Canaan Cult Revival: Demonic Comics for Occult Horror Die-hards

Canaan Cult RevivalOnce in a while, a project comes across my radar that screams “THIS IS FOR ME.” A combination of creepy, decadent, fantastical, and creative, this kind of project begs for my attention. One such project is Canaan Cult Revival, an anthology comic about demonolgy edited by Christian Sager, currently being crowd-funded via Kickstarter. Combining beautifully corrupt art by accomplished illustrators and writers, inspired in equal parts by classics of the horror genre (Hammer Films, “The Omen,” and “Suspiria” were all mentioned), heavy metal music (you talk about comics, Electric Wizard, and Wolves in the Throne Room and I WILL LISTEN TO YOU) , and psychedelic imagination, the book promises to be a work of terrifying imagination.

After successfully sketching out the right sigil and offering up the correct combination of sacrifices, I was able to summon Christian and several of the artists collaborating on CCR to answer a few of the questions I had about the project.

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Tenebrous Kate: Describe your ideal “Canaan Cult Revival” reader and the reaction you hope to elicit from this person.

Christian Sager: Our “target audience” for the magazine is definitely readers who are fans of horror or horror comics. But broader than that we would like the experience to genuinely disturb and scare our readers. Comics as a medium can’t rely on horror film tricks like spooky soundtracks or jump-scares, so in a formalist sense we’re interested in how comics can do horror better.

EC Steiner - Canaan Cult Revival
EC Steiner – Canaan Cult Revival – Click to enlarge

EC Steiner: I like to believe our ideal reader is some who appreciates both the effort that goes into the production of independent comics and the darker creations that exist on the fringe of the traditional comics community. With a project like CANAAN CULT REVIVAL, we’re able to take some risks, explore subject matter that steps far and away from a lot of the projects that bulk up the independent comics community, and work at a size that harkens back to the old days of CREEPY and EERIE. Our ideal reader is someone who’s excited by those elements of our project and wants to see more works like this produced.
Kelly Williams: I would hope that a wide range of people could find something they like in CCR. With so many different artists and styles there’s something for everyone.
I want it to creep people out. I want some of the ideas and visuals to stick with you afterwards. I want horror fans to enjoy the heck out of it.

Rafer Roberts: Horror fans, or people with even a little bit of interest in horror. My hope is that we’ve created something that will excite even the most jaded of horror fans.

Eraklis Petmezas: Well, I hope all readers of sequential art will find something in CCR. That said the ideal reader would be one that loved classic horror. The kind that would scare you, but also stay with you long after you read it. As someone who grew up in the late 70s and had my teenage rebellious years in the 80’s, I remember all the satanic cult hoopla. Heavy Metal Satanists scaring all the white bread parents. This book touches on many of those same emotions.

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Tenebrous Kate: What attracted you to the topic of demonology? What place do you feel this kind of Satanic subject matter has in today’s world?

Christian Sager: Demons and exorcisms were the thing that scared me the most growing up. I didn’t watch “The Exorcist” until I was in my mid-thirties. A lot of this has to do with my personal experience going to a Southern Baptist school where our Deacon filled our heads with stories of possession, fire and brimstone.

Two of the stories in CCR are based off that experience. One time I temporarily lost my vision from snow blindness. I was so indoctrinated into this Deacon’s stories I thought I’d been possessed. He also told us not to socialize with certain kids in school because he could “sense” the devil in them.

So in a lot of ways, CCR is cathartic for me to face that old fear. There’s a running theme in the stories of authority figures abusing their power that I think is important. I’m also fascinated by cults and the effect they have on an individual’s identity and dissatisfaction with the world.

EC Steiner: Demonology is fascinating to me. The painstaking codifications, the infernal encyclopedias of demon princes, the histories that have developed over centuries for each and every devil – they’re all part of a wonderfully complex mythology that continues to expand and transform as new projects reach into Hell’s legions to find a villain to torment their audiences.
The occult never quite falls out of fashion but it does have periods when it’s closer to the surface of the collective psychosphere. Right now, Satanism is having a terrific run across any number of media, because the occult has slipped back into the mainstream. It’s always fun to peer into the darkness, to flirt with the forbidden, and to wonder what might happen should you draw the circle on the floor and then stray out of it when you know you shouldn’t. As long as we hold onto our curiosity and wonder, there’s room for works that explore Satanism, demonic possession, conjuring, and the outer realms of the unknown.

