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Points Of Light Halloween Edition: Horror Comics

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Greetings from the boneyard as we celebrate All-Hallows Eve. Tonight, we head into the past for one of the earliest examples of horror in the last century, horror made with ink and pen and paints for children of all ages. Today, we end October with a look at the grand history of horror comics.

The Background

Horror comics can be traced back to the early 19th century in America, with Prize Comics’ “New Adventures of Frankenstein” widely considered the first of the genre in the States. While many other publishers produced such books, the most well known was EC Comics, and its three series Haunt of Fear, Vault of Horror, and Tales From the Crypt. These comics reached a massive high in the 1940’s, with famous artists such as Johnny Craig and Reed Crandall writing and drawing the frightening tales.

Unfortunately, these books also experienced a tremendous backlash as parents of the time preached on the bad influences of horror and crime in comics. Dr. Fredric Wertham also published Seduction of the Innocent, which claimed that violent caused children to be violent, painted the comic industry as a shadowy, Mafia like operation, and even pointed to Batman and Robin as propagating homosexuality. In response to the claims (which were based on largely undocumented anecdotes), the Comics Code was formed, which put a ban on many of the essential details for horror and crime comics. As a result, most horror comics faded away, though some were repackaged under sci-fi and mystery.

However, horror comics did find their way around these guidelines, and in the 1970’s the code did relax enough to allow Marvel to create the vampire Morbius, and even their own version of Dracula. Alan Moore also had great success at DC resurrecting the Swamp Thing and modern comic writers have found success with characters like Hellboy, and series like 30 Days of Night, Deadman, The Midnight Sons, and Marvel Zombies.

Legacy

While many horror comics were generally simple horror tales, their influence has allowed for much of the creativity in comics today. Without their influence, it is unlikely their would be much, if any, supernatural influence in the comic world today, or any real seriousness. Indeed, many look at the Silver Age of Comics (done under the Comics Code), as one of over the top stories, with such gimmicks, as Lion-Headed Superman, and Bat-Baby (really. They both happened). Even a long lived character like Batman suffered without the elements of those early horror comics, becoming farther and farther removed from his grim beginnings until the 70’s and the loosening of the Code. Because of that, comic writers today have further freedom and creativity to weave not only frightening tales, but to explore darker, more serious elements that challenge readers instead of merely satisfying them.

Further Viewing

As mentioned the EC Comics are largely among the most popular horror comics, with various anthologies existing today.  The titles mentioned previously are also worth looking for the modern ramifications of horror.  However, those with a taste for the silver screen can also be satisfied.  The classic TV anthology Tales From the Crypt, is based on the comic of the same name, and many episodes are direct adaptations.  Stephen King and George Romero’s Creepshow is a feature length tribute to EC, featuring graphics and stories straight out of the classic comics.   So if you’re looking for a way to get some scary fun next Halloween, take a trip to your local comic story.  Until then, boils and ghouls…

The Rules of a Crossover

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Welcome back.  First, I must apologize for being absent for so long, but I’ve been busy editing the new book, getting artwork approved, and trying to promote my crossover petition.  And in that sprit, I wanted to talk about something that is rare in popular writing, but does happen on occasion- the crossover.

What is It?

In the simplest terms, a crossover is combining characters from two or more existing worlds or franchise in a single story.  In general, these are rare occurrences, due to both creative and corporate reasons.  Creators themselves can be wary of combining their stories, and with the vastness of property ownership, being able to get through all the legal issues involved can doom a project from the start.  However, they still have happened in the past, in films, TV, and comics alike.  Sometimes it can combining two franchises under one corporate umbrella (the horror classics of Universal’s Frankenstein meets the Wolfman, and New Line’s Freddy vs. Jason) or two companies making a mutually profitable venture ( the DC Comics vs. Marvel miniseries).  But regardless of the origins, writes of these stories must obey the fundamental rules in order to make it work.

