Year of the Worm: Cover Art

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Cultists, Ex-girlfriends,  and Shotgun toting preachers.

For Jackson O’Neil the worst part of the New Year isn’t the killer hangover or the fact that he wakes up in ex-girlfriend’s apartment with no clue as to how he got there. He soon finds himself at the center of a bizarre series of events that threaten his life and the very fabric of reality.

Year of the Worm is my upcoming webcomic series which will be arriving in March 2017. My plans are to upload a page or two at least every Sunday. I’ll be posting it here and also at the webcomic site Taptastic

If you want to subscribe to Year of the Worm on Taptastic, a great site with some terrific webcomics for free, use this LINK If you like what you see, I’d appreciate it if you click the ‘like’ button on Taptastic.

 

 

Bookworms

I had this idea for this drawing for a long time. Sometimes ideas come and go, but this one stuck around until I finally put it on paper. I did a rough sketch awhile back in my sketchbook and then it sat there for a bit over the holidays. Still, it called to me and toward the end of the year I started working on it.

I’m glad the idea stuck around.

In part it was influenced by H.P Lovecraft’s Necronomicon as well as Robert Bloch’s short story ‘The Shambler From The Stars’ which features a nefarious tome called ‘The Mysteries of the Worm’. scan_20170115

Digital Popcorn: Ash vs Evil Dead (Season One)

Over the long weekends for the holidays, I was able to finally watch the entire first season of Starz’ original series Ash vs Evil Dead on dvd. I’d seen the original Evil Dead movie, along with Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness, back in my college days and the movies had become a personal favorite along with a source of countless references and inside jokes among my college friends. The original movies have a cult following for sure and the star Bruce Campbell has managed to reach legendary status among horror fans like me.

So, a few years ago when I heard various rumors of a remake of the original with every one from Ashton Kutcher to Bruce reprising the role, I was disheartened. I’m not a fan of remakes and the idea of seeing an aged Campbell as Ash drew up dreaded memories of another childhood hero trying to resurrect his role, unsuccessfully, that being Harrison Ford’s godawful ‘Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull’.

At the time my position was that I’d much rather rewatch the original Evil Dead films than see it butchered with a reboot. Fortunately, when the Starz series came out I was pleasantly surprised.

The Ash vs Evil Dead series takes all of what made the original movies a lot of fun but avoids being merely fan boy service and nostalgic.  What I liked the best about the series is that rather than simply being trapped in a cabin in the woods the entire time by himself, the series provides Ash (Campbell) with a pair of younger partners that are more than mere cannon fodder for the Deadites as was the case in the original movies.

Instead of being campy and annoying, Pedro and Kelly are enjoyable characters that provide comic relief as well as give the character of Ash a way to develop beyond the snarky jack ass he tended to be in the movies. That’s not to say that Ash is a completely changed man, but over the course of the first season you do get to see a side of him that the movies didn’t get into too much, the fact that Ash is capable of caring about other people and willing to put himself in danger for them.

Kelly quickly proves to be the bad ass of the two new characters, and is a fairly strong character. Unlike the original movies, she’s a woman that can stand her ground against the Deadites and tolerate Ash’s antics without being a stereotypical ‘bitch’. Her backstory and motivation to help Ash is definetly believable, albeit simple, and is an adequate explanation for her growing blood-lust as the series progresses.

Pedro may lack self confidence around the ladies and is not as capable in combat as Kelly, but what he brings to the series is some knowledge and experience with the supernatural. Given that his uncle is a brujo and Pedro himself studied some of his people’s mystical ways gives him an important role in the show. The movies never delved too deeply into the origins and supernatural aspects of the Necronomicon and the Deadites , but with Pedro’s background the show taps into that side of it a bit more which makes the world a bit richer. The scenes with Pedro’s uncle add a lot to the supernatural aspect of the Evil Dead world and set Pedro up to fight the Deadites in a different manner than Kelly and Ash.

The show itself is in thirty minute episodes, aside from the slightly longer pilot episode, which I think works well with the whole comedy-horror genre. The plot of each episode is brisk but contains just enough backstory or character development to keep things from being too shallow.