Canaan Cult Revival - Kelly Williams
Canaan Cult Revival – Kelly Williams – Click to enlarge

Kelly Williams: I’m a HUGE fan of horror and metal. These are both things that have a long lasting relationship with demonology and Satanism. There are so many awesome visual representations of horror and monsters, demons, etc.

It all plays on our society’s oldest and darkest fears, fears born from the evils of man and how we choose to pass the buck and represent these things. Demons and hellish things are born of very human ideas. These dark things are a punishment for the weakness of sin, or more simply, being human.
I just find all of that so interesting and terrifying.

Rafer Roberts: I’m a fan of the old Hammer films and the way Christian described this anthology it seemed to have that feel. Modern entertainment has a tendency to be safe, and this comic is anything but safe. Sometimes people need some fucked up shit in their lives and this is the comic that will deliver that.

Eraklis Petmezas: Well, what attracted me to the project was Christian and the great line up of creators he enlisted to work on the book. I knew I wanted to share the pages with such an amazing group of artists. Three of my favorite horror films are The Exorcist, Angel Heart and the original Wickerman. Hearing Christian’s spiel I felt it had similar themes I could really enjoy drawing.

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Tenebrous Kate: What are some of your influences, both within the world of comics and in other forms of art/movies/music?

Christian Sager: CCR was influenced by 3 aspects of 1970s culture: horror movies, car culture and the beginnings of metal. So the tone of “Don’t Look Now,” “Suspiria” or “The Omen” definitely influenced my scripts. I also listened to a lot of metal while writing, from Sabbath to High on Fire and Electric Wizard.

EC Steiner: I keep circling around the works of Guy Davis, Vince Locke, Yasushi Nirasawa, Jun Suemi, Wayne Barlowe, and Harry Clarke. Lately, I’ve been devouring the photography of Nona Limmen and the illustrations of Takato Yamamoto. Musically, my playlist is heavy with the works of People Eaters and Wizards Tell Lies along with Esben and the Witch, Wolves in the Throne Room, and the soundtrack to “Byzantium.”Kelly Williams: It’s impossible to list in a way that does it justice. I watch an obscene amount of horror movies, good, bad, and ugly.

The artists that influence me grows more and more every day. I drew a lot of inspiration from everyone on this project. I’m a fan of everyone on this project.

Music is another one that listing is just impossible. I listen to a ton of different metal and punk I guess. I did listen to a ton of soundtracks while drawing this story though.

Canaan Cult Revival - Rafer Roberts - Click to enlarge
Canaan Cult Revival – Rafer Roberts – Click to enlarge

Rafer Roberts: I listened to a lot of Fantomas when drawing my story which set a nice tone. I generally fall somewhere in the middle of a Jack Kirby to Robert Crumb scale, so getting a chance to draw something a bit outside my normal style was a blast.

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Tenebrous Kate: What is your favorite demon (from traditional demonology, film, books or comics), and why?

Christian Sager: “Zagan” is a demon referenced in occult tomes like the Pseudomonarchia Daemonum and The Lesser Key of Solomon. He’s mentioned in Rich Barrett’s “The Bully Pulpit” and I want to use him in later CCR stories. He’s said to make men witty and can transmute metals and liquids. I want to eventually explore why demons want to influence the material world and Zagan seems like a great enticer to focus on.

EC Steiner: Sargatanas from Barlowe’s “Inferno.” Everything about that portrait painting – the pose, the anatomical design, the block of flesh, the hint of a hooked blade slipping out from beneath the folds of his cloak – is perfect.

Kelly Williams: I like all of the demons.

Rafer Roberts: I dig the First of the Fallen from Hellblazer. Other than that, any demon that doesn’t have a solid form, like they present themselves as a swarm of flies or speak through people or objects, those freak me out the most.

