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Secrets of Sinister House (Showcase Presents)
Secrets of Sinister House (Showcase Presents)
by Various.
Edition: Paperback

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars hard to fault these fantastic reissues, 12 April 2010
I had slight reservations about "Secrets of Sinister House " since I'd heard of its over reliance on 'romance themes', supposedly pitched at a half hearted attempt to attract a teenage female audience to the DC Horror titles.

Well, not to worry pulp horror fans -- it's all totally nuts out there psychedelic horror freakery of the highest order ! The first few stories are vaguely related to 'romantic themes' it's true, but after that, it sems that DC forgot about their 'commitment' to getting teenage girls interested, and went back to their same old deranged formula. ( There's no knowing of course, what these far out comics actually did to the newly initiated teenage female fans though.... One shudders to think...)

All the best Filipino talent is here ( Alcala, Nino, Ruben, Yandoc ) , along with some very heavy psychedelic pop art woodcut style contributions from the American artists. The scripts are totally deranged and psychotropic too. One wonders exactly what substances these humble scribes were ingesting whilst dreaming up these far out freak tales....

It just misses a five star review because some of the stories are over long in my opinion -- the opening "romantic" stories are worthwhile,sure -- but they drag on a bit, and seem a little half hearted and unconvincing at points.

Over all though, it's hard to fault these fantastic reissues -- As soon as I got my mitts on its glossy cover,perused the titles, and saw all my favourite Filipino artists listed, I knew it was going to be a great evening's read, and I wasn't disappointed.

So -- save the book for a rainy evening on your own : brew a pot of the best English tea, or better still, top up a glass of the finest, dim the bed side lamp, draw the bed covers tighter, get comfortable -- and enjoy the "Secrets of Sinister House" trip !

I really hope we get "Witching Hour" and "Ghosts" reissue volumes as soon as possible.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 16, 2010 2:47 PM GMT

Showcase Presents: House of Mystery 3 (Showcase Presents)
Showcase Presents: House of Mystery 3 (Showcase Presents)
by Greg Potter
Edition: Paperback

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Far out freak Cosmos!, 5 Feb. 2010
It's the best volume of the lot thus far -- looking at the DC horror series in context now, these comics were a significant departure from the EC formula, which had emphasised 1950's gangster 'culture' and a 'pulp fiction' detective approach,albeit within very gory stories.

Also, the Marvel stories in the horror format were typically far more 'socially relevant' than the DC universe, drawing attention to racial issues, 'black power', the Vietnam war and environmental issues ( 'Man thing' ) as well as introducing cosmic themes of loneliness and the existential state of man ( 'Silver Surfer'), as well as verging into the plain dopey and the cod mystical ( 'Dr. Strange').

The DC horror 'cosmos' for its part, never got the praise it deserved, and was roundly ignored as inferior, slap dash and derivative product.

The fanatics amongst us always knew that judgement was simply wrong. And these reissues prove the value of the DC horror comics, particularly in the stunning work of the Filipino artists and in the clever short story scripts, some of which are hokey it's true, but a number feature tersely intelligent plots that easily rival the most offbeat prose and narrative of the early 'Twilight Zone' or 'Alfred Hitchcock presents' series.

All the 'characters' are here in the bizarre DC Cosmos : Nazi officers on the run clash with wizards in an Algerian desert; mean spirited business men ( literally) fall into the painting of hell they have above their desks; greedy landlords exploiting the poor get stopped in their tracks by voodoo dolls; greedy nightclub owners and rock stars in flares and paisley scarves make a pact with satan, ancient sailors rise from their ocean tombs, and witches lure avaricious bachelors to their doom.

Take that trip !

Showcase Presents: House of Secrets (Showcase Presents)
Showcase Presents: House of Secrets (Showcase Presents)
by Gerry Conway
Edition: Paperback

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fairly good buy, 25 Jan. 2010
A fairly good buy, but it's flawed. I found it to be one of the weakest in the DC horror reissue series, but even so, the real fans amongst us will be mostly satisfied with it.

I will balance the 'highs' and the 'lows' of the book here :

True, there is definitely some filler here, some dross amongst the 'gems' -- Some of the stories here seem to date back to the early to mid 60's,and don't at all fit with the early 70's 'flavour' of the whole series.

