Just in the past few days I saw the new 2018 Halloween with Jamie Lee Curtis, and directed by David Gordon Green, and while much has been made about the survivor trauma aspect of the film (and as a bi product of our “Me Too” climate), there were a number of layered themes to be found. The review by our friend John Kenneth Muir set off of train of thought about the film that left me mulling over a number of issues. Let’s address the major changes, the dispensing of all of the established mythology that began with Halloween II in 1980. Laurie is no longer a relation of Meyers, which re-directs to focus on the idea that The Shape has no motive; the film also avoids humanizing him, a mistake that even Rob Zombie made with his re-imaging. Thus, the audience is forced to ponder something a little deeper. One thought came to mind where I flash backwards to Chris Nolan’s The Dark Knight, when Alfred shared a story to Bruce which lead to him describing The Joker as someone who just wanted to ‘see the world burn’. Watching Halloween left me with the inkling of the same idea about The Shape / Boogieman / Michael Meyer, that he too just wanted to ‘see the world burn’, that Michael’s interest in watching his victims in their final moments of writhing agony, this child like curiosity in their final moments, might not represent anything most people understand as anything ‘rational’, but could just be the desire to ‘see the world burn’. He, like the Joker, just is.
We cling to notions of morality, or understanding psychosis through diagnosis, or the accepted rule of justice, to explain something that simply exists, that can’t be correlated or defined. Thus is the basis for an idea that I am coining; ‘fundamental evil’, that evil is something that is tangible and concrete, and there’s a very small percentage of individuals throughout history, aberrations that truly fit my working definition of the term ‘fundamental evil’. The working definition of ‘fundamental’ is ‘serving as a basis supporting existence or determining essential structure or function’, and ‘evil’ as in ‘willful harm’. Of course, The X-Files explored the same theme or tenant of fundamental evil in such episodes like “Irresistible”, but the series Millennium was very specific in dealing with this theme, for example, the season two episode “Monster”.
But the uncomfortable truth is, Fundamental evil cannot be negotiated with, it cannot be reasoned with, it has to be obliterated, either through psychical violence, or the destruction of the ideals it espouses. There have been figures from Caligula to Adolph Hitler, and onward, that I would define as representing ‘fundamental evil’.
Yet the Halloween film in fact offers up ideas about the solution over how to overcome it, FAIR WARNING (Spoilers), but one has to recognize it, and get past hubris, and preconceived notions, before one can face it and redefine the terms to defeat it. Laurie Strode resets the terms in her preparation to defeat Michael, while others insist on finding a rational motive or explanations for his actions. Those who insist on finding ‘the answer’ do so with fatal results. Other’s see Laurie as someone who has created a prison, due to her trauma, and she is characterized as unstable, ridiculed for her obsession, and she has been ostracized by her daughter, and kept at bay with her granddaughter. But it is often those who can see the forest through the trees that can see something for what is it.
Let’s look at the theme of something being predestined for a moment, the back story about Laurie and Michael having no sibling connection does refocus their relationship, but it also implies a notion, an inkling that there’s some kind of psychic connection, or predetermined fate that leads back to their encounter. This might be nothing more than the fact she was the one victim that got away. One visual motif that opens the film suggest a related idea, in the yard sequence with the chained inmates where Michael stands mute, there’s a checkered pattern. Which one could read as ‘whom is playing whom’, either a game a checkers or chess, and this mirrors the themes at the end. Is everything predestined, or is that fate determined by one’s actions, or fate based on wish fulfillment ? Your choice in that point of view, might help decide how one can defeat this fundamental evil.
The desire to find a rational answer to Michael Meyers past actions leads two misguided bloggers / journalists to not only seek out Michael, and insist on an explanation over his actions, which leads to their brutal demise. Michael’s psychologist Dr. Sartain, ‘the new Loomis’ as Laurie calls him, not only goes so far to defend him, but kills a police officer to gleam an understanding of what the kill must feel like, only to have Sartain face a grim demise when the shape refuses to offer an answer . The hubris of all three characters assume there’s something left that is human, but fundamentalist evil operates on its own set of rules.
Laurie, in spite of the troubles she has faced with her daughter and grand-daughter and has grown to understand all too well that such evil works outside the bounds of convention, and she sets up a profound trap that evades understanding to those who cling to convention.
The prey has become the hunter, but the motive is to fight for her family, whereas the shape just kills for selfish reasons and to perpetuate the desire to ‘see the world burn’. The final moments of Halloween enforces the truth about such fundamentalist evil. Laurie has set up a series of ingenious traps throughout her home to isolate Meyers, and even misdirects him to the basement, while seeing her family to safety. While the shape is burning in that basement, it utters no screams for mercy; it remains mute and unapologetic for its nature. This level of evil works outside the bounds of reason, one has to set the terms to a new adjustment to deal with this evil.
It seems fitting that this film would come out at one of the most heightened and unstable periods of society, both in the United States and the globe when you consider the uptake in right wing nationalism. Fundamental Evil shrouds the truth, it misdirects, and indulges people to engage in relativist arguments, and make false equivalent points. I have seen countless examples of people in the last few years that have intellectually contorted themselves into arguing that something right in front of their eyes isn’t happening. They have deconstructed mythology and archetypes, and revised past social history to suite their present agenda, and often all for the sake of clouding the issue of right or wrong. Often hiding their head in the sand to ignore what is self evident – it is folly to do so, and will lead to their demise.
Evil is unrelenting, due to its true nature it doesn’t blink, but Fundamental evil grows like a cancer, and it’s ripple effect continues long after its impact is seen. Very often, trauma creates new forms of traumas in other areas. We are reaching a period where we will have to create those very traps that Laurie understands, I don’t know what such traps will be, or the solution myself, but we might want to consider being very clear eyed and hardened for what will be needed to face which we have to face.
Films like Halloween might be a timely blessing at the moment; all story telling can often be a tool to help navigate the world we live in. These warnings might need to be heeded.
Season eleven of The X-Files picks up where season ten left off. The cliff hanger with Mulder and the rest of the world suffering and dying of an Alien contagion or disease propagated by CSM and his world ending conspiracy left fans clamoring for answers and explanation. If the X-Files has taught fans anything, though, it’s to trust no one. Or no plot arc.
The intro of the premier has CSM explaining why he’s done what he’s done. Again, trusting his word is shaky at best. He’s been a power player behind the Alien Conspiracy since the beginning as we know. He’s at times been part of the group of powerful men who set the wheels of invasion rolling and has been ostracized from that group. It seems that at this point in the series he’s engineered his way into being the most powerful man on Earth, deciding the fate of millions. We then see the familiar intro ending with “I Want to Believe” which turns into “I Want to Lie”. That should be in the backs of viewers minds the whole time this show is on, by the way.
(The title sequence closing tag line makes the theme of the episode explicit – I Want To Believe – I Want To Lie. This works on several levels, is belief founded on lies? If the Truth is the two edge sword, are lies built into the truth even for some greater good? Can our belief become so fervent we will ignore inconvenient truths?)
The season ten finale turns out to be a vision by Scully causing her to have a seizure. Mulder and Scully’s relationship has been the core of the show from the beginning with their initial distrust that gradually led to them only relying on each other and their eventual relationship culminating in the conception of their son William. William has been at risk since he was born and has been hidden away for his own safety. Early in the episode former Special Agent Jeffery Spender being attacked by an unknown assailant who says they “want the boy”. The boy, we can only assume at this point, is William. Spender’s relationship with Mulder and Scully is another shaky one. He is CSM’s son the same as Mulder is but where Mulder rejects CSM and his conspiracy, Spender embraced it and tried to be part of it but the cost of his decision left him horribly disfigured.
