Friday, December 2, 2016


Halloween ComicFest is a somewhat smaller, spookier version of Free Comic Book Day. Here’s how the website describes it:

Halloween ComicFest is an annual event where participating local comic shops across North America and beyond celebrate the Halloween season by giving away free comics to fans. The event takes place the Saturday on or before Halloween each year and is the perfect opportunity to introduce friends and family to the many reasons why comics and comic shops are great! Comic shops are the perfect location to get into the sppoktacular season: from zombies, vampires, monsters, and aliens to costumes and more, comic shops have it all when it comes to Halloween fun!

Major publishers like DC Comics, Marvel Comics, Dark Horse Comics, and IDW Publishing put out free comics for fans to enjoy during Halloween. Also available are all-ages mini-comics, perfect to give out to trick-or-treaters or as party favors to inspire the next generation of comics readers! Popular series from past years have included Archie, Pokemon, and Grumpy Cat.

Every year, I try and fail to review all of the Free Comic Book Day offerings sent to me by my pals at Stormwatch Comics, my favorite comic-book store that I’ve never stepped foot in. I need to correct that in 2017.

This year, Stormwatch also sent me over thirty free comics from Halloween ComicFest. I figure reading and reviewing them is akin to running a half-marathon to prepare one’s self for running a full marathon. This is the first of several such bloggies, each spaced a few days  apart, wherein I will try to read and review my Halloween ComicFest goodies. Let’s see if I succeed in this endeavor or if I collapse and start puking before I reach the finish line.

The free Halloween ComicFest books come in two sizes, designated as full-size comics and mini-comics. I’ll be mixing them up in these columns until I review them all.

Grumpy Cat Halloween ComicFest 2016 [Dynamite] is a mini-comic that measures 5.25 inches by 8.25 inches. Counting the covers, it’s 16 pages. The front cover is a funny, nicely-drawn Steve Uy cover of Grumpy Cat with a Jason Voorhees hockey mask. Uy draws and colors the interior comics. He’s got a fun style.

“I Know What You Did Last Summer, I Just Don’t Care: is a ten-page story written by Ben Fisher. Grumpy and cheerful sidekick Pokey go to a haunted house in a wager involving their Halloween costumes. They meet a mummified cat. It’s a solid story with a funny ending. I liked it a lot. Bill Tortolini lettered the story. Rich Young is the editor.

The one-page “Grumpy Cat Goes to Comic-Con” is written by Elliott Serrano with lettering by Uy. It’s so-so, lacking the punch panel it needed. One-pagers should be thought of as the equivalent of a Sunday comic strip. You have to get in and get out, leaving readers with a laugh that will stay with them for a while.

The final comics page is “Make Your Own,” an uncredited gag about making “Grump Ray Specs” by cutting out Grumpy Cat glasses. An idea that might have worked as a full-size comics page fails miserably at the mini-comics size.

The inside back cover advertises Diamond Distribution’s Comic Shop Locator and other useful websites. The back cover advertises Doctor Strange (the movie), which was released on November 4. The ads ran in all of the mini-comics, a brilliant move on Marvel’s part and a good Halloween tie-in.

I’m looking at a number of things when I review Halloween ComicFest items. Is the material in the comic well-written and well-drawn? Does it present a good enough chunk of the comic or graphic novel to entice a reader into buying the comic? Is it reader-friendly enough to welcome rather than confuse a new reader?

RATING: Excellent. The cover and lead story make this mini-comic. I’d buy Grumpy Cat comic books based on them. Since Grumpy is such a well-known figure, I didn’t need explanation to follow the story. Pokey’s character is obvious. Definitely reader-friendly.


The full-size Zombie Tramp vs. Dollface HCF 16 [Action Lab] sticks an “M” on the cover for “mature,” doubtless for the poorly-drawn boobage and the panty up shots of the title character. The 13-page lead story doesn’t give sufficient background for a new reader and is neither well-written nor well-drawn. The story is continued in Dollface #1.

The 7-page preview of The Circle is better written and drawn, but it doesn’t convey what that forthcoming five-issue series is about beyond an undercurrent of spookiness. I’m not inclined to buy even the first issue to learn more.

The rest of the issue is full-page ads for Dollface, The Circle, Oblivion (based on the movies by Peter David), Blood & Dust (wild west vampires), Vampblade (yawn) and Sleigher (“Heavy Metal Santa Claus”). That last title is kinda clever, but none of these comics look interesting. The back cover has a ad for Free Comic Book Day 2017 on Saturday, May 6. Mark your calendar.

RATING: Poor. Unless the word “zombie” in a title is now a draw by itself, this giveaway has failed its publisher.

The full-size Afterlife with Archie Halloween ComicFest Edition #1 2016 [Archie Horror] is exactly what the ongoing series is: one of the most vile comic books being published today. Wrapping his stories around an obvious ripoff of AMC’s The Walking Dead, writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa betrays his dislike of the classic Riverdale characters with every issue. Only Archie and Betty have a semblance of their actual core characters and, since the “Season Two” arc is titled “Betty: R.I.P.”, I’m guessing we’re heading into “And Then There Was One” territory.

The surviving supporting characters are portrayed as horrible human beings. Chuck Clayton, the only black male in the comic book, has been emasculated. His girlfriend Nancy is having a contrived affair with Ginger Lopez. Mr. Lodge is known for cheating on his wife. Reggie and others would gleefully throw someone else to the zombies to save themselves. Cheryl and Jason Blossom have been having  incestuous relations and then she kills him. Hard to believe that a writer whose first experience with Archie Comics was rewriting a play so that a company wouldn’t sue him is now of the big wigs at the publisher. If you want to tell me artist Francesco Francavilla is terrific, I won’t deny that for a second. But his talent is well and truly wasted on this steaming pile.

In addition to the reprinted Afterlife story, this giveaway offers a second reprint from the 1970s Chilling Adventures in Sorcery. Written by Marvin Channing and drawn by Doug Wildey, the reprint is a run-of-the-mill horror story about a witch who controls murderous dogs. Nothing to write home about here.

RATING: No rating because I obviously loathe this series. It will give a new reader a good idea what to expect from the ongoing book, which seems to dribble out a new issue whenever the stars are in alignment or some such.

Last up today is the mini-sized Archie’s Madhouse 2016. These are older school Archie reprints, likely from the 1990s or thereabouts, with the groovy Dan Parent/Bob Smith cover probably of more recent vintage. Some good stuff inside the comic as well.

“The Secret Project” (5 pages) is by Rich Margopoulos with art by Gene Colan (pencils) and Rudy Lapick (inks). It’s a solid tale with a good punch panel and amazing Colan pencils. Gene’s style is clear to see, but he keeps the Archie characters on model as Archie and Jughead come across some scientist types.

“Rare Scare” (6 pages) is by George Gladir with art by Rex Lindsey (pencils) and Rich Koslowski (inks). Reggie is determined to scare his friends, but things don’t go as he planned.

“Chiller Diller” is an uncredited one-page gag that looks to me as if it’s older than the other two stories. I think Al Hartley drew it, but I’m only a so-so art detective.

RATING: Good. I would have rated it higher except that I don’t know what purpose it serves. There’s no current Archie comic or digest like this mini-comic. I wish there were. I’d buy it.

More Halloween ComicFest to come in a couple days. In the meantime, I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

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