February Reads: Eurocomix, Medieval Tragedy, and WWII Espionage

I have to say that GoodReads has been a great tool for me to get through some of the books I’ve been hoarding! There’s something to be said about the accountability of having a “Books I’m Reading” update glaring at me every time I log on. In addition to my podcast reads, here are a few titles that stood out for me this month.

Much as a I hate star ratings from a principled standpoint, they’re a good tool when seeking automated recommendations–sort of a way of saying “more like THIS, please.” I’m always going to default high when star-rating creative works in these kinds of online platforms, since my real approach is more of a “pass/fail” depending on what I’m looking to be entertained by at that specific moment.

The Nikopol TrilogyThe Nikopol Trilogy by Enki Bilal
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

By turns sardonic, mystical, romantic, witty, and violent, this lushly illustrated trio of stories builds an immersive fantasy-futurist vision that one won’t soon forget. Bilal seems to take a “more is more” approach, blending elements of espionage, mythology, film noir, surrealism, and meta-narrative into these stories. Each panel is exquisitely detailed, encouraging a pleasurably slow reading process. A spiritual cousin to The Incal but from a grimier, more pessimistic perspective.

Collection of ShaCollection of Sha by Pat Mills
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Completely over the top horror SF fantasy from the team that created Requiem Vampire Knight. This is very much a Heavy Metal title, with all the violence, acerbic satire, and weird sexual politics that implies. Ledroit’s visionary art style brings Mills’ dystopian occult revenge plot to life. This very much feels like a test run for the more immersive (and more outrageous) Requiem.

By Chance or ProvidenceBy Chance or Providence by Becky Cloonan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Becky Cloonan’s gifts as a visual storyteller are aptly demonstrated in this trio of short stories linked by themes of loss, heartbreak, and the cruelty of fate. The juxtaposition of her thoroughly modern visual style with the weighty supernatural tales she weaves creates an impact that lasts long after the final frame. There’s a restraint present here that focuses the attention on small gestures and facial expressions, making climactic moments land all that much harder. The added “Concept Sketches & Illustrations” are a welcome treat that allow the reader to linger in Cloonan’s medieval world a bit longer. Highly recommended.

In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's BerlinIn the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin by Erik Larson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The real joy of Larson’s narrative approach to writing about history is found in the small moments he captures. While the broad strokes of Hitler’s consolidation of power are known to virtually all readers with a passing interest in military and political history, Larson narrows the focus and depicts events as experienced by a very specific set of personalities. This is a book about romantic entanglements, over-dinner conversations, and personal diary confessions, all of which grow to have dire consequences in the charged, bloody, and tragic atmosphere in which they occur. Larson mentions the influence of Christopher Isherwood on the development of the book, and that’s an apt point of reference for potential readers. This is a real page-turner with two captivating, flawed American characters (scholarly Ambassador Dodd and his vivacious twenty-something daughter Martha) at its center.

View all my reviews

Bad Books for Bad People: Creatures of Will and Temper

There are a lot of things to be afraid of in the world: bees, nuclear annihilation, identity theft, having all your teeth fall out, and so on. To this non-comprehensive list, I’d like to add one of my personal fears: “contemporary reinterpretations of historical periods about which I know enough to be dangerous.” Molly Tanzer’s novel Creatures of Will and Temper falls into this category. What did I make of a playful reimagining of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray but with gender-bending, swordplay, and demons? Frankly, I found it to be quite a bit of fun!

Listen to the Podcast Here.

In Creatures of Will and Temper, Molly Tanzer takes elements of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray and crafts a story of romance, swordplay, and demonology. It’s an ambitious premise that goes beyond simply gender-swapping its source material. Listen and find out what Jack, a Wilde scholar, and Kate, a reader with a deep fear of contemporary takes on fin de siecle themes, think about this supernatural adventure.

Just how bent do genders get in this story? How much of the artistic process involves drinking, crying, and puking? Will these fencers ever get an opportunity to have some sexytimes? How do demons fit into the worldview of the Aesthetic movement? Find out all this and more in this month’s episode of Bad Books for Bad People.

NOTE: I want to personally apologize for mis-naming the lead character throughout this episode. Her name is “Dorina Gray,” not “Doriana Gray.” I made a typo in the show notes because I was thinking about Jess Franco’s Doriana Gray. I’m always kind of thinking about Jess Franco movies, really.

