Strange Animals / 2021 / #6: Senses

Laws / Type / Memory

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I have, as I declared on Twitter, decided upon two laws of horror:

  1. Horror is about encountering something that cannot be reasoned with.

  2. Any sufficiently incomprehensible science or magic is indistinguishable from horror.

  3. Corollary of Law 1: If it has the tropes of horror but can be reasoned with or reliably defeated, it’s not horror – it’s dark fantasy.

I haven’t backed this up with all that much research, other than a lifetime of intermittent horror reading, but I’ve been trying to articulate this for a while – boil it down to the essentials. Because it’s not the supernatural that defines horror, it’s not the tropes, and much as it might be the desired effect, it is not the fear.

(I do notice there are technically three laws listed here, but #3 definitely doesn’t function without #1, to the point of being, essentially, 1b.)

Dan Watters had an interesting comment on #3: “This was an interesting thing to navigate when [Sumit Kumar and I] did a Lovecraftian Atom story for Secrets of Sinister House; how to do that in the DCU, where the Justice League’s first villain was Starro, an essentially Lovecraftian being, who’s proven entirely punchable.”

#2 (after Clarke’s Laws) isn’t necessarily big enough to be the literal second law, it’s just an interesting thread I was chasing, since I’ve been reading a lot of post-Lovecraft cosmic horror. I wrote it down at the top of a story pitch, and decided, Alan Moore–like, that it was a True Statement.

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On sale this week, with my lettering:

Future State: Dark Detective #3, with a lead story by Mariko Tamaki, Dan Mora and Jordie Bellaire, lettered by me, and a “Grifters” back-up by Matthew Rosenberg, Carmine di Giandomenico and Jordie, lettered by Andworld Design. Edited by Paul Kaminski and David Wielgosz, published by DC Comics.

Home Sick Pilots #3, with Dan Watters, Caspar Wijngaard and Tom Muller, published by Image Comics.

Lost Soldiers, the collected edition, with Aleš Kot, Luca Casalanguida, Heather Marie Lawrence Moore and Tom Muller, published by Image Comics.

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In other news, I mentioned a few weeks ago that I was building some comics typefaces in collaboration with some very cool artists, and I put up a sneak peek of the first of these on Twitter, that I’m developing for the amazing artist Michael Walsh (Secret Avengers, The Vision, Black Hammer/Justice League). Michael has been hand-lettering his latest comics, and reached out to me to turn his lettering into a font. He talks here a bit about why.

Comics Bookcase has a new feature called Love of Letters, and the first edition is an interview with me. It was a delight talking to Ariel – we talked about how I approach the lettering process, including for specific projects, my collaborators and my inspirations. We had a free-ranging conversation, not all of which made it into the text piece, but you can listen to the audio as an episode of Ariel’s podcast Ride the Omnibus.

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This week’s reading:

  • Wet Hot American Summer – Christopher Hastings, Noah Hayes, Rebecca Nalty & Jim Campbell: Just found out this existed, and had to get it. It’s much better than one might expect – Hastings nails all the voices, and Hayes deserved to be way better-known for his facility with body language. You have to have watched the movie/series, though, otherwise it might just be incomprehensible.

  • Lucifer – Dan Watters, Sebastian & Max Fiumara, Dave McCaig, Steve Wands et al: I reread the whole thing since the final volume was just released. Frankly, I wouldn’t have trusted anyone but Dan to write Lucifer after Mike Carey’s run – this is smarter than the series has ever been, and the Fiumaras and McCaig are a revelation of a team, particularly when it comes to depicting the more abstract aspects of the visual storytelling. The final volume was released direct-to-collection, and I have a feeling the series might’ve had more buzz if it had released in singles. Nevertheless, one of my absolute favourite DC books in quite a long time – everything good about classic Vertigo, updated for 2020.

  • Attack of the 50-Foot Blockchain – David Gerard: Well-written, accessible and frequently hilarious history-cum-explanation of Bitcoin, blockchain and everything around it. Clarifies just how much human fallibility is involved in “trustless” technology. Goes a bit slack towards the end, with slightly too many details for the layperson to take, but the first half-to-three-quarters is just excellent.

  • The Dreaming – Si Spurrier, Bilquis Evely, Mat Lopes, Simon Bowland et al: Not quite what I expected. It’s a very enjoyable story, but it sort of sidesteps what a Sandman Universe story “should” be, and builds the Dreaming as an urban fantasy world instead, with the kind of worldbuilding that comes with that. A fun read, nevertheless, and Evely’s art is truly astonishing. She’s got a fan for life.

  • Adventureman Vol. 1: The End and Everything After – Matt Fraction, Terry Dodson, Rachel Dodson & Clayton Cowles: Enjoyable and atmospheric pulp. The artwork is great – lots of mood and scene-setting – though occasionally too cheesecakey for the context it’s in. Not sure I’ll pick up Vol. 2, but I had a good time with this.

  • Super Sons Vol. 1: When I Grow Up – Peter J. Tomasi, Jorge Jimenez, Alejandro Sanchez et al: Thoroughly fun superhero comics, though it exemplifies my main issue with monthly corporate comics – a lack of density, with a story that could’ve been told in half the length without losing much. The art is great, and it’s clear Jimenez is going to be a star.

  • Aquaman Vol. 1: Unspoken Water – Kelly Sue DeConnick, Robson Rocha, Daniel Henriques & Clayton Cowles: A thoroughly competent comic on all levels, but one that just didn’t spark with me. The kind of comic that I can imagine someone else loving, though, so don’t take that as a thumb-down.

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It’s been … a fine week, I suppose. But some weeks the outside world is particularly bleak, and it feels odd to tell yourself that things are okay on a personal level, or to even ask yourself if they are or not.

I used to listen to music almost obsessively from the age of about 14 to 22, and there was a hard break in my mid-20s – a traumatic one, I guess – after which my reactions to new music are far muted, with little of the passion and obsession of my younger years.

But, in the way some people have with smells, I have memory triggers associated with music from back then, when I had a soundtrack to my life. I’ll listen to a song and remember where I was sitting when I heard it, what I was looking at, who or what I was thinking about. I get the sense of moving curtains when Tom Waits blew my mind with Rain Dogs, thinking about a doomed crush while listening to “Mama, You Been On My Mind”, my dad passing me an awed look when the vocals kicked in on “Shine On You Crazy Diamond”.

Recently I’ve been listening to some of those songs, which feel like someone else’s favourites, and remembering another life.