Updated: Feb 24
Editors: Joe Corallo & Eric Palicki
Publisher: A Wave Blue World
WHAT IS IT?
A hefty anthology of short horror comics with the common theme of music: how it transforms us, obsesses us, drives us, ruins us and, ultimately, changes us.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
There are all sorts of ways to tell horror stories, and Dead Beats doesn't skimp on variety – there's something for everyone. Vampires, ghosts, ancient creatures, possessions, demons, visitations, hauntings and more.
There's also a variety of relationships, friendships, romances and connections throughout to make for a diverse reading experience.
We'll highlight some of our favorite pieces below to give you an idea of what to expect.
"Grotesque" by Cameron Deordio, Brent Schoonover, David Witt & Taylor Esposito. A new guitarist interviews for the gig of his life and everyone else's. Deordio comes up with an interesting story, Schoonover's art is schlocky and expressive, Witt's colors evoke the dank atmosphere of a concert hall, and Esposito's lettering is crisp and economical.
"Hey Darling, Do You Gamble?" by Tres Dean, Kyler Clodfelter, Warnia K. Sahadewa & Taylor Esposito. Dean's heartfelt tale is relatable, sweet and haunting, with good cartooning by Clodfelter, excellent colors by Sahadewa and good musical lettering from Esposito.
"Earworm" by Christof Bogacs, Giles Crawford & Taylor Esposito. This is one of the best shorts in the anthology, with an excellent and creepy little tale penned by Bogacs. Crawford's art and colors are a sickly, sketchy nightmare and Esposito uses a thicker balloon stroke to mirror the robust panel borders and marry the lettering with the art.
"How To Be A Winner" by Magdalene Visaggio, Beth Barnett & Micah Myers. Another high point, this interlude is a bit of wish fulfillment that plays well. Visaggio pens a snarky send-up of anti-drug PSAs with good dialogue and excellent pacing. Barnett fires our imaginations with the creature design and picks them out in colors that pop against the greyscale pages. Myers chooses a rigid, vertical font that's readable and economical at the same time.
"Apocalypse Demo" by Danny Lore, Marie Enger, DJ Chavis & Micah Myers. Lore's dialogue and concept are tight. Enger's art is angular, delightful and strange, and Chavis's color palette brings the apocalypse to light in all of its sick, neon glory. Myers goes for borderless balloons with squiggly tails to help the entire piece come together.
"There Might Be Monsters" by Daniel Kibblesmith, Rafer Roberts & Matt Krotzer. Kibblesmith puts together a delightful and well-crafted morality tale about how not to be a niche band fan, with excellent scratchy art and creature design by Roberts and a left-leaning font that complements the newsprint wash perfectly. There's an absolutely delightful sound effect later on, as well. This is another of the best pieces on offer in Dead Beats and is a primer on how to make a short pop.
"Debaser" by Joe Corallo & Rye Hickman. Hickman's visuals on this trippy little piece more than sell the concept, and their work is, as usual, something to pay attention to. This is one of the more daring visual adventures in this anthology, and a good example of how to integrate complete chaos with an otherwise traditional panel layout.
Other favorites include "The Cursed Saxophone of Skasferatu" (Matt Summo, Dan Buska, Gab Contreras & Matt Krotzer), "Reversed Cards" (Nadia Shammas, Sweeney Boo & Zakk Saam), "Gold Dust Woman" (Regine Sawyer, Y. Sanders & Zakk Saam), and "Bone Dry" (Mark Bouchard, Eli Powell, Gab Contreras, Micah Myers.)
WHAT DOESN’T WORK?
Though generally good, the overall quality of the shorts is variable. There are many pieces that fall on the good side of schlock, but there are several that stand out in the wrong way. Anthologies are a good way to present a broad swath of creators, voices, and styles, but there are a few pieces in Dead Beats that do not stand up to their peers. Dead Beats can disappoint in this way, but it's still worth a read for the gems above, and others not listed.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
Dead Beats is a good intro to comics horror, with more than a few engaging and interesting shorts by a wide swatch of folks in the industry - both newcomers and vets alike.
Anthologies are an excellent way to discover new creators, and see how your favorites can handle a super-condensed story. They're also a great creative outlet, and can serve as inspiration for newer folks who might be intimidated by tackling a full-length issue or series, or seasoned creators who have ideas that might not always find a marketable home.
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