Wednesday, April 25
Yesterday was the birthday of the one and only William Castle. While I may have missed it on the actual day, it's never too late to pay respects to one of my top ten directors. Here's to ya Bill - you were a one of a kind and an inspiration!
Tuesday, April 24
Thinking ahead a good bit here toward this year's Horror Hootenanny - we have a date booked - Friday October 13, 2012. I posted the list of bands below on the Horror Hoot facebook page yesterday. Quite the rockin group of bands we've had so far - who will be the headliner this year? Stay tuned to find out - who would YOU like to see play the hoot this year?
2004 - Psychocharger, The Creeping Cruds, Monster Zero, The Exotic Ones
2005 - All American Werewolves, The Creeping Cruds, The Codenames, The Exotic Ones
2006 - Psychocharger, The Creeping Cruds, The Lava Men, Cretin Grims
2007 - Psychocharger, The Creeping Cruds, Butcher Priest, Radio Death Wave
2008 - Daikaiju, The Creeping Cruds, The Coffin Bury's, The Exotic Ones
2009 - Psychocharger, The Mighty Shrill, The Creeping Cruds, Spookhand, Radio Death Wave
2010 - Psychocharger, The Creeping Cruds, Spookhand, Alucard
2011 - Dead Dick Hammer, The Creeping Cruds, Spookhand, Alucard
Monday, April 23
Episode #28 of the 6ft plus podcast is online now featuring my interview with the one and only Count Lyle Blackburn, lead singer of the cowpunk band Ghoultown, writer for Rue Morgue Magazine, and bigfoot researcher and enthusiast. We talk Ghoultown, Rue Morgue, Bigfoot and more. Check it out at:
Lyle just wrote a new book called THE BEAST OF BOGGY CREEK, The True story of the Fouke Monster. It investigates the legends behind the myth that inspired the famous film The Legend of Boggy Creek, the true life reports of sightings that continue to this day, and the behind the scenes events of making that movie. Pick up your copy here:
Thursday, April 19
Marrowbones is a new comic book by creator Eric Orchard about a young girl named Nora who lives in a haunted hotel in Marrowbones Swamp. Her story is told in a series of short tales. It is, as described by the narrator (a talking skeleton) - “The tales of a girl who found love and belonging in the most unlikely of places; amongst monsters and dead things.”
Hi Eric – thanks so much for doing this interview. I really enjoyed Marrowbones. For the readers out there, describe the comic briefly, if you would.
Marrowbones is the story of Nora, a young girl who doesn't fit into the world. Rejected by her family because she can see ghosts and monsters she is finally rescued by her Uncle Barnaby and ends up working for him at his inn in the haunted world of Marrowbones.
Marrowbones is a fantasy tale firmly rooted in the world of horror. Were you always a horror fan and what are some of your early influences? I see some definite Edward Gorey influence…
I've always read fantasy and horror and in my mind they're all kind of mixed up. Like Christopher Lee I consider horror to be a kind of fantasy. From very early on I was reading huge amounts of Stephen King, Clive Barker, Tolkien and his imitators, fairy tales, ghost stories, Weird Tales pulp, EC horror comics, Tintin, books illustrated by Arthur Rackham and Edward Gorey and all these things became all mixed up to me, I didn't really categorize them too much. It all filtered through my imagination as something new. Something fantastical and horrific, ha!
So, yes, I've always been a horror fan. It's an incredible rich tradition and I'm always finding something new and compelling.
What was the inspiration behind Marrowbones? I understand it was a story that had been rattling around in your head for sometime…?
I was travelling around Quebec with my family. There was a huge thunderstorm and we were looking for a hotel in a place called Riviere Du Loup. Riviere Du Loup means Wolf River and I couldn't help but imagine the hotel would be run by werewolfs. It was while my wife was driving in the car that I drew Uncle Barnaby for the first time. All of the sudden I had the perfect framework for years and years of supernatural stories I had wanted to tell. I continued to develop it over the summer (last summer) and this spring I finally got around to doing the first issue.
