Warning: Contains mild spoilers for SINK and Octo Skull
Today I’m going to look at my favorite new additions to my reading list. One is SINK, a gonzo-style series of one-shots set in Glasglow. The other is Octo-Skull, a comic series from the recently launched EarthQuaker Comics.
Writer: John Lees
Artist: Alex Cormack
SINK is an anthology of tales set in Scotland. Created by John Lees (of And Then Emily Was Gone fame), it explores the underside of Glasgow, specifically Sinkhill, a forgotten East End district of Glasgow.
Each chapter of SINK is a self-contained one-shot, linked only by some recurring characters and the Sinkhill location. But although each chapter stands alone, together these stories create a fascinating world.
The stories depict the intersection where urban myths meet childhood fears. When describing some of the inspiration behind SINK, Lees recalled a chilling childhood memory:
“If you were a child of my generation who lived in or around Glasgow, Scotland, you’ll have heard of the story of the clowns in the blue van.
(Sometimes it was a white van.)
Supposedly, this van would drive around neighbourhoods, snatching lone children out playing on the street, with variations on the story being that the kids were killed, eaten, cut up and turned into clowns themselves, or just never seen again, their fates forever left with a haunting question mark.
Every classroom had some mouthy kid whose cousin’s friend’s brother was taken by the clowns. Hysteria reached such a fevered pitch that teachers or even local police were forced to visit classrooms and reassure the kids that there was no such thing as killer clowns in blue vans.
But it’s a story that’s always stayed with me, and one I thought it would make a hell of a comic.
But that’s just one of many stories in the mix with SINK.”
SINK consists of an eclectic mix of stories, each with a unique premise. The art by Alex Cormack is gritty enough to lend credibility to these surreal tales. It perfectly complements Lees’ well-paced, sometimes dialogue-free stories.
Lees is the master of off-beat horror, combining a dread-laced atmosphere with shocking moments of violence. There’s a particularly disturbing couple of pages involving the clowns in the blue van. I’m not exaggerating when I say that it’s the stuff of nightmares.
Between their adult themes and sometimes gruesome content, these twisted stories will reduce even the most hardened readers to scared children.
Writer: Matt Horak
Artist: Matt Horak
Publisher: EarthQuaker Comics
Matt Horak has some impressive credentials, both as an artist on Rob Liefeld’s The Covenant from Image Comics and as the co-creator of Space Step Dad with Donny Cates and Eliot Rahal.
He is currently the art director at EarthQuaker Devices, a guitar pedal company that is now branching into comics. Their EarthQuaker Comics recently released Octo Skull, a comic book using the names of their pedals as characters in a wonderfully realized fantasy adventure story.
Octo Skull is a rip-roaring fantasy yarn for the modern era. It combines high quality art with a refreshingly straightforward narrative. The result is a fantasy comic reminiscent of the early Sláine comics from 2000 AD or the first few chapters of Berserk. Thankfully, it’s free of the occasionally troubling gender-politics of the latter.
Octo Skull delivers pure action from the first page, plunging straight into a confrontation between the titular hero and what appears to be the story’s main antagonist, the Hoof Reaper.
The character designs are simple yet iconic. They could easily adorn heavy metal posters. The Hoof Reaper has a menacing presence sometimes lacking in villains from more understated works . Octo Skull himself epitomizes the burly hero often found in the sword-and-sorcery genre.
In this day and age of brooding Batman analogues, it’s a pleasure to encounter an archetype of a different sort. Octo Skull is a worthy successor to heroes such as Conan and Gatsu.
Harok combines bold, stylized artwork with bombastic prose to deliver a well-paced tale of monsters, mayhem and undersea adventures.
Both SINK and Octo Skull are a worth-while addition to any comic fan’s reading list. Not only do these titles explore genres often neglected by mainstream publishers, they also deliver quality on par with anything offered by the Big Two.