TOMB OF THE RED HORSE, the second standalone story in the four-part TOMB series, is a frantic tale of chaos, sacrifice, and the different forms of parenthood. The comic is currently in its successful first week on Kickstarter. Series writer Ian Mondrick shares his thoughts on five unnerving, horrific, and downright psychedelic comics that left a trail of bloody footprints for him to follow.
Horror and comedy – at least to my tiny, petrified brain – are the two toughest genres to write. Comics only complicate this difficulty, the experience made more restrictive by forcing our senses into two-dimensional panels. Music, timing, and delivery matter as much in horror as in comedy. Doing this effectively on the printed page is an art unto itself.
There’s not a shower I take where I don’t stress about upholding the standards of the writers who mastered this art before me. So, if I fail to emulate on the page, I can at least pay homage. To better understand the DNA of my work, which you can back on Kickstarter, here is a look at some of the comics that made Tomb of the Red Horse possible.
KRAVEN’S LAST HUNT – J. M. DeMatteis, Mike Zeck (Marvel Comics)
10-year-old me, standing in the ACME grocery store, about to purchase Web of Spider-Man #31. Little did pre-cannabis Ian know the psychotropic visions I’d be privy to. The first page— a naked Kraven the Hunter, crouched, lit in vaporwave pink, fights a series of animal totems before going out back to dig Spider-Man’s grave. Slack-jawed, I walked to my mother, tugged her purse strings, and put the book in the cart. If you’re familiar with the series, you know Kraven does “kill” Spidey & drop him in that hole. That inexplicable cruelty, mixed with the horror of not knowing how Peter Parker would survive, made it all the more chilling. The absolute madness that follows Peter’s return from the dead (complete with Peter crawling out of the abdomen of a giant spider) was the first time I had been scared reading a comic. Nothing, not even the crypt-keeper-y funk of EC Comics, could replicate the chill I got from those issues.
I KILL GIANTS – Joe Kelly, JM Ken Niimura (Image Comics)
Maybe this is giving away too much, but the idea of using gigantic monsters to represent the fear & turmoil inside us is the backbone for the entire TOMB series. Of course, I can only hope to achieve the emotional pitch that I Kill Giants wields with such ease. Even after multiple re-reads, the comic forces me to ugly-cry with characters soaked in radioactive empathy that nearly burns my skin. Yes, there is a movie version of this. No, I have not watched it. The prospect of being emotionally devastated (again) can wait until we see how 2021 shapes up.
NAMELESS – Grant Morrison, Chris Burnham (Image Comics)
The inescapable dread. The heady, elusive symbolism. Morrison is an elder god for the medium at large, but this lesser-known limited series really struck a chord in me. Where deep-space horror like Event Horizon scars intrepid viewers to this day, Nameless does for any comic book reader daring enough to thumb past the cover. It’s that murkiness, mixed with frenetic dread, that I tried to emulate in Red Horse.
MANHATTAN PROJECTS – Jonathan Hickman, Nick Pitarra (Image Comics)
The least scary of my selections has more to do with Hickman’s ability to make such large concepts incredibly relatable. The struggle of Oppenheimer’s Civil War is a reminder that even great minds fall victim to themselves in pursuit of knowledge and power. There’s a palpable throughline in Hickman’s work that resonates even when at its most diffuse.
ICE CREAM MAN – W. Maxwell Prince, Martin Morazzo (Image Comics)
One of my favorite comics of the last 10 years and a story after my own heart. A monstrosity-of-the-week format manipulated by the titular demon who exposes the horrors of ordinary life. The creeping horror, bleeding in from the edges of “normal” society that is anything but, makes this the closest example of what I want the TOMB series to be.
Ian Mondrick is the writer of the TOMB series, CURIO, and an alumnus of The Good Fight and the Corpus anthologies. Back the campaign for Tomb of the Red Horse here.