Graphic Novelty²


August 2022

Nightmares and Dreamscapes

While Stephen King will always be considered a horror writer, some of these stories had more of a science-fiction bent or had a coming-of-age angle. These stories were written in the 1970s to the early 90s, so it is a time capsule of life then- certainly “modern-day”, yet very dated several decades later. I’ve also noticed in many of his works, that he has bad things happen to good people. That actually scares more people, because these people are not deserving of their fate, and readers worry that tragedy could befall them around the next corner, and that is frightening indeed.

Suffer the Little Children

An old-school third-grade teacher thinks one of her students is possessed. When she also begins to suspect it is spreading among her students, she takes drastic measures.

Crouch End

Two detectives investigate a neighborhood in north London that seems to have an otherwordly portal that opens without notice which has caused people to go missing over the years.

Rainy Season

Inspired by Shirley Jackson’s story The Lottery, a married couple is unlucky enough to visit a town that demands a sacrifice every seven years. Venomous toads rain down on the town one night, and the townspeople move on quickly afterward, explaining away the tragedy and are not willing to break its ugly cycle. The audio edition was voiced by Yeardley Smith, so it was incredibly distracting to have the story read by someone who sounds like Lisa Simpson, from the cartoon series The Simpsons.

Dolan’s Cadillac

When a schoolteacher’s wife is killed by a mobster for testifying against him, the husband vows revenge. He then plans the most ridiculous, convoluted and difficult Rube Goldberg type of trap to capture this man on a deserted stretch of road.

The House on Maple Street

Based on the story prompt and picture from Chris Van Allsburg’s children’s book The Mysteries of Harry Burdick, four siblings discover their house is transforming into a rocket ship and they conspire to get rid of their ogre stepfather.

Umney’s Last Case

Told in a noir-type manner, a detective’s life starts to go to shit with people leaving him and disrespecting him. Holed up in his office licking his wounds, a client comes thru and reveals he is an author and that Umney is a character of his in a book and he intends to change lives with him.

Head Down & Brooklyn August

Head Down is an essay that is an ode to baseball and Brooklyn August is a short poem also celebrating baseball. Neither is horror related at all.

Chattery Teeth

A traveling salesman buys a set of novelty teeth for his son, and when his trip across a desert goes sideways because of a psychotic hitchhiker, this little gift helps him out in an unexpected manner.

My Pretty Pony

“Time is a pretty pony, with a wicked heart” is the theme of the story as a grandfather ruminates on the nature of time to his grandson. Kinda boring, and not horror related.


A recording engineer notices dirty sneakers in a bathroom stall near him for weeks, before finding out that a drug deal gone wrong years ago resulted in a haunting of the building by the victim. This ghost tells him who killed him.


A working-class mother is thrilled that her son has written a novel that is bound to be a best seller and she tells a friend how she was able to use some black magic years ago to give her son his writing gifts. Overly long story.

The Doctor’s Case

King decided to write a non-canon Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson story in a pastiche manner- honoring the original style and building upon it. In this story, a horrible father is found murdered and the duo needs to figure out if it was his put-upon wife or abused sons that did it. Dr. Watson figures it out before Holmes, and it is unrealistic, but true to the style of British mysteries written during that time frame.

The Moving Finger

What’s worse than finding a rat in your NYC apartment? How about a moving finger?!

The End of the Whole Mess

A man recounts in a journal how his prodigy younger brother discovered a cure for aggression in a water source, without noting it also brought on dementia. While trying for world peace, he instead doomed the whole planet to death. The last part of the journal reminded me of Flowers for Algernon.

Home Delivery

A timid young widow who is pregnant needs to learn how to cope by herself when there is a zombie apocalypse and those in the local graveyard come back to life. This was a surprisingly strong story with realistic details on how a small island community would survive.

It Grows on You

Set in Castle Rock, King’s favorite fictional Maine town, a house seems to mysteriously have new wings added on that correlate when bad things befall the townsfolk. This story didn’t seem complete.

The Fifth Quarter

A heist gone wrong…a double cross…a shootout. Meh.

You Know They Got a Hell of a Band

A couple takes a scenic backroad and gets lost, leading them to the picturesque town of Rock and Roll Heaven, Oregon. The town inhabitants look very familiar, and soon they realize there is no escape from this strange vortex. Reminded me of Pines by Black Crouch and In the Tall Grass written by King years later with his son Joe Hill. Grace Slick was the inspired choice for the audio narration of this story.

