Saturday

CROSSED: WISH YOU WERE HERE


Crossed, originally created by Garth Ennis and Jacen Burrows, is a divisive comic. For purist zombie fans, it breaks too many of the rules, what with the titular monsters being able to run, talk, rape and reason (up to a point). For the squeamish and the politically over-sensitive, the relentless focus on the aforementioned rape, dismemberment and murder is exploitative: a cheap, schlock-horror trick which insults its audience's intelligence.

However, even with Ennis, and the scribes who followed him into the world of the Crossed, pushing the violence up to eleven, it is hard to deny the power of the series - in Ennis' first run, the tight focus on group dynamics and the ruthless survivalist mentality portrayed was chilling and devastatingly effective. Lapham's run was brutal and sadistic, with more overt potential for interpretation as misogynyst fantasy, but it played cleverly with the notion of the survivor-as-hero. As yet, I've yet to read the latest Ennis run, in the ongoing Crossed: Badlands, but one thing is clear - the Crossed are here to stay.

Perhaps my favourite non-Ennis incarnation of the Crossed is the free webcomic written by Si Spurrier, and illustrated by Javier Barreno and Gary Erskine: Crossed: Wish You Were Here. Spurrier has set his story in the Orkney islands, telling the tale of a small group of survivors stuck in an island fortress, how they reached this sanctuary, and how they defend it. Spurrier manages to capture the boredom, the frustration and the creeping horror of life surrounded by the Crossed, and by keeping his band of survivors stationary, he manages to deliver a real depth of character in both our narrator, Shaky (short for Shakespeare) and the accompanying cast. What's more, as this story is being delivered, Freakangels-style, once a week on the internet, Spurrier can afford to take his time with the narrative - there is no sense that the story is hurtling towards a violent climax any time soon.

Furthermore, Barreno's layouts are absolutely perfect for reading on a computer screen. rather than reproduce the comics-page format, he and Spurrier have developed a letterbox-style orientation and panel flow that really works. The fine detail in the violence (check the lovingly depicted dolphin abuse on page 3 of the first chapter) is artfully depicted by Barreno and fleshed out by the consummate talent of Erskine, and the washed-out tones of the landscape and characters contrast with some nice red krovvy, courtesy of colourist Juanmar. The result is a very satisfying, often hilarious, and curiously meditative take on the Crossed 'verse; perhaps the most accessible outing in that landscape since Ennis created the series.

Read the webcomic every Thursday, but also be sure to check out the first trade paperback collection, available in all good comic shops now. It will be interesting to see how the innovative panel layouts translate to book form, but even if they are more naturally suited to the web, the whole creative team should be applauded for their ability to tailor this product for its intended audience and marketplace. Crossed: Wish You Were Here is fast becoming an unmissable touchstone of quality in the webcomics world.

Monday

SLEIGHT OF MIND: THE TRADE OF KINGS

 The second article from our regular political commentator, K. Patrick Glover, author of A Wicked Little Town. Comments are encouraged! If you missed the introductory essay to SLEIGHT OF MIND, click here to read it in full.

I sat and watched a couple of weeks ago as the typical parade of Memorial Day programming filled nearly every channel on U.S. TV. War movies, new and old, documentaries on D-Day and the Battle of The Bulge, news coverage of the various celebrations and ceremonies going on across the country.

It’s easy to view the men who fought in World War II as heroes. Everything was so black and white, the Germans and the Japanese almost cartoon like in their villainy. No shades of grey need apply.

In other wars and conflicts, things aren’t always so clear. It can be hard to see these brave young men and women as heroes and not as victims. Victims of politicians and industrialists who have manipulated and lied to them. They believe that they are fighting for our freedom, but that belief is Quixotic in nature. What they are really fighting is the ghost of the Soviet Union.

The evil empire. Although it’s hard to find someone who can tell you just how they were evil. What they had done to become our enemy. With the Nazis it was easy, they wanted to conquer the world. The Soviets?  They were different. They didn’t believe what we did, they had different thoughts on economic issues. They thought we were decadent.

And if radical Islam is the current boogeyman, well, it’s a boogeyman of our own making. One put into place by decades of interventionist policies and an out-of-control intelligence agency.

