Wednesday, February 20

Singing the Cemetery Blues

I recently made the online acquaintance of a budding young comic book illustrator who has a terrific mini-series released through Image comics. His name is Thomas Boatwright, and together with writer Ryan Rubio they have created a delightfully dark and funny comedy called Cemetery Blues: The Haunting of Henseburg.

The title CEMETERY BLUES made me think of the song TOMBSTONE BLUES by Bob Dylan. There is no connection, apparently, as well as no connection to the song "Cemetery Blues" by legendary blues musician Sam Lightnin' Hopkins, who, by the way, has a statue erected in his honor in Austin and was named to their list of 100 most influential people. One of his guitars is inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, in Cleveland, Ohio, too. (Incidentally, before I became a horror host I tried my hand at publishing comics, and one of our early endeavors was a comic called Tombstone Blues. And yes, it WAS titled after the Dylan song – I just loved the title and insisted on it) - but I digress.

This is a 3 issue mini-series published by Image Comics through their Shadowline Imprint. The characters were first created for an anthology called Sequential Matinee that was self published by the duo for Free Comic Book Day. The two went to a local Office Depot, made copies, and handed them out free to customers at their local comic shop. They collected input, and of all the stories featured, Cemetery Blues was the best received – so they proceed to flush out the characters and develop them into a mini series.

The story features a bumbling pair of monster hunters named Ridley and Falstaff. They are an unlikely pair of heroes, as they would rather spend time drinking than tracking creatures of the night.

We first meet them on their way to a cemetery to dispose of a ghoul they have captured. Turns out they are under the employ of a ghost named Willhelm Lear, and there are hints that there may be dark reasons they are forced to help the spectre. Lear is on a quest to destroy a necromancer name Orlock, and is trapped on Earth until his work is finished. There are strange occurrences outside the village where this cemetery resides, and Ridley and Falstaff are employed by the local priest, and ordered by Lear, to help.

The story was actually inspired by a traditional English folk legend of Herne the Hunter, which involves a hunter who saves his king's life from a cornered deer but is mortally wounded in the process, and revived by a wizard. He eventually is framed for a crime he didn't commit and his body is found hanging from an oak tree, which supposedly resides at Windsor Castle in England. It is sometimes said that Herne is the physical manifestation of the Celtic horned god.

The creators of Cemetery Blues are fans of Hammer horror films and its influence shows up frequently in these stories. The artwork is a visual treat, presented in glorious black and white with a combination of ink washes and a touch of computer rendering, underused perfectly for maximum effect. The art has a cartoonish quality to it and an energetic line quality; if Thomas doesn't eventually work in animation I'll be greatly surprised.

The story has a modern flair yet retains several references to traditional fiction, such as the afore mentioned Legend of Herne the Hunter and the opening segment of book one, which is a nod to Dracula. Each issue gets better as Boatwright and Rubio grow accustomed to one another's creative styles and their characters. There is a great sense of humor in the stories and a playful style in the art that work well together. The story wraps up nicely in 3 issues and leaves plenty of room for future adventures.

I want to take a minute and applaud the Thomas and Ryan for the creative approach they took getting this book off the ground. I know firsthand how much work is involved in producing comic books, and it’s obvious these guys have put the time in. But to go to Office Depot and make their own copies to hand out on free comic day shows a tremendous amount of ingenuity and drive. Here’s three thumbs up guys, keep up the ghoul work!!

The first issue of Cemetery Blues is out right now. Check it out! In case you'd like to order this comic, and have trouble finding it, here are the Diamond order codes to help your local shop find the book:


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