Bad Books for Bad People: Podcast and Additional Reading

Sometimes I sit here and reflect on how extremely fortunate I am to know smart people who agree to work on projects with me. It’s through some wonder of fate that I’ve managed to convince Jack Guignol to continue participating in Bad Books for Bad People, our two-person, twice-a-month book club disguised as a podcast. We had a blast with our two most recent episodes and if you enjoy the very bizarre side of vintage fiction, you should probably check these out.

Ray Russell’s Incubus is one of those books that comes up a lot in horror fiction circles. My pal Unkle Lancifer at Kindertrauma has discussed it, I endured the horrifying film adaptation of the book, and after Will Errickson recommended giving it a shot during our conversation with him, I took the plunge. Some time after the folksy doctor writes a “witty” editorial disparaging the use of the term “Ms.” and well before the magical properties of the hymeneal blood of nuns comes into play, I realized this book was something that Jack and I would need to discuss together. So we did, and it was the most fun (if perhaps a little scarring). Listen here.

I had another such “we have to cover this” experience when reading through the massive Big Book of Rogues and Villains, edited by Otto Penzler. It takes a very particular set of personality traits to chuckle at an anti-suffragette comedy involving phrenology and jewel theft, but I possess exactly those personality traits and felt the need to inflict the tale on Jack. We traded short stories in this mini episode, and I feel a little guilty that he sent me something sophisticated and intellectual when I presented him so proudly with my silly dustbin treasure. It’s the nature of our friendship, I guess. Listen here.

A little more about The Big Book of Rogues and Villains: I’m having the same experience reading this as when I read the Megapacks available for the Kindle. It’s terrific that anthologists are unearthing a lot of overlooked or “lost” pulp authors and I find myself tearing through these compilations when I get my hands on a new one. Every time, though, I experience the “too much of a good thing” moment where I begin to anticipate the shape of the stories within the first couple of paragraphs. At that point, I need to take a break and acknowledge that these stories are best consumed one at a time, interspersed between lengthier reads.  Essentially, I’m the dog that will eat itself sick on garbage, except the garbage is made up of trashy short stories.

During our recent Best of 2017 episode, Jack reminded me I should read Becky Cloonan’s By Chance or Providence, a compilation of three short stories in comics form that are not at all of the trashy variety. I sure am glad I remembered to read this, because each section packs an emotional wallop in remarkably few pages. I adore Cloonan’s artwork and got to meet her briefly at Roadburn last year where I was able to tell her how very much I love her work. It’s a wonderful experience to get a chance to tell artists that they’re making the world a more excellent place by putting their work out into it. But seriously–check out her work for a second and see how much atmosphere she captures in just one page:

Speaking of historical gothickry, Jack’s much-anticipated new role-playing book, Krevborna: A Gothic Blood Opera has just been released. Jack is a gifted writer and fantasist, and the book features beautiful art by Becky Munich and Michael Gibbons.  You can purchase your copy via Drive Thru RPG. Just check out that cover:

New Swag: Witch King Enamel Pins and Decadent Art Sticker Packs

Witch King Enamel Pin

Friends, I have leapt into the world of designing enamel pins! My first pin release is available now through the Heretical Sexts storefront and features my tribute to J.R.R. Tolkien’s Witch-King of Angmar. Measuring a (dare I say it) tasteful 1.5″ h by .75″ w and cast in black nickel with hard enamel finishing, this creepy ring wraith features glow-in-the-dark white details. I’m releasing a limited quantity through the online sale, and will have more available at my table at the upcoming Jersey City Oddities “Til Death Do Us Part 2” Market on Saturday February 10th , 2018 (definitely plan to attend–it takes place in a converted church space and so many great creators and oddities vendors will be there!).  Buy your pin online now! Free US shipping on all orders, all the time. Salome and Gilles de Rais stickers

I’ve also added a two-sticker pack featuring my brand new illustrations of decadent-era icons Salome and Gilles de Rais. A perfect choice for those who want to show the world that you’re literate and historically-minded while ALSO macabre and sensual, and really–doesn’t that describe you? Buy stickers online now! Free US shipping, every day.

