Review time! with ‘Don’t Look!’

dontlook1

It’s a horror comic anthology from 2010! But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t deserve a review here at the Atomic Junk Shop!

dontlook2

One of the writers in this anthology, Frank Verano, was nice enough to send me this comic back in April. Yes, it’s October. I told you I was behind! Don’t Look! came out in 2010 from Last Minute! Comics, which, according to Verano, was a small press run by some of his friends and him in Philadelphia (Verano lives in Bensalem, which borders northeast Philly and is the southeastern-most township in Bucks County and is about 20 minutes from where I grew up). The problem with Don’t Look!, which has nothing to do with the quality, is that I’m not sure where you can buy it. I’ve looked around a bit, but I can’t find it. So does it really matter if I review it?

Chris Mangun, Swifty Lang, Michael Lapinski
Chris Mangun, Swifty Lang, Michael Lapinski

Well, I’ll do it anyway. As usual with an anthology, there are good things and not-so-good thing about the book. The first story is the best one, which gets the book off to a rousing start but doesn’t bode well for the rest of it. That story, “Frozen Dark,” is by Christopher Mangun, Swifty Lang, and Michael Lapinski, who later in 2010 (or possibly 2011, I can’t remember exactly) did Feeding Ground, a pretty good horror comic about immigrants from Mexico. Their story is set in Tibet and taps into a young monk’s fear of a Yeti, and it’s both wryly funny and somewhat tragic. Lapinski’s art is nicely done – he uses beautiful negative space and some computer effects to create a wintry scene, and his monster drawings look like exquisitely carved woodcuts. It’s a very keen story. [Lapinski told me on Facebook that he has some copies of the anthology. If you go to his website through the link right there, you can contact him and see if he’d be willing to part with one!]

Frank Verano, Nick Klinger
Frank Verano, Nick Klinger

The rest of the anthology doesn’t quite live up to it, though. The second story, “Jimmy and the Pangboche Hand,” ends far too abruptly to really even be called a story – Dan O’Connor, who wrote it, sets things up well, but then ran out of room, I guess? “Disperse Red 9” by Verano and Nick Klinger, is a bizarre, psychedelic trip into the mind of a man who might be crazy. I’m not entirely sure that I get it, but Verano creates a creepy atmosphere and Klinger’s use of multimedia gives the art a weird, heightened-reality kind of feel. It’s probably the second-best story in the book.

Mary Iampietro, Rick Ritter
Mary Iampietro, Rick Ritter

“Girls’ School” by Robert James Algeo is not bad, but it’s also a bit strange. An FBI agent is dating a young lady who lives in a dorm, and he has to sneak out before the R.A. catches him. Unfortunately for him, eerie things are lurking in the hallways. It’s not bad because Algeo creates a creepy atmosphere, but it doesn’t make much sense, and the events that occur have an impact on our FBI agent but we don’t know why. “The Cleaners” by Mary Iampietro and Rick Ritter is another decent concept – a group of people hired to clean out a laboratory where things are lurking – but it’s another half-story, as we get very little about what’s in the lab and why, even, they don’t finish what they start. “Fear” is a neat story by Chris Murphy in which monsters find themselves the hunted, and while it’s kind of sad, Nelson Diaz’s cartoony art helps keep it light even as characters die left and right. Mike Crawford’s “Meat Stanley” is a bit obvious, but it’s still a fun story about a guy trying to pick up a girl in a bar who gets far more than he bargained for. Crawford’s thick lines and nice details provide a good contrast to Stanley’s flashbacks, which are drawn with light pencils, and he gives the world a squalor that the story deserves.

Mike Crawford
Mike Crawford

“Itchy Balls” by Paul Zdanowicz is a parody of schlocky horror movies, and it doesn’t work very well. It’s mildly amusing, but the Photoshopped art doesn’t really look that great. Winona Nelson’s “Casseopeia” is a finely drawn, darkly humorous story about a cyborg who wakes up on his spaceship after the entire crew has been killed, and his attempts to get the onboard computer to tell him what happened. Nelson manages to give the computer, which doesn’t have a body, a very nice personality, which makes the story work quite well. Nelson Diaz returns with a goofy story about two philosophical zombies, one of whom is really bored with the zombie life (as he puts it, “all we do is walk around in circles day in, day out, grunting and moaning like cats in heat”). Finally, Ian Berger and Scott Cooper give us “Honey, Lovey, and the Thing from Beyond,” in which a bored housewife’s desire to redecorate her new house leads to terror. Cooper manages to get the suburban angst of the two main characters quite well, which makes the story a bit harsher than the script makes it and adds a nice edge to it.

Winona Nelson
Winona Nelson

There are only a few stories that don’t really work at all, while there are a few others that are pretty decent but don’t seem to be complete stories, more like fun little ideas that don’t really grow into good stories. That’s not surprising when it comes to anthologies, which are usually a mixed bag, and it’s not bad for such a seriously independent anthology like this, by creators who didn’t have a ton of experience in comics at the time. Again, I’m not sure where you could find this, but it’s an interesting project, and if you happen to see it in a bookstore somewhere, you could do a lot worse than to pick it up and check it out. I don’t have too much else to say about it, but it was pretty cool of Verano to send it to me, so I’d like to thank him. Indie comics are always neat!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

6 Comments

  1. Louis Bright-Raven

    Unfortunately, as is typical with independents (especially true independents who aren’t bleeding out of every orifice after Diamond rapes them), the books can be difficult to find unless you’re willing to buy direct from the creator(s). But very cool that you reviewed the book, Greg. I believe one of the creators contacted you on Facebook and told you they had copies available?

