Spooktoberfest Special: Zombie Robots Over Tokyo!

Despite its creators’ uncomfortable fixation on naked female corpses, Eiji Otsuka and Housui Yamazaki’s Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service is a fun and–at times–genuinely terrifying read.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the concept, here’s the basic rundown: When a bunch of unemployed Buddhist university students find out that one of them–Karatsu–can speak to the dead when he touches their corpses, they decide to do the sensible thing and monetize their skills by ferrying dead bodies to wherever it is they want to go. It’s a weird enough premise that it could almost be the basis for a sitcom if they weren’t always running across serial killers and the occasional shambling, maggot-infested Zuvembi.

As it stands, it’s still pretty funny–when it isn’t grotesque and terrifying–and one of my favorite new manga series. To be fair, though, I’ve got to admit that I prefer Yamazaki’s other work, Mail, which is essentially what would happen if every episode of The Twilight Zone ended with Rod Serling kicking in the door and blowing the bad guys away with his magic pistol. Gunplay aside, though, Kurosagi holds up.

And it’s in the latest volume that it hits new heights with the best story since that flashback where a psychic orphan kicked the ghost of Jack the Ripper in the face. Why?

Because this is the one with the Zombie Robot Cosplayer.



So here’s how it goes down: Being perpetually strapped for cash–because the recently deceased, as it turns out, don’t always have the spending money to throw around at nosy spirit media–the guys from the Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service take a second job delivering tombstones, which, as you might imagine, is backbreaking labor. Fortunately, they’re able to speed things up a bit when they run across these guys:



A team of enterprising young scientists who–as enterprising young scientists are apt to do in the wonderful world of manga–have created a robotic exoskeleton.

Incidentally, their argument over the nature of robots is part of a pretty great joke that I didn’t get until I hit the footnotes at the end. They spend their time debating over whether the word “robot” in pop culture represnets a commonplace tool used by humans (like in Gundam), a unique and super-powerful artifact (a la Mazinger Z), or an autonomous human-sized artificial intelligence (i.e., Astro Boy), with each of the scientists named after the creator of their particular favorite. That’s the charming Miss Tezuka there in the middle.

Anyway, point is they made an exoskeleton, complete with what appears to be a hollowed out Metool from Megaman:



Sadly, the robot suit doesn’t work out so well, but helping out with the tombstone delivery does give them the chance to acquire some mysteriously unnamed “components” in a bit of what we in The Biz refer to as “slapstick foreshadowing,” and the next time they show up, there’s a missing cadaver and a robot that no longer needs a human pilot riding around inside.

You can probably see where this is going.

What you might not know, however, is that they’re controlling the robot with a Super NES.



Not only that, but they’ve hollowed out the corpse’s brain and replaced it with an SNES, programming him through an overwritten Super Mario World cartridge that, for some reason they can’t quite figure out, still makes him jump like he’s going after coins.

The actual reason, of course, is that the body they’re using the power the robot is a hardcore video game fan, and contact with the greatest system of the 16-bit era causes his restless soul to rise once again and hunger… for games.

Exacerbating the situation is the fact that they’ve brought ZomBot to a multi-story shopping center full of video games, anime and manga, and before long…



And to complicate matters even further–officially reaching a Cary Bates-level rigamarole–the robot gets its mitts on a copy of Die Die Zombie-Kun–game about a zombie whose goal is to consume the flesh of the living–and goes to town. Fortunately, everyone’s able to get away before he whacks them with his plastic replica sword, although much like in real life, nobody’s able to tell that anything’s really all that amiss, since they can’t detect any difference in scent between rotting flesh and the crowd at the convention.

Just sayin’.

Anyway, as is so often the case in these matters, the solution is provided by a judicious application of professional wrestling, the ghost gets exorcised, and we all learn a valuable lesson:



Never bite off more flesh of the living than your cybernetic jaws can chew.

Spooktoberfest Special: The Herbie With a Thousand Faces

October’s arrived, and with the countdown to Halloween well underway, it’s time once again for the ISB to turn its focus to matters most scarifying.

