When searching through reviews online for images to use in this week’s column, that adjective stood out. Demented is the perfect word to describe the many comics put out by Asylum Press. And, there are many comics brandishing the Asylum Press banner, which is intriguing, considering that Asylum is an independent publisher, and that from the books I have read, the majority of their titles are written by only two men- Frank Forte and Robert Steven Rhine.
Forte and Rhine have brought in dozens of artists from all over the world to fill their books with some of the most twisted imagery I have ever seen. You just have to browse through the Asylum Press catalog, featuring such titles as CHICKEN SOUP FOR SATAN, DEADLY ARE THE NAKED, GIRLS AND CORPSES, and UNDEAD EVIL, to get an idea of what I am talking about.
They are the Troma of comics, which though I can say is not my personal preference for horror books, it might satisfy a few of you sickos out there. Here are three of the books I singled out of the various Asylum titles I read this week:
DTOX- Here is a perfect example of why I consider Asylum to be the Troma of comics. DTOX is a mix of ‘Mad Max’ and ‘The Toxic Avenger’, featuring a post apocalyptic world, covered in dust particles that alter those exposed to them into ravenous mutant freaks. According to Forte, who created DTOX, these mutants have “been reduced to their primal instincts.. They desire food and sex”. Luckily Dtox is around. He’s a roided out commando, kept safe from the dust particles, inside his containment suit, driving around in his tank (which also looks like it is on steroids) melting down the perverted mutants to their bare bones.
I enjoyed this book because it was light on dialogue, which, I noticed, is the opposite of most of Forte’s works. Also, there is always something intriguing about a character who has become cold hearted to match the kill or be killed world they live in.
WARLASH- Warlash is another Forte created character. Simmilar to Dtox, Warlash has a very striking design. For fans of the TRANSFORMERS comics released by Marvel in the Nineties, Warlash will most likely catch your eye. His read visor and long tail with the stinger on the end is very reminiscent of the Decepticon, Scropinok.
What makes the storytelling style of WARLASH unique, but also weakens its effect, is the excessive, noir inspired dialogue. Warlash’s narration, as well as his dialogue with the monsters he fights, over explains the scenario he is in. In a book where the main character is wearing an advanced suit of armor, and is shooting demons in the face, the imagery is more important to the reader, than a logical explanation for the situation.
THE ASYLUM OF HORRORS- This book features a tremendous collection of horror artists and writers, besides Forte and Rhine, each working on their own individual short stories. One story stands out amongst the rest, “Black Milk”, which was both written and illustrated by Aaron Rintoul. This Lovecraftian style story is filled with as many shadowed scenes and abstract images as a story drawn by Ben Templesmith.
The concept that unifies the stories of this anthology is intriguing enough. According to Forte, the premise of THE ASYLUM OF HORRORS is that “a mad psychiatrist/doctor is running an asylum that has psychotics and killers as inmates. This doctor uses experimental treatments and hallucinatory drugs on them. Then he connects their brains to his and watches his inmates’ induced nightmares.” Though I am not sure how a one page story featuring Baron Harkonnen, from David Lynch’s film ‘Dune’, could fit into this premise, the story did tickle the little sci-fi dork hiding inside of me.
Like I said before, Troma films and comics made in the style don’t draw me in. I enjoy horror films and comics that are focused more on suspense than on gore. In my opinion, mutilation, rape and disturbing imagery belong in horror, if they serve the story, not if they are the story. However, if you enjoy looking at skin being slowly pulled back, women being licked by mutants, and gallons and gallons of guts flying across the page, Asylum Press might have just the demented book for you.