As the self-proclaimed "Ben Urich" of Boston comic book and geek culture, myself and my esteemed colleagues at VIGILANT GEEK MEDIA work around the clock to provide you with up-to-date, pertinent comic book and geek culture news! We discuss a plethora of graphic novel titles from the mainstream labels like Marvel, DC, Valiant and Image, to interesting indie publications both local, (Boston, MA), and nation-wide! Whether it be comic books, comics-based tv or movies, anime, gaming or who knows what else that makes you tick.. I am confident you will find it here at THE VIGILANT GEEK! Thanks so much to loyal fans of the blog and podcast, as well as you newcomers. I hope we all keep having fun and never grow up.

Your's Truly,



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Thursday, October 30, 2014

A "Vigilant" Halloween Special

A "Vigilant" Halloween Special

Batman: The Long Halloween, Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale

            Welcome back boys and ghouls!! This is a very special week here at The Vigilant Geek, for it is that time of year in which we must prepare for "All Hallows Eve!!" Since I love Halloween so much and also consider myself a pretty serious horror comic, horror t.v. show and horror movie junkie, I felt it would be fitting and festive to provide you all with some Halloween-oriented "Top 10's." Join me as I attempt to analyze some of the scariest comic book characters known to man, as well as provide you with the inside scoop on which comics to read and flicks to watch to prepare for Halloween this year! (commence evil, ear-piercing laugh)

Top 10 Scariest Comic Book Characters:

10.) Carnage

Imagine, a murderous psychopath with all the powers of an alien symbiote suit!  A character created to be a darker, more brutal version of Venom, dangerous lunatic Cletus Kasady bounds with the symbiote to become perhaps the most lethal member of Spider-Man's rouge's gallery, Carnage.

9.) Ventriloquist

Anyone who was able to read the "Ventriloquist" one-shot during last year's D.C. Comics "Villians Month" will surely agree with me that our new puppet master of Gotham City is scary as hell. Luring citizens to a vacant theatre with a promise of food and beverage during a blackout in Gotham, then forcing everyone to watch her horrible puppet show, seems eerie enough. Unfortunately, just to really send chills up everyone's spines, she ends up poisoning everyone in attendance! Yikes, what a creep show!!

8.) Morbius

Filling the classic misunderstood monster paradigm for Marvel, Dr. Michael Morbius, in an effort to correct a rare blood disease he was born with, actually turns himself into a vampire! Though the part of his brain that still thinks like a human is ashamed at the fact that he must feed on defenseless human beings in order to survive, the vampire side of him sure doesn't hesitate to find sweet bloody sustenance wherever he roams; that is, at least until Spider-Man shows up to interrupt his feast, per usual.

7.) Black Hand

Perhaps the most morbid villian in the DC Universe, William Hand chose the super villian name "Black Hand" due to being the black sheep of the Hand family funeral home owners in Coast City. Formerly of the Black Lantern Corps, he is more or less a zombie that wields the power of death and decay on his ring finger. Count on this cretin to torment Hal Jordan and other Justice League members in the most evil and deadly ways imaginable!

6.) Scarecrow

I must ask, what is scarier than someone with an unnerving psychosis fueled by striking fear into others, with all the power and resources of a major mental health facility at his disposal? I can't think of much. Dr. Stephen Crane, originally a psychologist at Arkham Asylum, (some continuities dictate that he was initially a chemist, I'll let you take your pick), started out by experimenting with his infamous "fear toxin" on the criminally insane. Patients, or should I say victims, under the influence of Crane's fear gas essentially see their worst fears manifest in front of their eyes. I couldn't imagine the terror of expecting proper treatment for a mental illness, and instead, being traumatized by this cretin! This abuse of power alone is bone chilling!

5.) Spawn

C.I.A covert operative Al Simmons was gunned down by one of his own men for asking too many questions. Simmons was sent to Hell for the innocent casualties he took during past government missions, but oddly enough, he was able to make a deal there to allow himself more time on Earth. The catch, however, is that Simmons must spend his borrowed time on Earth as a demonic hell-spawn! Choosing to defy the orders of his demon captors, Simmons becomes "Spawn," anti-hero from hell!

