Indie Comics Spotlight: Night of the 80’s Undead, Outre, Dead Universe Year One
by Jonathan Pilley (@omnicomic)
Night of the 80’s Undead #1
Remember the ’80s? A heady time rife with bright colors, keytars and a generally relaxed approach to life? That approach to life was set against a much more intense backdrop of a world embroiled by mistrust, specifically between the US and Russia in the Cold War. What if that war escalated and coke zombies were involved? Night of the 80’s Undead from Action Lab Entertainment asks just that question. The issue is written and lettered by Jason Martin, with artwork by Bill McKay.
It’s 1986, and Russia’s last-ditch cold war effort is to strike at our American excess lifestyle with bio-engineered Colombian cocaine. What happens when two girls out for a good time cross paths with a huge celebrity party hyped up on zombie blow? Things get even more outrageous than all the 80’s movies would have you believe.
Martin’s story is unique and really taps into the zeitgeist that permeated the 1980’s. It was a freewheeling time where the rich partied with an abundance of cocaine and women sought parties to get in on the action. Sarah and Linda find themselves in such a situation, faced with a party full of individuals under the spell of some weaponized cocaine. Martin makes sure that readers get the sense that they’re in the 80’s, almost hitting the reader the head over with it at times.
There are some nice callouts to artifacts relevant to the 80’s as an era. Mentions of leggings, checkered Vans and scrunchies. The first few pages are littered with such callouts, the overabundance of which become a little tiresome after a while. You get the point that the book is set in the 80’s and eventually it settles down and doesn’t lose itself in that fact. The setting does fit the idea behind the story very well and does so in a rather clever way.
McKay’s art moves from color to black and white to some color again. It’s not as distracting as you would think it is and it does help keep the with the 80’s theme running throughout the comic. The female characters are a little oversexed, relying on that sex appeal to get them into all the great parties. It’s a design that’s both distracting and works for the story, but if the series starts relying on it the title could get bogged down by it.
While the concept of zombies is certainly nothing new, the concept of coke-infused Hollywoodites is and could work. How Sarah and Linda deal with the situation they’ve found themselves in will prove to be a fun plotline to follow and if the art evens out in terms of color the series could be a fun read.
Night of the 80’s Undead #1 should be in stores soon.
Anthologies are a great way to give readers a good look at a wide range of stories, writers and illustrators. It’s often the case though that anthologies are a one-off, sometimes going into subsequent volumes. Sometimes, readers want a little more frequency in their anthologies and that comes courtesy of Norwegian comic book creators Magnus Aspli and Glenn Møane in Outré.
The anthology features “Taras and the Monolith,” written by Dan Hill and illustrated by Kim Holm, “The Heir” by Cecile Brun, “My Universe Expands Until I Have No Center” by Alex Wilson and Ben Garriga, “Her Family” by Jelena Dordevic, “The Most Dangerous Place for Children” by Ronald Montgomery, Jim Giar, Tim Switalski and Rafer Roberts, “Father” by Brian Gilman and K. Michael Russell, “I, Icarus” by Glenn Arseneau and Valentin Ramon and “At the Store” by Aleksander Bozic Ske.
“Taras and the Monolith” is a story about blind faith and what happens when years of ritual are eschewed for a lack of faith. “My Universe Expands Until I Have No Center” is about girl being transformed from a rebellious youth into a centuries old freedom fighter. “The Most Dangerous Place for Children” is a story about loyalty and man’s best friend. “I, Icarus” is about finding faith and truth in science.
“The Heir” is a pin-up, showcasing a young boy’s ambitious view of his future as king. “Her Family” is a haunting still shot of a father, mother and daughter, all set against a backdrop of history. “Father” is a brief look at the tiresome role it is to be a father. “At the Store” is a quick look at a convenience store hold-up.
On top of the works, there are also some interesting interviews in the book as well. Those interviews include Fiona Staples and Alex Wilson in the first issue. The interviews are extremely insightful and give readers an interesting look at how to industry heavyweights made their way into the industry.
The writing is varied across stories and some of them are actually pretty sparse when it comes to dialogue. All stories though boast the theme of responsibility throughout, showing it in various forms. How each character reacts to the responsibility thrust upon them is the key of the book and those characters react in ways that more or less run the gamut of character. Some embrace it, some refuse it and some simply observe it, but all of them are affected by it some way in the anthology.
The art is equally as varied and each style works for each story. There’s a range of color and black and white and all of the pin-ups are very powerful in getting their message across. There’s really no consistency in the styles, but all of the styles are fairly simplistic. The artists don’t have much room to be extremely detailed, but the vagueness in much of the art helps with the story.
Initially Outré will be published online two or three times a year. It will be available for free as a downloadable file, which we will promote and spread through as many channels as possible. Each issue will feature four 8-page stories from four different creative teams. The genre, tone and style vary, but each of them deal with the theme of responsibility. Additionally, the issue will feature four excellent pin-ups and two unique interviews.
The issue is still in production, but the plan is to make it available soon.
Dead Universe Year One #1
What happens in a universe full of death? A lot of short stories apparently. That’s just the case in Dead Universe Year One #1 from Dead Universe Publishing.
The book features the stories “Apes ‘n’ Capes” by Grainne McEntee and Matt Rooke, “Demon Gate” by William Axtell, “I Want to Be a Dragon” by Patrick Clinte and Brett Uren, “Kaiju Steel: White Out” by Steve Collier and Lee Killeen, “Little Terrors! Day Zero” by Jon Scrivens, “Nowhereville: Stopover” by Ken Conlow, “The Gentleman” by Andy W. Clift, “The Greys/Monsters” by Vincent Mealing and Mark Crutch and “The Vale” by Brett Uren and F. Harmon.
All the stories two-pagers and they range in subject matter from a child wishing to be something more, demons taking over the world and apes trying to convince pandas to eating pizza. The stories are all sorts of random, but all are predicated on this concept of a relatively big twist at the end of the tale. They’re some pretty wild tales, some of which rely on previously referenced pop culture stories, while others draw on new ideas.
The writers are varied in the book. McEntee adds a ton of brogue to his tale, Axtell relies on a group’s decision to grab the world, Clinte’s is about youthful innocence and Collier’s relies on wonderment. Scrivenss tale twists the zombie idea, Conlow’s is about passing through, Clift’s is a nod to Bender, Mealing’s features alien architects and Uren’s features some crazy creatures. Again, there’s nothing really tying them all together, but that’s ok.
The art is equally as varied as the writing. Rooke relies on black and white renderings, Axtell’s is colorful, Uren’s is amorphous and Killeen’s is glossy (and the reveal is pretty awesome). Scrivens art is pretty violent, Conlow’s is somewhat stilted, Clift’s is very slick, Crutch’s has a newspaper strip feel to it and Harmon’s art is hypercolor inked. The art all fits the various stories well and the styles are different enough that it all feels good.
As anthologies go, Dead Universe Year One #1 isn’t bad. It’s really more of a preview book for some of the other stuff the publisher is putting out, but it’s free. There’s some interesting tales to be enjoyed in the book and if you like what you read, there’s definitely a ton more where it came from. The book’s got a good mix of talent on both the writing and artistic sides of things, so be sure to check it out.
Dead Universe Year One #1 is available now.