A few pieces of original art remain in the online store, and I’m hard at work on new, original mini illustrations that will be for sale at Jersey City Oddities Market on February 10th at beautiful Cathedral Hall at 380 Montgomery Street in Downtown Jersey City. I’m planning on honoring the Valentines Day theme of the event with some artwork featuring appropriately romantic imagery. Of course there will be plentiful witches, vampires, and other assorted creeps, too, since I know you guys love this stuff as much as I do. Attendees will have first  crack at bringing their favorites home, so don’t miss the market!

Keep an eye on my Instagram for previews of upcoming swag and art for purchase.

Bad Books for Bad People Episode 7: The Incal

Click here to listen to the episode.

After failing in his quest to find financing for his 18- to 24-hour-long film version of Frank Herbert’s Dune, Chilean-French filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky (El Topo and Santa Sangre) partnered with French artist Moebius to create a science fiction graphic novel titled The Incal. This epic, first published between 1981 and 1988, takes its hapless hero John DiFool across strange galaxies while providing a platform for Jodorowsky to explore his esoteric ideas, which blend shamanism, the tarot, Freudian psychoanalysis, and theater. As you might gather, there’s a lot going on here.

Jack and Kate break down how Dune‘s DNA exists within The Incal even though its creators take the tale in a direction that’s far more madcap, alchemical, and… well, French.

Can a work of art succeed at being both serious and light-hearted at the same time? Why are women so goddamn allegorical? Is there such a thing as an unfilmable graphic novel? Who is Kill Wolfhead and why is he the best? Find out all this and more in this month’s episode of Bad Books for Bad People.

Bad Books for Bad People: Episode 6 – Alraune

Click here to listen to the podcast

Hanns Heinz Ewers’ 1911 novel Alraune is part horror, part science fiction, part decadent prose, and absolutely of the most extreme femme fatale stories ever written. Kate and Jack tackle Ewers’ complicated personal and political history and why this German author’s weird tales deserve to be read alongside the work of other horror luminaries.

Kate and Jack selfishly take on the role of readers this month, highlighting the author’s luridly beautiful writing.

Explore sexy funtimes dekadentenstil with bloodletting, gender bending, and attempts to scientifically identify the sluttiest woman in Berlin. What on earth is a German fencing fraternity? Why should we bring back dueling for satisfaction? How can reading out loud be an effective pathway to getting laid? Find out all this and more in this month’s episode of Bad Books for Bad People.

Bad Books for Bad People Episode 4: To the Devil a Daughter

The latest episode of Bad Books for Bad People features the 1953 occult adventure novel To The Devil a Daughter by British pulp author Dennis Wheatley. Come for the promise of a devil-possessed young lady, stay for the heroic interior decorator and many, many stops for cocktails and hearty meals! Charmingly stuffy, undeniably weird, and quite ludicrous indeed, this yarn tracks a mystery author and her interior decorator son who get enmeshed in an occult conspiracy when they delve too deeply into the life of mysterious young lady who becomes their neighbor on the French Riviera.

We’re joined by Kristen Korvette, the dynamic and wonderful founder and editor of Slutist, who reads a passage about black magic, gross monsters, and … Stalin.

Why does possession by the devil turn our imperiled heroine into someone vastly more awesome? Will a mutual hatred of taxes bring the novel’s heroes into an understanding with the villains? Are our hosts secretly Dennis Wheatley villains themselves? How is Stalin involved in this whole mess? Find out all this and more in this month’s episode of Bad Books for Bad People.

Bad Books for Bad People Episode 2: Image of the Beast and Blown by Philip José Farmer


We’re back with another episode of Bad Books for Bad People, in which Jack Guignol and I discuss Philip José Farmer’s one-two punch of Image of the Beast and Blown. These XXX science fiction/horror novels are some of the most bonkers books to come out of the already-bonkers 1960s. I described these books as “like the monster mash version of Bataille’s ‘Story of the Eye,'” but there’s an awful lot more going on here. Explicit sex, Lord Byron, aliens, and… Well, you’ll just have to listen to the podcast to find out the rest.

We got our most squeamish friend, man of mystery Baron XIII, to read an especially grotesque segment of Image of the Beast. He issues a seven-day drawing challenge in exchange for being emotionally tortured WARNING: Do not drink every time I say “werepig” or “vagina” or you will be one sloppy human being by the end of this podcast.