This is the first digital comic you’ve done. What was your general impression of working digitally vs. on paper?
I've been experimenting with digital for a very long time but it was only recently that I started seeing work by other cartoonists that I felt was as interesting as traditional work and was compelled to start seriously using digital as a means of storytelling. I switched from constant experimenting to seriously using it as a storytelling/drawing tool.
My general impression is that it's like drawing on magical glass. Ha! It's a funny medium and it takes some getting used to. I mainly did Marrowbones on my Cintiq which is created for artists and designs to give them a very natural drawing experience. And that's what it is. I've decided recently that when working digitally, at this point, the hardware is more important than the software.
You used Manga Studio and Photoshop primarily to create this, I understand. Is the finished work high res enough that it could be printed out if you ever wanted to, and do you ever foresee that as a possibility or will it remain a digital download?
Everything I do has print in mind. I think it's the most optimal way to read comics.
I did Marrowbones in very large, print ready files and I'd love to see a book some day. This digital launch was a lot of work, so I feel I can only think a little ways ahead on different formats.
One thing that has to be nice about doing an all-digital comic is the lack of a middle man, specifically Diamond Distributions, who I feel is playing a huge role in killing the comics industry (but that’s a rant for another day). The internet is really a powerful tool and a great equalizer for the small publisher, allowing a global delivery instantaneously! Do you see this becoming an increasingly popular decision for comic creators as a way of getting work out there?
Yeah, I'm not consciously trying to sidestep any middleman in particular, it more has to do with being impatient to have more work out there. Traditional publishing works very slowly, and publishers are only able to do so many print books a year. I'm not talking about monthly floppy comics but the graphic novel market. I have no real experience with the floppy market except as a consumer.
What I can say for sure is that digital self publishing is an incredibly exciting, fun way to work. You get a sense of community, a lot of fresh challenges and new paths to explore. It's amazing. I love it.
My feeling is that the comics market should be comprised of individual creators selling work directly to fans as well as larger publisher supporting and assisting in larger publishing ventures. I put Kickstarter in the first category.
I'm not sure what diamond's place should be in this emerging market but I do sense that direct market stores need to shift away from monthly floppy comics to slightly higher end products like nice collections, toys, shirts and other merchandise. I'm not sure the direct market should be attempting to compete with the digital market, but maybe it should be treated as a separate entity and that they mutually support each other’s products.
I’ve followed you on Twitter for some time now but just recently discovered your blog. It is interesting following the creation of Marrowbones as you developed it. I think the reader interaction is a good thing as well. Is that important to you?
I love it but I think it's a tricky thing. The biggest risk is getting the sense that your project is complete before you start it because you're getting feedback on fragments of an unfinished thing. Ive read warnings from creators about sharing too much before you're ready. Stephen King talks about this in On Writing. I think there's something to that. I actually reserved most of Marrowbones issue one before releasing it and I'd never done that before. I found it helpful to sit with the work itself for a while before releasing it.
At the same time I don't entirely agree with the sentiment that you shouldn't share stuff before releasing it. I think you need a balance. The sense if community and shared journey you get through blogging about a project has become an essential part of the way I work. I like to think of it as leaving the studio open a creak and letting some of the weirdness leak out. I think that's healthy and fun and I plan to keep working that way.
I found one post on your blog really interesting: "Another thing is I did it fast. It's a 47 page comic done in about a month. That's pretty fast. But I think it looks as good as anything I've done. I've been talking a lot about developing a strong, fast style. And I feel like I did this here." Working quickly and firmly is really important, in my opinion. So many artists, myself included, work and rework and pick at drawings trying to make them perfect and end up destroy any energy in the work, leaving it lifeless. Talk about the challenge of working quickly, and is this struggle, of fighting perfectionism, something that you ever fight with?
The only real struggle is in the regrets I feel after its released. That's a terrible feeling. Knowing I could've done a drawing better.