The Rules

#1.  It Has to Make Sense- while this rule seems obvious, it is one that needs to be remembered.  While certain characters are believable together, there needs to be a legitimate reasoning behind why they are working together.  The set up is all important, or else it’s mindless fanservice.  For example, in the DC/Marvel series mentioned above, the “God’ figures of the Marvel and DC universe are going to war, and the two sets of characters are set to battle to determine superiority, as a battle with the two godheads would wipe out all existence.  It gives the heroes a good reason to fight despite their moral misgivings, gives us clean one on one battles, and a big enough force to bring two universes together.

#2 Two Franchises, Two Rules- every story has a set of rules and regulations for it’s universe and characters.  Therefore, bringing them together means these rules have to be obeyed.  In Alan Moore’s League of Extradinary Gentlemen, arguably the greatest crossover ever, we have numerous literary characters joining forces.  One character is Captain Nemo, who was well established as disliking humanity for it’s sins.  Therefore, in the story, he demonstrates moral outrage at the vicious ‘punishment’ of the traitorous Invisible Man by Mr. Hyde (who is also acting in accordance to his rules, haven grown more evil due to spending more time as Mr. Hyde) and abandons the group when they are tricked into bringing a deadly virus into alien infested London.  Even the Invisible Man works according to his rules, becoming more and more untrustworthy as the story progresses.

#3 The Characters Have to Mesh (or not)- this is an expansion of the previous rule concerning sense-making.  When two characters are brought together, they need to have similar enough traits that they could function together; a good example is the multi-planet, peace promoting Federation of Star Trek, and the similar-minded Legion of Superheroes.  However, it can often be fun to bring together characters that are more opposite then alike, such as Batman and Spider-Man.  Both characters are thought of as tragic and angst ridden, but deal with their pain differently- Batman projects a grim exterior, while Spider-Man cracks jokes.  The interest them comes in watching the two characters find their similarities buried under their outward appearances.

#4 No One is Superior- This is the most important rule of any crossover, which is why I saved it for last.  The central idea of bringing two characters together is to show them working together as equals with mutual respect.  Therefore, neither character can be shown as superior to the other, as it shifts the balance to that character and makes them, and their universe, feel superior.  Some ways to avoid this are to highlight each character’s skills at different moments- Batman is more of a detective and is more intimating, but Superman has knowledge of alien devices and is more trusted by the public.  Another way is to have the characters fight each other, but end in ties, or have each one win a single fight to highlight how each approach can work.  But above all, you must do something to make sure your characters are on equal ground, or your crossover is doomed from the start.

Composing the Trilogy: Part 3

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Welcome back to Composing the Trilogy. Today, we discuss the final piece of the puzzle- the last entry.

Coming to the End

The purpose of the final entry is to wrap up the story and solve the conflicts that plague the characters. That alone can make it difficult to write, since you have had two previous entries to build up the ending. It’s certainly not impossible, but it can be a daunting task. This is also where your previous planning can come into play. The more you know how things are ending, the better a picture you have of a complete, complex, and satisfying ending. Ending on a ‘blind note’ can have serious consequences, such as the case of Godfather Part III. This final entry was not originally planned, but written and filmed to fulfill studio desire and pay the debt of director Francis Ford Coppola’s previous film bomb One From the Heart. As such, it is widely regarded as the weakest of the three films, as even Coppola admitted the previous two films had said all he wanted to say.

So assuming you have planned out a full trilogy from the beginning, you are prepared to avoid this problem. However, you still need to bring a proper close to your story. Some stories, usually fantasy, end with a final, climatic battle between the established rival forces. Star Wars does this well, as we see Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker clash for the final time. But it also brings in other elements that can be used for a finale, the end of growth and redemption. Luke completes his training, resists the temptation of the dark side, and become a full Jedi. Vader, who has hinted at being torn between his son and evil master, redeems his character by saving his son and killing his master. To add more to the finale, Vader dies soon after, adding more poignancy to his redemption, and officially making Luke the last living Jedi. As for further battle example, look no further then Return of the King, which treats audiences the last battles of a war that will either end our characters or make them heroes, as well as determine the kingship of Aragorn.