4.) Mephisto

Satan has been used as a classic terrifying antagonist in all kinds of literary works for centuries. He is also very much over-utilized by the Catholic church to strike fear into sinners and keep the saints walking the straight and narrow. Whether you believe he is real or not, the myth itself is usually enough to frighten the pants off of most. Mephisto is simply Marvel's rendition of the timeless monarch of the burning netherworld of Hell! When he shows up in a comic, particularly something besides Ghost Rider, it is never, EVER a good thing.

3.) Doctor Death

A very under-utilized DC Comics villian for many years, that is until Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo brilliantly revived the character for "Zero Year," Doctor Death was the very first traditional super villian that Batman has ever faced, first appearing in Detective Comics # 29 in 1939. Created by Batman creator Bob Kane, Doctor Death was meant to fill the age-old "mad scientist" archetype for DC, but became so much more than that over the years. Appearing in epic Batman story arcs, and even as a huge power player in the first volume of Neil Gaiman's Sandman, this mad scientist is always cooking up a concoction of gruesome, bloody death for the masses!

2.) The Joker

The "Man Who Laughs," the "Clown Prince of Crime," the horrifying arch-nemesis to the Dark Knight, The Joker never needs much of an introduction. What do you do with someone so deranged and evil that they commit mass murder for fun because life is a big joke to them? Most would say he would have to be "put down," but since Batman has that one special rule.. the two are destined to do a dance of death and destruction all around Gotham City for an eternity. The Joker wasn't always as terrifying as he is in present day. Anyone who has read the early appearances he had in "Detective Comics," (circa 1939-1940), or witnessed Cesar Romero's ridiculous on-screen adaptation of the character in the 1966 Batman television series, knows exactly what I mean. However, when such amazing story arcs as "A Death in the Family," "The Killing Joke" and "The Dark Knight Returns" started popping up in comic book stores, The Joker went through terrifying transformations that helped mold the character into a complete raging lunatic and murdering psychopath with  the most blatant disregard for the value of life I have ever witnessed in any medium. Scott Snyder's "Death of the Family" took The Joker to an even higher apex of evil than I ever thought was possible. Since the early 1980's, if the Joker appeared in a story arc, readers were typically riddled with goosebumps before even opening the book. The creepiest clown in comic book history without question.

1.) Jack the Ripper (From Hell)

The epic historical fiction graphic novel the size of an unabridged dictionary, written by the great Alan Moore and illustrated by Eddie Campbell, and based on Jack the Ripper and the Whitechapel murders in victorian-era London was so disturbing, it inspired some of the worst nightmares I've had to date. It actually took me over a year to finish it due to the fact that I had to frequently put the book down for months at a time, being too scared to continue the read. The only thing more frightening than a medical surgeon creeping around at night, slicing up prostitutes, is a medical surgeon that is actually convinced that the carving and slicing he is doing is God's work! (In this case, his particular God was the deity worshipped by the freemasons, Jahbuhlon.) In an era where women were already being treated like second-rate citizens, "Jack," (real name Sir William Withey Gull, though not completely proven in historical records), believed that women were going to rise up and take all power and wealth away from men. By sacrificing these poor Whitechapel prostitutes to Jahbuhlon, it was his belief that male superiority would be maintained, and that he himself would rise to a god-like degree of power. Everything about this story is so incredibly terrifying, most of all the fact that it all occurred in real life! Jack, when it comes to horrifying comic book characters, you take the cake buddy! Congrats... I guess.

Top 10 Horror Comics:

10.) Revival

In this interesting perspective towards an outbreak of “undead shenanigans,” readers will join Officer Dana Cypress of rural Wisconsin in the endless efforts of damage control and investigation after the dead became inexplicably “undead” for a day. Officer Cypress, in an effort to pick up the pieces after numerous zombie-related murders must not only solve the murders, but must also respond to media scrutiny, religious lunatics and a newly mandated government quarantine. This is a chilling and intense read.

