Stephen King's Debt to Horror Comics

Crusty old horror comics have played a significant role in the work of author Stephen King.

The Little Green God of Agony

Writer: Stephen King
Contributors: Dennis Calero

In the foreboding early panels of Stephen King's "The Little Green God of Agony", a free, 24-part serial webcomic, a path to the author's real-life tragedy is apparent. Framed in dim blues and knife-edged, pitch-black shadow lines from Harvey Award-nominated artist Dennis Calero, the first sequence has King's billionaire and plane crash survivor Andrew Newsome in the care of Katherine MacDonald, his private nurse. Open Culture blogger Ayun Halliday highlights the connection to King's own "debilitating accident" when a van struck him as he walked along North Lovell, Maine's Route 5 in 1999. He was hospitalized for three weeks. The "Little Green" exposition is also reminiscent of Misery -- King's novel about a writer who barely survives a heinous car accident when he's "treated" for his injuries in the home of a deranged fan. Either way, the comic is off to a grim start.

"The Little Green God of Agony" appeared initially as a short story in King's A Book of Horrors in 2011. Dennis Calero inks the first six pages of this comic adaptation in such dramatic plum, black, and blue that the facial features of bespectacled bystander "Rideout," a man of whom nurse Katherine MacDonald is suspicious, are rarely very distinct. King doesn't offer up a lot of characterization or narrative buildup just yet, but the pairing makes sense given the history that Calero has with King's material: He worked as a penciler on Marvel's The Dark Tower series, a well-liked comics version of King's popular novels.

In Stephen King's On Writing, he recounts exercises that involved copying text from the comics he was reading as a young man into the pages of a notebook. In his Danse Macabre, King discusses the role that his favorite horror comics played in the development of 'Salem's Lot, his 1975 novel about a community of vampires in a small Maine town. King's early 1980s partnership with horror film icons George Romero and Tom Savini birthed Creepshow, a chilling comics-inspired horror movie built of vignettes about beyond-the-grave vengeance, insect infestations, and more. Spotted with humor as often as it is blood, Creepshow unravels just like early horror comics did, when "pacts with the devil and trips to hell" were common themes. Creepshow's opening sequence is mostly animated and the first "chapter" features King's son Joe, who won the Eisner Award for his IDW comics and recently collaborated with his dad on 2012's Road Rage comic series.

The long-expired but slowly decaying host at the forefront of Creepshow is emblematic of King's admiration for EC's Tales from the Crypt, and in particular, for "The Crypt-Keeper", the silver-haired ghoul who introduced and presided over the stories inside each issue of Tales. Creepshow's pieces are broken up by part-live action, part-animated gothic imagery, and it only made sense that a print comic adaptation drawn by Swamp Thing co-creator Bernie Wrightson would soon follow. Wrightson collaborated with King again on Cycle of the Werewolf, an illustrated 1983 collection of stories about a small town ravaged by a werewolf. Two years later, a film based on Cycle called Silver Bullet opened in theaters. Wrightson also contributed artwork to later volumes of The Dark Tower.

In 2010, comics writer Scott Snyder produced a captivating work of what PopMatters calls "sinister dread" in Vertigo's American Vampire. He tapped Stephen King to blurb his chronicling of the early 20th century undead. King read Snyder's outline and fell in love with the primary character. King ended up signing a contract to write the first five issues, working from Scott Snyder's blueprint. King offered humble reflection on his contributions to the series in an introductory essay for the first American Vampire trade. More importantly, the author of runaway successes like Carrie, The Shining, and more explains why he felt an obligation to get involved in comics. "In the end, it's all about giving back the teeth that the current 'sweetie-vamp' craze has, by and large, stolen from the bloodsuckers," he wrote. "It's about making them scary again."

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"The Little Green God of Agony" will update on Wednesdays for its duration.


The Best Indie Rock of 2017

Photo courtesy of Matador Records

The indie rock genre is wide and unwieldy, but the musicians selected here share an awareness of one's place on the cultural-historical timeline.

Indie rock may be one of the most fluid and intangible terms currently imposed upon musicians. It holds no real indication of what the music will sound like and many of the artists aren't even independent. But more than a sonic indicator, indie rock represents a spirit. It's a spirit found where folk songsters and punk rockers come together to dialogue about what they're fed up with in mainstream culture. In so doing they uplift each other and celebrate each other's unique qualities.

With that in mind, our list of 2017's best indie rock albums ranges from melancholy to upbeat, defiant to uplifting, serious to seriously goofy. As always, it's hard to pick the best ten albums that represent the year, especially in such a broad category. Artists like King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard had a heck of a year, putting out four albums. Although they might fit nicer in progressive rock than here. Artists like Father John Misty don't quite fit the indie rock mold in our estimation. Foxygen, Mackenzie Keefe, Broken Social Scene, Sorority Noise, Sheer Mag... this list of excellent bands that had worthy cuts this year goes on. But ultimately, here are the ten we deemed most worthy of recognition in 2017.

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From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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The Best Country Music of 2017

still from Midland "Drinkin' Problem" video

There are many fine country musicians making music that is relevant and affecting in these troubled times. Here are ten of our favorites.

Year to year, country music as a genre sometimes seems to roll on without paying that much attention to what's going on in the world (with the exception of bro-country singers trying to adopt the latest hip-hop slang). That can feel like a problem in a year when 58 people are killed and 546 are injured by gun violence at a country-music concert – a public-relations issue for a genre that sees many of its stars outright celebrating the NRA. Then again, these days mainstream country stars don't seem to do all that well when they try to pivot quickly to comment on current events – take Keith Urban's muddled-at-best 2017 single "Female", as but one easy example.

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It's ironic that by injecting a shot of cynicism into this glorified soap opera, Johnson provides the most satisfying explanation yet for the significance of The Force.

Despite J.J. Abrams successfully resuscitating the Star Wars franchise with 2015's Star Wars: The Force Awakens, many fans were still left yearning for something new. It was comforting to see old familiar faces from a galaxy far, far away, but casual fans were unlikely to tolerate another greatest hits collection from a franchise already plagued by compositional overlap (to put it kindly).

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Yeah Yeah Yeahs played a few US shows to support the expanded reissue of their debut Fever to Tell.

Although they played a gig last year for an after-party for a Mick Rock doc, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs hadn't played a proper NYC show in four years before their Kings Theatre gig on November 7th, 2017. It was the last of only a handful of gigs, and the only one on the East coast.

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