(Fans have been wondering why Spender seems less disfigured from the last time we saw him from The Truth, Orodromeus from Eat The Corn assumes his reconstruction was due to conventional plastic surgery, but one cannot dismiss the possibility that the reconstruction was alien, by whom, without the benefits of Carl Spender’s access, is hard to say. But if the remains of the alien rebels exists, it could explain this.)
Once Scully wakes up she conveys her vision to Mulder about the plague CSM will unleash on the Earth’s population. Mulder doubts her cautiously since the last time he saw CSM was when he presumably died in a helicopter attack in the desert. Mulder trusts Scully enough to go search for CSM and find out what their son has to do with the plot. Immediately he is tailed and one of the more extensive car chase scenes in X-Files history ensues. While Mulder is playing out Scully’s vision Scully is left at the hospital. Spender shows up and informs Scully that someone is after William. Spender knows where their son is and Scully begs him to tell her where he is. As she tries to leave we join CSM and Agent Reyes discussing the situation. CSM mentions that if his plan leaks out it would be dismissed as “fake news”. The X-Files’ touching on cultural issues continues.
(A Key point missed that fans whom are insisting that because SM II was a vision, that the prior episode Babylon didn’t exist, is the detail of Mulder’s car. Aside from the question if Miller and Einstein recognizes Mulder. There is the fact that Mulder is driving Miller's mustang from MS II. Miller's license plate from MSII is JVR-1131 and Mulder is driving this same car and plate in MSIII.)
Scully calls Mulder from his desk and Mulder tells her where he is, which is part of Scully’s vision she warned him about. As she’s talking to Mulder she suffers another seizure. According to her visions, CSM’s end game is to reset the Earth’s population in his image. Only select people will survive the apocalypse as the planet is returned to, in CSM’s words, a “savage state”. It seems that his plan requires William for unknown reasons, hence why everyone is searching for him.
(Much of the plot points about Scully’s visions, while likely channeled via their Son William, does mirror Mulder’s brain storm during “Biogenesis” and season Seven’s “The Sixth Extinction I and II. Much of the episode mirrors ideas laid out with “The Sixth Extinction” series. But Season Seven did expand and reset the conspiracy. This brings up the fundamental flaw with fans who cling to the narrative laid out “Redux I and II”, treating the information laid out in season five as gospel truth, and that should never have been taken at face value. The X-Files has always played with the theme of Empirical Truth and Subjective Truth, and most of the time has leaned towards Subjective Truth.)
Mulder arrives at a mansion after his long car chase that led him through multiple states where he discovers and talks with members of the Alien Conspiracy who broke off from CSM years ago. It turns out they didn’t factor into CSM’s vision so their plot is to eject themselves and other ‘worthy’ individuals into space where they will survive the impending cataclysm with CSM’s Alien Virus. So now there are two competing conspiracies in the X-Files universe. Scully, attempting to go in search of William ends up crashing her car due to her seizure issues. Mulder is busy discussing the remaining Syndicate member’s own plot to save themselves. They try to ply Mulder into working for them by assassinating CSM, which Mulder declines. Meanwhile CSM and Reyes have AD Skinner in a car where CSM threatens him with his Pathogen intended on slaughtering the population.
(At this point Carl Spender completely represents hubris, he was a key henchmen for The Syndicate, and as various members were killed off via in-fighting, or the Alien rebels from season five, Carl Spender took on the mantle of the cause, or his own idea of such a cause. His pathology leading to act as judge, jury, and executioner of the mere pawns of mortal men, thus, his hubris reminds of Christian Dominionist, Dispensationist Tim La Haye. In Spender’s case he has become to believe he is God.)
The Syndicate members tell Mulder that the Alien Invasion that was a threat for so long has been called off due to humanities destruction of their own environment. The social commentary is no doubt divisive in today’s increasingly polarized culture. The X-Files has always played off cultural events and there is no shortage of social and environmental issues for the series to delve into. If the reasoning for the invasion never occurring is true, it does explain why the time table never was met in the series. It could also mean that it was rescheduled or was a ruse the whole time since CSM and the Syndicate’s word should never be trusted.
(Some fans dismissal of the Global warming comment miss the point. Mr. Y’s comments should not be taken completely at face value, but in spirit, his explanation makes sense when you consider the events depicted in season five, and especially the feature, Fight The Future. Mulder saves Scully in the arctic with the vaccination injection that reverses the gestation process that was begun by the insect carrier, via Purity Control. But this action triggers the mother ship into activation and escape, hence, the Grey’s had realized that humans had the knowledge to reverse the gestational plague, and therefore Earth was no longer a viable option for colonization. But that does not mean that Carl Spender did not have his own ideas about who deserved to exist. There is no reason to not believe there weren’t multitier viruses that served different purposes if the aim was the deplete the population without the use the technological weapons.)
Mulder hears the Syndicate member’s explanation that their game plan is to basically eject humanity to space for colonization but ultimately declines. He leaves to find and help Scully who is now back at the hospital thanks to Agents Einstein and Miller, making their only appearance in this episode. While Scully is in bed a man attempts to kill Scully only to be saved at the last moment by a scalpel-wielding Mulder. They both sit together finally as the dead man is cleaned up and the police do their job in the background and Scully tells him that her visions are caused by William. This seems to be more of a feeling than a solid answer, no doubt we will revisit this issue during this season. Skinner shows up and Mulder confronts him since he tried to contact him. Mulder’s inherent distrust in anyone but Scully and he shoves Skinner saying he smells like smoke.
Now is where things get tricky as we see through flashbacks that indicate that CSM is the father of William, not Mulder. Scully seemingly agreed to a trip where she was drugged, or according to CSM, passed out after being awake for thirty hours. The implication that CSM may have raped her is there, either by himself or through scientific means of fertilizing Scully with an embryo. The issue has rose concerns over Scully’s situation, rightfully and the implication that CSM is the father and not Mulder has definitely caused an uproar with the fan base, and more specifically the “shipper” aspect of the fanbase.
That said, we should keep in mind that CSM has a long, terrible history of being a known liar when it suits his needs. Whether or not William is actually CSM’s and possibly a super human birthed by Scully or Mulder’s child who may have suffered altering effects by Scully’s past abduction remains to be seen.
(This is probably one of the fundamental misunderstandings of the episode. With little doubt, Carl Spender is one of the most deceptive figures in television history. He has always used lies to suit his needs, even forcing a Samantha alien hybrid to pose as Mulder’s sister as a distraction starting in Colony. What his final aims are at the moment are elusive, but there should be little doubt that he views William as a threat, and as a potential tool. Look at the tragic history of Gibson Praise, who’s parents were murdered, and once the boy was abducted, exploratory surgery was done on his brain, and the boy as a teen was forced to go into hiding in an American desert. Considering his hubris, one should not trust Spender’s claims about the parentage, nor believe that he isn’t using Monica Reyes and Walter Skinner as mere pawns, the only thing that is likely true is that he did drug Scully and used technology to make Scully fertile again during the episode “En Ami”, and figuratively he was just stating that in his comments to Reyes, and subsequently Skinner. It should be noted that John Kenneth Muir's review is the complete contrast to the Eat The Corn review. You can draw your own conclusions on it's merits. )
At the end of the day the headline “I Want to Lie” weighs heavy on the season already. We can trust Mulder and Scully but now with two separate conspiracies competing and CSM’s plot to annihilate humanity to suit his vision, it will no doubt be a complex mystery for our heroes to resolve. Hopefully seeing the resolution of a years long conspiracy being solved by Mulder and Scully will be exciting as well as seeing new MOTW episodes which are so loved by The X-Files fans everywhere.