9.) The Lurkers

 Written by Steve Niles and illustrated by Hector Casanova, The Lurkers was anything but the generic zombie/flesh-eater story. Don't get me wrong, lots of flesh is eaten throughout the course of the story, but it's all in the ways it is torn off and eaten, the suspenseful writing and most of all, the distinctive, intricate illustrations drawn by Hector Casanova. The Lurkers was wildly chilling and unlike anything else I've ever read.

8.) The Wake

Get ready to take everything Disney taught you about mermaids and toss it right out the window. In this chilling undersea adventure written by Scott Snyder (Batman, American Vampire) and illustrated by Sean Murphy (Punk Rock Jesus), readers will join a team of researchers traveling many leagues under sea level. When the team finds their submarine under siege by a much more bloodthirsty brand of mermaid than Disney's Ariel, the panic button to activated! Per usual, Snyder's mastery of the horror genre will keep the hairs on the back on your neck standing until the story concludes.

7.) Werewolf By Night

As Marvel's prominent horror book throughout the 1970's and 1980's, "Werewolf By Night" is an outstanding and terrifying read documenting the malicious and violent trials, tribulations and sufferings of a man struggling with a horrible medical condition. What medical condition is this you might ask? Well, involuntarily turning into a werewolf at each full moon of coarse! Though back issues of this one may be tough to find at your local comic retailer, if you can get your hands on a few copies, I can guarantee without a doubt in my mind that it will be a highly morbid, yet enjoyable read. Besides, with all the vampire and zombie nonsense being mass-produced lately, there just isn't enough exposure for werewolves in today's media.

6.) Preacher

Vigilant Disclaimer: Those that are highly religious, highly sensitive to political incorrectness and easily offended by vulgarity and bloodshed need not look into this one. 
This series, written by Garth Ennis (The Punisher) and illustrated by Steve Dillon (The Punisher), is without a doubt the most gruesome, morbid and intense literary work I have ever read in any medium. The story involves Reverend Jesse, his faithful vampire companion, and long-time love interest all trying to figure out how Jesse inherited a power of extraordinary magnitude direct from the heavens. This power caused Jesse to incinerate his entire parish mid-sermon and go on the run from forces of both heaven and hell. If you love a good story about angels and demons, complete with some of the most sickening, violent scenes ever to wind up on the pages of a graphic novel, this is the right read for you! I for one loved it, but then again, I have been told I have a strong stomach.

5.) Spawn

C.I.A. government operative Al Simmons is gunned down by one of his own men for asking too many questions. Due to the innocent casualties taken in past missions by Simmons, he is sent to Hell. While spending some time in Hell, Simmons finds a demon that can make him a deal. Simmons gets more time to walk the Earth, but the catch is that he must do so as a demonic hell spawn carrying out the orders of his demon masters. However, in defiance of the demons looking to control Simmons and his actions on Earth, he turns into the epic anti-hero from Hell, Spawn. As one of American history's greatest and most lucrative comic book runs ever, (created by Todd McFarlane, (Image Comics)), this publication never disappoints, especially with horror fanatics.

4.) Hellblazer

As one of my absolute favorite titles to come out of DC's Vertigo line, the epic run of success that Hellblazer had may be matched by very few other graphic novel series. (Perhaps the only titles from Vertigo more successful were Neil Gaiman's Sandman or Brian Azzarello's 100 Bullets, both confirmed to have major motion pictures based on the source material.) Hellblazer very vividly accounts for the trials and tribulations of smooth-talking, chain-smoking, double-crossing, self-involved master of the occult arts, John Constantine. Whether John finds himself in a heated spell-casting contest with notorious rival Papa Midnite, summoning spirits from the astral plane in an attempt to protect the sacred rituals of the dark arts or even fighting his way out of Hell, readers can always count on him weasling his way to victory one way or another, flippant mouth quick with a witty quip in the process.