The Night Flier

A sleazy tabloid journalist reports that a vampire is on the loose. What happens when his headline is actually true?!


The vampire is back! A gambler makes a grave mistake when he grabs a child to sell and finds out he shouldn’t have messed with Popsy and his creepy grandson! An effective story that was also one of the shortest.

Sorry, Right Number

Written like a screenplay, a wife receives a frantic call phone call from someone in distress but doesn’t realize until five years after her husband’s death who was actually making the call. The audio version was terrible.

The Ten O’Clock People

A bizarre story about how people who are trying to quit smoking and thus are in nicotine withdrawal are the only people to see how evil bat people are taking over society.

The Beggar and the Diamond

A short retelling of a Hindu parable. I thought it was an odd addition to this collection.

Chattery Teeth, Home Delivery and Popsy were my favorites from this long 816-page book. While I didn’t enjoy every story, I admire how King likes to vary his writing style and tries new approaches. His short stories have always appealed to me, and I will continue to seek out his work.

The Anatomy of Desire

Adapted from the classic 1925 book An American Tragedy, this audiobook was completely updated for our modern world.

In this story, social media fitness influencer Cleo Ray is on trial for killing her lover Beck Alden. Cleo supposedly killed Beck to hide her same-sex relationship from her new boyfriend Sandy, who is a rich influencer and who she wants to marry. The trial is set in a conservative area of CA, with a district attorney up for election vs the celebrity defense counsel paid for by Cleo’s rich uncle. The narrative is set up like a podcast (which made for a powerful full-cast audiobook) and we get interviews with Cleo and all the other participants, minus Beck. Cleo admits she went in with the intent to drown Beck on a canoe trip but didn’t go through with it, although an accident causes Beck’s death anyway. That she escapes the scene of the crime and doesn’t report the death, looks very bad for her case. As the trial proceeds we learn about Cleo’s childhood, but do her past misdeeds and trauma excuse her current actions?

During my book reading, I watched the 1951 movie A Place in the Sun starring a young Elizabeth Taylor, which is also adapted from the original story, and in both stories, I found the character Cleo (Clyde in the movie) reprehensible. I didn’t buy the adoration they had for their new loves and was furious at how callous they were to toss off their first partners. But the book as a whole is excellent because it is indeed a tragedy of how selfish actions led to so much heartbreak and loss for the people involved.

The Complete Maus

Maus is extraordinary! I read this two-part graphic novel series years ago and remembered the framework, but re-reading it was eye-opening as further life experiences can make you look at it with whole new eyes.

My Father Bleeds History

The first half of the story details the beginning of WWII as seen through Vladek Spiegelman, a Polish Jew, as told to his son Art, the author and illustrator of the book. Art began to collect his father’s remembrances in the late 1970s after an estrangement of a few years, as the two were never close, and the suicide of Art’s mother had been devastating to their already tenuous bond. Vladek shares his memories of his courtship with his wife Anja, their marriage, and the birth of their firstborn son Richieu in 1937. Tensions were building in Europe and he eventually was drafted into the Polish Army. As things begin to spiral downward Vladek is incredibly resourceful, brave, and sometimes just lucky as his extended family is moved into Jewish ghettos and some of them are shipped off to the concentration camps. Vladek and Anja sent their beloved son into hiding with another family and later discover his heartbreaking fate.

Although the tale moves forward chronologically, there are interludes in the modern-day of Art and Vladek and their life outside of NYC. Vladek has remarried unhappily and is a miser who is set in his ways. His early life has warped him, but Art also deals with the fallout, as a “survivor of survivors” who can’t live up to his idealized older brother, who died before he was born. Art also includes a dark comic he had written about his mother’s death, Prisoner on the Hell Planet, illustrated in a different style than Maus. The book ends with his parent’s capture and arrival at the infamous Auschwitz in 1944, and readers will be riveted, dreading what comes next.

I have some Eastern European ancestry thru my father’s side of the family who were immigrants from Germany and Poland and settled in Chicago around the turn of the century. While they were of the Catholic faith and were in America before WWII, I saw some parallels between what I remembered of them and some personalities found in this series. It really made me ruminate on that side of my ancestry and how their pragmatic and no-nonsense traits live on in me.

And Here My Troubles Began

The title of this second book prepares you for what is to come because although they had already endured tragedy after tragedy, more was to befall Vladek and Anja. The two are separated into different camps, and we only get Vladek’s perspective as he had burned Anja’s later journals in a fit of grief after her suicide. He survives the inhumanity of Auschwitz and a forced match to Dachau, again due to his ingenuity, and amazingly so does Anja despite her frail health. Liberated at different times, they eventually are reunited, later immigrating to America and having Art.