But with all the tales of horror floating around over the next few weeks, it’s important to remember that they come with a lesson even more important than “Aim For the Head” or “Never Split the Party.” Because while these stories may scare us, to paraphrase G.K. Chesterton, their real value is in teaching us that our fears can be overcome.

And that is why I turn, as with all life lessons, to Herbie Popnecker.



Because Herbie fought The Devil. Yes, the Devil, the Lord of Evil that is matched only by Dracula, and in some cases, Blacula. But as harrowing as this journey is, we can learn from it, because Herbie’s story is one that follows the arc of Joseph Campbell’s Hero With a Thousand Faces:


The Land of Perfect Day



The Call to Action



Supernatural Aid



Crossing the First Threshold



The Belly of the Whale



The Road of Trials



The Meeting With the Goddess



Atonement With the Father



The Ultimate Boon



Refusal of the Return



Magic Flight



And finally, Crossing of the Return Threshold



Truly, he is all of us. And we… are all of Herbie.


For more on Herbie, please consult Herbie Archives v.1, specifically Forbidden Worlds #116. For more on Joseph Campbell’s Monomyth, check out Action Philosophers! And for more on Blacula, head to your local library!

Friday Night Fights: Spooktoberfest Begins!

It’s October, and that means that it’s time once again to kick off the ISB’s annual celebration of all things scarifying! And what better way to lead off than with another installment of Friday Night FRIGHTS! It’s going to–

What’s that, Bahlactus? It’s still Friday Night Fights? Oh.

Well have some vampires anyway!







Tonight’s terror-filled throwdown courtesy of Kouta Hirano’s Hellsing, the not-too-bad-at-all story of vampires who shoot each other in the face with comically large guns.

Spooktoberfest Special: Happy Halloween!

And to celebrate, please enjoy the following panels from what might just be my favorite spooky comic ever, Monster Cops, featuring Vampirella:





It’s that editor’s note at the end that just kills me every time.


The above panels–and many more just like ’em–can be found in the Monster Cops one-shot by the vastly under-appreciated Chip Zdarsky. Ask for it by name at YOUR local comic shop!

Spooktoberfest Special: The Soul-Sizzling Terror of Halloween with Tarot, Part Two

And now, the thrilling conclusion.



For those of you who don’t recall where we left off last night, take heart: Repressed memories, no matter how painful, can often be recovered through years of intense therapy. But just to make the process go a little smoother, I’ll recap. Keep in mind, however, that this issue promises to be even more horrifying than what we’ve already seen in the first part, and if that possibility strikes you as too fearsome to even contemplate, feel free to follow this link to a “Safety Blog” where you can calm yourself with memories of how hilarious bad comics were in the ’90s. No one here will judge you.

Except me, I mean. And probably everyone else. Chicken.

Still here? All right then. Let’s get on with it:

When we last left our alleged heroine in the pages of Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose #28, things were looking pretty dire. On a mission to transport Saddam Hussein through Salem, Massachusetts on Halloween–the reasons for which science may never be able to provide–a trio of government agent/fetish models called the Three Little Kittens were attacked by their nemesis, Latex Red, who then frees Hussein and gives chase through the crowded and famously witchity streets, where she’s headed off by the almost-as-busty Raven Hex, Tarot’s sister.

Interestingly enough–and again, I’m using the term loosely here–Raven Hex and Latex Red are both villains who were motivated to a life of super-villainy by the curse of being ridiculously well-endowed.

No, seriously. Raven Hex was teased as a girl and reacted by slapping a pair of giant metal spikes onto her rack and attempting to take over the world, while Latex, in a fit of jealousy over being rejected in favor of Catress, responded with what could charitably be called “overkill.”



And that, I regret to inform you, will be a plot point later.

Meanwhile, mistaking Tarot for a member of Red’s gang when she attempts to rescue them from their crashed ferrari, 3LK members Catress and… (sigh) Kitty Pop knock out the title character of the book with the absolute bare minimum of effort.



While all that’s going down, of course, Tarot’s utterly useless boyfriend Jon–better known to some as (actually a) Skeleton Man–has run afoul of Latex Red’s Satanic Schoolgirls, and seems dead set on proving that he is, in fact, the Worst Super-Hero Ever:



Incidentally, the sequence with John and the Schoolgirls is about the part where Balent suddenly realizes that he managed to get through the entirety of #28 without a single instance of nudity and decides to remedy that little oversight with gusto.