At the same time, things can be added to the final entry to give it more heft. However, these additions must be made carefully, or they may distract from the film. Many jokes have been made about the teddy-bear Ewoks of Return of the Jedi, largely about their readiness for toys. And Return of the King suffers from a multitude of false endings that turn excitement in a desire for the film to be over. Besides, readers are more likely to want to see resolution of characters and themes, not a multude of new things. So when making additions, keep it simple and short.

And now we’ve reached the end. How do you end it? That part is up to you. It can be as simple as Sam coming home, or as joyous as a galaxy wide celebration. It can be as poignant as a peaceful death, or as empty as a man dying alone, having nothing left to care about. But above the ending must be true to what’s come before, and it must be something that you know is right. Because if you don’t know that at the end, then you’ve wasted three books.

Getting Your Morals Across

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Today I want to discuss one of the most difficult aspects of writing- getting your point across. Writing means making a statement through your story, whether it be personal, social, or moral. Fantasies can be about courage and finding yourself, sci-fi can be about human potential and what we can or can’t do. But whatever your point, getting it to your audience is vital. Not doing enough or doing too much can ruin the impact of your story and unfortunately, it’s something even the best writers can do wrong.

In most cases, subtlety is the best course of action. The moral should never overtake the story, because the story should be how the moral is expressed. But overplaying the moral can also cause the story to be one sided and making the story one sided. A recent example is the second animated adaption of The Lorax, by Dr. Seuss. Both adaptations tell Seuss’s tale of the dangers of deforestation and greed, but the first takes a moment to humanize the antagonist Onceler, giving him moments of regret for his actions. The story even has him make a strong argument against the Lorax, reminding him that shutting down his factory would put people out of work, a point the Lorax concedes. This causes the viewer to think more objectively and question the lessons of the story. But in the more recent adaption, this is ignored for a more pro-eco stance, which save for one moment of balance, paints all industry as bad and all nature as good, which weakens the argument and makes the message feel preachy.

But at the same time, subtly can be difficult as well. While it may not bash readers over the head with the moral, the point can sometimes be lost. A personal example come from the Mel Brook Wild West satire Blazing Saddles. The film is chock full of shots at racism, Western films, and Hollywood, while still throwing random moments of insanity (a man punches a horse. Really). One example is how the black sheriff first rides into town, which stuns the townsfolk into silence. However, they quickly recover and pull their guns on the sheriff. The irony of course, is that the people couldn’t defend themselves from bandits, but are all armed enough to kill a black man. This is a clever point, but flew over my head for many years. Another example is George Orwell’s Animal Farm, one of my favorite satires of all time. The tale is a point by point example of the rise and fall of communism acted out through barnyard animals. But it does require some knowledge of such a government to really be accurate. Still, these examples are less of a problem then overstating and can be either fun to discover or encourage further exploration.

So what can a writer do to get a moral across? For starters, never write it in a way that talks down to your audience. Teaching is one thing, demeaning is another, and only one of them works. And try to see more then one side of your moral. If you can’t put your idea against scrutiny, it’s not worth defending. Take the time to show the opposition, and what makes sense about it. It will make your moral stronger for defending and hopefully make a better case. Finally, DON”T LET IT OVERSHADOW THE STORY. The story is meant to highlight the moral- it can’t become you on a soapbox screaming your belief to the world.

Points of Light Christmas Edition: A Christmas Story

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Hello and Merry Christmas readers. As we close in on Christmas Day and I prepare for a short holiday break, I find the need to end this edition of Points of Light on a strong note. It requires one of the best examples of strong writing I can think of, and for this season, there is only one piece that holds up along with A Christmas Carol and The Grinch. It is a simple tale of years past known simply as, A Christmas Story.