The following was started in early summer of 2016, and continued in July 0f 2017.
2016 has turned out to be a very challenging year in many respects, there’s a sense that collectively things are winding down, and building up at the same moment. The harbinger of mortality is a very cruel beast, and I don’t mean that in just the sense of psychical death, but in things ending, established ideas about the world, the role of governments, businesses, religions, science, and philosophies, and a real sense about no one knows where things are heading. Doors are closing, and most really don’t know which new doors are opening and it is unsettling indeed. When icons pass on, there’s a vacuum that is felt, and that has always been the case. When established ideas on a beloved series end, and the proverbial slate is cleared, it shakes our assumptions, and people react violently, stabbing in the dark with a hope of some answers, or solace. The world moves onward and one either adapts to a new matrix, or withers.
A series of events happened in January that seemed synonymous in hindsight. On Jan 11th, I was driving from San Francisco to Los Angeles when I got the news of David Bowie’s death. It was early in the morning before the sun rose, and I didn’t have time to process it, I found myself mulling over the countless songs he has written while on the drive. A similar drive to what I documented in 2011. That day was a mix of anticipation and excitement over what I might be experiencing on the following day, 12th with covering The X-Files Red Carpet screening of “My Struggle”.
Little did I realize at the time the profound events that would shape everything that followed the first months of 2016, and I can’t say things progressed any better throughout 2016, For example, The consternations by fans over those six episodes, and then a certain election at the end of 2016.
I found myself thinking about the expectations of the artist, within any genre. I found myself thinking about a comment Beatle George Harrison made (to paraphrase): “The fans gave their screams and love, but we gave away our nervous systems.” Most artists lead difficult lives because of an innate sensitivity they have, their receptors are more acute, more heightened, and they take more in, and it’s difficult to deal with the external stimulus. In many cases, artists fall into drug use, or, if not, just straight up madness or mental illness (and in many cases don’t even see it within themselves). Many have to build up a wall, or a dam to control the flow of the creative river. Fans often live vicariously through the artist and build up their own expectations about the work the artist produces. But this becomes a two edged sword as the artist must create work that stays true to their point of view, and that P.O.V. doesn’t always jive with the public’s expectation. Steven King of course commented on the above point with his novel, Misery, about an obsessed fan’s drive towards hostage taking and torment.
Which brings us back to David Bowie, and his final album before his passing, Blackstar, generally a meditation of mortality and death, but the closing track, following a series of pretty stunning tracks, “I Can’t Give Everything Away”, could be viewed on several levels. I could argue that the final track was his statement of intent, his motivations behind the career sabbatical and the periods where he focused on the relationship with his wife and raising his daughter. Only a person with a deep neurosis could be driven to put out themselves to the public, but that energy can only go on for so long before it can be self destructive, and more often than not, the public cares little about the well being of the artist as long as they are fed what they need.
“Seeing more and feeling less,
Saying no but meaning yes,
This is all I ever meant,
That's the message that I sent.”
“I Can’t Give Everything Away.”
Which brings us to the issue of Chris Carter and the fan reaction to season 10, the massive consternation, the endless accusations of “Retcon” mythology betrayals, and the simple fact that Chris Carter wasn’t so much giving the fans what they thought they wanted, but more what they needed. That is the thrust of the few people whom qualify with being an artist, to tell the public what they need to hear as opposed to what they want to hear. It’s too easy for a creative person to just treat what they do as a commodity and to second guess what the public wants. It takes work to listen to their intuition and serve the work to the best of their ability. Some do it, and some don’t.
But if you are rubbing people the wrong way, it’s usually a pretty good sign you are doing your job.
When all is said and done, the artist can only give what they can and be honest about it. No amount of wish furfillment by the public, no amount of reconfiguring what you would like something to be, will change the intent of a creative person’s work.
Since the bulk of this was written and pondered, a massive amount of assumptions have been challenged, 2016 wasn’t really all that great with a staggering number of deaths and scandals, and 2017 has turned out to be worse in many respects. The anchors have vanished, or drifted away, few have little to cling to, and the bearings one could rely on before have faded step by step, and we are in the nadir of living through a graceless and coarse age. I can’t really say how the new season of The X-Files will be received in 2018, will it be a mirror to the shows reception in 2001-2002, or will it have a bigger reception next year. Carl Jung, in principle, may have been correct that we will need to invent new symbols, new masks, and heroes. But you won’t find those answers by depending on self appointed nihilists, so don’t take up your time, this might be the alpha or the omega, but The X-Files has always been about finding a trace of hope, a little light, in the darkness. We’ll see what clues it leaves us soon enough.
If you live long enough, everything comes back full circle
at some point, things that become unfashionable and that people move on from,
can be re-evaluated, and find a way to come back to life. Years ago, I wrote
about my thoughts of the horror host TV show on Channel 2, KTVU, Creature Features with Bob Wilkins, and
then John Stanley from 1971 until 1984. A series of nostalgia based books by
Tom Wyrsch and video releases of episodes reminded people of made the show so
special in its prime, a Documentary in 2008 – Watch Horror Films, Keep America Strong: A Journey Into Creature Features
seemed to solidify this reassessment.
It’s funny how things happen by accident, but bay area actor
/ Producer Jeff Bodean created an on-line series that lasted six episodes, and
the Production work used opened a window to bring back Creature Features to the fledgling North Bay TV streaming network
based in Santa Rosa. North Bay TV mirrors the localized focus of KOFY TV,
another smaller bay area station. The premise of this new version is simple, a ‘has-been’
British 80s rock star has moved into a mansion on a hill with his aid, Mr
Livingston, and his strange, macabe and mute friend Tangella, and shows classic
horror films of yesterday, has guest, and offers of playful dose of fun. I
watched the original debut stream on North Bay TV that had John Stanley as a
guest and ran “Night of The Living Dead” in 2016, it looked promising and I
even reached out to them, but you can tell what the future holds, so when I
discovered that KOFY has picked up the show and was airing the show, it gave me
confidence that others saw the promise of it as well.
By good fortune, I was invited to appear on the show in late
October, and went up to the studio in Santa Rosa. The mansion is lovely, and
the cast and crew could not have been more nicer, relaxed, unassuming, and fun.
The episode airs Saturday night 11/11, on KOFY between 11 PM to 1 AM PT, where
I talk about The X-Files, the new
season, The X-Files Lexicon, and the
work for Den of Geek, my love for
Richard Matheson’s novel “I Am Legend”, and the film that was based on the
book, ‘The Last Man on Earth’ with Vincent Price. We also talk about X-Files
alumni Veronica Cartwright, and the show Millennium.
Since I have shared this news to neighbors, I have
encountered countless people who remember the original show.
You can upload the North Bay TV app to see the live stream,
if you don’t get KOFY, and the full episode will appear on the Creature Feature’s
website within a few days.
