Weekend links 412

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Lovecraft: The Myth of Cthulhu, an English-language edition of three comic-strip adaptations by Esteban Maroto, is now available from IDW.

The Coffin House, a short story by Robert Aickman that’s a taster for the new Aickman collection, Compulsory Games. Anwen Crawford wrote an introduction to Aickman’s world of “strange stories” for The New Yorker. Related: Victoria Nelson, editor of the new collection, chooses ten favourite horror stories.

• German music this week at The Quietus: Sean Kitching talks to Irmin Schmidt about his years with Can; and there’s an extract from Force Majeure, an autobiography by the late Edgar Froese, writing about the early days of Tangerine Dream.

• More German music at Carhartt WIP: a lengthy and revealing interview with guitarist Michael Rother about his time as one half of Neu!. There’s also a bonus Neu!-themed mix (and one of the mixes of the week) by Daniel Miller.

• From October last year, a Stereoklang interview with master synthesist Hideki Matsutake (Logic System, Yellow Magic Orchestra, et al).

• “When did you first get interested in esoteric studies?” Gary Lachman interviewed at The Astral Institute.

• At Sweet Jane: early illustrations by Wojtek Siudmak for Plexus magazine, 1969.

• 87 prints and drawings by MC Escher in zoomable high-resolution.

• Meet the Small Press: James Conway of Rixdorf Editions.

• Mix of the week: Goodbyes & Beginnings by Zach Cowie.

Derek Jarman on the trouble with shopping for clothes.

Person To Person (1981) by Logic System | Plan (1981) by Logic System | Prophet (1981) by Logic System

More Esteban Maroto

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Psychedelic Kali from Vampirella 18.

Copies of the Dracula comics may be scarce these days but two of the artists who appeared in the title—Esteban Maroto and José Beá—were also appearing regularly in Vampirella around the same time. The Internet Archive has a large collection of Warren titles including an almost complete run of Vampirella. Esteban Maroto’s work stands out for me for his draughtsmanship, his page layouts, the atmosphere of heady eroticism, and the frequent touches of psychedelia of which the panel above is one of the more striking examples. The best strips are the ones he wrote himself; when he works with American writers the results tend to be more restrained. It’s a shame Vampirella was mostly a black-and-white title, so many of these pages would benefit from the same colour treatment as Wolff.

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Wolf Hunt from Vampirella 14.

And speaking of wolves, there’s a similar collection of witches and lycanthropes in these stories.

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Tomb of the Gods: Horus from Vampirella 17.

Tomb of the Gods is a short series in which mythological stories are explored Maroto-style. The exception is Gender Bender, a piece of science fiction with masculine and feminine psyches pitted against each other in a virtual arena. The story title is a surprise for anyone thinks that phrase originated in the 1980s.

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Tomb of the Gods: Kali from Vampirella 18.

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The Dracula Annual

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A comment by Modzilla in last month’s post about psychedelic comic book Saga de Xam is responsible for this recent book purchase. Dracula was a full-colour large-format comic book from notorious pulp imprint New English Library (later to be distributors for my colleagues at Savoy Books) that repackaged Spanish horror strips for a British audience. The comic ran for 12 issues in the early 1970s; the pages shown here are from the hardback annual that gathered all the issues into a single volume. I remember this being around in secondhand shops for years but I never paid it any attention at all so the artwork has been a revelation.

NEL’s Dracula isn’t much of a horror comic, despite its title; Dracula himself only appears in one story, and that’s a jokey throwaway piece. The two main episodic strips are Wolff, a Conan clone searching for his lost wife in a world ravaged by witches, werewolves and other supernatural threats; and Agar-Agar, a deliriously psychedelic picaresque concerning a hyper-sexual “sprite” (or a hippyish young woman with blue hair and magic powers) from the planet Xanadu. Everything in the book is redolent of the early 1970s when strains of psychedelia were still percolating through pop culture. Watered-down psychedelia used to bore me because I wanted the authentic stuff but forty years on this kind of work is much more attractive.

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Wolff is the work of Esteban Maroto whose splash pages and inventive layouts give Barry Windsor-Smith’s Conan the Barbarian (which was running at this time) some serious competition. Wolff is very much in the Conan mould—he even shouts “Crom!” at crucial moments—a pawn of supernatural forces he often fails to comprehend. The artwork in Smith’s Conan was often praised for its details and decor but the Art Nouveau influence in Maroto’s work is much more overt. Maroto’s flame-haired witches are like Alphonse Mucha sirens—one panel even borrows from Mucha’s Salammbô—and he’s no slouch with the Frazetta-like demons either. The scripting is perfunctory but I don’t mind that when it turns up pages like these. There’s also a brief nod to Lovecraft when “R’Lyeh” is mentioned.

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Continue reading “The Dracula Annual”