True, the art is not consistently up to the standard of "House of Mysteries'" best moments. But rest assured, there are still some truly great artists here too, with very heavy woodcut /Roy Lichtenstein ( Whaaaamm! ) style art which you shouldn't miss. And, importantly, some of the stories do indeed, feature, Nino, Alcala and the other Fillipino artists who were at the top of their game in the early to mid 70's.

Final conclusion -- Volume Two in the series is better, but Volume One is still a pretty good reissue to keep the real fans amongst us satisfied.....until DC reissue the next in the series to feed our pulp comic book habit !

So -- Remember reading these comics, on a rainy afternoon alone, in Dad's study ( that smelt of pipe smoke), or huddled in your bed ,under freshly starched sheets, totally drawn into the sense of mystery in the art and stories ? The rain and thunder rumbles and trickles outside,as you feel the slight chill of the afternoon drawing to a close, the evening hues slowly darkening the skies.....

These reprints re create some of that magic.

King Tubby Meets The Aggrovators At Dub Station
King Tubby Meets The Aggrovators At Dub Station
Price: £45.09

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars There is not a single bad tune on the entire record, 24 Jan. 2010
Trojan have come up trumps for May and June with these new Gregory Isaacs and Tubby's re-issues.

So much incredible, good , bad and bland Tubby's music has flooded the market over the last ten to fifteen years,that it's hard to imagine there are many more rarities left -- but most of the versions included on this Tubby's/Mcook album haven't seen wider CD re release until now.

For those of you who love the mid to late 70's period Tubby's/Rockers/Bunny Lee, you are in for a real treat here -- The first tune "Creator of Dub" has also seen service on the Tappa Zukie "MPLA" album, and the cut here is explosive : classic Rockers.

The next rhythm track is also familiar, being a re cut to the Johnny Cash "Ring of Fire" horns refrain, a melody clearly very popular at the time as Don Drummond's earlier testament shows.

"Dub Station" is a huge cavernous affair, opening with a majestic horns refrain, before a fast paced snare and flying cymbals parry with jazz style rim shots in a furious dub, Tubby's turning the DNA of the rhythm inside out with tunnel like dub effects.

"King Tubby Dub" has a mid 70's disco influenced funk intro, before tearing into another tight, tubular Bunny Lee dub, with scouring cymbals. "Caretaker Dub" sounds like your speaker cones are coming unstuck or malfunctioning.

The original album featured 12 tracks -- the current Sanctuary re-issue adds another extra 12 thunderous cuts to the original issue, with dubs to Johnny Clarke's "Move outta Babylon" ( "Moving On" ), Upsetter rhythms from "Black Board Jungle" ( "Canon" ) and countless other tunes you will recognise.

So -- the serious , committed reggae collector will certainly know most of these rhythms very well -- but many of us will not have heard these specific cuts to these drum and bass lines. There is not a single bad tune on the entire record. It's an indispensable, perfect Tubby's/Bunny Lee purchase, featuring some of the most inspired cuts you are likely to hear of these very familiar mid to late 70's tunes.

Though there are no "freshly heard" or newly dug up rhythms here, to many of us reggae obsessives, this album may well be amongst the best dub reissues of the past three or four years.

The House of Mystery Vol. 2 (Showcase Presents (Paperback))
The House of Mystery Vol. 2 (Showcase Presents (Paperback))
by Len Wein
Edition: Paperback

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You will be transported back ( mentally at least ! Though who knows??? ), 24 Jan. 2010
I was captivated and enthralled by these comics when I was a child -- adults always felt that comics were awful, a distraction from "real" books, from "real" reading.

However, for many of us, these books actually led us to creative writing, and good literature -- these comics led me directly to Ray Bradbury, John Whyndam, M.R. James and countless other quality authors. Later, these kinds of stories led me onto the likes of Chekov.

Of course, reading these comics some 30 years later, they don't have the same enthralling sense of the magical -- but one can appreciate them in other ways. One feels transported back to that time of naivety, when the stories were like a world complete, a space complete unto itself.

The other point to mention is the extraordinary, quality artwork by unsung greats such as Redondo, Nino, Alcala and others , most of whom were from The Philippines.

Get "House of Mystery" as soon as possible if you were a fan of the genre back in the 60's and 70's -- and at the price, how could you go wrong? You will be transported back ( mentally at least ! Though who knows??? ) to the time when you huddled alone under the bed covers, or read alone in a quiet room on a rainy afternoon, enchanted by these odd, weird tales.