Fortunately, unlike like some series like The Walking Dead, the writers of Ash vs Evil Dead stray away from the drudgery of characters ‘developing’ a la sitting around and talking about their feelings despite the ever present danger of their situation.

My favorite episode from Season One was the one that involved Ash and his companions going to Books From Beyond and summoning a demon to ‘help’ them put an end to the Deadites. It’s a convoluted plan that’s doomed to fail, like most of Ash’s ideas, but it delves into the origin of the Necronomicon and the demons/Deadites in more depth. The proverbial bloody icing to the cake is the introduction of a new enemy in the form of a demon that proves to give Ash and company a whole new set of trouble unlike anything they’d faced before.

I enjoyed Season One very much, it had the right amount of humor and gore to make it an entertaining series. I would recommend it to any fan of the original movies, and I’m defintely looking forward to catching up  with Season Two.

The Last New Year’s Eve

The last time I went out to celebrate New Year’s Eve was one of the worst and weirdest nights of my life. Back  then I lived in Buffalo, New York. I had graduated from Buffalo State College the prior year. I had a run down studio apartment a couple blocks from the banks of the mighty Niagara River, and worked a dead end temp. job at some factory.

Luckily, one of my best friends from my college days still lived in the city, and we decided to go check out a few of our favorite local bands on New Year’s Eve at a bar/concert venue called The Continental. The place had the reputation for being the ‘goth/metal/industrial’ music center of Buffalo back in the 1990’s. It was a stark contrast to the trendy and posh dance clubs and high end bars nearby. The Continental was the kind of place where we felt comfortable, friends’ bands played there often enough,  and it was a bit of a legendary spot among our crowd.

When we got down there, parking was a joke. My friend drove us down there in her car that night, and opted to pay for a parking spot at a local auto repair shop a few blocks from The Continental. Now this wasn’t a large lot nor was it professionally managed by a parking company. It was just some local business dude that was taking advantage of the holiday to make some quick and easy cash. Directly in front of my friend’s car, after we parked, was another building. So essentially the only way out of that spot was to back out. There’s no way to get out otherwise. Keep that in mind for later.

So, after begrudgingly coughing up the cash for the parking spot to the half-drunk ‘attendant’, we headed off to The Continental. We had a great time watching all the bands, and the rest of the festivities that come with New Year’s Eve.

At some point after midnight we decided to the call it a night, and headed back for the car. That’s when this night took a strange turn. When I saw the blood, a lot of  blood, like whoever was cut must’ve been spurting it like a horror movie, splattered all over the sidewalk outside a business a few doors down, I knew things were bad. Other then the gore there was no sign of anyone or anything to indicate what had happened. My friend freaked, and we hastily headed back to where we parked.

When we got back to the parking lot, we were both relieved, but it was snuffed out when we saw that some asshole parked his big ass pickup truck right behind my friend’s car. His fender was only a few inches from our back bumper. We were literally pinned between the jack ass’ truck and the brick wall of a building.

My friend freaked the fuck out, total panic mode. I spotted a cop a quarter of a block away and drew his attention to our situation. Buffalo’s Finest’s only response was ‘that’s your problem’. He was totally unwilling to have the vehicle towed or anything. He did try the door to see if it was unlocked with the idea of putting it in neutral and pushing it out of the way. Of course, the doors were locked. So the cop walked off to continue doing  fuck all, and left us stranded. The attendant for the lot was long gone. There was a phone number on the repair shop’s window, but this was back in the day before cell phones were a common thing. Even if we had a cell phone or found a payphone I bet the number would’ve only been for the phone in the shop.

So, we decided to wait it out with the hopes that the shit head that blocked our car would come back, sine the majority of people were headed home. Since it was cold and snowy out we headed down the street to a local coffee house called The Spot. Luckily, they’re open 24/7. We got something hot and sobering to drink and tried to chill out. My friend was still in full freak out mode and I did my best to calm her down. If memory serves she had to go to work the next afternoon and needed her car for her commute.

