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Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Freak Show

Written by Bruce Jones and beautifully illustrated by Bernie Wrightson.

Continuing our horror theme for the whole month. I want to talk about this very special piece of work that had eluded my grasp, until I finally got lucky last year.

I rarely pay, dare I say almost never pay for overpriced hardcover comics, especially 15$ for a 64 paged comic. This particular one however is one of the extremely rare occasions that I break my personal rule. I've bought this as a personal gift for myself near Christmas time in 2005. This one is special.

I was not yet born when Warren Comics, the publisher, was still active during the '70s and I doubt there was even any distribution of them here in the Philipines at that time. I missed out on those black and white magazine type horror comics, giving them a sort of mystifying appeal to me. One of my favorite artists that I discovered from that era is Bernie Wrightson. His works have that moody energy that seems very apt for horror, exuding a mixture of an exeggerated stylized influence between Frazetta and Mucha (painting-wise for the latter).

In regards to this particular comic itself, I first got aware of it in an ad on the now defunct Continuity Comics, owned by famous penciller Neal Adams. They were reprinting it at the time I guess, as this was as I found out later on was originally published by Warren too back in the '70s. Continuity was just a small publisher and I guess they got the short end of the stick when it came down to international distribution. Adding the fact that I lack knowledge of the existence of the direct market in my youth, the publisher folded even before I managed to grab myself a copy.

I was not aware of Desperado Publishing, of who they were and what they publish. This all changed late last year. I just picked up a stack of 4 issues of NYX, All Star Batman and Robin and a bunch of other stuff when I accidentally saw it displayed a top the adult section at my LCS. That unmistakeable Wrightson artwork on the cover and those freakish character designs. Needless to say, I blew my budget that night. I should have felt guilty, instead I really felt satisfied. It was the first thing I read when I got home.

As I had expected, it was beautiful and it was glorious! Bruce Jones, the writer as of late had been getting much of a negative press on the internet for his more mainstream (meaning superhero) work in comics. Whether those are warranted or not, I really don't know as I haven't read much of his current output. This I could say though, I agree with his statement that perhaps, the main character of Freak Show is one of his best creations. In fact, from his works I've read, this is one of the best I've seen. In just one short story, I managed to feel the grief and horror he was trying to effectively embue. Perhaps, the artwork helped a lot with this. However, Freak Show was not a story long enough to fill in an entire 64 page book. Desperado made a great solution by adding quite a number of short stories illustrated by Bernie Wrightson, and all I can say was this, from that lot, Freak Show had the best story. With that, I'm giving the kudos to Bruce Jones and his talent.

You can check out a 5 page review at the Desperado website by clicking here to see what I'm raving about, in case you're interested.

FREAK SHOW and all images featured copyright Bruce Jones and Bernie Wrightson, 2005. All Rights Reserved.

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