XFL Blog’s exclusive interview with Jason V. Brock, conducted via E-mail by Matt Allair
XFL Blog’s review of DVD documentary “The Ackermonster Chronicles”, and book review for “The Dark Sea Within” by Matt Allair
For many Philes, they might not be familiar with author and filmmaker Jason V. Brock, but he is a consequential and evolving voice in the field and subgenres of Horror, fantasy, and Science Fiction, he has also an admitted X-Files fan from back in the day. But my personal bonding with Jason came out of our shared passion for iconic genre writer H.P. Lovecraft, a figure we have written about on this blog. Jason is known for being very outspoken, and while open about his liberal leanings, he has been very vocal about the excesses of liberal political correctness, and has made no bones about the misguided aims behind such efforts in relation to deceased authors like Lovecraft. But his interests are varied, and range into a celebration of the life of first generation superfan, Forrest J Ackerman, a man who was involved in the evolving field of Science Fiction literature, and its fandom from as far back as the early 1930s. Ackerman had become the agent to a wide range of notable authors, and an avid collector of classic genre films and publications. Ackerman was also the creator of ‘Famous Monsters of Filmland’, a magazine that, no doubt, X-Files writers Glen and Darin Morgan had followed as children. One can see the review of this great documentary below. His interests also extended into a documentary of television writer Charles Beaumont, whose work is notable in Rod Serling’s seminal series The Twilight Zone, which is another series I have noted that had an impact on the work of The X-Files.
Courtesy of the author
But Jason is notable as a short story author, and this second point might interest X-Files fans who are looking for something dark and interesting. His second collection of Poems and Tales has been issued by Hippocampus Press, ‘The Dark Sea Within’. While the following musings might appear to some fans as six degrees of separation in relation to The X-Files, I felt this would be a great interest. Jason has been gracious and generous with his time, and he is in person a very fun and charming person to interact with (we met during Alien Con in Northern California last year). His devotion to interact with other fans and other authors shows a real commitment to bridge gaps and find common ground in all areas. The format is broken into a review, then interview format, for both the documentary and his book.
“The Ackermonster Chronicles” – A compelling documentary from filmmaker, Author and Musician Jason V Brock about first generation genre super fan Forest J. Ackerman whom began his life as an avid reader of Science Fiction and Fantasy pulps from the 1920s to the 1940s, and became an avid movie fan of all horror and science fiction films from the 1930s onward. Over time he amassed a huge collection of everything conceivable that related to those fields, as well as amassed a great number of industry contacts, both in film and literature. His tale has been occasionally told before, but not with the level of candor and earthiness that one finds here. Jason managed to interview Ackerman before his passing, and Brock managed, in the process, to get many revealing little tales about iconic figures such as Ray Bradbury, and Harlan Ellison. But Jason also managed to get some revelations about Ackerman’s sexual fetishes - little of this white-washes anything. The presentation of the Documentary is also surprising, it doesn’t rely on nostalgic images or genre clichés in how it reveals the human story behind Ackerman and his circle, but rather edgy. He may have been a geek, but he still was a man nevertheless. This presentation seems like a tactic to appeal to Millennial’s whom have little idea of the man, or his role these fledgling fields of Science Fiction and Horror in the early years. The tactic evidently works. The number of people involved in the roster is impressive: Ray Bradbury, William F. Nolan, Dan O’Bannon, John Landis, Joe Dante, Greg Bear, film historian David J. Skal, Lovecraft expert S.T. Joshi, and visual effects icon Ray Harryhausen.
Matt Allair: I understand that you first started on the Forrest J Ackerman documentary (The Ackermonster Chronicles! ) before others worked on similar documentaries about Forrest, and that you shot about 30 hours of material. Was it difficult to prioritize what to include?
Jason V Brock: It was, and my wife, Sunni, did an outstanding job as editor. The main reason was that there was so much to cover. Ackerman lived into his 90s, and was a pivotal figure in the development of several areas of popular culture, from fandom to the emergence of science fiction as a mainstay genre in literature and film, to the acceptance of horror by the masses via Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine and the legitimization of collecting. He was key in all of these roles, not to mention a beloved ham actor appearing in over 200 films and an agent and editor. Along the way, he even managed to cultivate a few outspoken foes (Harlan Ellison pops to mind!), and lifelong friendships with other people he inspired, such as the late Messrs. Ray Bradbury and Ray Harryhausen. Inevitably, Sunni had quite a job assembling everything, as I shot what I believe to be the longest interview Forry ever conducted, which ran about eleven hours! It was done in a single day, with a few breaks for food. Later we did some pick-ups to cover things missed in the original interview. To complicate matters, I shot in HD, which at the time was almost unheard of, so we had to have special gear to film and edit. It was sort of a nightmare, technically, back then.
And yes: Ours was the first documentary to be solely about Ackerman. Later, a few others came around and managed to get theirs out before we did, but that was only because they weren’t as thorough. I don’t want to say anything more negative, so I’ll leave it there. I will note that ours went on to win the Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Award for Best Documentary in 2014, so that tells you something.
We actually began the interview process in 2006, as I recall. During that time, we were encouraged to do another documentary about a man that Ackerman had agented at one time, the late writer for The Twilight Zone and some of Roger Corman’s Poe films, Charles Beaumont. Beaumont and Ackerman had many of the same friends and so on, so as I shot things for the Ackerman film, I also shot material for the Beaumont effort (Charles Beaumont: The Short Life of Twilight Zone’s Magic Man ). During these interviews, Ackerman had a serious injury and was hospitalized. While he http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1531642/recovered, we continued to work on the Beaumont documentary, and were able to finish it. After that documentary was done, we had an invitation to have the World Premiere at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood, CA. It went very well, with a near capacity turnout of around 400 people from all walks of life: Movie industry folks, reviewers, Twilight Zone fans, and so on. We also had an assembly of people who knew, worked with, or had studied Beaumont at this premiere, including George Clayton Johnson, William F. Nolan, John Tomerlin, Marc Scott Zicree, Ray Bradbury, and Earl Hamner. Other screenings of the film took place all over the world, including a special showing at the Center for the Study of Science Fiction at the University of Kansas under the invitation of the Founding Director and science fiction legend James E. Gunn.
After about a year, we were able to pick-up with the Ackerman documentary; sadly he passed away before the film was completed, though he did live to see a short 10-minute preview. After the film was completed, we had the World Premiere, by invitation once again, at the historic Aero Theatre in Santa Monica (which, like the Egyptian Theatre in LA, is part of the prestigious American Cinematheque), and panelists there for the audience Q&A included the widow of screenwriter/director Dan O’Bannon (Dan briefly lived with the Ackermans as a teenager), long-time Ackerman assistant Bill Warren, William F. Nolan (Ackerman was his first agent, as he had been with Tomerlin and Beaumont, among many others), and George Clayton Johnson. Again, we had a fantastic turnout, and the documentaries have since been shown numerous times all over the world.
Matt: What was the most difficult interview to secure?
Brock: Well, for Ackermonster, I would have to say it was John Landis, simply due to scheduling. He’s a busy guy. For the Beaumont film it was William Shatner, mainly for the same reason.
We’re completing a third film at present, entitled Image, Reflection, Shadow: Artists of the Fantastic. For that, likely the toughest to secure was Prof. Ernst Fuchs. We had to go to Europe for the majority of the interviews, and he was at work painting an amazing mural inside a chapel in the capital city of Klagenfurt in state of Carinthia, Austria. We had to drive through the Alps from Vienna, and once we arrived, Prof. Fuchs had me deliver a small brass model of a proposed sculpture to him, but the City Hall made me leave my passport as collateral before letting me take it to him! That was a bit of an odyssey.