Needless to say, Tarot doesn’t stay knocked out for too long–she is after all the story’s protagonist, if only by default–and after paying back the 3LK (minus one) for their earlier attack…



…they decide that they’ve come to the latter portion of the “fight-then-team-up” plotline, and jiggle off to rescue Jon from one of the many, many humiliating defeats he’s been handed over the course of the last seven years or so. Except that this time, he helps by punching two naked women in the face with his crazy arm spikes.

So there’s that.

By the time they finally catch up to Latex Red, however, she’s given Raven Hex the slip (figuratively speaking; undergarments are rarely exchanged in the pages of Tarot) and re-captured Saddam, just in time to reveal her sinister master plan in what can only becalled The Worst / Best / Worst Again Dialogue Balloons In Comics History:



And you guys thought I was kidding about the explosive breast implants.

Of course, the trigger for Latex Red’s nuclear bosom is in her costume, so in typical Tarot fashion, the problem’s solved in about two panels when Raven Hex magically removes said outfit.

Oh casual nudity… is there any problem you cannot solve?

Thus, the Halloween plot to kidnap Saddam Hussein is foiled, and Salem is spared from being the first American city to be eradicated by rack-based warfare. Sadly, however, that all happens with eight pages left in the story.

It might be hard to believe, but it’s at this point–and not a moment before–that this story goes completely off the rails. Despite the pretty dismal lack of quality and a bat-shit crazy plot featuring Saddam Hussein, the whole thing’s been pretty normal fare for the pages of Tarot up to now. In fact, with this issue leading off with a gang of Satanic Schoolgirls distracting the notoriously lecherous Skeleton Man with their ladybits and a villain who can blow up the world by pinching her nipples, it’s a lot easier to chuckle at its sheer, unrepentant goofiness than actively despise it.

But then it hangs a hard left into Crazytown.

See, Jon’s nominal super-power is that he can see and talk to ghosts (hence his role as a super-hero who fights off Salem’s thriving grave-robbing industry), and while he’s congratulating the 3LK for a jorb well done, he suddenly realizes that Jaguara’s being haunted…



..by Jaguara herself.

Okay, time for Flashback Part Deux: Remember how Latex Red’s intervention in the last issue kept the 3LK from escaping from Baghdad before the bombs started dropping? Well, as it turns out, not everyone made it out.

What follows surpasses even the blood-soaked cannibal cookie monster masturbation scene from #16 in terms of all-out mind-shattering awfulness. I’m linking to it here solely for the sake of completeness, but I implore you not to click. With all this talking about it, you might think you want to see it, but trust me: You don’t. And really, if you’re going to use the Coward’s Exit, now’s probably the time.

Then agian, you might be better prepared for it than I was, since there was nobody around to tell me that fifteen pages of madcap witchity sex romp were about to turn into an exceptionally violent snuff film.


Please Do Not Click Here to be Horrified


I’m a fan of the Punisher who likes Garth Ennis an awful lot, so I’m pretty sure that I’ve seen worse, but when you line up Jim Balent’s exploitative, top-heavy sex objects and then suddenly throw in a cheerful round of dismemberment and massive skull trauma, the net result is something that’s, well… a lot like this actually:



And here’s the craziest thing about it: After that and the next few pages–which explain that the remaining Kittens decided to stick around Iraq and fight alongside the troops until they found Saddam and that the new Jaguara is actually the old Jaguara’s sister who joined up and is now engaged in a complex masquerade so that the news of Jaguara’s death won’t hurt Troop Morale–things go right back to normal.

Seriously: Five pages after Jaguara gets a brick through her left eye, we’ve got a double-page spread of goofy-ass Jon walking in on the 3LK as they get undressed in a hilarious attempt to get his comics signed. It’s like he doesn’t even realize what he just drew.

And that, I think… is the scariest part of all.

On the bright side, though, you do get a last panel that pretty much encapsulates the exact opposite of how I felt once I made it through the story:



The only similarity? We both feel a little worse for the wear. In my case, though, I think the scars were all mental.