As we sat there nursing our coffee, a parade of gaudily dressed and drunken middle aged women came through the coffee house. The shrillness of their laughter and their obnoxious voices were worse then the grating of fingernails down a chalkboard. The irony was that they looked like the type that only went out once a year and spent the other 364 days of the year looking down their noses at everyone else.

After an hour or so we headed back to our parking spot with the hopes that the d-bag driver of the pickup was gone. But Luck had a strange sense of humor that night, since the piece of shit truck was still there. Sobriety and the lingering cop kept up from doing anything to the truck, although it was still tempting to do ‘something’ to it.

We ended up calling a cab and got home at some godawful hour. I think we were both physically and emotionally exhausted. It’s still hard for me to comprehend why someone would park like that behind us. Were they just total assholes that didn’t care? Why would the attendant allow it? Did he only care about filling the lot and making even more money? I’d like to think that the d-bag with the pickup truck parked there illegally after the attendant left for the night. Some people are truly callous and apparently we found the grand champion of them that night when the pickup driver parked behind us.

My friend decided to catch the bus downtown early the next morning, only to discover too late that the buses were on a holiday schedule and only ran a few times that day.So she wasted half her day waiting for the bus to show up.  She finally managed to get down there and get her car.

That was the last time I went out for a New Year’s Eve, and as far as I know my friend never went out again. I’m content to stay home and watch some Netflix and drink a few beers. Like my boss says about New Year’s Eve, ‘it’s amateur night’. I think he’s right, and they’re welcomed to it.

 

 

A Tyranny of Ice and Cold

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Photograph by Kevin Hurtack

 

Winter unfurls

sheets of snow

like funeral shrouds

upon fields

of Autumn’s faded gold

while we mourn

a summer grown old

leaving us huddled

like beggars and thieves

around our fires’

fickle heat

that does little

to keep

the frigid shadows

from our doors.

 

Just prisoners, we are

of this tyranny

of ice and cold

biding our time

until the heavens bestow

the golden sun

upon our jagged shores

once more

But what about Japanese Werewolves?

Despite taking several art history classes during college, I’d never heard nor seen any representations of horror in traditional Japanese artwork. So, I was pretty intrqiued when I came across the article Goblins, Ghosts, and Ghouls in Japanese Prints over on Hyperallergic.com

Some fantastic stuff to check out if you’re into that kinda thing. Use the links above to check ’em out.

Gaunt – Finished Drawing

 

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GAUNT, prismacolor premier markers and gouache on bristol plate 2016.

It’s been a long time since I’ve done anything with gouache. The first time I used it was when I was going to community college right after high school. I was taking a introductory painting course that focused mainly on watercolors. Midway through the semester the professor introduced gouache to us as an alternative. I did a few projects with it and frankly like it much better than watercolors. The main reasons being was the matte quality and boldness of the color when it dried. As well it tended to dry a lot faster than watercolor. I also liked that you did not need linseed oil or other mediums that pose health issues as well as plainly speaking – stink up the room. Although you cannot get some of the interesting visual effects or the atmospheric qualities with it as you do with watercolors, it can be used with acrylic mediums for textures and etc that you cannot use with watercolors. It also has a tendency to reproduce digitally or photographically much better than watercolors, hence it was often used and still is used by illustrators and designers as well as traditional artists.

During my college years I went onto paint with acrylics and oil. Although oil painting is the rock star of the fine art world it never really appealed to me as an artist. In fact traditional painting never appealed to me. One semester when I was taking an upper level oil painting class the professor said that I may as well be painting with sticks rather than brushes. I suppose that could have been perceived as an insult, but my brain is not wired to ‘see’ in planes of color. Lines, detail, shapes. That’s what lures me into creating imagery.

Overtime, I started creating line drawings with pencil and ink and shading them or coloring them with various mediums. In a lot of ways the old school illustrations of the weird fiction artists of the ‘pulp era’ influenced me. In particular the work of Jack Davis on Tales From The Crypt is/was a huge influence. Unfortuantely, Jack died back in July but he left behind a plethora of work behind. Besides Jack, others influence me like contemporary artists  Coop and Pus Head.