    Maybe tell the nice readers how to reach him if they’re interested after reaching this article. *thumbs up*

  2. Greg Burgas

    Louis: Yeah, I’ve been friends with Michael Lapinski on Facebook for a while, so it was keen to see his work in this book. I didn’t see his comment until this morning, but you’re right – he did say he has some copies! I’ll edit that into the post.

  3. Simon

    C-c-can I look now? M-m-mister?

    (Would Hemingway call that the shortest horror story?)

    – “I’m not sure where you can buy it”

    Er, I don’t want to be harsh (so I’ll just be *involuntarily* so!), but if you don’t tell us the price, page count, or where to find it, isn’t it a little harder to get our appetite up? I mean, for all I know this could be one of those $22 indy 48-pagers?

    Okay, the Goog sez: 132 pages for $??, now $36 used, ISBN 055765517X. And, “the Horror anthology DON’T LOOK! which won a Spectrum Award for the cover art”.

    (By the way, one good thing about snob reviews that sign off with a one-line recap (of the book’s title, author, pages, ISBN, etc.) is that you can copy-paste that into your shopping list alongside the review’s URL.)

    – “ ‘The Cleaners’ by Mary Iampietro”

    Boy, isn’t the dialog in that sample kinda terrible, especially panel 2? They’re pursued by horrific monsters and they talk like they’re late for school? Was this one humorous?

    – “a cyborg who wakes up on his spaceship after the entire crew has been killed, and his attempts to get the onboard computer to tell him what happened”

    Hey, that sounded more original than most of the others. (Like something from Box Brown or Malachi Ward or Joshua Cotter.) In how many pages was it handled? And was it an EC-like twist, or something more?

    In fact, it may even be graphic novel material. (Which is to say, several different graphic novels, depending on the theme or angle. Just imagine how it could be fleshed out by Asimov or Clarke or Doyle or King or Mumble…) I’d try that!

    (Of course, a mass-search for “Winona Nelson” in all Previews catalogs since 1998 turned up empty, but maybe some day?)

    – “a goofy story about two philosophical zombies”

    Say, that would be at least four humorous stories (counting this one, the “fun story”, the “parody of schlocky horror movies”, and the “darkly humorous story”). I mean, I also like horror comedy or comedy horror, but for a cover advertizing “a horror comic anthology”, how much straight horror was in there?

    – “I’m not sure where you could find this”

    Hm, if I had this problem, I’d build a Google query starting with the exact title (between quotes), plus an alternation (all-caps OR) of the exact names of the pub and some editors/creators, like so:

    “Don’t Look” (“Last Minute Comics” OR “Rick Ritter” OR “Frank Verano” OR “Michael Lapinski”)

    Then for sauce, copy-pasting a list of retailers that may have it (using the “site:” operator), like so:

    “Don’t Look” (“Last Minute Comics” OR “Rick Ritter” OR “Frank Verano” OR “Michael Lapinski”) (site:storenvy.com OR site:etsy.com OR site:birdcagebottombooks.com OR site:spitandahalf.com OR site:opticalsloth.com OR site:comixology.com OR site:amazon.com OR site:thriftbooks.com OR site:cheapgraphicnovels.com OR site:instocktrades.com OR site:milehighcomics.com OR site:mycomicshop.com OR site:dcbservice.com OR site:westfieldcomics.com OR site:tfaw.com OR site:wowcool.com OR site:forbiddenplanet.co.uk OR site:page45.com)

    Aaand… Thriftbooks has a page with none, and Amazon lists one used copy. (Not that it’s the thoroughest search, but it was worth a shot for a quickie!)

    P.S.: Mile High Comics used to buy a lot of indy comics from creators who contacted them (when they didn’t have any in stock), that too may be worth a shot for the creators with unsold copies?

    1. Greg Burgas

      Simon: Yeah, I usually do list the price … except this one didn’t have a price!!!! But thanks for finding some places that have it – I should have done that, so I suck.

      The Cleaners isn’t exactly a funny story, but it is more of a “dudes go to work and deal with what they find,” even if it’s monsters. The “kid” being pursued is the new guy, while the others are old hats at running away from monsters.

      “Casseopeia” is 8 pages long. It depends on the twist, of course, so it’s okay that it’s short, but you’re right – it could easily be expanded into something longer.

      Nelson paints these days. If you go to her website, you can see her work. It’s quite good. Pays more than comics, I guess!

      It’s pretty good with the horror. The ones that Diaz draws are really the only truly straight humor stories in it. “Meat Stanley” is fun, but more in the way satisfying Twilight Zone stories are – the twist is a bit obvious, but it’s still a good one. There are only a few that are straight-up, no-holds-barred horror, but that doesn’t bother me too much. YMMV, I suppose!

      1. Simon

        Ah, the joys of a book that’s priceless… at least on paper! (I’ve often been that guy holding up a line because some of his indy loot bore no price and the clerk had to dig into Diamond invoices, heh.)

        That description of “The Cleaners” made me think of a videogame… (Or maybe AREA 52, that short-lived thing from Brian Haberlin?)

        Thanks for the info about Winona Nelson. I can still hope she’ll slum some day, and keep her name on my mass-search list!

        About search, WordPress converted my upright apos into a tilted one in the title, which may hinder a googling. (The straight quotation marks were similarly turned into “smart quotes”, but the Goog’s syntax now accepts them!)

Leave a Reply