Canaan Cult Revival - Eraklis Petmezas
Canaan Cult Revival – Eraklis Petmezas – Click to enlarge

Eraklis Petmezas: That’s easy. Satan, Old Scratch the Devil himself. You don’t get a better villain then him. Ask Robert Johnson.

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Tenebrous Kate: Christian, how did you select the artists for CCR? What perspectives do you feel different artists have brought to the material?

Christian Sager: I mainly chose creators who I already had a friendly relationship with and seemed capable of leaning into the disturbing territory of the magazine. Working with eight artists simultaneously really provided a range of interpretation from my scripts too. For example, Rich Barrett paced my story with non-sequitur symbols of demonology that are far creepier than anything I devised, while guys like Rafer Roberts and Kelly Williams really let loose when I gave them something ghastly to illustrate.

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Tenebrous Kate: Artists, how did you approach the project, since it sounds like you were given free reign to be as gruesome/out-there/blasphemous as you wished to be?

EC Steiner: I was the only artist on the project who wrote and provided art for his own story. I pitched the idea to Christian with a rough draft of my script, and we discussed how the developments in my contribution to the anthology would play out in other stories and across the wider arc of future CCR projects. Christian provided some guidelines to stay within to make sure my ideas didn’t fall outside of his vision for the project, but I was not restrained in how far I wanted to go. In fact, looking at some of the other work that was ultimately completed, others went much further with their demonic explorations and grotesqueries than I did.

Kelly Williams: Well, I am a little jealous of some of these guys. My story is pretty short on the gore, heh. The story Christian and I did together is more of a “let’s tie everything together and make these stories hold hands with a larger narrative” type thing. I had a couple of awesome flashback type sequences that called for some craziness though, and that stuff was so much fun! I think Christian and I know what to expect from each other at this point (after working together on THE CABINET) and it made this story a lot of fun. I felt really comfortable just running with it!

Rafer Roberts: I tried for an old Warren horror style, like EERIE or CREEPY, but dialed up a few notches on the gory scale. Christian kept apologizing in the script for making me draw such awful visuals which I took as a challenge to make my story even more gruesome than I think he was expecting. I always show my comics to my wife when working on them and there is one visual that made her sick. For this project, I took that as an encouraging sign.

Eraklis Petmezas: Working with Christian was a blast. He sent me the pages with character description and I took it from there. Knowing the caliber of artists that were on the book I had to make my own blood pact to create these pages.

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Canaan Cult Revival is a project that I’m eager to see brought to life. The Kickstarter offers some generous incentives, including a papercraft ritual set by EC Steiner, digital copies of additional titles by contributing artists, and original art. Funding closes on Halloween, so don’t delay!

Who Is Turkish Spider-Man?

realspidermanSpider-Man is one of the most iconic superheroes in the US, a teenager who is bitten by a radioactive spider and is gifted with amazing agility and preternatural senses, using his new-found powers to fight crime. His masked, spandex-suited appearance is immediately recognizable, so it’s no surprise that the Spider-Man comic book character has been adapted for the screen. What’s weird about this is how frequently movie-makers get crucial aspects of Spider-Man wrong. Canon Films, at one point, was developing a Spider-Man movie in which a mad scientist named Dr. Zork creates an actual eight-legged mutant Spider-Man who has to fight other mutants.

japanesespidermanCrossing international waters created even weirder Spider-Mans. In Japan, Spider-Man gets his powers from an alien and pilots a giant robot named Leopardon, Italian Spider-Man has the powers to summon penguins to his defense, but he’s also created by an Australian comedy troupe, so I’m not sure he counts. But for my money, the best Spider-Man is Turkish Spider-Man.