Have you read The Art of Maurice Sendak? In an interview he talks about the importance of establishing different styles. This kind of goes against the generally accepted wisdom that a cartoonist or illustrator should develop one look, almost as a sort of branding tool. But what Sendak says makes a lot of sense to me, it's about story telling. You need to have a full set of tools to appropriately tell different kinds of stories. That's my philosophy on my faster, simpler work: it suits the story so it has to be done that way. Some mainstream cartoonists get flack for being able to draw in different styles and it drives me nuts. I see it as an asset.
What does the future hold for Nora and Marrowbones swamp? Are there more adventures in store for her and the haunted hotel?
I really want to do more stories in Marrowbones. I've been carrying around these stores as long as I can remember and I feel a real need to tell them. I've penned the next few issues. But self publishing is tricky, I need to do it while still working on contracts.
About Eric Orchard: I'm an illustrator and cartoonist living in Toronto. I got my start in publishing doing picture books but I've been publishing fantasy and horror mini comics since high school. Comics were always my goal. I've done work for Tor, Top shelf, Scholastic, First Second, ONI and others. I've won the Spectrum silver award for comics and I've appeared in the annual exhibit of the Society Of Illustrators.
To find out more about Eric and to order his comic, go to: http://www.ericorchard.blogspot.com/
Wednesday, April 18
This post is carried over from my old website, where I had a special page set up called The Vault, dedicated to the horror hosts of the great state of Tennessee. I thought I'd add that webpage onto the blog here as well, so this is the first in a series of posts about the Tennessee hosts...
Shock Theater - Ken Bramming
Click HERE for an article celebrating the life of Ken Bramming
Click here to read an obituary for Ken Bramming on Nashville Scene Newspaper's website
DR. LUCIFUR: NASHVILLE TV’s
by Jeff Thompson
“He was a very elegant gentleman who had been the president of Transylvania for the past two hundred years. He spent a lot of time looking down his nose at people.” This is how Nashville broadcaster Ken Bramming (1926-1997) fondly remembered his horrific alter-ego, Dr. Lucifur, Nashville’s first TV horror-movie host. Bramming, the sonorous-voiced television and radio personality, hosted Shock Theater on Nashville’s WSIX-TV 8 (now WKRN-TV 2, then and now an ABC affiliate) from November 1958 until April 1967. The show originally aired on Friday nights at 10:15 PM CST—“That was in the days of the fifteen-minute newscast,” Bramming remarked—and later moved to Saturday nights at 10:30. “We knew we’d get a young audience on those nights,” Bramming said. “We were aiming for the ten- to fourteen-year-olds, but their parents ended up watching the show with them and liking it as much as the kids!”
In the early months, Shock Theater opened with Modest Moussorgsky’s “Night on Bald Mountain” as its theme song and with Ken Bramming’s live, “straight-voice” (non-character-voice) announcement of that night’s movie. Shock Theater’s cinematic fare ranged from the classic Universal monster movies to the Sherlock Holmes and Mr. Moto mysteries to a few science-fiction titles. Bramming himself selected and prepared every film.
In the summer of 1959, seven months after Shock Theater’s debut, Bramming decided to liven up the show by adding a ghoulish on-camera host—played by himself. Bramming created the character of Dr. Lucifur from an amalgam of “Bela Lugosi’s Dracula, some of John Carradine’s characters, and some Vincent Price things.” Bramming’s Lucifur, who always appeared in black-and-white even if the night’s film was in color, was a striking figure. The dapper Transylvanian sported silver hair, a black eyepatch over his right eye, a Ming moustache, and a cigarette holder. He dressed elegantly in white tie and black tails and a flowing black cape, and he spoke with a Transylvanian accent. The “Night on Bald Mountain” theme soon was replaced by “Blues for Lucifur,” a jazzy electric-guitar melody composed and performed by Nashville musician Norm Cole. As the theme played, a wavy circle—“We called it the Mystic Circle,” Bramming explained—appeared on the TV screen and framed Dr. Lucifur, who walked into a pool of light near a lamppost. Fog swirled around the devilish doctor as he greeted the viewers and urged them to come with him on “these journeys into the worlds of mystery, the supernatural, fantasy, and the world beyond.” At the conclusion of the film, Dr. Lucifur reappeared, invited the viewers back next week, and (with “a wild laugh”) said, “Good night—and pleasant dreams!”