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Around the Web: Historical Heroine, German Decadent Black Metal, and Unfortunate Bigfoot Comics

It’s been another eventful month in the Empire as I march towards the Fall season. I’m putting the finishing touches on a new, limited edition, handmade book to be released by my Heretical Sexts imprint titled Morbid Fantasies: A Reader’s Guide to the Gothic. Not only is it a great primer in the genre, but it also features beautiful illustrations by several incredible artists. I’m hoping to have that out in October so stay tuned for more info!

Cover art by Becky Munich
Cover art by Becky Munich

Speaking of artistic endeavors, I’ve got work in the upcoming Occult Activity Book Vol. 2, created by S. Elizabeth and Becky Munich. I was working with ideas of occult couples, so I have two coloring pages featuring esoteric love matches, plus a papercraft Gilles de Rais. Look for his partner Joan of Arc to be offered free on this blog once the book is released. The first edition sold out super-quickly, so don’t miss your opportunity to own volume two. Pre-order your copy here!


On Slutist, I did something a bit different in August and talked about Artemisia Gentileschi, the Baroque-era Italian painter who overcame personal trauma to become a respected artist in her own right. Read her story here.


Did you know that Rob Zombie co-wrote a Bigfoot comic that’s full of implied rape? I personally prefer ecologically conscious Bigfoot over weird rapist Bigfoot, but hey, to each their own. Read my thoughts on this crazy disaster-mess on Nine Circles.


Decadent German black metal band Imperium Dekadenz draws inspiration from Tinto Brass’ Caligula, among other sources. Their lush, melodramatic, melodic record is a shoo-in for my best of 2016 list. Read my thoughts on their latest, Dis Manibvs, on Nine Circles.


Another historically-grounded metal album that moved me recently was Wrekmeister Harmonies’ Light Falls. It’s an emotionally harrowing journey inspired by Primo Levi’s holocaust memoir If This Is A Man as well as by band-leader JR Robinson’s strained relationship with his son. Not an easy listen, but a deeply rewarding one. Read my thoughts here.

Around the Web: Chick Comics, American Mysticism, So Much Doom, and More

It’s been entirely too long since I updated here, but y’all will hopefully forgive me when you see everything I’m up to.


The big news (such as anything can be termed “big news” in my world of esoteric nonsense) is that I’m launching a podcast with my trusted Heretical Sexts lieutenant J. Guignol. It’s called Bad Books for Bad People, and it will feature the most outrageous, shocking, shamefully fun books that we’ve enjoyed. Expect a variety of titles from a variety of time periods. Our first book is BleakWarrior, and Jack describes it as “”if SoulCalibur were a porno directed by Jodorowsky.”

Elsewhere, I’ve done bunches of stuff…


I’m continuing my Great Moments in Historical Sluttery column with two amazing women:


Semiramis, the Assyrian empress who has alternately been known as a warrior heroine, a vengeful lover, and a mother goddess


Marchesa Luisa Casati, the celebrated Italian heiress who dedicated her life to her eccentricities, becoming a living work of art

Heathen Harvest

I reviewed Violence Girl, punk pioneer Alice Bag’s captivating and wonderfully honest memoir of her childhood and youth in L.A.’s burgeoning punk scene.

The reiussue of Master of Mysteries: New Revelations on the Life of Manly Palmer Hall is fantastic, as is the book’s author, Louis Sahagun.

Nine Circles

Album Review: Cardinals Folly – Holocaust of Ecstasy and Freedom (one for the trad doom crowd)

Black Church, a metal-inspired comic I’d talked about on here a while back. Still waiting on that volume two…!

My favorite albums from the first half of 2016 (it’s been a good year)


The dangers of rock music in Spellbound?, a Chick Publications comic informed by the work of the same dude who assisted with Dark Dungeons.

I got to chat with Anders Manga of Bloody Hammers, my former editor over at Occult Rock Magazine. The new Bloody Hammers is a delightful occult/doom/goth-flavored offering that should be listened to posthaste.

Weird fiction scholar S.T. Joshi reading Clark Ashton Smith on limited edition vinyl? Sure, I’ll take that.


I liked the Myrkur live album, Mausoleum, that just came out.