The PopCult Bookshelf
Forbidden Gallery #1
edited by William Mull, with Roger McKenzie
Writers:Ed Devore,Paul Kupperberg, Roger McKenzie, Lou Mougin, William Mull
Artists: Jeff Austin, Sandy Carruthers, Dærick Gröss Sr, Mike Montgomery, Josef Rubenstein, Jack Snider, Paul Tuma, Matt Webb
Published by ACP Comics
$4.99 plus shipping
As you might have noticed over the last few years, I tend to really enjoy comic books that are created outside of the current corporate cookie-cutter climate. Marvel and DC have settled into a comfortable formula, acting as incubators for potential movie franchises. Of late mainstream comics, though printed beautifully with cutting edge production techniques, are for the most part bland and soulless.
Even the smaller companies that sell their books through Diamond Comics Distributors tend to hew to the same formulas to try and compete, albeit on a much smaller scale, and while there are still plenty of good books out there, the vast majority just aren’t any fun anymore.
Luckily there are a lot of comics being produced outside the ultra-competitive comic book store market. These comics often offer throwbacks to classic genres that are no longer considered “commercially viable” by less imaginative corporate comic execs. Using Kickstarter for their start-up capital in some cases, we’ve seen some great recent examples of this like the Charlton Neo movement, The Creeps Magazine and the revival of CarToons Magazine, with the latter two now available nationwide on newsstands.
We can add another brilliantly-executed, fun comic book to the list, with the first issue of Forbidden Gallery, published by ACP Comics. This is the brainchild of Editor/Publisher, William Mull, and Mull gathers together a diverse collection of veteran creators and newcomers to produce a very entertaining horror/adventure anthology.
With six great stories, including a brief intro, Forbidden Gallery successfully combines the feel of a 1970s color horror anthology comic book like DC’s House of Mystery with the spirit of Rod Serling’s classic TV show, Night Gallery. The stories are short, cleverly-constructed with twists and turns, and run the gamut from straight horror and gore to science fiction, weird war and mythology.
Behind a cool cover painting by comics veteran Josef Rubinstein, working over an original drawing by Paul Tuma, Forbidden Gallery opens with a two-page intro, written by Mull with art by Tuma, where we meet out host, Archimedes, who resides in a castle-like mansion. This sets the tone for the unexpected and mysterious stories that follow. Each story has its own cover-like splash page, and those are available as 11″ by 17″ prints from ACP at a very low price.
The first full story is the short and effective horror tale, Kenny’s Very Bad Dream, written by veteran creator Paul Kupperberg with art by Sandy Carruthers, both of whom contribute to the various Charlton Neo and Pix C Comics. This is a quick and wonderfully executed horror piece, told from the point of view of a frightened child, who is waiting to be reassured by his father. With stories this short, you don’t want too much detail about the plot, but this is a really good story for Halloween.
This one has a plot straight out of an early-1970s horror/exploitation movie. It’s a tale of infidelity, murder and revenge, and it’s delightfully gory and purposefully lurid. And also, lots of fun. It’s the closest that comics gets to grindhouse without going too far.
Following that we have Destroyer, a contempory tale set in an unnamed, war-ravaged middle-Eastern area, were “rebels” are destroying museums and libraries, until they meet their match at the hands of a man wielding a book.
It’s a brisk action story, written by Lou Mougin, with art by Mike Montgomery and Jeff Austin that moves fast and incorporates a little EC Comics-like gore.
After that we find Two Kingdoms, written by William Mull, ACP’s editor/publisher, with artwork by Charlton Neo favorite Dærick Gröss Sr. This is an adventure tale based on Irish Mythology and it ties a Viking and a Celt on the run to the birth of the nation of Ireland. It’s terrifically executed and packs a lot into its seven pages (including the splash).
Wrapping things up we have Twin Moons Over Therion, a sci-fi epic written by Ed Devore with art by Jeff Austin (and guest-edited by McKenzie). I have not singled out any of the artists in this book because they are all uniformly excellent, with strong, coherent layouts and distinctive, well-deliniated styles. Austin, however, really stands out with his lush illustrative style that recalls the work of Bernie Wrightson, William Stout and Wally Wood. Devore’s story provides the perfect vehicle for Austin’s art, going from outer space to a primitive planet, with plenty of exotic creatures and cool, retro-spacemen in the mix. It’s good space-opera with a horror bent, and it’s a great story to end the first issue of Forbidden Gallery.
Forbidden Gallery #1 is a great, fun read, highly recommended and available in plenty of time for Halloween. Not only are the stories so well written and drawn, but also the production, the lettering and coloring, are top-notch. You can order the book, and the accompanying splash posters, along with some other cool publications, from ACP Comics.