It’s thought by many that behind every action we’ve taken in the region is a motive drenched in the lust for oil. And oil does play its part. By the end of the second World War, Roosevelt had become convinced that the region was of the utmost strategic importance in what would become the Cold War and he and the British Ambassador to the region signed an agreement dividing up all of the area’s petroleum exports.

His major concern was not securing the oil, it was preventing the Soviets from getting it. That fear of the Soviets gaining any advantage over us drove nearly every decision we made in the region for decades. And nearly every decision was a catastrophic mistake.

The first known instance of U.S. manipulation in the region was in the spring of 1949, when the C.I.A. helped to overthrow the Parliamentary Democracy in Syria, leaving a dictatorship headed by former military Colonel Husni al-Za'im in its place. Little is known about why the C.I.A. got involved in this particular power struggle, but it is worth considering that Syria had been heavily involved in trying to prevent the formation of Israel just two years previously, and that Husni al-Za'im had been on the front lines of that conflict. The coup set up a pattern of instability in the country and Syria’s government was overthrown twice more in the same year.

It also set the pattern for U.S. Involvement in the Middle East. In 1953, at the request of Great Britain, the C.I.A. began Operation Ajax, a plan that concluded with the overthrow of a democratically elected government and cemented the Shah’s power for decades to come. Britain’s interest, at the time, was oil, specifically the nationalization of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company. The U.S. was interested, mainly, in preventing the spread of Soviet influence.

In 1956 international relations with Egypt started to fall apart. In spite of existing relationships with the U.S. and Britain, Egypt began forming ties with the Soviets and China. Britain and the U.S. withdrew from an agreement to fund the building of the Aswan Dam and in response, Egypt nationalized the Suez Canal.

A military standoff between Egypt and England, France, and Israel ensued. For political reasons, the U.S. was forced to side with Egypt and tensions backed off. Still unhappy with Egypt’s budding relationship with the Soviets, which now included arms deals, President Eisenhower set forth what would become known as the Eisenhower Doctrine, a policy designed to contain Soviet Expansion.

It also gave the President the authority to use military force in the Middle East without going through congress. Sound familiar?

In 1963, The U.S. supported an overthrow of the government in Iraq. Why? Ties to the Soviet Union. Like Syria before it, Iraq became much more unstable, leading to more coups and eventually to the rise of Saddam Hussein, who immediately formed strong ties with the Soviets.

Then we have Afghanistan which, in 1978, was a very different place than the Afghanistan of today. Although rife with internal struggles, the country was under the control of a democratic government, the PDPA. A government that favored equal rights and strong education for men and women alike, a government that supported unions and the separation of church and state, and one that pushed an agenda that included radical land reform, a position that was not popular among the wealthy land barons.

The PDPA also had strong ties to the Soviet Union.

In a move designed to prevent the Soviets from gaining too strong a foothold in the region, the U.S. once again turned to manipulation, encouraging the wealthy land owners to rebel against the PDPA, ostensibly because they were governing against the principles of Islam. The C.I.A., along with its British allies in M.I.6, began working with the mujahadeen forces, training and arming them.

When the PDPA government fell, due to its own internal struggles, the Soviets invaded, stepping into the vacuum left by the PDPA. The C.I.A. began Operation Cyclone, using radical Islamic forces to fight the spread of Soviet influence.

Let me repeat that, because it seems important.

The C.I.A. used radical Islamic forces to fight the spread of Soviet influence. They trained them, they organized them, they armed them. They created their own future boogeyman.

It should be noted at this point that among those radical Islamic forces that the U.S. trained, organized, and armed was a young Osama bin Laden.

Other major conflicts in the region, ones that weren’t instigated by the U.S., still often led to stand offs between the U.S. and the Soviets. Black September in Jordan, the Iran-Iraq War. The spectre of the Cold War loomed large over everything.

By the time the Cold War ended and the Soviet Union had fallen, the damage was done. The U.S. had spent decades using the people in the Middle East as if they were no more than pieces on a chess board. It wasn’t something the people of those countries were going to easily forgive.

We have been told, over and over, in this country, by simplistic politicians and pundits that men like bin Laden hate us for our freedom. That the events of 9/11 happened because they hate us for our freedom. It’s been repeated like a mantra from those in power and those in the media and it’s a damn lie.