I chose to do this piece in black and white, and future ones, because I like the contrast and the subtle nature of the shading. It also does not distract from the quality of the line as would full color. Plus, for most of us we see full color everyday and by portraying something bizarres, such as this Gaunt, in black and white it gives it an even  more surreal/strange quality. Black and white is like one strong voice projecting itself across a room while color is an orchestra. Both are valid when used with precision and purpose but for myself, I prefer black and white.

This particular drawing was loosely based on the poem ‘The Night-Gaunts’ by H.P. Lovecraft.

Out of what crypt they crawl, I cannot tell,
But every night I see the rubbery things,
Black, horned, and slender, with membranous wings,
They come in legions on the north wind’s swell
With obscene clutch that titillates and stings,
Snatching me off on monstrous voyagings
To grey worlds hidden deep in nightmare’s well.

Over the jagged peaks of Thok they sweep,
Heedless of all the cries I try to make,
And down the nether pits to that foul lake
Where the puffed shoggoths splash in doubtful sleep.
But ho! If only they would make some sound,
Or wear a face where faces should be found!

H. P. Lovecraft, Night-Gaunts

Gaunt, A work in progress

I started this marker and gouache drawing the other weekend. It is loosely based on the ‘night gaunts’ of H.P. Lovecraft’s fiction. It still has a ways to go at this point, but is coming along nicely. I took this photo of it with my ‘stupid’ phone so it’s not the greatest. When it’s done I’ll scan it and put up a proper one up.

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Scarlet Screams The Phoenix; A Flash Fiction Story

This is a short piece that I wrote about ten years ago. I did a little bit of editing to it and tweaked the ending just a bit, but overall it’s as it was when originally written. The original genesis of the idea came about by trying to put a spin on the same old same old vampire story. Also at the time there was an arsonist in the city I lived in setting fires to abandoned houses/industrial buildings. The outcome was this bit of flash fiction.

I post it here for your amusement, I still like the story although its a little rough around the edges from a ‘writerly’ point of view.

Be forewarned there are certain elements that some may find offensive …

 

SCARLET SCREAMS THE PHOENIX

BY KEVIN HURTACK

2006/2016

With the subtle flick of her wrist the match head came to life with a delectable hiss and a heady aroma.

Celia placed the flickering flame between her bone thin thumb and forefinger letting it burn until it caressed her flesh.

Celia felt nothing.

She let the charred corpse of the match stick descend like Lucifer. It smoldered on a floor covered with crumpled fetish magazines and empty cans of lighter fluid. Celia pulled another match out and lit it while she walked over to a thread bare couch Old VHS tapes and dog-eared paperbacks laid haphazardly on a milk crate that served as her coffee table.

Celia studied the back cover of the movie, The Hunger for a moment before tossing it over shoulder. The movie was useless, it held none of the advice she sought for her condition. Although Celia found David Bowie insanely hot, his character in the movie seemed just as confused and misdirected as her. But then again she shouldn’t have expected to find salvation from a rock star.

What had happened to her was nothing like the Stephen King, Anne Rice, or Richard Mathewson novels, either. No seduction followed by a blood letting. Not a charming man, or affable woman. There was no primal beast like Max Ernst in Nosferatu.

All Celia could remember, when she tried hard, is the fire. All about her. Suffocating, and embracing. Smoke thicker than the night. The anguished screams. The gut-wrenching stench of burnt hair and broiling flesh. The charred bodies surrounding her. Men crying like little boys. Old women begging for a miracle escape. Hysterical mothers clutching the unnervingly still bundles of their babies.

Then she saw It. It came through the wall of flames cloaked in ash and fire. All Celia remembered was the embrace of an unearthly flame.

Since that fateful night her skin has been one immense burn scar. Cracked and wrinkled like old leather instead of the fair complexion of her former teen age self. Celia found out soon that the sunlight burned horrendously, forcing her to dwell in the night.