Happy Halloween, Everybody!

Spooktoberfest Special: The Soul-Sizzling Terror of Halloween with Tarot, Part One

My month-long celebration of Spooktoberfest reaches its spine-chilling climax this week, and while there’s nothing I like better than a good round of Holiday-themed posts, each year that we plug away here at ISB Industries means that I’ve got to do my best to top whatever it is I did last year.

This time around, that presents something of a problem. After all, when it came time for the scares last year, I turned to The Super-Naturals (Part One, Part Two), a six-part chiller from the minds of Brian Pulido, Jim Balent, and Mark “Manhunter” Andreyko that featured both X-Treme BMX Champ Johnny Blaze and Groot, the Tree That Walked Like a Man. Because really, when it comes to all-out Halloween madness, it just doesn’t get a whole hell of a lot crazier than that.

At least, it doesn’t under normal circumstances. But what you are about to see, ladies and gentlemen… is not normal.

For you see, in an effort to bring you the most horrifying Halloween possible this year, I have descended into my own Vault of Fear and returned with a soul-searing saga so unrelenting that I am obliged to offer you a Free Coffin* if you die of fright while reading the next two posts. If this seems too…. intense for you, please go no further! For your own safety, a link has been provided that will take you away from the shocking sights contained below, to a place where the most frightening thing you’ll see is Ernest Borgnine with a switchblade.

Because, my friends, I have returned with the work of Jim Balent, and unlike last year–and I can hardly believe myself that I am about to type this–this time, he’s not subject to Brian Pulido’s mediating influence.

Submitted for your approval…





Released just in time for Halloween 2004, “Witches and Kittens” was a two-part Halloween crossover between Tarot and Balent’s other Broadsword Comics creations the Three Little Kittens, and while I probably don’t even have to say this, it is not very good.

It is, in fact, one of the worst stories I’ve ever read, and until the release of the recent “Witch Key” storyline, it was in fact the worst Tarot story of all. Think about that. Not only is this story worse than your average comic, but it’s actually worse than every other issue of Tarot. Remember, folks: the Coward’s Exit is right here.

But maybe it’s best to start with the basics: The 3LK (as they’re often abreviated by the dozen or so fans of the book) are essentially Jim Balent’s way of saying “I drew a woman dressed as a cat for six and a half years, and you know what? Still not tired of it.” Essentially Charlie’s Angels in fetish gear, the original three-issue mini-series was described by Balent as an “all-ages action adventure” story, presumably because the lead characters refrained from hardcore nudity. This story, however, bears no such restrictions.

But anyway, all you really need to know about them (and “need” here is used in its loosest sense) is that you’ve got Cattress, Jaguara, and.. (sigh) Kitty Pop, and they go on missions for “Mommy Cat,” most of which revolve around stopping their nemesis, Latex Red, who responded to being booted from the 3LK program by putting together an army of satanic Schoolgirls and getting ginormous breast implants composed of semtex.

And really, you have no idea how much I wish I was making any of that up.

So, all on the same page? Good. Best to move on.

This story opens with Tarot looming bustily over Salem and fretting about whether or not Halloween’s gotten too commercial. Fortunately–or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it–her musings are interrupted before she can get around to asking Charlie Brown about the Great Pumpkin and/or duking it out with a cannibal gingerbread woman by the untimely arrival of the Three Little Kittens and their allegedly hilarious cat-themed sound effects:



What, you thought I was kidding? In the words of Mark Hale, “Wow. Even the motorcycles are sexist.”

Either way, the Satanic Schoolgirls end up causing the Kitten-Mobile or whatever to crash into a comic shop–which, of course, only stocks 3LK merchandise–knocking out the heroes and gaining the upper hand. Of course, this all just begs the question of just what exactly the 3LK are doing rolling through Salem on Halloween, and when the answer is revealed, it becomes the first jaw-dropping shock of the story.

Brace yourselves.



Yup. Saddam Hussein.

This, I imagine, is going to require a bit of explanation, presented for your edification as a handy flashback.