A real trip then, back into time of childhood -- a time of naivety, creativity and wonder.

Super Ape/Return Of Super Ape/Roast Fish And Cornbread
Super Ape/Return Of Super Ape/Roast Fish And Cornbread
Offered by uniqueplace-uk
Price: £10.66

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars essential purchase in my view, 24 Jan. 2010
There has already been a lot of controversy about the Trojan re release of these three classic Black Ark albums -- is there really much difference from the Island version and other label releases? Was there much point at all in reissuing these three records? Why bother re buying it? What's all the fuss about anyway?

Well, there are three albums compiled here -- in the case of the first album, "Super Ape", the hype has been that Trojan have dug up the "original JA mixes". After repeated listenings, it has to be said, it is hard to tell the difference. But, the bass seems to have been mastered to create a different impression from the Island versions. The Trojan versions seem, harsher, heavier,more punchy and booming, whilst the Island versions sound cleaner , smoother somehow. Also, the track ordering is different, faithful to Scratch's original conception of how the record should be heard.

The Trojan version of the second album "Return of the Super Ape" however, is so immediately obviously far superior to earlier releases -- I have had the album on a number of different presses -- which all sounded horrible, due to off centre pressings, which was nothing short of an insult to the buyer, rendering half the record unplayable. The "hiss" levels were also intolerable on some earlier versions of the record.

In contrast, the Trojan version sounds, not perfect, but pretty good -- and it's a particular pleasure to hear the title track in all its ambience and surreality.

The total hands down winning point of the record is in the inclusion of one of the strangest Upsetter tunes you are likely to hear -- Apparently unreleased before now, "Ok Corral" is a harsh cut to "Return of the Super Ape's" title track, but with sax and echo edited out, leaving the bass line and percussion to dominate, smashing bottles and rattling chains providing a bizarre undercurrent ambience. U Roy mixes an Old Testament narrative with his own take on spaghetti Western vengeance themes to create a wild poetry. It's worth noting here that U Roy's approach here is nothing like the URoy chat scat style we are typically used to, but instead a harsh, spoken style. it is reminiscent to his earlier tune for Scratch, "Rightful Ruler" though it's a far darker narrative and metaphor. The track has been a favourite to some of us for around 25 years -- so it's a real rush to hear,contemplate and treasure a new version.

That U Roy track alone is easily worth the entire album's cost in my view -- but on top of that, also added here are four very heavy cuts to Clyve Hilton's "From Creation." These four cuts are probably drawn from a dub plate, perhaps from a London sound system source, though their origin is not made clear.

Of course, many of you will have been listening to these albums for about 30 years -- but the Trojan reissues make for a pretty essential purchase in my view, due to the new mastering and the addition of the five or six new mixes.

Essential Man-Thing vol. 1 (Marvel Comics)
Essential Man-Thing vol. 1 (Marvel Comics)
by John Buscema
Edition: Paperback

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars an existential, anarchic,nihilist-naive, neo primitivist landscape, 24 Jan. 2010
The comic starts off slowly, repetitively, but soon flowers into an existential, anarchic,nihilist-naive, neo primitivist landscape, which prefigures and pre empts and "pre imagines" Charles Burns "Black Hole" and aspects of Alan Moore by decades.

The action takes place in a swamp -- a secluded place, a dank,, threatening, yet pure place, untouched by the corruption of man -- yet it's a place constantly under threat from corrupt, violent men,pushing at its ( mental and physical/psychical ) edges and boundaries.

However, the swamp is protected by the pure of heart, Man Thing -- the beast is a being who instinctively despises corruption, the concept of "might makes right" thuggery and the bully. In other words, a very modern comic figure !!

The art is great too, with lots of good character profiles of 70's hippies, anarchist bikers, draft dodgers, homophobic hard hats, 1950's rockabilly gangs,hippy chicks and eccentric professors.

Get ready to take the man thing trip, from the swamps to the edge of the stratosphere out to the edges of your dreams, blurring waking and sleeping consciousness!

Great stuff, from a somewhat dull start on to a great set of tales : If you are into existential,lonely central figures and very "post modern", apocalyptic themes,expressing a deep mistrust of modern society, then you'll love Man Thing. I can't believe he was left behind and taken over by Swamp Thing and "Black Hole" ! Man Thing deserves a far higher profile and respect in the comics world.