Again, Vladek’s stories of his past and interrupted by windows of his life now, as Art and his wife Francoise deal with Vladek’s declining health and his current troubles with his long-suffering second wife Mala, who is also a survivor of the camps. Art feels guilty and wants the best for his father, but Vladek can be impossible to deal with, and he worries about how he should portray his father in the book he is writing and illustrating, so as not to have Vladek become an unflattering Jewish caricature. He also had to juggle how to portray others, as some showed incredible kindness while others were outrageously cruel, and he didn’t want to make sweeping judgments against an entire country. Art very capably shows the realities of inter-generational trauma and dealing with the elderly Vladek. It’s a double-edged sword- his parents survived at great cost but were forever altered by what they went through.

The artwork is deceptively simple, but it actually shows the realities of the camps in an incredibly precise manner. The black and white illustrations often had six to eight panels per page, which were more orderly when Art and his father were in the modern-day, and more varied in the past to signify the chaos of Vladek’s life. I now understood better the reason why the author portrayed the characters as animals- with mice representing those of the Jewish faith, cats as Nazis, Poles as pigs, the French as frogs and Americans as dogs. This storytelling device surprisingly made them seem more human, as the reader better understands the unfairness of characterizing an entire culture or nationality as the same. It also made them trying to pass as non-Jewish with a mask on, more poignant. Plus, the picture Art drew of himself at his art table on top of mouse corpses while receiving accolades for his first book was heart-rending, for this book took a toll on his mental health too.

This was a perfect book to re-read as we head into Banned Book Week next month. We simply can not close our eyes to the horrors of the past or the realities of today, and books that address those issues should be read by everyone. This book truly was deserving of the Pulitzer Prize it won in 1992!

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds

I LOVE Strange New Worlds! I now consider it one of the best Star Trek shows, giving my beloved The Next Generation a run for its money.

I have to admit I have been disappointed with Trek for many years now- although I will always be a die-hard Trekkie. As a child, I watched re-run TOS episodes and watched all of the original movies, but it wasn’t until college that I became a true fan because of TNG and Captain Picard’s tenure. I also adored Captain Sisko’s DS9 and Captain Janeway’s Voyager series. However, I was disappointed with Captain Archer’s Enterprise, which I considered not up to par and not Trekkie enough, but now it has moved far up in my estimation due to my extreme dislike for Discovery. The new Picard series has been good but doesn’t have the same appeal as TNG (but the original crew will be back for S3!).

Many Star Trek fans have been very critical of Discovery and accused it of being too “woke”, and for awhile I tried my best to embrace the show, but eventually I gave up early into its third season. The main character Michael Burnham was much too much for me, it had long convoluted storylines, and it kept on introducing new characters and ignoring its bridge crew. The only bright spot was the second season was when Captain Pike, who was Captain Kirk’s predecessor, came aboard to help the USS Discovery crew. He brought along a young Spock who had a ridiculous plot line with Burnham, and these two plus Pike’s second-in-command Una became fan favorites.

These three hit it out of the park on Discovery and are anchoring SNW!

Anson Mount has done an admirable job of playing Captain Christopher Pike, a role originated by Jeffrey Hunter in the 1960s. Hunter shot the original pilot for Star Trek, but tv execs wanted to re-tool the concept, and Hunter was let go and replaced by William Shatner who played Captain Kirk. Only the character Spock, played by Leonard Nimoy, was kept, and eventually, the footage of the first pilot was brilliantly worked into the episode The Menagerie linking Spock and the two captains of the Enterprise. That episode establishes that Pike will have a terrible accident and he will become disfigured and live his final years on an alien planet. Strange New Worlds is a prequel, as was Discovery for the first two years (before they jettisoned into the far future-gah!), so the specter of the accident hangs over the dashing Pike who has had a vision of his fate.

The original pilot, in addition to Captain Pike and Spock, featured Pike’s second in command Una Chin-Riley whom he typically called Number One. She was played by creator Gene Roddenberry’s soon-to-be IRL wife, Majel Barrett, who later played Nurse Chapel on TOS and Counselor Troi’s mother on TNG. Plus, we have more familiar characters- Doctor M’Benga who served under both Pike and Kirk, Nurse Chapel (which is funny because Majel Barrett played both her and Una), La’an Noonien-Singh who is a descendent of the famous Khan from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan movie, Spock’s fiancee T’Pring, and best of all a young Nyota Uhura. Then there are a few new characters such as the brash pilot Ortegas, and the gruff blind engineer Hemmer.