Matt: It’s one of the few documentaries that is so candid about the sexuality of his era, as well as his sexual fetishes and interests; was the decision to include that aspect of his life intentionally going against the grain about what you would usually see in such documentaries? Did that aspect just naturally unfold as you learned more about him?
Brock: Well, in my films I prefer to uncover the true essence of the individual or topic. As a result, I tend to use unconventional means to achieve this goal. One thing I don’t like—especially if the subject is a person—is to have a narrator. I find that to be an old-fashioned way of doing things. Instead I let the people who knew the person explain to me, in long and candid terms, what the person they knew was like. Over the course of 20 or 30 interviews, one can establish a fuller picture of all aspects of the subject as viewed by others. I call it “peeling away the onion layers.” It gives us, I feel, a much fuller appreciation of the person at the heart of the film.
With respect to sexuality, it was Forry who brought that stuff up. I never got the feeling he was embarrassed or ashamed of it (and he had no reason to be), so we went with it. I found it an interesting window into how his mind worked, and it tied in to idealized notions of the past (such as nudism) as they changed into what we see today. Forry was genuinely fascinated with the good in people, and was what I would deem an optimist. He truly felt that in the future, we would be living by the tenets of what I have come to call the “Utopian Triangle”: everyone speaking Esperanto, living on a spaceship, and nude. He was more complex than just an old guy who liked science fiction books. I wanted to show that.
Matt: The documentary has a very edgy, contemporary presentation, and isn’t packaged with many nostalgic clichés. Was the approach done to appeal to younger Millennial viewers who might not be aware of Forrest’s, or Science Fiction’s, early history?
Brock: It was not done in a contrived way to appeal to a demographic, but if it does, that’s fine with me. It was done as a way to humanize the past, actually.
Matt: When did you first meet Forrest?
Brock: We first met him at San Diego Comic-Con in 2005, where he was doing a signing with Ray Harryhausen and Ray Bradbury.
Matt: Was there particular story you had to omit that you wished you hadn’t? Brock: Several! There are so many stories told by different people I wished we could have included. Alas, there’s not room for everything! Perhaps more in a future edition. . .
Matt: In the commentary you mentioned being something of a neophyte about Ackerman when you started the project, did what you learn change your perspective about him?
Brock: Well, I understood his impact with respect to Famous Monsters, which I read growing up, but with regard to his importance in the larger scheme of things, that was surprising. To my mind, he’s the fulcrum of bringing this type of literature and film into the present. I say that not only because of his own achievements, but also because of his friendships with Ray Bradbury and Ray Harryhausen. They have, collectively, inspired millions of people, quite literally. And all over the world. People who love the genre don’t even understand the impact of these men, and I predict none of it would have happened if Ackerman hadn’t been the catalyst.
“The Dark Sea Within: Tales and Poems” By Jason V. Brock – Personally, I find it difficult to be easily captivated by contemporary weird horror or fantasy fiction. Most mass market fiction has been so commoditized to pander to a demographic, and so many genre writers fall into a generic cul-de-sac that provides a comfort eye candy to the reader whom happily takes it all in, it is difficult to find a genre writer that has something to say, and something transgressive that leads to new revelations about the characters depicted. But the purpose of weird horror and fantasy should be to reveal to the reader something new about the human condition that hasn’t been considered. H.P. Lovecraft, within his obsessional interests and neurosis, did open up a view of man as minuscule in a greater scheme of things, that notion ran in contrast to the comforts of Christianity. While Lovecraft did not influence him, Clive Barker’s early work remains some of the most transgressive to come out of the eighties, he’s one writer that moved Lovecraftian sensibilities into new directions, Clive was also unapologetic in celebrating the other as something beautiful. Anne Rice is another example of someone who celebrated the sensuality of the other with new perspectives. Yet the point is that horror and fantasy cannot move forward unless it is transgressive, unless it makes the reader uncomfortable, yet shock tactics are not enough. The reason why filmmakers like George Romero and David Cronenberg remained so interesting is the depth of their best work to have something to say. I am happy to reveal that Jason Brock’s new book reveals an ability to write good, captivating prose, and meets many of the expected above points.
The first tale that I was most curious to check out was ‘Brood’, a Lovecraftian tale that acts as a contemporary sequel to ‘The Shadow Over Innsmouth’, set in the coast of Massachusetts, a Sheriff and deputy investigate the bodies of mutilated half breeds off the coast, and this leads to as grim revelation. ‘The Dark Sea Within’ reminds me of a Clive Barker tale from his short story era – An art dealer, and his girlfriend, lured by the promise of rare art in Prague are lead into other realms. ‘Memento Mori’ is a vignette that deals with an old man’s recollection of an unusual event from the Second World War. ‘Transposition’ is a surgical horror tale with a O’Henry twist. Thus far his work reveals a writer with a breath of influences. ‘The Shadow of Heaven’ is another Lovecraftian influenced tale of a Military unit in the Arctic that faces a grim outcome. ‘The Man With The Horn’ is another tale of a woman overwhelmed with curiosity about an apartment neighbor that leads cosmic revelations, this tale might remind others of Lovecraft’s “The Music Of Erich Zann’. The tale ‘Verlassen’ manages to have the flavor of a Ray Bradbury tale, introspective.
The tales ‘Unity of Affect’ and ‘Epistles From Dis’ manage to be structurally inventive, in the case of ‘Dis’, the title makes reference to the city in six level of Hell of Dante Alighieri’s poem, ‘Epistles from Dis’ manages to be an ambitious apocalyptic novella that demonstrates his sure hand with working in the longer-form format. In terms of his Poetry, many follow in the spirit of Edgar Allen Poe’s poetry, or Lovecraft’s dalliances with Poetry, but they also demonstrate the influences of writers like Milton and Edgar Lee Masters. There are many sides to Jason’s influences and that breath is revealed with each piece. I should note that the book concludes with ‘notes’ about the writing, while this isn’t completely unusual, it is rare to see a writer willing to share his through process and inspiration behind each work. The closest example I can think is musician Pete Townshend who is very open about his creative process. Jason V. Brock is a writer with great promise, although already very accomplished, I would be intrigued to see where could go with a longer-form Novel. Fans who have an interest in the weird fantasy field should celebrate such a new voice, recommended.
Matt: Your second collection, The Dark Sea Within, is very eclectic in its prose styles; was the selection process difficult?
Jason V Brock: Not really, I have always written in a variety of styles and with a broad thematic base. I like to challenge myself, and I like to gently confound expectations. The main thing is getting the flow of the book to be a smooth experience for readers. Of course, some people dislike poetry, so they can skip those if they wish.
Brock: Well, not too long, actually. I had the bulk of the material together in a couple years. I write very quickly, and generally have three to five story requests in the hopper at any given moment. The longest part of the process for me is perfecting the pieces and handling final revisions before going to press on a collection. I am a chronic reviser, and enjoy that aspect of writing.
I did have to put in a great deal of work on the novella that debuted in Dark Sea entitled Epistles from Dis. I had been working on that piece—which clocks in at about 23,000 words—off and on for roughly ten years. It is a complex work, and involves a sweep of history as well as a lot of research related to the machinations of the disaster that unfolds in the story. It was fun to do, but tough as well. At the moment I am building the contents for my third collection, tentatively called Grotteschi: Further Explorations of the Kafkaesque. I hope to have it ready for early 2019. It’s about half-completed now; I have to wait for some of the pieces to appear in print before I can release it, though.
Matt: You are known for being an advocate for writers like H.P. Lovecraft and Richard Matheson: Is there a writer that has influenced you that would surprise most people?