The Plot

A Christmas Story is the childhood memories of author Jean Shepard, who narrates the film. The story focuses on his nine-year old self (here called Ralphie) and his quest to get a Red Ryder BB Gun for Christmas. Along the way, he deals with bullies, childhood dares, and his family, who each deal with plots of their own. As Christmas comes closer, we see Raplhie’s father win a ‘major award,’ his brother’s odd habits, a secret decoder ring, and a mental break that eventually lead to a surprising Christmas morning.

What Writers Can Learn: Common Ground, Reality

As the plot indicates, A Christmas Story is fairly disjointed. There are numerous small subplots along the way to Christmas morning, and not all of them are resolved. The film did not revive acclaim on it’s initial release, and was considered a sleeper film for many years. However, it is now considered a holiday classic, and is shown each Christmas in a 24-hour marathon on cable network TBS. So what is it about such a disjointed, fairly simple story that has given it such praise?

To put it simply, the very fact it is so simple and disjointed. The movie may be set in Shepard’s childhood of the 40’s, but the events that transpire are familiar to everyone. Everyone has stories about how strange and crazy their families were as a child, and Ralphie is no different. Watching the Old Man eternally struggle with the furnace and the neighbor’s dogs, or Ralphie’s mom trick her younger son into eating like a pig bring to mind our memories of the strangeness of growing up. The scenes of dealing with bullies, idiotic dares, and heroic fantasies are all reminiscint of the baisic nature of childhood and with Shepard’s narration, it is further enhanced. We remember our own childhoods watching it and fall into nostalgia that manages to ring truly, but differently for everyone who watches it.

However, the holiday element is never abandoned. For every piece of childhood remembered, we also see Christmas through a child’s eyes. Ralphie’s desire for his BB gun is the desire of everyone that every wanted that one special toy at Christmas. We relive our own desires through him, and remember our feelings of hope, disappointment and/or relief on the big day. But watching the quiet moments, like Ralphie’s family gathered around the tree also remind us of the togetherness and near perfection the holiday brought us in our youth. And because no CS piece would be complete without mentioning it, Ralphie’s reaction to the horrible gift of his Aunt Clara reminds us how much we had to fake smile during the holiday as well (and still do even now)

Final Thoughts

The strengths of this movie are how well it resonates for people of any generation. For a writer, this is a vital skill for anyone that wishes to write about their life or a specific series of events. Writers always need to convey something that readers can see in their own lives- a struggle, an emotion, a mindset, that brings to mind something that they have experienced. Even a half-elf warrior can struggle with common concepts like family and isolation. A man that can punch steel can deal with wanting to be like everyone else. And while this movie may not hit such deep notes, it reminds us of our own lives while managing to be its own entity, which is something a great life-story should be.

On that end, Merry Christmas to my readers, and I look forward to seeing you in the New Year.

Points of Light Christmas Edition: Zombie Christmas Carol

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Welcome to the next entry of this Yuletide Points of Light. Last week, I divulged into A Christmas Carol and mentioned its many adaptations. Today’s entry is one of them, a recent comic adaptation of the last few years. However, this version adds in one of the more recent modern literary trends, with frightening results. With that, I present Marvel Comics’ Zombie Christmas Carol.

The Plot

While this story follows the basic outline of its source, it adds many new elements. England is in the grip of a zombie plague, with the people attempting to barricade and placate the ‘Hungry Ones,’ inside hospitals and workhouses. Unfortunately, the endless hunger of the zombies has drained resources, causing those in charge to beg for funds from Scrooge. He of course, recants, but is later visited by the zombified remains of Jacob Marley, who says Scrooge has a hand in both starting and ending the plague. The Three Sprits (suffering from the zombified world) show Scrooge how his past actions have played in the zombies creation, the current horrors, and the dark future that awaits. Scrooge eventually realizes that his abandonment of basic human kindness and belief in his fellow man is the very source of the ‘greed’ that infects the world, and it is only be reigniting that belief that he can save it.

