shifted to the source- a human figure shrouded by shadows and the night, he leaned against a graffitied wall, which Martin could make out more than the figure. A giant eye, within a star. It seemed to peer into the very essence of his soul. It didn’t look like the usual graffiti he had seen around, there was something different about it. It gave him a very unusual feeling, like the feeling he gets when he looks up at the stars. It made him shudder, almost cold. He was thinking too much again.

“Y-Y-You a cop?” Martin blurted out as if in defense. “No” The figure replied. “Who are you? I don’t think I’ve seen you around.” said Martin, to maybe lure the figure from the darkness. “I’m a soldier” The figure responded, without moving an inch. “You lookin’ to score?”. “As long as you aint no cop, man.” Martin was feeling a heavy, heavy weight upon him. He felt he was in way over his head. Yet, addiction has it’s ways.

“I don’t have any money, but if you give me a sample, and it’s good, I’ll come back with money, man.” “I can bring you more business too.” “It’s just gotta be good, man.” Martin practically “begged”.  “This will take you higher than you’ve ever been.” The voice from the darkness stated assuredly without any doubt in his voice, his voice actually lacked any emotion whatsoever.

From the darkness came a motion, startling Martin, and a bag landed at Martin’s feet. Martin’s hesitation eluded him, he saw peace of mind lying on the ground and he was eager to obtain it. He snatched the bag so quickly it was if it never hit the ground. He sat up against a nearby wall, pulled his kit out, and started cooking. He pulled the hot amber liquid through a syringe that looked aged and used many times, and let it out directly to his nervous system.

Martin immediately knew this was not the usual drug he put in his arm, this was something different, something new, something better. Martin felt an immediate high, but the high quickly turned into an experience, an experience more intense than he had ever felt.  He shot straight out of his body, through the top of his head. He traveled the world. He saw the woods outside of the city, the lakes that run to rivers, the rivers that run to oceans. He saw different continents that he had only seen in books he read at local libraries, and on TVs he would watch through windows in the city.

He went further still. He went past the moon, past the sun, past the planets we have names for. He went to distant stars, and distant galaxies. He was swimming in nebula. Then the voice came. A sweet, calm, soothing voice. A female voice. “You are home now.”

In the physical realm, Martin’s eyes had rolled to the back of his head, leaving only white in his eye sockets. He was standing with his chin pointed almost straight up, his blank white eyes gazing at the stars, tears rolling down his cheeks. He stood motionless, mesmerized, seemingly hypnotized by some sort of cosmic force that is beyond comprehensive words. The presence from the shadows then gave more motion.

A man once, but seemingly something else now. White tendrils protruded from the top of his head. They seemed organic, yet a classification of plant, animal, or something entirely alien could not be determined. His eyes, blank white, rolled in the back of his head. He walked slowly towards Martin and placed his mouth inches away from Martin’s ear and whispered- “Walk. Climb. Jump. For The Queen.”

Martin, or rather Martin’s body, took to his command. He walked in a direction towards the center of the city. All the while his eyes rolled back, chin up, tears pouring. He walked for nearly an hour until he reached The Colony Tower, the highest building in the city. He walked in, passed security and cameras as if no eyes, even electronic eyes, could see him or hear his presence. He made his way to the stair case, and began climbing.

Up and up he went, the same pace, the same walk, the same expression. He made it to the top floor, the 118th. From the 118th, he made it outside to a fire escape and climbed the rest of the way to the very top of the building. Martin stood on the very edge of the roof, chin up, eyes white, tears rolling. The front and top of his head began to move and pulsate wildly, as if something lay beneath and wanted to get out. White tendrils poked and popped their way from Martin’s head, stemming from his chemically damaged brain.

The real Martin, who now lay in Nebula, still had a vague connection to his body that now stood on the edge of what was left of his life on Earth.  For Martin, he understood now what he couldn’t before. His brain couldn’t withstand the integration of The Queen’s serum, his soul was only useful to The Queen now, not his body. He wanted to be a soldier, because that’s what The Queen wanted. “Please let me serve you. Please let me be your soldier.”

“You will be”. The Queen replied. “You will serve me. Here and now, and now is forever.”

Martin’s body went weightless. He hit the pavement moments later.

Word spread the next day. Another suicide in the big city. Another jumper. Identifying the body was impossible. Probably just a homeless beggar who couldn’t get a fix.

- Patrick Oakley

 

Copyright 2014 Patrick Oakley