Brock: I think most people would be very surprised to learn about one in particular. He was a fine literary writer named Richard Selzer. His work is lyrical, but rooted in reality. He began as a surgeon, and his book Mortal Lessons: Notes on the Art of Surgery is one of my favorites of all time. I had the chance to publish him once, and he was great to work with. A real gentleman. I also really admire the work of Gabriel García Márquez. Rod Serling, O’Bannon, David Bowie, William S. Burroughs. The aforementioned members of The Group, of course, and the cohort they influenced: Dennis Etchison, Peter Atkins, et al. (In fact, our publishing shingle, Cycatrix Press, is re-issuing Etchison’s Masters of the Weird Tale Centipede volume, It Only Comes Out at Night, in paperback.) Also the theatre has been a big influence; I was really into plays and theatre in high school. And the poet Dante.
Matt: Do you see a moral thread that runs through most of your story telling?
Brock: One theme is “be careful what you wish for.” I see others, but that one is recurrent. Also “things are not always what they seem to be.”
Matt: Is a lot of your story telling based on personal experiences? Is any of your fictional work autobiographical in some manner?
Brock: Most of my work has some tinge of biographical material. Many of my characters reflect amalgamations of aspects that I have, for better or worse. And liberal doses of imagination, of course.
Matt: I’m always fascinated with the issue of societal censorship, which seems to be an on-going scenario, and with artists—be they writers, musicians, painters, or filmmakers—the issue of self-censorship. Has there ever been an image, idea, or sequence that you thought of, to which you decided ‘It’s too extreme, I can’t go there’, when you were developing your work?
Brock: No. I am generally most interested in ideas that challenge or excite me. I have dialed back some of the baser elements of gore that I had in my earlier efforts. I was interested in medicine, and still am, and would frequently go for realism in describing things. Sometimes that grueling for a reader. So I learned to temper that with more flair with respect to style. It’s not so much about endurance as it is about conveying messages in my work. Sometimes the extreme parts stepped on that, though I have been known to be extreme from time-to-time!
Matt: Now that you have several story collections under your belt, do you feel ready to work on a long form novel?
Brock: I do, certainly. I have done a variety of long-form pieces now, ranging from 11,000 to more than 20,000 words. My literary agent, Cherry Weiner, is after me to complete my novel series, the first of which is tentatively called (UnSub). This is the beginning of a trilogy about a specific character, a woman named Sinthya Morrigan. She is an FBI investigator in the Behavioral Sciences Unit, and starts the series with her coming in to clean up a serial murder investigation in the Pacific Northwest, which is where I now reside. It’s a police procedural/crime book in part, but with a strong supernatural element. The trilogy is all mapped out; I’m finishing the first book.
I also have a Weird fiction short novel entitled The Kellen Diaries on the backburner. It will be a sort of lost document book about a specific character, and drawing on the Weird tradition, a bit of Lovecraft, and also Southern Gothic ideas. The latter is a natural draw for me, considering I am from the South, so it feels comfortable. Along the way, I plan on an S-F novel, and a couple others I have ideas for. William F. Nolan and I are working on several projects as well—one is his forthcoming Centipede Press Masters of the Weird Tale series omnibus (due in early 2018), and his memoirs, currently titled Nolan’s Run, due in 2018 as well from Dark Regions Press; I am serving as editor for those two. I have also outlined another novel—with Nolan’s blessing, as he wants me to assume the mantle for the literary franchise—which is an extension of the Logan’s Run universe, called Logan Falls.
Additionally, I have planned a couple nonfiction books of scholarship—one on The Group, and one about film, music, literature, and art, similar to, but wider in scope, than my Bram Stoker and Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Award Finalist book from 2014, Disorders of Magnitude. Then there is my semi-regular ongoing print/online anthology/periodical Nameless Digest which will see two issues out this year, with some fantastic stuff in them, including original stories by Ramsey Campbell, Jessica Amanda Salmonson, and a new Thomas Ligotti interview from Darrell Schweitzer.
Lastly, S. T. Joshi, the scholar, critic, and anthologist, and I are planning a new book called Future Weird for 2018. Should be pretty interesting, as it merges the non-Lovecraftian Weird with Science Fiction; we already have some excellent contributions for it. Very interesting admixture, that.
Matt: Are you optimistic about the current field of Science Fiction, Horror, or Fantasy Literature in 2017?
Brock: Overall, I suppose. Right now, there seems to be quite a bit of overtly preachy material out there. I think that will date badly as social mores change and people get tired of being lectured to; we’re not children here, for the most part. We can handle ideas that are different from our own, or at least I can, and the people I generally associate with.
There is also a bad trend toward PCism that needs to be kicked to the curb. “Artists” who are PC aren’t artists: They’re politicians yearning for acceptance, I feel. Now, there’s nothing wrong with addressing ethical concerns, or moral dilemmas, or recasting things contextually, but trying to dictate terms to people and hammer at them if they differ from your overly-rigid worldview is not only foolish, but dangerous. That’s mind control. Groupthink. I’m against it. I refer to these types as “Stalinists” but they aren’t that organized. They’re reactionaries, mainly. I am personally liberal, and find the very notion of people telling me what to think—or, even worse, the “correct” way to think—to be unacceptable. I’ll decide for me, thanks.
Along those lines, casting people into the lake of fire over a political stance is not only counter-productive, it’s a streak of self-righteous idiocy and narcissism that I find to be anathema to the tolerance, understanding, and compassion I was raised to be mindful of. It also stymies being the person who wants to grow as a creator and a human being; it involves too much talking and not enough listening; wanting to be “right” and not open to other points-of-view; even if someone has an outré or negative set of ideas, hearing them out is not an endorsement. It’s an acceptance that they are different in their perspective. That’s all. It won’t “turn you into _______” to listen, think, then formulate a reply rather than simply react in regurgitated, half-digested stereotypes and cockamamie ideas of pseudo-justice. We have to try and come to terms with one another, not just condemn people who are different than we are: How is that any different that being a sexist, or a racist, or a homophobe, or an ageist? That sort of unenlightened “thinking” violates my personal ethos.
There’s been way too much of that in the literary community of late. Enough already. Don’t become what you hate.
Matt: Due to the nature of this blog, I understand you are an X-Files fan, do you have a favorite episode or season?
Brock: I do! My favorite is the one where Scully and Mulder visited the retired sideshow community in Florida. Season 2, episode 20: "Humbug." I especially love it as I am frequently treated like a freak in real-life by people who have a hard time appreciating my takes on things.
I also tend to gravitate toward the misunderstood; that, too, is a large thematic concern in my work. I can trace it back to my upbringing in the rural South: We were poor, and I frequently felt the sting of ridicule over that, which was out of my control, of course. Most of my friends were the same, and I had a bit of a split childhood, first with my mother, then later with my father (who was mixed race) and stepmother. Looking back, growing up that way, in those conditions, gives one insight into humanity that you can’t get any otherwise.
Jason is a fascinating figure, and all areas of his work are worth looking into. You can Purchase The Ackerman documentary here, as well as his new collection of tales The Dark Sea Within here. Or via Amazon.
Chris Irish’s long delayed review of IDW’s season 10, some more terrific analysis, and something we are always pleased to present.
