Thee Comic Column #103: John Carpenter’s Asylum

asylumFile this under the, “How the hell did I miss that?” category. I’ve been a fan of John Carpenter’s movies since I was probably somewhere in the vicinity of nine years old. The brutal Chicago winters often meant many weekdays after school were spent in front of the boob tube where the now classic first generations of the GIJOE and the Transformers cartoons tickled my imagination. And tickle they did, as by the time those cartoons ended I was usually inspired to break out my figures and while away the next few hours before bed immersed in the epic continuation of the perpetually unfolding narratives my figures remained defined by for months at a time (I coveted the chance the storytellers on the cartoons and comics of my favorite action figures had in constructing ongoing continuity so I learned to create my own). This was normally done in front of the tube as well, the various couches and bureaus of the living room transformed by my imagination into definitive locations in these stories, all acted out in front of the syndicated sitcoms that occupied the remainder of the afternoon before seven o’clock hit and Chicago’s WGN Channel 9 began their nightly movie. It was here, sometimes distracted, sometimes engulfed by various cinematic offerings from the 70’s and 80’s, that I first saw many a movie I am now crazy about. Chief among the favorites introduced to me by WGN were the films of John Carpenter.

It was on Channel 9 that I first saw my favorite John Carpenter film*, Prince of Darkness. Here also I learned the majesty of They Live, The Fog, and In The Mouth of Madness, not to mention the station’s customary Autumnal airing of Halloween. This is where I at first unconsciously learned to love and appreciate the nuances that define Mr. Carpenter’s work: the returning actors, the personal but-not-intruding camera that often led to a kind of visual exposition that crept up your spine and stayed in the spaces behind your eyes well past the point you turned off your light and attempted to sleep. And of course possibly the signature ingredient to these films, those wonderfully synthy John Carpenter scores that have so definitively influenced such a great deal of the electronic music I love today. Since those faraway childhood days I’ve learned to see some of the shortcomings in a few of these films, but only ever for brief moments, as even a prying technical eye falls away to the beautiful charms of Mr. Carpenter’s movies and his genuinely original take on all the word “horror” can encompass.

And now John Carpenter is doing comics.

I won’t lie: much like how I feel about David Lynch’s music I love and relish the chance to get work from John Carpenter in any medium he decides to work in; I just hope there’s eventually another film on the way. For the moment however I’ve been very vocal both here and on Drinking With Comics about my love for the Big Trouble in Little China sequel playing out over at Boom! Studios courtesy of Mr. Carpenter, Eric Powell and Brian Churilla. And now I find that I completely missed the fact that Mr. Carpenter and his producer/wife Sandy King Carpenter, alone with Bruce Jones and Leonardo Manco have another story out in comics, six issues in with a trade on the way in time for Halloween. I learned of this massive oversight earlier today when I came across this article about the book on Newsarama. I confess, I did not read the entire article; I read enough to get the lay of the land with the status of the book and NONE of the story set-up and stopped. That trade will be mine as soon as it’s released and I’m not about to spoil even the smallest part of the story contained within. I like to go in blind, resist expectations and let the cool, calming and usually wonderfully unsettling John Carpenter vibe wash over me in waves, pulling me deeper into the landscape of horror that so effortless sprouts from his mind.

I might even get to read the trade after playing with some Carpenter-themed action figures, and that would be cool!

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* Prince of Darkness is my favorite once we go ahead and extract Big Trouble in Little China from the mix. This is because, like The Big Lebowski is to the Cohens, Big Trouble in Little China is A) kind of it’s own thing within the overall tapestry of Mr. Carpenter’s work and B) just too damn good and kills the curve for all the others.

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Can’t find a comic shop? You can always use old reliable Comic Shop Locator at 1-800-COMIC-BOOK. Or you can take some of my recommendations. If you live in the greater Chicagoland area I recommend any of the wonderful four locations of Amazing Fantasy Books. In Los Angeles it’s The Comic Bug. Las Vegas it’s Alternate Reality Comics. San Francisco? Try the Isotope Comic Lounge and if you happen to venture a little further North I’d say you have to visit The Escapist Comic Book Store in Berkley (with the wonderful Dark Carnival Books next door and owned by the same folks). Read on!!!

Shawn C Baker

Shawn C Baker

Shawn lives in Los Angeles where he co-hosts Drinking w/ Comics, writes screenplays and fiction and has been known to drink quite a bit of beer. Good beer.

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