3.) American Vampire

This Eisner Award winner from DC’s Vertigo line is the brainchild of none other than the astounding horror guru, Scott Snyder. With Snyder being the former pupil of the god of horror literature himself, Stephen King, he is a master of all things that go bump in the night. (As seen in his work on Batman and The Wake) Also, Rafael Albuquerque provides stellar visuals that articulate the eerie, gore-fest of the vampire variety with prominent artistic fortitude and extreme attention to detail. The awesome and distinctive feature that this great publication has been bringing to the table is not just great vampire folklore, but also a celebration of different historical eras throughout American history. This is a must read for all you vamp-fanatics and horror enthusiasts of all walks of life.

2.) The Walking Dead

The critically-acclaimed graphic novel series based on the zombie apocalypse created by horror genius Robert Kirkman continues to hold its own on the shelves of comic book retailers just as firmly as the hit television series has clenched record-breaking ratings in viewership. Readers join a battle-tested, (or should I say apocalypse-tested), Rick Grimes and his band of survivors as they fight to live just another day on a planet being over-run by the undead. The great thing about this zombie book, as opposed to many others, is that the flesh-eating and incessant groaning of the undead are but one of many obstacles the group encounters during this end of the world scenario. Adding malicious rival tribes, lack of basic needs such as food, water, ammunition, etc, and even the constant worry of where to set up "base camp" next creates a whole cluster of factors that affect the probability of the group's survival from one issue to the next. This is a nearly flawless horror read without question!

1.) From Hell

Yeah... Jack scared the crap out of me! From Hell  by Alan Moore and illustrated by Eddie Campbell is also this year's scariest graphic novel, at least in this vigilant geek's humble opinion! (For more info on Jack the Ripper and the publication From Hell, see "Jack the Ripper" in the above top ten).

Top 10 Horror Television Shows

10.) Goosebumps

Viewers beware, you're in for a scare! Based on R.L. Stine's timeless paperback collection, "Goosebumps" was without a doubt an essential part of almost anyone's childhood who grew up in the 90s. Though many of the stories were a little corny, sometimes silly and usually quite predictable, the television series had a certain charm and now carries with it a heavy dose of nostalgia for 90s kids across the nation. Catch it on Netflix!

9.) Grimm

This unique primetime hit is a brilliant mash-up of both the age-old classic stories from Grimm’s Fairy Tales and a murder-mystery law enforcement drama. Set in contemporary Portland, Oregon, this thrilling series follows the trials and tribulations of homicide detective Nick Burkhardt, who conducts business as usual for the Portland Police Department until one strange day when Nick witnesses a woman of stunning beauty transform into an old witch right before his eyes! As things become stranger for Burkhardt, he soon discovers that he is the last descendent of the Grimms, a long bloodline of hunters of the supernatural variety. With newfound knowledge about his destiny to hunt supernatural creatures, Burkhardt juggles a double life from that point forward, (police detective by day, Live Action Role Player by most late afternoons and Sundays). All joking aside, this is a fun, imaginative and engaging series worth getting into.

8.) The Twilight Zone

Who can forget Rod Serling's infamous voice coming on the air at night to narrate another eerie tale from.... THE TWILIGHT ZONE!!? A t.v. program way ahead of it's time, "The Twilight Zone" featured some of the most innovative and imaginative tales of horror, sci-fi and suspense in television history. 

7.) Sleepy Hollow

6.) Constantine

Based on the classic "Hellblazer" comic book series, this brand new series premieres on NBC this Friday at 9pm Eastern time. Though I do not have any critiques for a show I have not seen yet, what I can say being a long-time fan of the graphic novel is that my expectations are high. We all know how much of a flop the 2005 "Constantine" motion picture was, featuring Keanu Reeves as the smooth-talking, chain-smoking, master of the occult arts, (perhaps the worst casting decision in movie history). However, with Matt Ryan, an actual Brit, starring as John Constantine in this brand new series, I can already tell from the trailer footage that this time around, DC Comics is giving Constantine his rightful cinematic props. 

5.) Supernatural

4.) Carnivale

One of my all time favorite HBO series to date, "Carnivale" is an extremely spooky and paranormal take on a band of traveling carnies during the turn of the 20th century. Carnivals have traditionally been a creepy American pastime to begin with, but this show pushes that envelope about as far as humanly possible. The series only lasted two seasons, but this was not due to a cancellation, but rather just the simple fact that the show's writers had told their story and decided to end on a good note. Featuring a young drifter with amazing healing powers, a preacher that has mysteriously joined the dark side, and a whole band of miscreants and sideshow cretins popping out from circus tents to screw each other over, this show was a "no-holds-barred" slobber knocker of occult magic and carny mayhem!