What Writers Can Learn: Morality, Horror Elements

To begin with, I want to stress that this version DOES exist, and is not a fanfiction. Second, that despite what could be a rather gory and ludicrous story, this version still manages to capture the overall theme of Dickens’ novel. Of course there still IS gore and violence, but it serves as the backdrop for Scrooge’s redemption. The writers still use them well however, as they emphasize the darker nature of greed and selfishness that Dickens wrote against. And just like the novel, the comic shows Christmas under attack by these dark forces, not only through the zombies, but through the very Spirits themselves.

As I mentioned, each of the Sprits is affected by the horrors affecting their holiday. Christmas Past retains a feminine form with a connection to Scrooge, but is presented as a ragged corpse bride constantly dying and returning to life (a nod to the past itself, always leaving but never fading). Christmas Present begins much the same, but as he travels with Scrooge, his joy is slowly changed to melancholy and madness, as he shows Scrooge the happy world he should have entered into, and the world of death and endless hunger he is in. This version also contains the often-cut scene of Ignorance and Want, who literally spell the end of Christmas Present. Christmas Yet to Come, already a fearful specter, is little more then robe and jawbone, as he shows Scrooge a horrific zombie apocalypse where Bob Crachit’s beloved family devour him whole, Tiny Tim is damned to wander the earth, forever hungry, and Scrooge himself is shown a grave with a not quite dead occupant. Because of all these horrific twists, the often worn message of the story gains new and frightful resonance, even more so when Scrooge sets out to correct the world

Scrooge himself is shown with far more moral dilemmas then money. We see that his greed comes from an early misfortune of his youth, that hardened him to believe that man can never help his fellows, only starve them of love and life. As such, he has spread this sickness to other men and women, causing the very zombie plague his world is engulfed. This is an intriguing mix of Dickens’ original character and modern zombie elements, made more so by the revelation that Scrooge also carries the cure within him. His nephew Fred, originally a minor character, is given a major life, as he seems to carry a cure as well. (Spoilers Ahead!). It is through him, and his deceased mother, Scrooge’s beloved sister, that we learn the light of kindness and generosity is the only way to cure the zombies. When Scrooge ignites that within himself, we are again shown Dickens’ morals, but in an entirely light. For now, that basic human kindness and belief in goodness is enough to bring rest to legions of unhappy, hungry wanderers and save the very world. There are few who could read such a story and not look at their actions a bit differently as the holidays roll around.

Final Thoughts

Zombie Christmas Carol is a unique twist on a classic story, which would appeal to any who enjoy zombie gore and violence. However, it still retains the high minded ideals that Dickens originally set down, along with the requisite darkness and horror a good zombie story should have. The idea of love and goodwill restoring the dead is also a fresh, if slightly heavy handed spin, which seems to have gained ground in Hollywood (the film and novel Warm Bodies explores similar ground). While this is cannot be recommended for children, adults and teenagers looking for a fresh version of a Christmas classic should certainly pick up this volume.

Points of Light Halloween Edition: The Thing

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Greetings once again, frightful readers. We’ve been going over horror stories all this month, and seeing as how today is All Hallows Eve, it seems fitting to head back to the crypt to unearth one more story. Of course, as I said last week, this is a story that’s a little hard to find. It could be anything- your dog, a bug, even YOU, reader. And no one would ever know until it was too late; for that is the power of today’s entry, one of my all-time favorite horror films- John Carpenter’s The Thing.

The Story

A remake of the 1950’s horror film, The Thing From Another World (itself an adaption of John W. Campbell’s Who Goes There), The Thing takes place at an Artic research base, which is suddenly invaded by a stray dog and a pair of Norwegian scientists trying to kill it. The Americans kill the scientists and take in the dog, then travel to the Norwegian base. There, they find a ruined building, and a horrific, two-headed human corpse, along with a long hollowed out block of ice. They realize the Norwegian scientists unearthed something in the ice, which is made readily apparent when the new dog mutates into a horrific creature. They subdue it, but realize the alien creature can perfectly adapt into another being, and even a cell can make a perfect replica. The men slowly devolve into paranoia, as they realize that the creature may be posing as one of them, and must be prevented from infecting the rest of the world.