Season 10, Issue 16: Immaculate, Part 1
Written by: Joe Harris
Art by: Colin Lorimer
Colors by: Joana Lafuente
Letters by: Neil Uyetake
Editor: Denton J. Tipton
Executive Producer: Chris Carter
This installation of Season 10 opens up in front of an abortion clinic with a group of pro-life protesters in Murphysville, North Carolina. A blonde pregnant woman is standing across the street from them, saying the Lord’s Prayer to herself. A bright white panel with a black speech bubble says, “I will never abandon you, my child,” and she says she believes it. She walks through the snarling crowd to the clinic, the group lobs insults at her aggressively, and she is greeted by some clinic workers. Once inside she talks to the receptionist, who asks if she is with anyone, and she confirms, but when the receptionist notices no one with her, the pregnant woman says, “You’ll see.” She’s inside the doctor’s office now, ready for a procedure. The doctor asks if they’ve met before, and she says they haven’t. As the doctor talks to the woman, the receptionist in the office area is reviewing files and mumbles to herself that she’s seen the woman before as well. She pulls out a file with the name “Joanie Cartwright” on it and has a look of shock before she runs to the doctor’s office. From outside the clinic we see a giant explosion, and the protesters look on as the blonde woman walks from the fire unscathed, and no longer pregnant. She addresses the crowd and asks if they want to burn it all down and says, “Follow Us.” Enter title panel.
We join Mulder and Scully at the familiar FBI headquarters in Washington, DC. Our protagonists enter an office as two other agents are discussing something with A.D. Morales. One tells Mulder it’s “spooky stuff,” and Mulder quips at him, but Morales at the desk clarifies that it isn’t Mulder being called “Spooky.” She hands them a picture of Joanie Cartwright, who is age 16, that was taken before the explosion at the abortion clinic. They are told that the girl smuggled in a crude fertilizer bomb and blew the clinic up, killing six people. Mulder asks why they are being brought into this investigation as the local field office would be better suited (a familiar occurrence in The X-Files, nice touch). Mulder is handed some more pictures and is told that they are confirmed not be retouched, and in one photo the girl has a faint halo over her head. It also looks like there’s a ghostly figure behind the girl (fantastic artwork, by the way). Scully and Mulder are reminded that their past dealings in Saudi Arabia have put the X-Files under scrutiny (the storyline “Pilgrims”), which is familiar territory for both Mulder and Scully over the years.
Mulder and Scully travel to North Carolina to interview a survivor who has images of the girl standing in the explosion with a ghostly figure seeming to stand next to her. Mulder and Scully question her about the girl in question. Initially, she can’t recall the name of the boy who brought Joanie in the first time, but she has some sort of flash where Joanie says, “He will not abandon you,” and she tells them the boy’s name. Joanie again addresses her and says, “I can tell you where to find him,” and the receptionist tells Mulder and Scully. Scully tells Mulder they should let Morales know the details, but Mulder suggests the quiet approach—not surprising, knowing Mulder’s tendency to buck authority through the years.
Scully finds a relative of Joanie in a church in Murphysville. The lady is leaning on a pew praying the same prayer Joanie was at the beginning of the issue. The same “He will not abandon me” is mentioned as Scully approaches. Scully addresses the lady as “Mrs. Cartwright,” presumably Joanie’s mother. Scully asks her where Joanie is, but the mother keeps praying and mumbles that Joanie is a good girl, then says, “Don’t you see?” and turns to Scully, who sees the lady’s eyes are clouded. After this shock, the church’s pastor Alvin Johns approaches Scully and explains that he’s been caring for Mrs. Cartwright since her husband died. Pastor Johns offers to walk and talk with Scully.
Back to Mulder, he’s outside of Murphysville in a trailer park. In a thoroughly creepy X-Files scene with red sky and crosses hanging in a nearby tree, Mulder begins to investigate the area. During his poking around we see Pastor Johns and Scully walking and talking about the town and how religious people in the area are. As he says this, Mulder finds an unlocked trailer and enters. He finds an open book on Demonology lying on a desk. He finds a picture of Joanie in the pages of the book as someone else enters the trailer. Mulder surprises the man and runs from the scene. Back to Scully, she confronts the pastor and says it looks like Mrs. Cartwright’s eyesight was taken from her, and the Pastor says that it should. Returning to Mulder, he’s chasing the men, and he sees the man mysteriously get yanked to a halt by an unknown force. Mulder catches up to the man and notices a large group of men, women, and children standing in the way, all with the same problem with their eyes that Mrs. Cartwright has. Back to Scully, the pastor finishes his sentence, telling her that Mrs. Cartwright took her sight by herself.
Now Mulder and Scully are at the Murphysville Police Station interrogating the man who turns out to be Daniel, the boy who took Joanie in for her first abortion. Mulder grills him, and Daniel tries to explain himself. As Mulder and Scully talk to Daniel, we see a scene in Murphysville where a group of people encounter a dark woman with a group of armed individuals behind them. Back in the police station, Mulder and Scully are outside the interrogation room, discussing the case, while Daniel is waiting inside the room. As they are discussing the case, Daniel is staring at the mirror that separates the room and seems to be hallucinating. He says, “She wasn’t ready to have a baby,” as he reaches for a pen. In the next panels we see Joanie Cartwright standing among dead people left behind by the crowd she leads. Mulder and Scully hear Daniel scream and rush into the room to see that he’s gouged his eyes out, and the issue ends.
Season 10, Issue 17: Immaculate, Part 2
Written by: Joe Harris
Art by: Colin Lorimer
Colors by: Joana Lafuente
Letters by: Shawn Lee
Editor: Denton J. Tipton
Executive producer: Chris Carter
Part two of “Immaculate” starts with an FBI team going over the group of dead in the streets left behind at the end of the last issue. Mulder and Scully are walking amongst them. Scully tells Mulder the mobile ballistics lab is on the site, and Mulder has one of his hunches that the bullets will be traced back to these people’s friends and neighbors. Scully notices that not only have the dead been shot to pieces, but that they all seem white as a sheet, as if something terrified them beyond just getting shot. They go over the corpses and discuss what’s going on between images of the violence that unfolded earlier with the people being shot down and Joanie leading. Mulder says that an autopsy might shed some light on the events. As they walk away someone approaches a deceased woman and puts a hand on the dead woman’s head. We see a flash of her last moments, seeing Joanie with a large demon-looking shadow behind her. We see that it’s in fact Frank Black from the X-Files spinoff Millennium, before the title block.
The next scene opens in the Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina at a kind of refugee camp. A small boy is calling for his mother, but his sister is the only relative he has. Her name is Sarah, and she says she’ll take care of him. His name is Lucas. She assures him that she’ll be back and leaves him in his tent and goes to see Joanie. She recognizes Joanie from school, but Joanie only says, “He is our heart, he is our shepherd.” Sarah tells Joanie that they can’t find their mother, and Joanie tells her that she’s in a better place. Joanie is standing on the edge of a cliff and tells Sarah that she will see things for herself. Sarah starts to go back to Lucas, but everyone starts to gather around her and gets on their knees, and they all start chanting, “He is come” repeatedly.
We join Scully in the next page conducting an autopsy on one of the victims from the previous shooting. She notes an extreme amount of blood loss even for someone shot three times and that the dead man’s eyes are burned—that tells her that he was exposed to intense light. She goes on to say that some victims seem to have been scared to death, literally. Scully hears a noise in the hallway and goes to check but only finds a briefcase with a familiar symbol from Millennium on it. Inside she finds a file on Joanie Cartwright. Later on in the town church, Scully is waiting for Pastor Johns. She tells him that she’s come to see him and presents the briefcase that she found in the hallway in the morgue.