Cut to Baghdad, “minutes before the war,” wherein the way for the assault by American troops was paved by three women in PVC corsets:



Because really, if you can think of a more logical course of action, I’d like to hear it.

Yes, in an altruistic effort to prevent the war from occuring, Uncle Sam sent in the 3 Little Kittens to extract Saddam Hussein in what was to be a bloodless coup, but sadly, these efforts were defeated by the actions of (and again, you’re probably gonna want to brace yourself here)…



Latex Red.



Take away the painted-on whiskers, and that was pretty much my reaction too.

Needless to say, the operation does not go as planned, Saddam escapes to the hole in the desert where he was found later, and, mercifully, the flashback ends, without ever actually explaining why Saddam’s being transported through Massachusetts in a bright green Ferrari on Halloween. Devil’s in the details, I suppose.

To his credit, though, Balent does manage to pull off a pretty nice gag at this point as Hussein makes his escape from the palace:



It’s actually a pretty good sight gag–and by Tarot standards, it’s downright Mel Brooksian–and as much as I gripe about Balent’s attempts at humor, it’s well worth a chuckle.

Until, of course, you remember that it’s a joke made about a war that’s cost us the lives of almost four thousand American soldiers and countless Iraqi citizens in a book designed solely to present horrorporn starring large-breasted witches, at which time the crushing despair returns with a vengeance.

Anyway, back in the present, Tarot does her best to help the 3LK out of their crash, but they immediately assume that she’s a bad guy, because hey: How many women can there possibly be out there with F-cup rack and super-powers (the fact that this is a story drawn by Jim Balent notwithstanding)?

Thus: Bondage.



And from there–with the heroine of our story neatly incapacitated and tied up in the span of two panels–the litany of fetishes just keeps on growing, from the relatively common–Satanic Schoolgirls with ninja swords–to the downright horrendous:



Once that’s out of the way, though–along with a guest appearance by Tarot’s Boyfriend/World’s Worst Super-Hero Jon Webb and a shot of Saddam Hussein by Jim Balent by way of Salvador Dali–Hussein’s eventually captured by Latex Red, Raven Hex shows up, and that, thankfully is the end of Part One.

As for the conclusion to the story, well, you’ll have to wait until tomorrow to see what happens, but at the very least, we can rest tonight knowing that after all that, there’s no way it could possibly get worse.




It Gets Worse.

Spooktoberfest Special: The First Annual ISB Costume Contest!

For all my talk about ghosts and monsters–and, you know, skeletons–Halloween pretty much boils down to two things for most people: Costumes and Candy!

Yes, in a tradition dating back to ancient times when people would disguise themselves as monsters in order to scare ghosts out of their fun-sized Snickers bars, Spooktoberfest’s heart lies in celebrating the many rewards that we can earn through earnest, good-natured deception. And while candy doesn’t really translate well to an online venue like the ISB, the pure visual fun of costumes is tailor-made for something like this.

With that in mind, it’s my pleasure to take a break from the frights and sights to celebrate this year’s greatest costumes from the world of comics!

Let’s see, who do we have this year…



Bruce Wayne as



Miura Hayasaka as
Cardbo the Robot



Brainiac 5 and Sun Boy as
Prince Projectur and Saturn Lad



The Hulk as
Mechano, the Robot Clown



Princess Peach as



Yukari Tanizaki and Minamo Kurosawa as
Japanese Schoolgirls



The Mindless Ones as
Tony Hawk, Rodney Mullen, Bucky Lasek, and Steve Caballero



Kraven the Hunter as


All great costumes, everybody! But it gives me great pleasure to present this year’s award for Best Costume to…



Empowered as
Sexy Librarian!


Let’s have a big hand for Empowered, everybody!

Of course, they can’t all be winners, so this year’s Worst Costume award goes, once again, to…



Superman as


Man, Supes. I know you’re busy, but how about a little effort next year?


The costumes from this year’s contest can be found in DC’s Greatest Imaginary Stories, Yotsuba&! v.5, Azumanga Daioh v.4, Nextwave: I Kick Your Face, Spider-Man: Kraven’s Last Hunt and of course, Empowered v.2 among other places.

Why not join in and post YOUR favorite?