They hate us for what we’ve done.

It doesn’t excuse the things they’ve done in retaliation. Nothing could excuse the horrors of that fateful day in September. But to bury our heads in the sand and tell ourselves comforting lies about why it happened can only lead to the same mistakes being made again.

Some of you reading this, enlightened audience that you are, may already be familiar with some of the events that I described. A few may even have known everything contained herein. All the details are readily available on the internet, you just have to look. The fact that every citizen in the U.S. and the U.K. doesn’t know this is a crime and the media should be held to account.

Every time someone uses the phrase “they hate us for our freedom” and goes unchallenged a little bit of the truth dies. That’s a crime I can never forgive.

Until next time,

K. Patrick Glover


NEW SERIAL: CHOSEN

Those of you who want some visceral, grindhouse vampire-slaying action, listen up! New contributor Josh McGraw brings the ruckus with a new longform story entitled "Chosen".

I'm in the alley and I see the scumbag leaned up against the wall, trapping the girl against it.

"Hey." No reaction. Shocker. "Hey fuckstick!"

He turns to me, dripping blood from his fangs - his fangs - and I realize I may be a little out of my league here. "Beat it, asshole," he spits at me. READ SERIAL: "CHOSEN" NOW!

Saturday

DARK MOTHER / BAKU SHAD-DO OPPORTUNITY FOR VIDEO PITCHES


The new album by witch house / dark electronic act DARK MOTHER has just been released by the BAKU SHAD-DO netlabel. ANDA is a fevered, emotionally intense, beautiful and pitch black album, with harrowing, epic vocals and layered, densely textured electronics.

To quote the label's press for the band: "Dark Mother makes dream pop out of nightmares. Crass and corrosive, yet hypnotic at the same time; the duo fit in perfectly with the musical boundaries pushed by groups like Crystal Castles and CRIM3S. There's definitely something else going on here though. Trap infused snare rolls and a voice at times possessed by Julee Cruise and at other times unleashing an inner banshee, Dark Mother manage to carve their own signature in an arena congested with imitation."

The label's head honcho Mikey Shad-Do is interested in putting together short, ideas-led, visually inventive videos for each track on the album, and he is looking to take pitches and scripts from writers, directors, cinematographers and digital artists. If you're interested in getting involved with a great underground label and a fantastic new band, and seeing your ideas become part of the DARK MOTHER ouevre, contact baku.shad.do@gmail.com with a pitch!

Stream the album here, or buy from BAKU SHAD-DO:
  NB. This opportunity is entirely presented, handled and co-ordinated by Baku-Shad-Do: we at Weaponizer are not able to answer enquiries about the opportunity, or to provide many details outside the scope of this post. If you have any questions, please contact Baku Shad-Do on the address above.Thanks and good luck!

FICTION: DEVILS AND DUST

 Occasionally an editor makes mistakes. In this case, my apologies are directed towards regular Weaponizer scribe and blog columnist K. PATRICK GLOVER, whose tough, hard-bitten Western tale 'Devils and Dust' is one of the stories which appears in the first issue of Weaponizer magazine. I asked K-Pat to do some revisions for me before we went to print, but due to my own stupidity, managed to print the version without the revisions. The revisions were minor and cosmetic, but by way of apology for putting him through his paces and then not updating the story in the final print mag, I've elected to reprint the authoritative, revised version here on the site. So today, you get a special treat - those of you who have read the story once already can marvel at the final version. For those of you who haven't yet bought a copy of the magazine, this serves as a great teaser, showing how much hard work has gone into every story and every piece of art in our debut issue. If you like this story, you'll LOVE the rest of the mag... so try, and then buy!

Would I have come to Epitaph if I had known what would happen on that day? If I could somehow have glimpsed into the future and seen the cloud of death and despair? I think, even knowing the price I would pay, that I would have. But there was no hint on that hot summer day of what was to come. No foreshadowing. That was the stuff of fiction, of dusty dime novels full of melodrama and gun smoke. Real life didn’t work that way, at least not in my experience ...READ FICTION: 'DEVILS & DUST' NOW!