Wolf Solent (Penguin Modern Classics)
Wolf Solent (Penguin Modern Classics)
by John Cowper Powys
Edition: Paperback
Price: £14.99

20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Hmmm....another take on the book, 24 Jan. 2010
I will balance the other great reviews here with another take on the book.

I found the book to be very heavy going.

Admittedly, the author clearly has a powerful sense of the spiritual, conveying significant insight into the mystical connections between humans, animals and nature. I was very moved by that aspect of the book,with much of his 'cosmic' insight reminding the reader of Mircea Eliade.

However, much of the narrative and prose is stodgy and turgid, requiring a great deal of patience to bear with. Aspects of the story are plain boring, and I found it very difficult to get involved with,and to sympathise and empathise with any of the characters.

Also, much of the book focuses on sexuality,the facing and acknowledging of sexual impulses and the subsequent understanding of the self. Whilst many of these issues must have been of some radical urgency and relevance when the book was written, it's difficult to relate to them, or consider them as compelling or even relevant themes now.

I found it very difficult to wade through an often remarkably dull and parochial story.There are some valuable and deeply original insights to be found in the book, but those 'gems' are covered up by page upon page of an often dull writing style, punctuated in places by a deeply powerful and transcendent style.

That contrast between the beautiful, the uplifting and the banal is the paradox,contradiction, and ultimately, the annoying aspect of Cowper Powys.

Some reviewers have commented that it is surprising that Cowper Powys hasn't been praised as one of the greatest authors of the century,with some even comparing him to Tolstoy : but to be honest, after wading through his work, I am not surprised that some have found him to be frustrating.
Comment Comments (6) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 10, 2012 10:53 PM BST

Showcase Presents: House of Secrets v. 2
Showcase Presents: House of Secrets v. 2
by Gerry Conway
Edition: Paperback

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It's a significant improvement on the patchy quality of Volume One., 24 Jan. 2010
It's a significant improvement on the patchy quality of Volume One.

All the Philippine artists are here, and it's amazing they have never really got the credit they deserve -- their work is eerie,dreamlike and deeply imaginative.

All the familiar 'typical DC horror' characters are here in the stories : homophobic construction workers beat up on suede jacketed , pendant and headband wearing hippies into the occult; leather jacketed and mean rockabilly gangs find themselves clashing with weirdo priests in Brooklyn ghettos; greedy businessmen make their deals with the devil, and lonely post war European immigrants sell black magic books to arrogant bohemian artists and beat poets; anarchist biker gangs find themselves locked in battles to the death with jealous ghosts in haunted mansions; and mad professors fall in love with hippy chicks whilst chasing Babylonian devils around pentagrams --

Yes, they are all here in the far out freak world that DC established in the mid 70's, all of which will take you back to the days you pored over these volumes whilst listening to your big brother's scratchy Black Sabbath records on a beat up mono record player during long, rainy afternoons.

Sure, some of the stories are pretty corny and naive; sure some of the stories let you down, and more than a few have hokey plots and rubbish endings, and sure some of it is a rush job -- but none of that really detracts from the real charm and magical quality of these reprints.

For those of us who grew up with these atmospheric,eccentric , 'transformative' texts in the 70's, the DC reissue program is welcome.

Many of us look forward to more of these pulp horror books on the market, especially featuring the work of the unique Filipino artists, who surely deserve their own full colour volume.

"Galactic Ramble"
"Galactic Ramble"
by Richard Morton-Jack
Edition: Paperback

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One for all the freaks, total music heads, mystics, recluses and weirdos everywhere -- a great esoteric read., 6 May 2009
This review is from: "Galactic Ramble" (Paperback)
I got a promo copy from the publishing company, hot off the presses --

It's a very good book. Unlike lots of rock books that go in for badly written hagiographies and pointless, silly mythologising of the records/artists, these authors write very well, with a great narrative and prose style.

If you are into garage freak rock it's a great read -- I have been a follower of underground rock for over thirty years, and there are loads of artists I have never, ever heard of here : clearly, these authors have been going through far flung cobweb covered bargain bins, dusty basement record shacks in obscure corners of our globe, collecter's meets and other such mystical Gnostic sources, to bring us their selection.

I didn't agree with all the assesement of who was, and who wasn't important in each sub genre, but over all, it's an engrossing and instructive read.

One for all the freaks, total music heads, mystics, recluses and weirdos everywhere -- a great esoteric read.

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