What’s My Damage? – Clive Barker’s Books of Blood (Vol. 1)

What’s shaking, people?

Seeing all these posts on Facebook regarding the ten books that have stuck with folks has me thinking quite a bit about books/comics/media that have utterly stuck with me—like, stay with me to this day.

Seeing as I could rant, and rant, and rant about them for days. It doesn’t seem right to just do a Facebook post with blurbs.

So, I think I have an idea for a new set of Blog posts – “What’s My Damage?” – a collection of  movies/comics/books/albums that totally influenced me as a writer (and maybe a person).

I’m so excited for this idea that we’ll start it off real easy and in the spirit of the original posts, with a book.

That book; Clive Barker’s short story collection, “The Books of Blood”. I’m going to focus on the first volume, as that’s the very first paperback of Barker’s I ever bought.

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This book blew my mind.

I’ll break down each story and my thoughts – no spoilers. Before that, let me set the stage here. I was 13, getting to that angry “phase”, completely confused about EVERYTHING. There I was, allowed to take the 6 train into Manhattan for the first time. The only stipulation: I couldn’t go further south than Astor Place (weird rule, but hey, mom).

So I troll around the East Village – no clue what the fuck I’m doing – and I find a Barnes and Noble. Realize, I’m from The Bronx at a time when malls and bookstores were scarce in my life. My fucking mind near exploded.

I was familiar with Hellraiser, so that explains why I “stumbled” onto this book. I could only afford the one (pretty sure it was under five bucks) so I took a chance.

I devoured the whole thing sitting in the bookstore and on the train ride home.

Then I read it again.

I was hooked. HOOKED. To this day I will always maintain my Barker fanboyism. He’s the reason I wanted to write and the reason I finally found a reason to be horrified of what I read.

So, the stories:

The Book of Blood

The opener (and first book-end of the three books worth of short stories). Stark, haunting, and horrifying. It sets the tone and gets you sprinting through Barker’s little haunted house.

The Midnight Meat Train

I have never been so scared to get on a train in my life as I was after reading this. The ending, shit, that ending opened my head in a way nothing hasn’t since. The mere concept of the things Barker brought to life in this story was so foreign to me, that I obsessed over it for months. That would set me down the path of reading Lovecraft and becoming a huge Cronenberg fan.

The Yattering and Jack

Barker can be funny? Like an R-rated Gremlins. May not be the best of the bunch, but it was a fantastic palate cleanser.

Pig-Blood Blues

Just when I thought we’d gone full-bizarre, Barker threw this at me. Ex-cop becomes a ward at a juvie hall. This may have be the root of why I gravitate to using animals in my fiction.

Sex, Death, and Starshine

The Twilight Zone by way of Barker. Fantastical, but still raw. The story tested my nerve for erotic horror. Unnerving visuals that Barker continued to bring in his future works.

In the Hills, the Cities

Barker’s best short story. That’s not opinion, it’s fact. Ahead of its time and jammed with such a bizarre and insane visual. There’s no way I would ever ruin this story. It needs to be experienced and then reread.

Bottom line – if I could ever write a short story collection at this level, I’d consider myself a success. Wouldn’t matter if it sold or was even picked up.

Tune in next time when I figure out exactly what damaged me about one of my favorite movies of all time: John Carpenter’s remake of The Thing.

Be easy,

Angel

The Amazing-ly Frustrating Spider-Man

This weekend was super-charged with superheroes. I watched Guardians of the Galaxy (fucking incredible), Captain America: The Winter Soldier (second viewing, still my fave of the summer), and The Amazing Spider-Man 2.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2; a movie I should fanboy gush all over. For fuck’s sake, a quarter of my arm is the cover of Web of Spider-Man #8. I’m biased, right?

Sorry, no. Not even the most willfully blind of fanboys can ignore that Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a wholesale piece of garbage. Like Man of Steel, it goes out of its way to pretend what makes the characters involved so great are worth being revised or excised or ignored.

That, my friends, is fucking bullshit.

So what is this rant?

Let’s break it down. Here are my thoughts on Spidey’s reboot sequel.

What I liked:

  • Peter and Gwen: I love the relationship. They took everything that was awful about Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst’s chemistry/lines/story and actually make them worth caring about. I WANT Peter and Gwen to be together forever.
  • The Osbornes: There was some potential with the Osbornes. I felt the hints dropped regarding Harry and Norman’s relationship was much better than what Raimi provided. I also really liked Harry. He felt like a good guy scumbag and that worked.
  • Spider-Kid: What a great scene when Spidey helps a bullied kid and what an awesome little payoff. Loved Spidey thanking the kid for keeping the seat warm. Quintessential Spidey right there. That was a perfect scene.

Notice anything about what I liked? Let’s move on to what I didn’t like.

What I may have fucking despised with the fury of a thousand suns:

  • Electro: Ugh. Fucking hell. EVERY SINGLE SCENE was a garbled mess. What a waste of a potentially interesting character. Don’t even get me started on the mugging and the itsy-bitsy spider scene.
  • Green Goblin: Where did this shit come from? It felt like the readers needed to justify that little scene where Harry tells the weird fedora guy that he needs a small group to rock all the little experiments in his dad’s lab. As an aside, how the fuck does a Rhino suit, metal octopus arms, or a glider going to help stop your debilitating and lethal disease from killing you?? The movie seemed to imply all those projects were for that sole purpose. Anyway, Goblin was shoe-horned in as was Gwen’s death. All of that could have easily been in a third film.
  • Rhino: Useless, unnecessary, and stupid. He was upstaged by a kid in a Spidey Halloween costume. While I loved that scene specifically for the kid and Spidey’s interaction – Rhino could have easily been some random thug with a handgun and held as much weight.

So let’s see. I enjoyed everything in this movie that did not involve a costume.

I think we can see the problem. You call a movie Spider-Man and all the scenes with Spider-Man are fucking garbage. That’s a massive, massive problem. If they really want to fix this we need a few things to happen.

  • No more bullshit mysterious history for Peter. Seriously, how much subplot do we fucking need?
  • ONE VILLAIN AT A TIME. Unless other villains are thugs for the main villain. Cut it out. Toy lines can have random characters added for no reason. People won’t give a fuck.
  • Better designs. The new Spidey suit is perfect, but holy shit were the villains awful. They all looked like something Joel Schumacher’s people half-assed.
  • No more z-plots. An NYC blackout and the best you can come up with is airplane drama? It’s fucking NYC, read about the ’77 blackout. Spidey would have had his hands FULL. That would have been awesome too. Having to get to Electro but being constantly sidelines by looting, riots, and random crimes. Street level Spidey is best Spidey.
  • Don’t kill the best actor you have in the movie. That really could have waited.

Overall, I have a feeling we’ll be seeing another reboot soon. Sony’s tone deaf attempt to emulate the Avengers formula has already failed before leaving the gate. (Seriously, Google how they teased the Sinister Six and immediately issued a statement that what they teased wasn’t really the lineup…A DAY LATER.)

Ah, Spidey. One day. One day you’ll get the movie you deserve.

Oh yeah. Go see Guardians of the Galaxy (again, and again, and again).

Be easy,

Angel

Noir at The Bar – Queens

Looks like I’ll be reading it up at my old stomping grounds in Queens this week. Stop on by and take a long listen – seriously – look at this lineup!

Me? I’ll be reading two flash pieces with a little black comic edge to keep the mood light.

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Special thanks to Alex Segura for MCing and being kind enough to offer me a slot with these fine writers.

Very exciting!