3.) Tales from the Crypt

EEeeeheheheheheheeee!!!! The infamous evil, shrieking laugh of the crypt keeper marks another episode of the cult classic, "Tales from the Crypt." I grew up joining the crypt keeper every October as he opened his leather-bound book of frightening stories in his eerie tomb/dungeon hangout. Though most of the scary tales seemed to involve crude sexual innuendos and repetitive acts of adultery, the make-up and set design that brought all the ghouls and goblins to life was ahead of its time. Always an enjoyable blast from the past!

2.) The Walking Dead

Based on the infamous comic book series created and written by Robert Kirkland, "The Walking Dead" is without a doubt the best zombie-related series ever to air on network television. The make-up and set design are simply flawless, giving viewers the most realistic-looking corpses and death scenes to date. The great thing about "The Walking Dead," whether you're a fan of the comic book or tv series, or both, is that it's not just about the zombies; it's about the zombie apocalypse. There are so many other factors that go into the mix when dealing with an apocalyptic scenario. Besides worrying about the actual outbreak, Rick Grimes and his band of survivors have to take into account malicious rival tribes of surviving humans, the lack of important resources such as food, water, ammunition and first aid supplies, always having to search for a safe place just to try and live, and the mental toll it takes on each of them, often in many different ways. Add extremely well-written character development and a masterpiece is born! Will Rick and the gang survive season five? I'll be on the edge of my seat waiting to find out!

1.) American Horror Story

One of my absolute favorite shows on television ever, certainly my favorite horror show ever, American Horror Story kicked off its fourth season, "Freak Show" just two weeks ago and to say that it has been holding up strong to its previous seasons is a large understatement. The cool thing about "Horror Story," is that it is very similar to following a theatre troupe as they perform many different plays. Though there have been a few minor additions and subtractions to the cast throughout the years, for the most part, the same core group of actors and actresses have been entertaining us from the beginning. Additionally, each season is a completely different story, so one does not have to "binge-watch" all of the previous seasons to enjoy the current one. From an extremely creepy haunted house in Hollywood, CA, to a corrupt, demonic asylum in Eastern Massachusetts, to a devious coven of witches in New Orleans, series front-runner Jessica Lange and her amazing "Horror Story" players have been keeping viewers scared stiff with no signs of slowing down. This is one of the best shows to get into if you're having trouble getting into the "Halloween spirit."

Top 10 Scariest Horror Movies

10.) Friday the 13th

9.) Texas Chainsaw Massacre

8.) An American Werewolf in London

7.) Silent Hill

6.) Silence of the Lambs

5.) Halloween (original release)

4.) House of 1,000 Corpses

3.) IT

2.) The Shining

1.) The Exorcist

Top 10 Must-See Halloween Flicks

10.) The Birds

9.) Zombieland

8.) Evil Dead

7.) Pumpkin Head

6.) Drag Me to Hell

5.) Ghostbusters 1 and 2

4.) Night of the Living Dead (original release)

3.) Psycho

2.) Hollywood Monsters Films (circa 1939)

Bela Legosi as Count Dracula

1.) Beetlejuice

* I hope I helped you all get into the Halloween spirit this year. Remember, special days like Halloween are always a great time to relax, live a little and find your,"inner kid!" Go ahead, eat that whole bowl of "fun-sized" candy bars that were meant for the trick-or-treaters, wear the one costume you wanted to wear this year despite how much it will embarrass your significant other, scare the crap out of the neighborhood kids by dressing up as a dead corpse on Halloween night and popping out of a coffin you made out of balsa wood from the hardware store!! Everyone has their own way of getting their kicks during Halloween, and I say, hey, if you're not hurting anyone, GO FOR IT!!! Have a safe and happy Halloween from The Vigilant Geek!