Zombies in Seattle: Be afraid, be very afraid
From film festivals to comic books to the world's largest zombie march, Seattle is turning into a hotbed of the living dead. A panel of comic-book, film and horror experts will discuss the horror form in general and zombies in particular today at Seattle's Fantagraphics Bookstore and Gallery in the Georgetown neighborhood.
Special to The Seattle Times
'Portable Grindhouse' event and book signing
A panel of comic-book, film and horror experts will discuss horror in various media at 4 p.m. today (Sunday, Dec. 13), Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery, 1201 S. Vale St. (at Airport Way S.), Seattle; free (206-658-0110 or www.fantagraphics.com).
Seattle has long been a hotbed of horror. Maybe it's the dim weather, the dark winters perfect for curling up to watch a scary movie, or the proliferation of deep woods ideal for hiding bodies. And the underlying message in horror comics and films (essentially, "watch your back") is never more popular than in threatening times.
That all makes horror a fitting theme for the Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery's three-year anniversary celebration.
The party officially launches "Portable Grindhouse: The Lost Art of the VHS Box," edited by Jacques Boyreau (Fantagraphics Books, $19.99), a book-format compilation of videocassette cover images for movies — like "The Night of Bleeding Horror" and "Nightmare Circus" — that range from ridiculous to sublimely scary.
With their over-the-top mayhem, the slasher B movies celebrated in "Portable Grindhouse" are a logical extension of comic-book-style horror, said Larry Reid, who curates Fantagraphics' collection. That's especially true of the subversive "alternative" comics that are the store's specialty. Those comic books trace their roots back to the underground comics of the 1960s and the wildly popular horror comics of the 1940s and '50s that authorities banned out of fear they'd destroy young minds.
As part of the celebration, a panel of comic-book, film and horror experts, moderated by "Portable Grindhouse" editor Boyreau, will discuss their favorite scenes from horror videos.
Local experts on the panel include Lisa Petrucci of Something Weird Video; Marc Palm of Scarecrow Video; and Mark Rahner and Robert Horton, authors of the zombie Western comic "Rotten." (Rahner is also a reporter for The Seattle Times. Horton is a film curator and a critic for the Everett Herald.)
Both the horror genre and the comic-book medium are surging in popularity. Seattle is, in some ways, the epicenter of both. Rahner, whose work combines the zombie and Western genres, points out that Seattle was the site of the world's largest zombie march this past summer. There's a zombie film festival each September and talk of a zombie-fan convention. It's the home base of Revenant, a magazine for zombie fans, and NightZero, an online horror story that has zombies attacking the city.
Rahner and Horton realized comic books were an ideal medium for portraying their story of a reluctant government agent sent to investigate strange happenings in remote and often backward Western towns — and its underlying criticism of today's social and political ills. In their series, as in real life, "If you're a rational, skeptical, independent thinker, you're going to be alone — and you're going to have a lot of enemies," Rahner said.
Like horror movies, comics have always been "stand-ins for what people were really scared of," Reid said. Add their counterculture roots, and comic books are an ideal medium for political commentary.
"Politics is a part of life, and most of these comics are just a reflection of contemporary society, for good or ill. But now that it's less marginalized, the medium can make a bigger impact," he said. "There's something in the collective unconscious that horror comics are sort of responding to."
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