This season had ten episodes, which nowadays is considered a full season, and every single one was excellent. The first episode laid down some background for Captain Pike, establishing his knowledge of what he knows will befall him, and his affable nature as the first captain of the USS Enterprise. We meet all the characters I mentioned in the above paragraph, and as the season progresses we get to know every single one of them. What I found a problem on TOS and on Discovery (but not so much on TNG, DS9, Voyager or Enterprise) is that some people fade into the background and they concentrate too much on only a handful of the main characters. Of course, a series can’t always be equal, and some characters will naturally get the main storylines, but they seem to be really trying to flesh out all of these characters and also a few others on the ship.

The episodic storytelling is going well- while of course there is continuity over the episodes, the self-contained episodes have been working to SNW‘s advantage. They have been able to have episodes that center on certain characters, and have some dark storylines but also have some comedic moments, with one episode going full-out fantasy. In fact, I will have a future post just centering on the episodes!

All in all, this new series has hit the sweet spot for me and many other Star Trek fans. I look forward to season two and picking up the threads that were left in the finale. In the meantime- live long and prosper my friends!

Wastelanders: Wolverine podcast

“Thirty years ago, Super Villains won. After killing the Avengers, the X-Men, and nearly every other Super Hero, the Red Skull assumed the office of President of the United States. Since that day, a traumatized Wolverine has wandered in a daze of survivor’s guilt and self-loathing over his failure to protect his fellow X-Men and their mutant students.”

Professor Logan

We are transported to Charles Xavier’s Institute for Gifted Youngsters thirty years ago when Logan was beginning his career as a teacher to mutant students. Jean Grey was trying to smooth out Logan’s unsophisticated teaching methods when a crisis occurs and all the students are shepherded to a safe location to escape. But we know almost no one survived Red Skull’s carefully orchestrated attack. Robert Patrick (always T2 to me!) voices him very well in this podcast with an authentic world-weariness.

Back to One

After a bad car accident, a disoriented Logan slips in and out of a dream fugue and wanders back to the school, meeting a young woman Sofia and her wolfdog. Sofia is an orphaned mutant who broke into the school a few years ago to hide out, and once realizing Logan is Wolverine wants to know where he has been for the last thirty years. He admits he was so distraught that he has been wandering the wilderness in a feral state.

On My Own

We get some insight into Red Skull and his colleague Crossbones, during a Christmas special, in which Red Skull wants to assert his dominance over his subjects. Sofia’s boyfriend Justin shows Logan an arsenal, however, the group is still in danger when a band of thieves breaks into the school.


Red Skull and Crossbones are determined to find Logan and kill him for good and he utters Inakzeptabel which means unacceptable in German. Things go from bad to worse for Logan and Sofia when Justin abandons them and puts his interests first. But some intel from the Danger Room points them in the direction of a former colleague of Logan’s that he had thought was dead.

Trust Me

Justin sells out Logan hoping to have his father released who was taken in by Red Skull years ago. When things don’t go as planned Logan, Sofia and Fang head northward to Canada hoping to find Kitty Pryde.

Land of the Free

This podcast is moving much slower than the others. Logan and Sofia travel to Canada, where Kitty Pryde and Rachel Summers (daughter of Cyclops and Pheonix) live. They all meet at the end of the episode, and Logan’s recollections of V-Day are much different than Kitty’s who is threatening to kill him.

Shock and Awe

When Wolverine is temporarily disabled by Kitty and Rachel, they tell Sofia what really happened that terrible day. As expected, this podcast is based on the Mark Millar story, Old Man Logan, in which Logan was mind-controlled into killing his friends when he thought they were villains.

The Other Side

Rachel and Kitty have built another Cerebro, so Rachel utilizes it and her telepathic skills to take her and Logan back in time to see what happened on V-Day. Red Skull’s collaboration with Shadow King enabled them to mask their intentions from Professor X. Now that his eyes are open to the truth, Logan is devastated. We are now close to the end of this Wolverine story, and it is not connecting with the stories of Star-Lord, Black Widow and Hawkeye which I am finding frustrating.

Awfully Sentimental

Logan processes his grief and plans to work with Kitty and Rachel to take down Red Skull at the White House. That’s all that happened- a lot of talking.