She knew she wasn’t dead, she still breathed and pissed. Although she could eat food, something in the bowls of her soul yearned for something more. It sang in her ear, lingered inher memories like echoes in a deep canyon. Celia spent endless nights writhing in agony as It sang to her. Her feverish head filled with heinous images of charred flesh and hot blood. Flesh ripped from a man’s femur. The visceral onslaught made her wretch, but something deep down inside her grew agitated like a chained dog outside a butcher’s shop.

One night when Celia woke she found a box of matches and a can of lighter fluid beside her. A note was scrawled on a pack of cigarettes ‘Scarlet Screams the Phoenix’. She didn’t know why, but it seemed familiar to her.

Celia took the stuff outside, intending toss it in the dumpster. She didn’t know where to go, or who would help her but she couldn’t live like this any more. Before she got a few yards from her door, the deep down writhing sensation hit her like a sledge hammer. She doubled over and fell to her knees.

She sucked air through her clenched teeth as sweat dripped from her furrowed brow. She wondered if this was what death felt like. Perhaps her injuries from the fire had finally caught up to her. Yet something urged her to her stumbling feet. Each foot fall felt forced, as she were a marionette controlled by some ambiguous puppeteer.

Celia staggered across the street to the local seminary school. She watched as her charred hands curled into fists and busted out a back window. She watched in stupefied horror as her body doused the room with lighter fluid. Even more disturbing was the way the stench of the fluid aroused her. A warmth grew between her legs and rushed up her withered body. Her head spun and a soft moan escaped her broiled lips.

Her hips writhed as she flicked her wrist and lit the match. A wave of ecstasy rushed over her, consuming every inch of her scorched body. A primal groan rattled out of her ruined throat as she staggered backward. She leaned against the wall and gasped for breath as the flames danced across the floor and lapped at the walls as teasingly as a lover’s tongue. The fire washed over her, she was no longer dead flesh and bone. She was purified by its pain. Cleansed by its carnage.

As the flames consumed the building, she consumed the dieing. Mortal blood flowing down her parched throat was immaculate.

When she woke up the following afternoon, guilt caught up with Celia. She forced herself to puke up the blood and flesh of the dead until her stomach felt like it had been turned inside out. Yet she knew her resistance wouldn’t stay this strong for much longer. She would be a slave to a diabolical master.

The dark hunger came back that night and it was worse than before. The taste of the dead the other night seemed to intensify its power. Celia attempted to fight it, and tried to keep herself from committing more heinous acts. In the end it grew too strong, and Celia gave into it completely. So much easier to give in. All the pain went away. There was only sheer pleasure, no need for troublesome thoughts or feelings. It put her in such a daze that she barely remembered sneaking into the orphanage where she was raised. The squealing of the children before the smoke snuffed out the air in their lungs was a sadist’s symphony.

The years, decades, and centuries swirled by quickly in a haze of fire, blood and ecstasy. She burned down crack houses and fed on the numb blood of the dead junkies. Brothels were the scenes of firery orgies.

But her frail body could no longer contain the dark hunger that fueled it. It began to crumble into ash and charred chunks. The slightest of touch blew her flesh away like soot. Then she found him, young and strong, laying under the covers of his bed. Safe and secure. Something rose up inside her, spilling out of every crack and hole in her decrepit body. Tendrils of flames surrounded the boy like serpents. Blankets erupted into turbulent waves of fire. His body convulsed and his screams pierced like arrows until the smoke filled his lungs.

As his flesh boiled, the dark hunger slipped away from Celia, lingering for a moment like a departing lover, before she crumbled into a pile of ash.

The End.

She’s Got The Devil In Her … Again?

In case you missed it, I almost did, the television network Fox recently rebooted the Exorcist franchise into a series. I debated whether I wanted to watch it or not. I love the original movie, I’ve seen it countless times and even owned a super-delux-wit-cheese-and -special-sauce director’s cut on VHS (If you were born in the 90’s ask your grandparents what VHS is). In fact its probably collecting dust right now in the basement. I even watched the mediocre to horrible sequels of the original movie. I am not a fan of reboots, but after reading some online spoiler proof reviews I decided to give it a shot.