This atmospheric “intro and outro” featuring Bramming as Lucifur was on film; therefore, Bramming was free to appear as himself or as other characters in the five live breaks in the course of that night’s film. Dr. Lucifur rarely appeared on-camera in those five breaks although his rich voice was heard whenever the camera suddenly became Lucifur’s “eyes” and showed subjective shots of other people talking to “him” (the camera). Those people—or sometimes creatures!—who interacted with Lucifur and each other ranged from a demented grandmother and a comical beatnik to a wacky poet and a reanimated mummy. While Ken Bramming played Dr. Lucifur off-camera or a man-on-the-street interviewer on-camera, his several assistants portrayed Shock Theater’s other recurring characters.
“My top assistant,” Bramming recalled, “was Corky Savely, a mad genius who was still in high school at the time. He would dress up as a character named Granny Gruesome, who one night showed the viewers how to knit a sports car out of 1500 pounds of steel wool. Corky also dressed as Frantic Freddy the Hipster or Cyril Songbird the Poet—that one we stole directly from Ernie Kovacs!—and Corky would dress up like a mummy whenever we showed a mummy movie. Other characters were played by Herschell Martin and Richard Dixon, and Norm Fraser played the ‘infamous’ Baron Von Sloucho. We did crazy things, and the show had no time limit. Sometimes, our breaks in the movie lasted ten minutes!”
Except for Corky Savely’s mummy appearances and a few other tie-ins, Bramming and company’s live, ad-libbed routines during the movies were completely unrelated to the films. “We did take-offs of popular songs like ‘Monster Mash’ and ‘Tom Dooley,’ and we spoofed many TV commercials and TV series. We did a take-off of ‘The Loretta Young Show’ called ‘The Forever Young Show.’ Miss Forever Young’s famous doors were stuck, and she couldn’t get them open to make her entrance. We even did a take-off of ‘Batman’ when the TV show was popular—only we had [Nashville restaurateur] Mario Ferrari dressed as Batman and speaking Italian!”
An instance when Bramming appeared on-camera as Dr. Lucifur during the comical breaks in the movie occurred in the autumn of 1960. At the same time that New York TV horror-movie host Zacherley was running for President of the United States, Dr. Lucifur ran for re-election to the presidency of Transylvania. Having held the office for the past two centuries, the arrogant aristocrat figured that he was a shoo-in for re-election. However, in a last-minute upset, Lucifur’s opponent Granny Gruesome was elected instead!
These and many other zany stunts catapulted WSIX-TV’s Shock Theater through the ratings belfry. “Between 1958 and 1962,” Bramming revealed, “we were rated number one in Nashville in that Friday- or Saturday-night timeslot. We beat the ‘Tonight’ show on NBC and whatever was on CBS. Shock Theater was a family show. The movies weren’t really scary, and there was never any blood and gore in the movies or in our segments. I insisted on that. We were there to have fun. I never received any bad mail from parents. Instead, I got letters from parents telling me how much they liked watching the show with their kids. There were things for the adults to like, such as the jazz background music of our segments. I used nice things that the adults and I dug by people like [guitarist] Wes Montgomery, the Paul Smith Trio, and the Dave Brubeck Quartet.”