What Writers Can Learn: Setup, Suspense, Paranoia, Unhappy Resolution

While much of what makes The Thing a success is it’s special effects, which are gruesome and yet amazing to behold given the limitations of the time, that same success is equally due to the film’s excellent setup. Placing the film in the Artic gives us a sparse, empty environment with no connection to the world at large. As such, when the Thing begins its attack, we know that no help is coming, and even if it did, it probably wouldn’t reach our heroes in time. Therefore, it is up to our small band of men to contain and eradicate the Thing before it can return to sleep, or infect the civilized world. However, there is one thing that is preventing them from doing so- each other.

Remember, the Thing is capable of perfectly imitating any living being, including humans. Therefore, the men are highly suspicious and paranoid of each other, heightened by lack of sleep. This means that even the slightest hint of an impersonation is met with open hostility- MacReady, the main character, is left outside in the cold when a torn jacket with his name is found. When they attempt to perform a blood test to check for the Thing, the blood samples are destroyed, leading to suspicion of all those with access to the med lab. One man is even shot and killed because of the rampant paranoia without showing any signs of infection (he is later proved to be fully human). And since the audience has no idea which, if any, of the men are infected, we feel that same fear and paranoia, which heightens our fear, and our reactions when the Thing does reveal itself.

Still, the movie wisely avoids any chance for a sequel (and as proved by the 2011 prequel, no additional story is required) with its ending. Here, we have a rather nihilistic conclusion that still manages to keep our questions and paranoia going. With the destruction of the Thing, the base, and the majority of the crew, we are left with MacReady and fellow survivor Childs sitting in the ruins of the base. They cannot prove that either of them is not infected, but it is a moot point, since without shelter, the freezing temperatures will kill them before any rescue team arrives. Therefore they sit facing each other, taking their last drinks, as the film ends. It is a dark and chilling ending, and leaves many questions unanswered. But regardless of whether or not the Thing still exists, it is frightening to believe that these two men will be rewarded for saving the world by freezing to death. Of course, the viewer will also wonder if they are even still men, and whether a rescue team would unleash a greater horror by saving them.

Final Thoughts

The Thing has received many adaptions over the years, but minus the afore-mentioned prequel, it still stands as a sci-fi tale with Hitchcock level suspense. Even without the effects, the idea of men cut off from civilization and facing an evil that they cannot see is more than enough to drive the story. Writers can easily take the suspense and paranoia and its effects for various other stories, such as thrillers, adventure, and obviously straight horror. But perhaps the ending offers the greatest lesson. In too many stories, major problems are resolved with a forced happy ending. This serves as a reminder that, just like in life, characters can do everything right, save the day, and still die as a result. But the fact that MacReady and the others accept that, helps makes this ending even more memorable, and even more chilling.

Well, that’s the last coffin for this year. I hope you’ve enjoyed our trip around the graveyard, and don’t be afraid to pick up any of the stories I’ve mentioned (either the original or this version of The Thing are excellent films, though the suspense and effects drive each differently). And remember, tomorrow is the start of the Lightrider Giveaway contest, so be sure to use the Lightrider Facebook page to enter. Happy Halloween!

Rafflecopter Contest!

First off, I want to thank everyone who worked on the Clark Library Author Meet and Greet. It was great to make some new fans and talk with a lot of like-minded authors. Second, I want to announce the first Lightrider Holiday Giveaway! It’s very simple folks- just use the Rafflecopter link for the instructions, and you are automatically entered for a chance to win a signed copy of Lightrider, along with a full set of beautiful character bookmarks done by Derrick Fish. So please, head over to my Facebook page, click on the giveaway link, and good luck to everyone! The contest will begin on Nov. 1st, and run through the month until Thanksgiving.

https://www.facebook.com/TheLightriderJournals/app_228910107186452

Reminder of Clark Library Event

Just a reminder to all the readers in the area, I will be appearing at the Clark NJ Public Library this Saturday Oct. 26th, as part of its Local Author Spotlight. There will be plenty of authors, books, and of course, me with a special treat for fans, so come on over and check it out!

