Butt Plugs, Shit Golems and Living Castles: Graphic Novels for Summer Reading

Butt Plugs, Shit Golems and Living Castles: Graphic Novels for Summer Reading

BRENDAN VIDITO

 

Looking for some strange graphic novels to read while getting liquored in the sun? Here are five illustrated fever dreams guaranteed to make you wonder if you’re suffering from heat exhaustion:

 

20216441_10156467510575299_664754344_o

 

Imagine being trapped in a truck stop bathroom while the person in the stall next to you is having explosive diarrhea. Now, multiply that stench by thirty billion. That’s the level of stink pervading the world of Tyler Landry’s Shit and Piss. This slim volume of surrealist horror is set in an apocalyptic wasteland, within the walls of a sewage processing plant. The place is run by a sentient human skull that spends its time playing cruel games with the plant’s inhabitants. There’s a golem made of human shit, dangerous parasites, humanoid builders with vaguely vaginal mouths and terrifying aquatic monstrosities. The art is rendered in gorgeous (if you want to call it that) black and white. The text is minimal, poetic and laced with heavy doses of existential horror. This one is a hidden gem and a must-read for horror fans and coprophiles alike.

 

20217225_10156467510415299_331541152_n

 

Whatever happened to educational scare films? You know, the ones where they’d warn you to stay celibate unless you wanted your junk to explode. Then attack your eyeballs with extreme close-ups of genital sores leaking something that looks like cottage cheese. Well, if you’re crazy enough to be nostalgic for those days, Ken Dahl’s got you covered. His graphic novel, Monsters, is a unique pairing of autobiography and sexual education manual. It opens with the evocative line: “Imagine never kissing anyone on the lips ever again” and proceeds to tell of Dahl’s experience with the herpes simplex virus. Everything he learns about the disease throughout the narrative is presented in an honest, educational and oddly entertaining format. He dispels a lot the myths surrounding the disease, and in the process paints a portrait of himself that’s both funny and painfully human. You’ll be hard pressed to find anything so unique in the field of graphic storytelling. Fans of Robert Crumb should keep an eye out for this one.

 

20206399_10156467510435299_1000545142_n

 

I don’t plan on getting married or going on a honeymoon. But if I do, there damn well better be butt plugs and monstrous trees involved. Jesse Jacobs’ Safari Honeymoon is a psychedelic trip with an oddball sense of humor. We follow a pair of newlyweds who spend their honeymoon in a jungle straight out of your Uncle Jerry’s acid stories. With the help of a guide that happens to be riddled with every species of parasite, real or imagined, they are subjected to a series of misadventures, including: running away from killer trees, punching monsters in the face and getting trapped in a time loop—along with a bunch of other crazy shit. This book is absolutely hilarious. It can be read in one sitting and the art is stunning. Everything is doused in shades of green and presented in a mind-bendingly kaleidoscopic style. It’s the perfect way to spend your time on a camping trip before the mushrooms kick in.

 

20216591_10156467510565299_37325733_o

 

This wouldn’t be a list of weird graphic stories if it didn’t include at least one thing from Japan. Suehiro Maruo is a manga artist known for his ero guro (erotic grotesque) aesthetic, which is characterized by frank depictions of deviance, sexual corruption and violence. Its influence can be felt throughout Japanese cinema, from pink films to the works of Takashi Miike and Sion Sono. As far as Maruo’s work is concerned, the best place to start is Mr. Arashi’s Amazing Freak Show. Set early in the Shōwa period, this manga follows a young orphan named Midori who’s rescued from the streets by a traveling freak show. She soon discovers that her existence as a beggar was preferable to living among the murderers and sadists that make up the troupe. I’ll tell you right now, Mr. Arashi’s Amazing Freak Show is tame by Maruo’s standards, but it’s still not for the faint of heart. The panels ooze with demented sexuality, brutality and, uh, eyeball licking. But through it all, there’s an interesting, albeit depressing, story to be had. It almost feels like a pitch-black version of a children’s fairy tale. And if you happen to enjoy it, and the violence doesn’t trouble your sick mind, give Maruo’s even more disturbing Ultra-Gash Inferno a try. It’s the literary equivalent of a face full of pepper spray.

 

20187605_10156467510450299_973835804_n

 

Fans of horror comics will no doubt recognize the name Richard Corben. His highly idiosyncratic art has graced the pages of Heavy Metal and has likely given many preadolescent boys their first boner—Corben has a thing for drawing exaggerated female anatomy. And I mean exaggerated: like beach ball size boobs. It’s ridiculous. Anyway, one of his more interesting works, Ragemoor, is the Gothic tale of a living, monstrous castle. The entirety of this comic—from the monochromatic art to its distinct Poe/Lovecraft flavor—brings to mind the films of Roger Corman. The story follows Herbert, the heir of castle Ragemoor, who returns home in the wake of his father’s death. As he explores the halls of his birthright, the horrifying truth behind the blood-soaked stones begins to unravel and threatens to drive Herbert to madness. From beginning to end, this comic will make you feel like you’re watching an undiscovered B-horror film. It’s creepy, campy and downright fun.

 

So there you have it. Hopefully one of these books scratches your summer itch. Now, it’s time to slather on some tanning oil, open a can of beer, and fire up that joint. Here’s hoping your summer is weird as fuck.

 

 

BRENDAN VIDITO is a novelist and short story writer from Northern Ontario. His stories have appeared in Splatterpunk Zine, Infernal Ink Magazine, Dark Moon Digest, and the recent anthology Splatterpunk’s Not Dead and the upcoming Tragedy Queens: Stories Inspired by Lana Del Rey and Sylvia Plath by CLASH Books. You can visit him at brendanvidito.wordpress.com.

Advertisements

1 Response

Leave a Reply