Ken Bramming and his campy compatriots accomplished their live routines with a minimum of sets and props. Dr. Lucifur’s lamppost regularly reappeared as a set dressing for Bramming’s man-on-the-street interviews with Frantic Freddy, Mrs. Moshe Gumora, the Poor Slob, and other characters. “We often used fog for background,” Bramming continued. “The crew at WSIX made a dry-ice fog machine for us. When we did a take-off on ‘Tom Dooley,’ we went into the next studio, where the wrestling ring was, and used one corner of the ring for Tom Dooley’s gallows. But our best set was the Purple Grotto, a purple, cave-like flat with a door in it. The door had bloody handprints on it. One night, the whole Purple Grotto flat fell forward in the middle of our skit! We were live, so there was nothing we could do. That reminds me of another blooper. I often would do live commercials as myself, and one of our sponsors was a man named Fred Mabius, who installed glass shower enclosures. I was standing next to a four-sided shower enclosure [and] doing a commercial for it when the thing fell over and shattered into a million pieces. I looked at the camera and said, ‘Now, friends, if Fred Mabius had installed it, that wouldn’t have happened.’ We quickly went back to the movie after that because the crew was breaking up!
“Television was brand-new,” Bramming continued, “and we did some funny things.” Sadly, because all of Bramming’s skits were performed live, no films or tapes of them exist. The only footage of Bramming as Lucifur is the black-and-white, filmed “intro and outro.”
By 1967, although Shock Theater’s ratings were still good, both Ken Bramming and WSIX-TV felt that the Saturday-night show had run its course. Bramming left WSIX and took a radio-announcing job, but Dr. Lucifur and the Mystic Circle were back on the air in Music City just a year-and-a-half later. Between October 1968 and November 1969, Bramming, as Lucifur, hosted a weekend horror movie on WMCV-TV 17, an independent station. When Channel 17 threw a Halloween party for children in October 1968, Ken Bramming and Corky Savely were on hand as Lucifur and the mummy. This was Dr. Lucifur’s third personal appearance: during the WSIX days, Bramming had appeared in costume at two Nashville department stores. “And the kids climbed all over me!” Bramming laughed.
After his Lucifur years, Ken Bramming re-connected with his horror roots when he served as the pre-recorded announcer for Creature Feature, a Saturday-night horror movie telecast on WSM-TV 4 (NBC) in the early 1970s. The host of Creature Feature was Sir Cecil Creape (Russ McCown, who went on to play the Phantom of the Opry on The Nashville Network). Bramming’s unmistakable voice at the beginning of Creature Feature provided a link between the two horror hosts as did Sir Cecil’s occasional mentioning of his friend Dr. Lucifur, thereby acknowledging that Nashville’s horror hosts existed in the same universe. Bramming even made one on-camera appearance as Lucifur in an episode of Creature Feature, which each week was scripted by WSM weatherman Pat Sajak, years before he too became a noted TV host.
Dr. Lucifur’s latter-day radio incarnations in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s included his voicing a safe-driving public-service announcement for the Tennessee Department of Safety (“Don’t spill your blood on the highway!”) and his annual resurrection on Halloween to host a broadcast of Orson Welles’s 1938 War of the Worlds radio drama on WAMB-AM 1200, Nashville’s big-band/easy-listening station. Bramming was the mid-day announcer and program director at WAMB from 1979 until 1997.
The first annual World Horror Convention was held in Nashville in 1991, and both Ken Bramming and Russ McCown were there. The horror hosts appeared together in a panel discussion about their years as Dr. Lucifur and Sir Cecil Creape, and each man re-created his character’s distinctive laugh for the delighted audience. The horror-hosts panel was a once-in-a-lifetime event, for McCown died several years later—and Bramming, a lifelong smoker, succumbed to lung cancer in mid-1997. In the late 1990s and continuing to the present, Dr. Gangrene (Larry Underwood), Nashville’s next great horror host, began keeping Lucifur and Creape alive by mentioning them on his award-winning horror-movie show, Chiller Cinema, later renamed Creature Feature, and on his Internet website.