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Points of Light Halloween Edition: Grimm Fairy Tales

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Good evening, slashers and murderesses. As promised, we’re going to end this frightening promo month with some childhood stories to sleep to. So let’s begin with Cinderella selling her soul to go the ball, the cannibal Seven Dwarves, and the deadly kiss of Sleeping Beauty. Oh, not what you expected? I guess I neglected to mention how these stories aren’t from Mother Goose, but rather the world of Grimm Fairy Tales.

The Story

Created by David Wohl and published by Zenescope, Grimm Fairy Tales is a horror comic series focusing on classic fairy tales. The tales are contained by an immortal woman named Sela, who leaves her tome at the feet of people in trouble. The stories contained are gruesome, but moralistic tales that reflect the reader’s situation, and show them the possible consequences, forcing them to answer serious moral questions. However, this can often be twisted, as Sela’s adversary, named Belinda, also carries the tales, but uses them to inspire violence and misunderstand the morals.

What Writers Can Learn: Story Roots, Making Morals Work, Effective Twists and Reimagining

Grimm Tales isn’t a truly new concept, though Zenescope has effectively branched it out into similar stories (Peter Pan, The Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland). In truth, these horror comics are actually much closer to the original stories then people would imagine. While Disney has colored in many classic tales, fairy tales are oral folklore, which the Brothers Grimm collected from the German countryside. Life was hard for these peoples, and the tales were not designed to encourage children to dream of castles, magic, and princes that would save them. They were designed to teach children morality, usually by showing them frightening consequences of failing to do so. For example, in the original Cinderella, the tale ends with blackbirds plucking out the evil stepsisters’ eyes, The Little Mermaid loses her prince to another man and dies, and Beauty and the Beast adds two evil sisters whose jealousy turns them to stone. Grimm Tales returns those consequences with horrifying results, but as proof of what research of a popular story can inspire an author to do.

Even the moralistic tendencies, which might seem hokey in other hands, are given biting reality here. For example, Jack and the Beanstalk is mirrored by the tale of a small time drug dealer, obsessed with getting his family the best, despite the growing risk. The classic Jack is a similar man, constantly climbing the beanstalk for wealth he doesn’t need, until the giant catches him. He managed to chop down the beanstalk, but the descending giant then falls on Jack’s house, killing his wife and child. Sleeping Beauty is another frightening moral- in this tale, a boy with an unrequited crush on a bad girl using him as a mule, sees a humble stable boy awaken Sleeping Beauty with his kiss of true love. But his love goes unanswered, which due to the curse in this version, causes him to die and Sleeping Beauty to return to sleep, with no man daring to ever awaken her again. The ends are effective twists on our perceptions of the story and painfully clear examples of the morals the stories try to convey. While not subtle, the horrifying way in which they are presented, along with the real world mirror story, slam everything home and remain long after the reader has closed the book. And not every story has a happy ending- characters either ignore the moral, or are given Belinda’s darker tales; even the tale of Goldilocks and the Three Bears ends with the reminder that not every gets to enjoy a second chance, which makes the tales and the morals hit even harder, which any writer should try to imply with their moralistic tales.

Final Thoughts

Grimm Fairy Tales might not appeal to many beyond horror fans, but it brings many factors that writers shouldn’t ignore. At its core, it manages to take a concept that is centuries old and make it fresh and exciting, by expanding on its roots, which can be essential for a writer telling a familiar story. And while the gore and pinup girl covers help sell the books, they still come with a lesson that registers. Any story that has a moral cannot simply stand on a soapbox and shout it out. Morals need to be presented in a way that is either subtle, or without being preachy. While Grimm Tales might not be subtle, it is never preachy, and delivers each moral with the impact of a knife to the stomach.

Well, that’s the final crypt for Halloween this year. It’s been a fun time but… wait, what’s this? Looks like there might be one more crypt left, kiddies. Can’t say I’m surprised; after all, what’s inside it can look like anything it wants too….

Better get your flamethrowers ready for next week.