Spirits of St. Louis (Ink and Drink Comics)

Twenty-two local creators unite to tell thirteen tales of terror in this new horror anthology.

80 pgs., B&W; $9.99
(W & A: Various)
Ghosties and ghoulies and all things supernatural are hot in popular culture right now, from Ghost Hunters to Devil to all those unusually-abled folk living in Bon Temps, Louisiana. St. Louis has plenty to offer in this regard: we’re the hometown of Vincent Price plus there’s all those spooky caves underneath the city and the exorcism which formed the basis for William Friedkin’s The Exorcist actually took place here. Now an enterprising group of 22 local comics writers and illustrators have produced the anthology Spirits of St. Louis which contains 13 stories, many of which have a local angle. It’s a nice collection featuring a variety of artistic styles and stories which serves as a great showcase for local talent while highlighting some regional legends as well.
Here’s what you get with Spirits of St. Louis:
  • “Blue Label,” an adaptation of Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado” by Carlos Gabriel Ruiz (creator of the strip Pretentious Record Store Guy and a Zuda Comics finalist for Development Hell) who moves the story to modern-day in St. Louis during Mardi Gras while preserving the theme of what the most reasonable man may do when pushed too far.
  • “The Portrait,” an interesting twist on the theme of a man (who looks kind of like Vincent Price) falling in love with a woman’s portrait. It’s written by Playback:stl’s comics editor Jason Green in collaboration with Joe Costello (pencils) and Greg Aubry (finishes and lettering).
  • “Raw Head and Bloody Bones,” a comic-horror tale from Sam and Noah Washburn about an old woman who avenges the death of her hog (who was also her best friend—now that’s scary).
  •  “The Ozarks Witch,” a meta-meta campfire tale by Nick Main complete with a talking bear, some bratty kids, and lots of screens, too: who says people have forgotten how to use the classic techniques?
  • “The Tentacle Monster in My Comics Box,” written and with breakdowns by Jon Scorfina and with finished art by Stephanie Richardson, which offers an explanation for why teenagers have such messy rooms.
  • “Beyond the Valley of the Sun,” written by Nate Hessling and illustrated by Brad King, crosses Night of the Living Dead with The Texas Chainsaw Massacres.
  • “Lemp Deck,” written by Carlos Gabriel Ruiz and illustrated by Jim Mosley, is my favorite from the collection. It explores the legend of the Lemp Mansion and the many tragedies suffered by its residents (is it built over an Indian burial ground? Are there strange energies trapped in the limestone? Or is this just a case of a rich family failing to install normal values in their children?) with a clean artistic style and concise narration by a handyman hired to do some repairs.
  • “Hiding in the Shadows,” written by Steve Higgins and illustrated by Justin Crouse, uses a nifty artistic style (lots of mostly-black frames) and suggests that maybe Stephen King’s The Shining wasn’t entirely fictional (or alternatively, that an active imagination can make strange things come true).
  • “The Faithless,” written and illustrated by Ahad Bhaiji, riffs on the 1952 exorcism performed in St. Louis and takes the view that not only was the possession real, the demon never left the area.
  • “Bad Time Story,” written by Jonathan Norfleet and illustrated by Mike Harvey, provides nightmare fuel for kids of all ages with an odd little coda which I leave you to figure out for yourself.
  • “Gruesome Toadwart,” written and illustrated by Justin Crouse, illustrates a lab animal rebellion in a cartoony style which belies the story’s violence.
  • “The Stepmother’s New Mouth,” a second contribution from Sam and Noah Washburn, presents a Japanese morality tale illustrated with some nifty, woodcut-inspired art.
  • And what would a horror collection be without a version of Poe’s “The Raven”? We’ll never know, at least not from this volume, because Kevin Wolf (creator of Pangaea) does the honors, illustrating Poe’s text with Pangaea stars Zephyr Amazon as the narrator and Boss Bird as the titular character.
All good comics come with extras and Spirits of St. Louis is no exception, with two alternate covers featuring zombified versions of local heroes: Charles Lindbergh by Adam Davenport and Miles Davis by Kyle Morton (as well as a zombified Chuck Berry on the title page by Aaron Anderson). There’s also three pages of contributor bios and a nifty back cover by Aaron Anderson featuring Vincent Price in high camp mode.
The official release of Spirits of St. Louis is slated for October 13 at Star Clipper in the University City Loop. Many of the creators will be on hand to sign copies and several other signings are also planned: you can get the details here and read more about the collection from the publisher’s web site http://inkanddrinkcomics.com/. | Sarah Boslaugh

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