Despite the passing of Ken Bramming, the immortal Dr. Lucifur lived again on Nashville television on Thanksgiving night 2003 and 2004. In 2003, WKRN-TV 2 celebrated its fiftieth anniversary with a documentary, an all-day Thanksgiving cornucopia of classic TV shows, and a new edition of Shock Theater. That night at 10:30, Dr. Lucifur once again strolled up to the lamppost and welcomed viewers before Channel 2 showed The Brain That Wouldn’t Die. On Thanksgiving night 2004, Dr. Lucifur’s “intro and outro” began and ended a telecast of House on Haunted Hill.
In October 2006, the independent documentary film American Scary premiered at the Hollywood Film Festival. American Scary traced the rich history of mid-century TV horror hosts, from Zacherley, Ghoulardi, and Vampira to Dr. Lucifur, Sir Cecil Creape, and Dr. Gangrene, and it revealed how the horror-host legacy lives on today through public-access television, video and DVD, and Internet websites. Although his innovative live skits now exist only in the fond memories of long-ago viewers, Dr. Lucifur, Nashville TV’s tasteful Transylvanian, will live forever.
Tuesday, April 17
Filmmaker Ted V. Mikels had just finished shooting his follow up to his film THE SATRO ZOMBIES entitled MARK OF THE ASTRO ZOMBIES, so I called him up and interviewed him. Ted is a true one of a kind and one of the nicest guys you'll ever meet - click to enlarge...
For issue #50 of Scary Monsters Magazine I wrote an article spotlighting a fantastic new project I'd discovered on the internet. A filmmaker named Kirk Demarais made a short film called FLIP, the story of a young kid with a big imagination and a love of monsters. It was a real labor of love and a special movie. I was blown away. Kirk was just finishing the film and sent me a screener copy, and I immediately fell in love. I wanted to interview him and help spread the word about this terrific project.
Monday, April 16
In this issue of Scary Monsters Magazine I interviewed John Agar III, son of famous Hollowood actor John Agar, star of such films a THE BRAIN FROM PLANET AROUS, ATTACK OF THE PUPPET PEOPLE, and TARANTULA. Click to enlarge pages.
Sunday, April 15
Friday, April 13
In this issue I pay tribute to legendary Dayton, Ohio horror host Dr. Creep, aka Barry Hobart. At the time I wrote this Barry was sick in a coma at the hospital. I had heard from good freind and fellow horror host A. Ghastlee Ghoul that Barry probably wouldn't make it through, and thought I'd pay tribute by transcribing my interview with him from July, 2001. Long live the memory of Dr. Creep! Click to enlarge pages.
Thursday, April 12
In this issue of Scary Monsters Magazine I interview former Memphis TN horror host Mike Curtis, a.k.a. Count Basil. Mike has had a long and varied career in a number of fields - horror host, comic book writer, theater manager. He is currently writing the Dick Tracy comic strip. We discuss all this and much more. Click to enlarge pages.
Wednesday, April 11
I'm pretty sure this is my favorite Peter Cushing film - well, at least for today it is. It is definitely in my top ten. No I'm not talking about the Projected Man, the other half of this double feature, I'm talking about the one and only, mucho action, weird crawling terror, axe wielding sci-fi classic ISLAND OF TERROR. This one feels very much like a Hammer movie, though it's not. That is probably because it stars Cushing and is directed by the imitable Terrance Fisher. Definitely worth tracking down and definitely a movie worth a proper DVD release. click to enlarge this giant half-sheet
For issue #78 of Scary Monsters Magazine I spoke with actor Arch Hall Jr. about his film THE SADIST, in what is probably the most extensive interview ever with him about this particular film. Many fun and interesting, and quirky, facts were revealed during the course of our conversation - enjoy!
Tuesday, April 10
For issue #79 I interviewed the former Nashville horror host THE COUNT OF FIVE, played by Bob McGehee. It was a real pleasure to finally meet Bob face to face and discuss his hosting gig from back in the mid seventies. We drove over to the Channel 5 studio and revisited the site where he hosted many a horror film for the Middle TN audience. click pages to enlarge