All That You Leave Behind

This was a rather anticlimatic conclusion- Logan, Kitty and Rachel go to the White House to fight Red Skull. Sofia is left behind, but then she has to fight Crossbones. Her mutant power was never really stated- I’m guessing it was being able to talk to/control animals.

Even in the last minutes, there was no connection to the surviving heroes in the previous podcasts. Are they supposed to? Is there one more story to tell? I read somewhere (I don’t remember where anymore) that there was going to be a Doctor Doom podcast- so will they all meet, after all? My interest in this series has been waning due to the lack of connectivity. I wish they left teasers like they do in the movies, so you’d be invested in the story and look forward to the next chapter of the podcast saga. So…I’ll keep an eye out if this Wastelanders series continues, but I am definitely frustrated with how it has unfolded so far.

Written and directed by Jenny Turner Hall

Voice Cast:

Robert Patrick as Wolverine

Isabella Ferreira as Sofia

Ashlie Atkinson as Kitty Pryde

Rachel Crowl as Red Skull

Jennifer Ikeda as Rachel Summers

Justin Min as Justin

Clarke Peters as Professor X

The Last One

The Last One has an intriguing premise- twelve contestants in a survival reality show are in the wilderness when a deadly pandemic occurs without them knowing. As the show had some extreme special effects, the main character of the story nicknamed Zoo, believes the death and destruction she stumbles upon are all fake. Determined to not give up and lose the game she continues on, even when what she sees and experiences defies credibility. The chapters alternate between the beginning of the show when all the contestants and the host (who I pictured as Dean Cain) had started the challenges, and Zoo on her later solo trek explaining away everything that no longer makes sense. She meets a fellow survivor, who she thinks is a cameraman undercover, and they hike towards her home. But reality crashes into her fake explanations, and she has to face up to what really happened. While a melancholy future awaits her, a nugget of hope is shown in the concluding pages.

Grendel, Kentucky

If the title doesn’t already give you a clue, this grindhouse-inspired graphic novel that is set in Kentucky in 1971, pays homage to Beowulf.

The story opens with a heavily armed man heading into a mine shaft, and shifts to his adult son Denny being told of his death. He calls his sister Marnie, who is the leader of an all-girl biker gang, and asks her to head home for the funeral. The two later find out that their grandpa as a teen had been a miner who had accidentally released a monster who demanded tribute, which led to prosperity for the town, so long as the monster was fed regularly. The siblings, and Marnie’s gang, plan to slay the monster and succeed, but if you are familiar with the Beowulf story, you should know what happens next. Much death and destruction follow.

The artwork is dark and gritty and reminds me of Warlords of Appalachia, another rough and tumble tale set in Kentucky. Illustrated in traditional inks, the region and era are evocatively drawn, with a full-page fake newspaper being a special treat to find clues in. I have to admit, this lean story has some major holes in it, but I still came away pleased with the narrative. I’ve been very impressed with some titles that I have read from AWA Upshot, a new comic book publisher, and I look forward to more.


Listening to Sadie on audio was absolutely the best way to experience this book and it deserves all the stars!

The story is told from two alternating viewpoints- nineteen-year-old Sadie and West McCray, a journalist who creates a radio podcast around the mystery of Sadie and her sister Mattie. Sadie’s beloved younger sister is found murdered on the outskirts of their small depressed town and Sadie leaves their hometown to track down who she feels murdered her. When the police can’t solve the mystery of Mattie’s death or find Sadie, the girl’s surrogate grandmother contacts West to see if he can help. What follows was an achingly real journey of discovery as Sadie desperately tracks down every clue that leads her closer and closer to who she feels is responsible. West follows the crumbs of clues afterward but is often weeks or months behind Sadie’s travels. A heartbreaking picture develops, as the girls had had the cards stacked against them from the beginning- with a drug-addicted mother, no known fathers and a town with little resources to help them.

Sadie, West and the whole cast of characters became alive in the audio narration. Sadie’s stutter and desperate need for revenge are heartbreaking, West’s caring demeanor shines through, while all the others truly seem like people you’d meet in everyday life. People on the outer margins are life are realistically rendered and the sad realities of child sexual abuse are addressed. The ending will gut you- while you don’t truly know what happens to Sadie, this unflinching story will make you guess what the likely outcome is. I highly recommend this story, not only to the intended YA audience but to anyone who enjoys gritty thrillers.

Blog at

Up ↑