Star of “3 Dev Adam,” the three mighty men, Turkish Spider-Man is an ultra-sadistic super-villain who is smuggling antiquities out of Turkey and producing counterfeit currency to unsettle the country’s economy and must be stopped by Turkish Captain America and Turkish El Santo. I have a whole theory about how this movie is really a metaphor for NATO, but I’ll save that for another post. I’ve composed a video that outlines my case for why Turkish Spider-Man is the best possible version of Spider-Man. I’ve made a video that outlines my argument:

Turkish Spider-Man: The Best Spider-Man? from Tenebrous Kate on Vimeo.

I’ll confess, I have thought quite a lot about why Turkish Spider-Man is evil. I researched traditions surrounding spiders in Turkey to see if they’re held with particular suspicion. This would explain why, upon seeing a spider-clad character, a Turkish screenwriter might automatically cast him as a villain. But there is no culturally-ingrained, special fear of spiders.

diabolikWhat IS a tradition in Turkey, though, is the character of the masked supercriminal. That character goes as far back as 1911, with the publication of the blockbuster crime novel Fantomas, the titular character of which spawned over forty books and whose dastardly deeds were filmed multiple times in Europe. In the 60s, Italian crime comics for adults, known as fumetti neri (or “black comics”) exploded onto the scene with characters like Diabolik, Kriminal, Infernal and Killing. The books were extremely controversial due to their over-the-top violent, sexual content. Interestingly, there are no corresponding superheroes in these books—they’re all about reveling in criminality, sadism, and frequent reasons to show naked female flesh. Here’s a terrific overview of fumetti neri by Paul Gravett if you’d like to further explore the topic.

But the connection goes further! The Killing character, also known as Sadistik, was earlier adapted to the Turkish screen in the Kilink film series (watch Kilink: Strip and Kill here; thank me later). So, while there’s no Turkish tradition of web-slinging teenagers in full body spandex suits, there’s absolutely a strong cultural precedent for savage criminal torturers in full body spandex suits. In fact, Kilink even fights Turkish Superman. So there you have it—Turkish Spider-Man may not have been nipped by a radioactive spider, but instead was born from a super-evil, bloodthirsty series of masked supervillains, and once again European adult comics artists have inadvertently managed to mess up Spider-Man related content.

Adapted from a presentation originally featured in Kevin Geeks Out: New York Comic Con 2014 Edition

October Events: Brides of Satan and Turkish Spider-Man

allofthemwitchesIt’s creepy season for the rest of the world* once again, which means it’s super-busy season for me! I’ve been invited to participate in two exciting variety show events that you should add to your calendars.

*It is always creepy season for me

I’m headed back to Kevin Geeks Out for a deeper dive into my favorite Turkish action movie, “3 Dev Adam.” I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about Turkish Spider-Man and the reasons why he’s portrayed as evil and I had AN EXTREMELY IMPORTANT ACADEMIC BREAKTHROUGH the other night in which I’ve come up with a compelling theory as to his nastiness. Come out to the Studio at Webster Hall on October 11 for the official New York Comic Con After-party Kevin Geeks Out presentation and have that knowledge crammed forcibly into your brain-areas. Buy tickets to the event here.

On October 13, I’ll be discussing Satanic witches on film and their savage, sexy rites during Bonnie & Maude’s “All of Them Witches” at the Bell House. The show is a spin-off of the terrific podcast by Kseniya Yarosh & Eleanor Kagan, a program to which you should all be listening (if you’re looking for a place to start, the Catwoman episode will change your life). It’s rare that I get invited to speak on true exploitation-cinema topics,** so I’m stoked to share some of my favorite witchy moments. Buy tickets to the event here.

**Showrunners seem to think people will get uncomfortable if forced to sit through a six-minute montage of nunsploitation movies in a dark room, surrounded by strangers, so that’s a thing that’s unlikely to happen.

ALSO: For those of you at Cinema Wasteland or Richmond Zine Fest on October 3, 4, and 5, copies of my zine My Dream Date with a Villain will be on sale through Tenebrous Friends. Visit Ultra Violent at Cinema Wasteland or*** I Love Bad Movies at Richmond Zine Fest and pick up a copy.

***If you are going to both events, you are bonkers because they are numerous hundreds of miles away from one another.

For those of you not con-going, you can purchase My Dream Date with a Villain in my online store here.