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A Second Look: The Second Printing of Hellraiser #1

Again, The Eyes Of Hell: BOOM!'s backing of Hellraiser Clive Barker has given the character a new leash on life.

With Hellraiser #1 going into a second printing in less than a week off the back of a social media campaign that has gone viral, we turn our attention to a character that is fast becoming a phenomenon.

Hellraiser #1 (2nd printing)

Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Length: 22 pages
Writer: Clive Barker, Christopher Monfette, Leonardo Manco
Price: $3.99
Publication Date: 2011-03
Amazon

When it comes to artistic works that have dared to chart the landscape of Hell, there a few contemporary works that are more iconic than Clive Barker’s Hellraiser. Although the original film might seem a little dated when revisited, and the seemingly endless stream of less than stellar sequels--including one in space and another involving an evil website--might have diluted the mythos somewhat, the overall aesthetic still remains as powerful and scary as it ever was.

Barbed chains emerging from darkness, the iconography of puzzles and mazes manifested in the ever-present Lament Configuration, the language of desire and flesh, and of course Barker’s most inspired and terrifying creations, the Cenobites, all work together to construct a horrifying and vivid portrayal of an eternal damnation that would make even Dante tip his hat.

Despite the film franchise’s loss some steam, the Hellraiser mythology has found an ideal home in comicbooks over the past decades. Creators such Neil Gaiman, Alex Ross, and Mike Mignola to name but a few, have all added their own creative touches to the world that fans were first introduced to in the short story, The Hellbound Heart. Barker, with the help of writer Christopher Monfette and artist Leonardo Manco, has returned to his infernal creation with a new miniseries, Hellraiser: Pursuit of the Flesh, published by BOOM! Studios.

The story begins with a rather angst-ridden Pinhead, leader of the cenobites and a demon of high rank in Hell’s hierarchy, questioning his mantle as guardian of the puzzle box and arbiter of the sins of the flesh. Tired of the repetitive nature of his task and the lack of underlying meaning to all the death and violence he is party to, his is an existential crisis that despite its extreme circumstances, is actually fairly relatable. He, like so many others, has mythologized his role in the world and suddenly finds himself seeking an escape from the station that no longer holds the importance it once did. His goal, to become human and hopefully win salvation as his prize.

The demon yearning for heaven has been a recurring trope in fiction for a long time. Whether it is an actual fallen angel seeking a return to paradise, such as Wayne Barlow’s book, God’s Demon, or the always popular story of the criminal trying to escape a violent past, the concept of redemption for even the most irredeemable is a powerful cultural force in our society. Although Dante gave us our most visceral portrayal of damnation, and illustrated clearly with that there is no escape from God’s justice--“Abandon hope all ye who enter here”--the thought that there must be some way to avoid one’s fate remains an entrenched one.

Many of these stories end in failure, but their ubiquity is a testament to our culture’s belief that the attempt is at least worth making--perhaps speaking to a guilt-ridden collective unconscious that fears some forthcoming retribution. Either way, this plot archetype finds a perfect home in Barker’s vision of Hell--brought fully to life by Manco’s beautiful artwork.

Additionally, Hellraiser: Pursuit of the Flesh, is successful because it explores its story’s primary antagonist in explicit detail. Pinhead, like so many villains, is fundamentally more interesting than the heroes he fights. While the S&M vibe coupled with the obvious name, might make Pinhead seem like just another throwaway bad guy, his position in popular culture is a testament to his recurring appeal. Barker capitalizes on the fascination readers have with his creation by diving in full force, making the demon the story’s primary focus, and the humans the peripheral figures. While some creators fear overexposing their creations, this is a fear that the writer’s justifiably ignore in Hellraiser: Pursuit of the Flesh.

Two thoughts remain in my mind after reading the first issue of Barker’s new series: 1. I want more. Now. And 2. That Barker taps a central vein of human consciousness. After reading Hellraiser it feels like there could be a Hell. And I hope that it looks nothing like the world envisioned in this story. And if it does, I pray the closest I get to it is reading this book.

Go buy it now.

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Get In From The Ground Floor: Hellraiser is a character with an amazingly rich history in popular culture. But all you need to know can be learned from this Prelude. Free to download and unavailable in print, this is the very beginning.

9

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Editor's Note: Originally published 30 July 2014.

10. “Bedlam in Belgium”
(Flick of the Switch, 1983)

This is a massively underrated barnstormer from the boys off the much-maligned (unfairly, I think) Flick of the Switch. The album was missing Mutt Lange, but the Youngs did have his very capable engineer, Tony Platt, as co-producer in the studio at Compass Point in the Bahamas. Tony’s a real pro. I think he did a perfectly fine job on this album, which also features the slamming “Nervous Shakedown”.

But what I find most interesting about “Bedlam in Belgium” is that it’s based on a fracas that broke out on stage in Kontich, Belgium, in 1977, involving Bon Scott, the rest of the band, and the local authorities. AC/DC had violated a noise curfew and things got hairy.

Yet Brian Johnson, more than half a decade later, wrote the lyrics with such insight; almost as if he was the one getting walloped by the Belgian police: He gave me a crack in the back with his gun / Hurt me so bad I could feel the blood run. Cracking lyrics, Bon-esque. Unfortunately for Brian, he was removed from lyric-writing duties from The Razors Edge (1990) onwards. All songs up to and including 2008’s Black Ice are Young/Young compositions.

Who’ll be writing the songs on the new album AC/DC has been working on in Vancouver? AC/DC fans can’t wait to hear them. Nor can I.

