Stories To Make You Say Ugh! Paperback – November 25, 2016
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Paperback, November 25, 2016
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- Item Weight : 12.8 ounces
- Paperback : 116 pages
- ISBN-13 : 979-8655202016
- Product Dimensions : 8.5 x 0.28 x 11 inches
- Publisher : Independently published (November 25, 2016)
- Language: : English
- ASIN : B08D4VQ5WW
- Best Sellers Rank: #5,113,686 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top review from the United States
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The annual is a compendium of EC Comics-style monster/horror tales---a "Pete Von-thology," if you will---that showcase his long-running series of the UGH! graphic-story comics. If you need more evidence of PVS' cred in the biz, check out his IMDb listings. Or, more apropos here, if you consider yourself a serious student of fictional-monster history, its creators and its literary/artistic precedents, do yourself a solid and look into acquiring the landmark works PETE VON SHOLLY'S HISTORY OF MONSTERS, LOVECRAFT ILLUSTRATED and the unique and exhaustive 2-volume FANTASTIC FICTIONEERS.
But here we're focused on the Giant Annual UGH!, the MAD Magazine-redolent pub that somehow manages to be both literate and deliciously lunatic, as it strives to give you your money's worth and claws your attention into submission by filling every page and margin with witty and beautifully illustrated material that leaves no vault un-sprung, kicking every crypt along the way, from the mock-letter page ("Mail Crawl"), to the marginal grotesqueries; from the classically-endowed distressed femmes, to the elaborate pulp-mag ad gags. (The hilarious back-cover vengeance ploy alone will have you scrambling to order.)
But the bloody red meat of UGH! is, of course, its marvelous horror/monster tales.
Von Sholly LOVES monsters. And this affinity radiates through his facility for creating eye-searing examples of both classic and original creatures. The interior art is largely rendered in b&w, ghoulishly atmospheric half-tones and gray-scales reminiscent of fine ink washes---a book this size in full color would be cost prohibitive. But there IS a generous smattering of full-page color "bumpers" between the stories, one side presenting a poster-like teaser for the next story, the other featuring a clever series of appropriate "UGH! Toons" that amusingly---and sometimes brilliantly---satirize or culturally contextualize the next looming horror course.
I'll interject here that I'm rarely compelled to comment on an illustrator's LITERARY gifts. But make no mistake, folks, Pete Von Sholly is very much a STORYTELLER. This nightmare anthology's narratives easily match their high-quality graphics. Classic monster myths are resurrected, dismembered, and stitched back together...weirder. Several fantastical sub-genres are represented in the anthology, providing variety and vitality. Wordplay abounds: PVS is a clever logophile who never bores with his text; the exposition is clear and terse; language accents and speech cadences are varied, keeping dialogue fresh. Reversals and ironic endings impart surprise and grist for contemplation (as with the opening story, "Corpse Jockeys"). The superbly styled dramatic compositions and frame designs dovetail with the lettering to electrify pacing and story structure.
Let's tiptoe through the ghastly graveyard of the UGH! GIANT ANNUAL...
The second story, "Fingers Keepers," injects existential bite into a vignette of classic retribution from beyond the grave. A pungent, direct assault on the reader akin to the effects of the best prose short horror fiction. PVS' drawings of the "ambulatory deceased" are par excellence.
"Vivimortisaurus" jaw-droppingly conflates dinosaurs and zombies with unexpected apocalyptic panache.
"Kongtinued..." uses nice wordplay and a fresh genre-leap to finally give a fed-up King Kong his chance to plead HIS side of the story, flipping off Ann Darrow along the way (and at last humorously addressing the long-speculated details of that bizarre ocean voyage from Skull Island to New York)!
I'll briefly note here that the book is not without a few glitches in the form of misspellings and punctuation gaffes. But they're rare enough that they'll likely be missed by all but the most gimlet-eyed.
At this point I have to cite one of my favorite UGH! Toon gag pages, featuring the best cartoon I've seen about, er..."premature flatulence," leading (dare I say "breathtakingly"?) into...
"Morgue," an accursed-family legacy tale with a portentously terrifying ending.
And next comes a precise example of the kind of visual/verbal inventiveness I touted earlier, in the story "Der Vicket Vootkarfer," a spin-twist that not only turns a well-known folk tale on its severed head but also stands as one of the damnedest exercises in arch dialect and pronunciation play I've ever read. You get so caught up in the antic enjoyment of "pidgin-German" that you'll be speaking it aloud by the time you get to the grisly wrap-up.
Now of course this wouldn't be a Pete Von Sholly collection without an example of his specialty: adapting the works of H.P. Lovecraft. (And do look into PVS' LOVECRAFT ILLUSTRATED book, mentioned at the beginning. If you're a Lovecraft fan, it's an essential work. Shelve it next to your "De Vermis Mysteriis.") I'm talking here about "The Dreamer in the House," a proto-classic panoply of eldritch nightmares and monsters; a PVS-guided tour through the dank chambers of an HPL psychic museum, touching the celebrated horror master's entire oeuvre, framed as a romp-in-the-dark that might be HPL's personal last moments, his creative life looming before him, a parade of abominations, a catalog of dread compressed into a single night-gaunt of a dream. Yes, it's that good.
"Encrypted" is an Uncle "Creaky"-style, sardonic narrative ("the temple of 'Maandpaketl,' " indeed!) that's a perfect example of Von Sholly's embrace of giddy, unabashed FUN with horror. His charm is often in the pure gallows-humor treatment of even the most grim and gory subjects and themes. In lesser tentacles, this can collapse into silliness. But PVS leaves us amused AND creeped out. And I was struck by several aspects of this story. The sheer design variance is a quick course on visual storytelling; the illos are detailed or sketchy, as needed. There's a deft balance between drawing and text, alternating the focus to suit the narrative demands. Some cleverly compact story exposition ("the last surviving member of his twelve-man expedition" sets things up in a chilling nutshell). "Encrypted" is a novel apocalyptic turn on the venerable "entombed" sub-genre, pointing out how PVS doesn't lazily recast, rehash or re-coat---he re-THINKS.
(And another nice UGH! Toon bit, with the "revolving-door spider"!)
"The Spinster" is a tale of the quintessential hunter, a potent take on evil-on-evil retribution. (With another name-check of a notable in the horror genre---"Lansdale"---as was "Ashton Smith" in the previous story.)
"I Am Atomagor"---prefaced by the wonderful poster-gag for "Rot and Roll Music"---is an ode to rock-star wannabes, a garage band's wet dream. A smashing, attention-grabbing opening impels you through clever, cross-matched story elements, hurtling to the oddly relatable solipsism of its abrupt ending.
And ohhhh, MAN does the final UGH! Toon---"Space Race"---slay you with '50s sci-fi nostalgia and prep you for the genre-film-o-phile nirvana of...
"The Invasionoids" (a "Harry Hauser" adventure, of course!)---an unexpectedly wild and arch treatment of hallowed B-movie "heroism" and feminist retribution.
This book is the real thing, my monster-loving kin. Horror comics just don't get any better. And if you love monsters, horror and tales of the fantastic in general, Pete Von Sholly's other books, which I reference above, are mandatory for any serious collection.
You know what to do.