There are minor spoilers in the following paragraphs, avoid them if you are or planning to watch the series…

The Good: The scenes that really stood out to me were the ones that took place in Mexico  City and centered around Father Marcus’ difficulties with the exorcism of a young boy. The setting of the barrio was symbolism, with its derelict buildings and foreboding atmosphere, for the emotional state of Father Marcus. The exorcism scenes themselves were surprisingly graphic but perhaps more realistic than the split-pea soup spewing ones in the original movie.

That aside what really appealed to me was the scene between Father Marcus and Brother Bennett, which almost gets violent/deadly. I think that this scene really did a lot to show how frustrated and desperate Marcus is, not only by the demon inside the little boy but perhaps by the Church itself. Also, I thought it was interesting how the Church seemed to be opposed to Marcus’ work. Although it was a short scene, it did well to develop his character and perhaps set up future conflicts.

 

I also liked the scenes with Father Tomas in his apartment with his sister and nephew. Again, it was short but it showed that Tomas was not the pure innocent man who had no flaws or desires that were not Godly. Although his past was only hinted at, it suggested here was a man that was not always compelled to live the life of a Catholic priest. There’s also a later scene where he seems at least open to the idea of questioning/doubting God during a conversation with Angela Rance. All of which makes him relatable and realistic to me.

 

The Bad:

Despite the good character development and introductions of Tomas and Marcus, I felt that the writing of the show rushed too fast with the Rance family. I never had a feel for who they were and what they are about as individuals. Instead it felt like I was suppose to identify with them because they are an upper middle class white family living in ‘the city’. That they’re good people cause they go to church. That I was supposed to be sympathetic for Dad and his undisclosed generic mental disorder, just because I have a father or am a father myself. Sorry, I need more than that. I need to be shown who/what these people are.

I did not feel anything for them, and they felt like plot furniture rather than characters. Although I understand about Angela’s past, it still felt too quick for her to run to her priest and it felt like lazy writing for her to simply tell Marcus what was going on in the house. It would’ve been way more interesting and entertaining if the events she talks about were shown on screen.

I also found Casey and Kat to be incredibly annoying, which makes me care about them even less.

I think if the writers had spent a little more time showing me this family prior, I could have identified with them a bit more so that when problems start, I would actually care about their fate.

I also found the idea of a teen age/college age girl being the supposed victim of a demonic possession to be cliched. I mean seriously, there are countless movies out that do this same thing. Why not change it up and have Dad possessed? Why not add a grandmother to the family and make it her? Using a ‘attractive’ young woman is just gimmicky and trite. Frankly, it’s eye rolling inducing for me.

I know that there’s the potential for more to the series than just this family,  but right now it just feels like lazy writing.

I feel that the show missed a great opportunity to present exorcism in a new way. It would’ve been  far more interesting to see the events unfold either in Mexico City, or in a Latino neighborhood where the culture and belief system would be different than that of a middle class white family. Unfortunately, Fox decided to go all-white in this series so far with only a few token characters/scenes of other cultures and what they end up with is just more of the same that I’ve seen countless times in other movies/shows. Fox has reputation for ‘edgy’ shows and they should have pushed things with this series, but unfortunately it does not seem like they’re willing to go that route. I figure the most they’ll do to ‘push’ the boundaries is show some explicit gore or some sexually suggestive scenes with the girl and priest or even her younger sister. Just enough to rile up viewers and increase the ratings, but nothing to really push the plot or characters into new territory.

Summary: Exorcist is a well produced, and acted series with a solid cast. Much like American Horror Story it feels like it’ll be an ensemble story line rather than focusing on one character, which I like. The set designs feel contemporary but at times still have the visual feel of the original movie without being overly nostalgic or over the top.

Based on what I’ve seen in the pilot episode I’d say that the show understands the value of subtle creepiness, a la the homeless man outside the church, and explicit shock value,such as the boy in Mexico City. If it can keep this balance it could be a good horror series.

At this point I am not entirely sure if I’d watch another episode. If I do it will be because of Fathers Tomas and Marcus, rather than the Rance family. I feel like the strongest point of the series could be both priests’ personal struggles and backgrounds as well as the relationship/partnership they develop to help the Rance family.

 

 

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