'Devils and Dust' features art by Sascha Duis, all rights reserved. Originally published in Weaponizer Magazine Issue #1, available now from WEAPONIZER PRESS. Stockists: Plan B Books, Aye Aye Books, Good Press Gallery, Deadhead Comics, Transreal Fiction, Word Power Books, Pulp Fiction, and No Alibis.

ORDER ONLINE - UK & EUROPE

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Wednesday

FICTION: FORGOTTEN

Another new Weaponeer, Michael Chu, comes to us wit a lovely thing called FORGOTTEN, in which two men seek magic to ease their regrets; one seeks to forget, while one must always remember.

It was stupid of me to say yes. I knew from the moment he asked that the right answer was no. Magic is hard to perform on the living, and hardest to perform on people. The mind is the single most complex part of the human body, and memory the most complex part of the mind. The amount of energy required is enormous, and the chance for failure is high for even the most experienced practitioners. I was nothing more than a novice teenager nursing a desperate crush, and I should have walked away. But it was the first time he had ever said anything much beyond a cursory ‘hello’ to me, and in my heart I knew that if I turned him down, he would never talk to me again. So I agreed to his request. It was the greatest mistake of my life.

READ FICTION: "FORGOTTEN" NOW!

Monday

FLASHFIC: TATTERED MEMORIES

Here's a poignant little elegy from new Contributor Shanon A Greeley; it is our hope that she supplies us with much, much more fiction of this calibre. In TATTERED MEMORIES, a Rubicon is reached, though the road leading to its lonely shore is hard.


Closing her heavy eyelids she saw where she needed to be, where she desperately wanted to be. Moss, soft and moist, painted the rocks. Tulips danced around her delicate legs, whipping to and fro in the wind, tangling with the tall grass. Skirt pulled up to knees she ran through the meadow. Soft earth greeting each step she took. Turning in circles, hands hitting the tops of bearded barley, she could feel the turmoil melting from her body leaving a trail of fall flowers behind her...READ FLASH FICTION: TATTERED MEMORIES NOW!

Friday

BUY ORIGINAL WEAPONIZER ART BY DMITRI ARBACAUSKAS

This stunning image, from issue 1 of Weaponizer Magazine, is the illustration accompanying C. Brian Hickey's story 'The Book Of False Memories.' Now available as a print for just $19.99, with all the money going direct to the artists, this fantastic image is in full-colour, and is a maarvellous introduction to the work of talented illustrator and creator of mysterious objets d'art, Dmitri Arbacauskus, aka Winneganfake, the brains behind Tormented Artifacts, producers of the sought-after Windrow-Ravesnwood Deck.

BUY NOW!

COMING SOON: WIN THE COVER ART FROM WEAPONIZER MAGAZINE ISSUE 1!

SERIAL: STILETTO EYE & RAZORGUT AND THE LYCANTHRO-COP BITERS

Dwayne Coltrane and the Hyperdeathpsychorock Three joined the Weaponizer fold in 2009, and nothing has ever been the same again. This collective of Voodoo-obsessed, devil-posessed zombie blues musicians, hailing from the swamps of Innsmouth, educated at Miskatonic University, and initimately involved in the musical careers of Screamin' Jay Hawkins, Johnny Thunders and Jessie J, have given us their greatest, most terrifying creation, their magnum opus: the adventures of StillettoEye & RazorGut. In their trusty black '55 Cadillac, these two fearless explorers of the unknown and experts in the field of applied quantum chesseburgerism and dimensional fold-space milkshake tectonics have faced sea monsters, hellspawn, pirates and Egyptian gods, to name just a few. In this, perhaps their final adventure, they come face to face with the ravening jaws of the Lycanthro-Cop Biters.

When the sergeant came through, he suspiciously eyed StilletoEye and RazorGut up and down. “I’d better show you for yourselves.” He led them down corridor after corridor, past cell after screaming cell, into an unusually damp and odious part of the building; the cells here were chained shut with three or more huge padlocks. Taking them to the end one, StilletoEye and RazorGut were shown a whimpering man chained to the wall. He was naked and completely hairless, shivering and drooling ...READ 'STILETTO EYE & RAZORGUT AND THE LYCANTHRO-COP BITERS' NOW!

THE ADVENTURES OF STILLETTO EYE & RAZORGUT BEGAN HERE! READ FROM THE START!

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