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.

50 thoughts on “Spooktoberfest Special: The Soul-Sizzling Terror of Halloween with Tarot, Part One

  1. My god, those things are bigger than the car’s tires!

    And Jaguara isn’t just feisty, she also apparently speaks fluent Arabic.

    Thnk you, Chris, for keeping me from accidentally spending money on the utter shite.

  2. You’ve opened a Pandora’s Box, Chris Sims. A nasty fetish-filled Pandora’s Box, which is worse than a normal Pandora’s Box. For real.

  3. After reading my most recent Comic Book Buyer’s Guide, I felt compelled to write Mr. Balent with some time-honored advice:

    *Never* draw a woman with breasts larger than her head.

    …but to be honest, I’m not sure that it’s going to have any effect whatsoever. (sigh)

  4. This classic Halloween adventure is truly a stunning acheivement of intellectual frisson as the reader is torn between masturbation and weeping. Only Mr. Balent’s incisive talent could bring about this monument of graphic storytelling.

  5. Oh Lord. Every time I’ve think I’ve seen the worst of Tarot, you just bust out more. Truly sir, you are a comedy martyr for reading this and reporting to us.

    Though now my friend was wondering what I was laughing about and is giving me dirty looks.

  6. Sacred SHITE, that was bad! I am scratching my head trying to think of what you can trot out that is worse than that utter, utter garbage. It’s not even funny in a horrified, thank-god-it’s-not-me kind of way. Balent has lost the plot.

    Which reminds me! Halloween joke:

    I was at the cemetary when I saw four pallbearers carrying a coffin around. Three hours later I saw them again, still carrying the coffin. I thought to myself “These clowns have lost the plot!” Boom-tish, thenkyew thenkyew.


  7. When Balent started drawing Catwoman I thought he was a new young artists and his art would improve with experience. It never did.

  8. This is just another thing to add to my collection of things which prove that Chris Sims Is Jesus.

    You read this for our sins, brother, and for this we give thanks. And small religious donations.

  9. Yes, America! “Bust” out the 3LK before you send in the 101st Airborne! With great boobs comes great responsibility.

  10. People should restrict Balent’s access to current affairs, or there will eventually be a issue where tarot finds a cure to bird flu. Needles to say, this bird flu dissolves all clothes and only effects the hideously ill-proportioned.

  11. Ye gods and little fishies, this makes the Anita Blake series look like the lost works of Cervantes.

    As a near-local, I have to ask…can Salem sue?

  12. The bust size of the women here is something I’ve come to expect, but what the flying eff is up with Saddam’s shiny buttocks?

  13. Free coffin? What is this, The Screaming Skull? I think that movie did less brain damage than this comic, though…

  14. Free coffin? What is this, The Screaming Skull? I think that movie did less brain damage than this comic, though…

    Wow. Manos, the Hands of Fate did less brain damage than just the merest glimpse of that comic. Thanks for putting your sanity on the line, Chris Sims, so the rest of us don’t have to.

  15. look at the top right corner of the cover. First I though Balent had forgotten which way people’s knees bend, but then i realized: nope, it’s just some legs sticking out of the side of the frame for no sane reason.

  16. Speaking as an ex-Salem resident, I can only imagine that if a bunch of big breasted chicks crashed into Harrison’s on Essex carrying a guy that looked like Saddam Hussein on Halloween, nobody would even notice. When a trio of even bigger breasted women in catsuits gets beat up, tied up, and pooped on, people may applaud and look about for a hat to toss a few bucks into.

    And that’s the most depressing thing about this comic – no matter how much insanity juice Balent pours (purrs?) into these pages, the fact of the matter is that if this actually happened, no one would notice. In Salem on Halloween, tits, witches, and catsuits are a dime a dozen.

  17. How does it get worse than, “Let’s poop on her!”? Balent actually draws it?

    Please, don’t tempt fate, and don’t give him ideas…

  18. I’ll give Balent this much…The man has pretty much written off mainstream comics work and still managed to make a living by digging into the darkest, hormone-addled recesses of his mind and laying all of his fetishes and fantasies out there for the world to see. Either Balent doesn’t care that the world sees his secret, inner fantasy life or he thinks everybody shares his personal kinks. If it’s the former, Balent is pretty b@llsy, if it’s the latter, he’s remarkably lacking in self awareness.

    On top of that, Balent’s married to a hot chick who is in favor of the whole, sordid enterprise and even aids and abets his craziness.

    My higher-functioning literary brain laughs at Tarot, but my nerdy, fanboy, aspiring creator brain secretly applauds Balent, ’cause he’s livin’ “The Life.”

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

    So you were wearing that mask and choker, then? Because that does NOT fit my mental model of the Mighty Sims. Nor do I want it to.

  20. Yes, all that is disturbing, but what I’m more concerned with is the physics involved in driving those motorcycles. You’re physically steering the wheel? Jesus…wouldn’t you go crazy out of control just trying to turn it the slightest bit? Not to mention scraping your elbows on the pavement…

  21. Things can always get worse, but I had no idea things could get SO MUCH worse than the Tarot you’ve already shown us.

    The continued existence of Jim Balent can only prove that there is no such thing as self-respect left in the universe.

  22. This is the first time that the ISB has left me at a loss for words. And it gets WORSE? Sweet Christmas!

  23. This is so absolutely ridiculous in 4 dimensions at once, but , so help me, I find myself loving it. I must have more!

  24. I come here expecting pictures of batman punching a bear in the face or something, but instead I find this mindblowing horror that is this “thing” we call a comic.

    Mr. Sims, your courage knows no bounds. You are perhaps the only person who has the balls to go through this, AND THERE IS MORE.

    I’m going into a stroke right about now.

  25. I think it says something that with every issue of Tarot, like it or not, you get REALLY get to know Jim Balent. Reading Chuck Austen books just tell you that he’s a crappy writer, but reading Tarot is like (ick) reading JB’s diary. And then a part of me dies.

  26. *checks the meter* Damn it. another seven sanity points lost. But that number would have been quadrupled had I actually read the issue in question.

    Sims, what is it about “Awesomeness” that seems to shield you from sanity loss?

  27. Read the Sims suppliment to Call of Cthulu.

    Panels of Kanigher comics are so insane they RESTORE sanity.

    Gumby also works.

  28. This comic holds a special place in my heart, as does the original three issues of 3LK. It’s often ludicrous but the crossover issues here really break the goofy meter. One of the other high points in previous Tarot Halloween issues (and there are a lot of them) had Raven Hex poking out a man’s eyes by impaling his head on her nipple-spikes. I can’t make this up.

  29. I love how Saddam’s escape route is just like Bruce and Dick’s on the Adam West Batman TV show. Best part of the story.

  30. Remember how Beevis reacted when he saw that music video of the guy running while on fire?

    That was pretty much my reaction, too.

    And thank you.

  31. You know, I just want to remind everyone that this comic book is hilarious and dumb and all of that, but there’s NO WAY any one of you would even give it the time of day if it didn’t have acres of naked big breasted girls in it. Try not to deny this simple fact too much.

    In fact, del gorky sums up my feelings pretty well: “the reader is torn between masturbation and weeping.” I’ve never read many of the words in Tarot, but seeing Saddam in this issue verified that I never need to.

    Also, people don’t mention often enough that the only male in this series looks just like Jim Balent if he wasn’t a pencil necked nerd.

  32. Oh. My. God.
    This makes The Anita Blake Comics almost seem better. Right… right?