Elsewhere, Mulder is in the forest, leading a team that’s going to investigate the wooded area where the suspects from the mass shooting in town were last seen. Mulder asks one of the men where Scully is but is met by Frank Black, who informs him that she is seeking the truth and that he isn’t going to find anything in the woods if he continues following that lead. Mulder and Frank go into the FBI Mobile Command Unit bus to discuss the situation. Frank imparts what he knows to Agent Mulder regarding the case. They sort of clash regarding the nature of the case itself, being domestic terrorism or something worse. Frank tells Mulder what’s causing these problems is Joanie Cartwright. She believed that she was talking to God, but Frank knows better. Mulder asks him if it has anything to do with the Millennium Group, but Frank tells him he’s no longer associated with them. Right then another agent barges in and tells Mulder he has to see something. The girl Sarah from the beginning of the issue carries her brother to the agents. His eyes have been burned like the people who encountered Joanie in the town. Mulder talks to the girl while the agents try to help the boy. She says she never wanted to follow Joanie but everyone else seemed attracted to her for some reason. They load Sarah’s brother, Lucas, into an ambulance. Sarah tries to explain what it is that makes people want to follow her and how they would do anything for her, amongst panels showing people swan diving off the cliff to their deaths from earlier at the camp.
Back at the town church, Scully is talking to the pastor. She asks if he’s aware that Joanie has had an abortion once already, and he confirms that he knew. Scully asks why it seems that he was the one who signed her out from school before her pregnancy and subsequent abortion. Scully indicates that the investigation is not over and she will be seeing him again. In the woods the FBI task force has found Joanie standing alone at the edge of the cliff. She tells the men that she never meant to hurt anyone and wasn’t ready to have a baby. They try to calm her down and get her to back off from the edge, but she says, “He said he’d never leave me,” right before she swan dives off the cliff. Mulder lunges to try and save her, but Frank holds him back. Mulder asks Frank what would do this to these people, and Frank says, “If you knew the things I knew, Agent Mulder, your hair would be gray too.” Below them at the bottom of the cliff Frank can see a demon emerging from the pile of bodies strewn on the cliff floor.
In the woods the paramedics are working on trying to save Lucas as Sarah looks on. They charge an AED and shock the boy’s chest to shock his heart back. Scully is leaving the church as this is happening and calls Mulder. She tells him that she has a good idea who the father of Joanie’s children was but can’t prove it without testimony. Mulder says it’d be difficult to do so since Joanie just committed suicide. Mulder tells Scully about Frank Black helping him and that he’s no longer part of the Millennium Group. Mulder looks up for a moment and sees that Sarah is no longer in the camp. Back at the church we see Sarah appear. She sneaks into the church where the pastor is alone. She approaches him, and he sees a halo on her head and giant demon wings coming out of her back. She says, “He is come.” And the issue ends.
This story line was pretty creepy. It didn’t really clarify what this demon actually was, but that leaves it open for further story lines either in more X-Files issues or in Millennium comics. It was great to see Frank Black working with Mulder and Scully again. The whole thing was pretty creepy and touched on multiple hot button issues in today’s society as only The X-Files can. This kind of fearless commentary on difficult subjects is vital to the comics as it was in the television series.
Season 10, Issue 18: Monica and John
Written by: Joe Harris
Art by: Matthew Dow Smith
Colors by: Jordie Bellaire
Letters by: Shawn Lee
Editor: Denton J. Tipton
Executive Producer: Chris Carter
This issue opens in a farmhouse in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. An unidentified man is putting his shoes on, heads downstairs, then pulls a kettle off the burner. The man eats breakfast, reads a paper, then deposits the issue on a pile of others near the table. The person exits the kitchen, goes down to the basement via a hidden door, and grabs a set of keys off the wall, and there are a couple FBI badges hanging on the wall. One of them is Monica Reyes’s. The mystery character opens another door, and we find Monica Reyes curled up in a dark room alone. The person gives her some food to eat and shuts her in again. Monica hits the door but the person leaves her. She sees that she knocked her food to the floor, and we see the wall is scored with dozens of marks, indicating that she’s been locked up for a long time.
The mystery person then leaves the house in a truck as snow is falling. The person heads to the local post office and picks up a package. The postal worker tells the person that they should fix their address, and they say they will fix it. On a poster board behind them, there is missing person’s notifications for both Agent Reyes and Agent Doggett. The person leaves the post office, and we see that it is in fact Agent Doggett himself. Monica couldn’t tell who he was since the basement was dark.
In a flashback to events early in the comic Season 10, we see Agent Doggett doubled over in the dirt as the remains of the exploded pipeline are smoldering around him. Some workers call for help for Doggett and a man face down on the ground, but Doggett seems to have started glowing red, then stabs the man through the chest (pretty nice nod to Terminator 2). What we thought was Doggett turns into a cloaked man who proceeds to kill the rest of the workers, picks up the real Agent Doggett from the ground, and walks off.
In Sioux Falls in another dark cell, a long haired and bearded man hears a man in the hallway. The man is clearly John Doggett. He says he’s been in the cell for eighteen months, so clearly the Doggett we saw earlier was an imposter. Doggett yells at the imposter through the door before a mouse appears and then transforms into the hooded man, who grabs his throat and lifts him in the air. The man tells Doggett he’s been waiting for a sign before disappearing, leaving the door open. Doggett takes his chance and leaves the cell. He finds his and Reyes’s FBI badges hanging in the hall and goes to her cell to let her out. As he approaches her she tackles him, clearly not trusting him. He finally tells her it’s really him, sparing a further beating. They hold each other in the dark cell.
At the FBI Headquarters in Washington, DC, we join Agent Scully. Mulder is currently testifying at a parole board, covered in Millennium #1. Skinner enters the office as she’s about to leave and tells her to come see something. He shares the news that someone resembling John Doggett was spotted at a post office in Sioux Falls. As the panels catch Scully up, it shows the FBI responding to the house John and Monica were held in. It also flashes back to their escape, where John finds one of the shivs used to kill the Alien Bounty Hunters in the show. The hooded man tells Doggett that he’s to kill him, but John tries to arrest him instead to find out why he did this to them. Before he can do that, Monica drives the shiv into the man’s neck, and he dissolves into the green paste that the other aliens have in the series. Doggett questions Reyes to why she did it, but she tells him that they forgot all about them, just as Skinner and Scully burst in with an FBI team. Scully and the team assist Monica, and Scully sees Doggett at the top of the stairs. She runs up and hugs John and asks if he’s alright. He says he will file a report on the events and that they’re fine.
Now aside from Agent Mulder, who is busy elsewhere, the team is back together. This could aid Mulder and Scully to uncover this new conspiracy pretty well since Reyes and Doggett bring a lot to the X-Files. We shall see how these events play out in the following issues!
Special thanks for editorial assistance from A.M.D.
The good folks on the Medici : Masters of Florence promotion team sent us a new trailer prior to the American debut of the new series from Netflix.
Medici: Masters of Florence is the new production from Frank Spotnitz, and co-written by film icon, Nicholas Meyer (The Seven Percent Solution, Time After Time, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn, The Day After, and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country) and stars Dustin Hoffman and Richard Madden (of Game of Thrones, Robb Stark fame).
The series was a resounding success last year when it debut in Italy, where the bulk of the series was filmed. This is worth looking into for anyone who enjoyed Mr. Spotnitz's work with Man In The High Castle for Amazon. The American debut was December 9th.