 
9. “Spellbound”
(For Those About to Rock We Salute You, 1981)

"Spellbound" really stands as a lasting monument to the genius of Mutt Lange, a man whose finely tuned ear and attention to detail filed the rough edges of Vanda & Young–era AC/DC and turned this commercially underperforming band for Atlantic Records into one of the biggest in the world. On “Spellbound” AC/DC sounds truly majestic. Lange just amplifies their natural power an extra notch. It’s crisp sounding, laden with dynamics and just awesome when Angus launches into his solo.

“Spellbound” is the closer on For Those About to Rock We Salute You, the last album Lange did with AC/DC, so chronologically it’s a significant song; it marks the end of an important era. For Those About to Rock was an unhappy experience for a lot of people. There was a lot of blood being spilled behind the scenes. It went to number one in the US but commercially was a massive disappointment after the performance of Back in Black. Much of the blame lies at the feet of Atlantic Records, then under Doug Morris, who made the decision to exhume an album they’d shelved in 1976, Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, and release it in-between Back in Black and For Those About to Rock.

In the book Phil Carson, who signed AC/DC to Atlantic, calls it “one of the most crass decisions ever made by a record-company executive” and believes it undermined sales of For Those About to Rock.


 
8. “Down Payment Blues”
(Powerage, 1978)

This is one of the best songs off Powerage -- perhaps the high point of Bon Scott as a lyricist -- but also significant for its connection to “Back in Black”. There are key lines in it: Sitting in my Cadillac / Listening to my radio / Suzy baby get on in / Tell me where she wanna go / I'm living in a nightmare / She's looking like a wet dream / I got myself a Cadillac / But I can't afford the gasoline.

Bon loved writing about Cadillacs. He mentions them in “Rocker” off the Australian version of TNT and the international release of Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap: Got slicked black hair / Skin tight jeans / Cadillac car and a teenage dream.

Then you get to “Back in Black”. Bon’s dead but the lyrics have this spooky connection to “Down Payment Blues”: Back in the back / Of a Cadillac / Number one with a bullet, I’m a power pack.

Why was Brian singing about riding around in Cadillacs? He’d just joined AC/DC, wasn’t earning a lot and was on his best behavior. Bon had a reason to be singing about money. He was writing all the songs and just had a breakthrough album with Highway to Hell. Which begs the question: Could Bon also have written or part written the lyrics to “Back in Black”?

Bon’s late mother Isa said in 2006: “The last time we saw him was Christmas ’79, two months before he died. [Bon] told me he was working on the Back in Black album and that that was going to be it; that he was going to be a millionaire.”

 
7. “You Shook Me All Night Long”
(Back in Black, 1980)

Everyone knows and loves this song; it’s played everywhere. Shania Twain and Celine Dion have covered it. It’s one of AC/DC’s standbys. But who wrote it?

Former Mötley Crüe manager Doug Thaler is convinced Bon Scott, who’d passed away before the album was recorded, being replaced by Brian Johnson, wrote the lyrics. In fact he told me, “You can bet your life that Bon Scott wrote the lyrics to ‘You Shook Me All Night Long’.” That’s a pretty strong statement from a guy who used to be AC/DC’s American booking agent and knew the band intimately. I look into this claim in some depth in the book and draw my own conclusions.

I’m convinced Bon wrote it. In my opinion only Bon would have written a line like “She told me to come but I was already there.” Brian never matched the verve or wit of Bon in his lyrics and it’s why I think so much of AC/DC’s mid-'80s output suffers even when the guitar work of the Youngs was as good as it ever was.

But what’s also really interesting about this song in light of the recent hullabaloo over Taurus and Led Zeppelin is how much the opening guitar riff sounds similar to Head East’s “Never Been Any Reason”. I didn’t know a hell of a lot about Head East before I started working on this book, but came across “Never Been Any Reason” in the process of doing my research and was blown away when I heard it for the first time. AC/DC opened for Head East in Milwaukee in 1977. So the two bands crossed paths.

 
6. “Rock ’N’ Roll Damnation”
(Powerage, 1978)

It’s hard to get my head around the fact Mick Wall, the British rock writer and author of AC/DC: Hell Ain’t a Bad Place to Be, called this “a two-bit piece of head-bopping guff.” Not sure what track he was listening to when he wrote that -- maybe he was having a bad day -- but for me it’s one of the last of AC/DC’s classic boogie tracks and probably the best.

Mark Evans loves it almost as much as he loves “Highway to Hell". It has everything you want in an AC/DC song plus shakers, tambourines and handclaps, a real Motown touch that George Young and Harry Vanda brought to bear on the recording. They did something similar with the John Paul Young hit “Love Is in the Air”. Percussion was an underlying feature of many early AC/DC songs. This one really grooves. I never get tired of hearing it.

“Rock ’n’ Roll Damnation” was AC/DC’s first hit in the UK charts and a lot of the credit has to go to Michael Klenfner, best known as the fat guy with the moustache who stops Jake and Elwood backstage in the final reel of The Blues Brothers and offers them a recording contract. He was senior vice-president at Atlantic at the time, and insisted the band go back and record a radio-worthy single after they delivered the first cut of Powerage to New York.

Michael was a real champion of AC/DC behind the scenes at Atlantic, and never got the recognition he was due while he was still alive (he passed away in 2009). He ended up having a falling out with Atlantic president Jerry Greenberg over the choice of producer for Highway to Hell and got fired. But it was Klenfner who arguably did more for the band than anyone else while they were at Atlantic. His story deserves to be known by the fans.

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