All posts by Tim Thiessen

03Dec/19

Silverline Title Spotlight: Pendulum, 1-4

From a small, coastal village in New England to the sprawling metropolis of New York comes Dr. Hildy Row, also known as the Pendulum. This four-issue story titled Big Hand, Little Hand follows Dr. Row’s spiritual degradation as it runs in tandem with his ascent into being a masked hero.

Pendulum is a different take on the idea of a superhero comic. More reluctant than a hero, Dr. Hildy Row tells a lot of the story through narration and reflection a reader would find reminiscent of a hard-boiled noir tale. This narration comes directly from his journal which has been recovered and transcribed post-mortem.

From his journal, we learn a lot about Dr. Row and the many ways in which life has become both tragic and extraordinary. In his own words, he is an “Unqualified Genius,” having earned a doctorate at a young age and being the only man to come close to cracking the code for immortality, despite a history of violence and social ineptitude. His dearest friend and mentor Frederick DeLaCroix, founder of Tougher Technologies, Inc., set Row up with a grant that fully provided for an isolationist lifestyle with a simple agreement. Every year, Row turns in his notes, as disorganized as they may be, then the company turns them into marketable products. No questions asked on either side. Yet at the same time, he has developed a literal death wish.

Issue 1 brings us into Dr. Row’s story after his friend and mentor, Frederick DeLaCroix’s passing. He and his wife Lucy were expecting a child, who they, unfortunately, lost in a miscarriage. The rift this caused in their relationship was so great that Lucy had to leave. Dr. Row is left alone in his home in a small ocean side village in New England. Where he remains in bed for the following three days. His sister and brother long since estranged, Hildy Row now finds himself without friends or family. His entire world has collapsed around him.

Eventually, Row emerges from his self-imposed isolation and returns to his laboratory. There he completes his work on a serum that could offer immortality. A serum he began working on as a promise he made long ago. Yet, when he decides to test it on himself, he hopes the serum fails. The result being his death. To his disappointment, he awakens, very much alive. Row walks through the park side of an inlet that he frequents to think about his current reality and what went wrong.

Through an unfortunate chain of events, the inlet is set ablaze and a boy is trapped on a jetty by the flame. Almost unconsciously, Row runs headfirst in the flame and emerges with the youth untouched by the roaring fire. Only there is no pride or sense of dignity in the actions he took that day. He knows the real reason he attempted to save that boy was in hopes that the flame would consume him.

Row returns home to wallow in his shame and the public’s new perception of him. The adoration that he feels is misplaced reminds of the way people look up to caped superheroes. Then and there he commits himself to become one of these heroes. Daily, there are confronted with life or death situations. He hopes that one of those days, the villains will catch up to him. Granting him a death that he feels would free of shame. However, a new problem arises in the form of a PARA attack. A side effect of the serum, paroxysmal atemporally rapid aging, causes him to age and de-age several years in a matter of seconds.

With a mission ahead of him and the curse of his immortality serum handicapping him, Row begins on a mission that will bring him into direct conflict with an executive at his benefactor’s company, and a member of the scientific community that he idolizes.

More than just another superhero comic, Pendulum is the story of how one man’s tragedy brings him to do the extraordinary, even if for the wrong reasons initially. The unique style of narration allows the reader to connect with Dr. Row in a way we can’t with many comic book characters. He takes the reader on an emotional roller coaster as he, himself, works to understand why he wishes for the end. Row goes through a complicated metamorphosis as he realizes that he may not need to die, but rather that he only needs to kill part of himself so that the rest of him may continue living.

This is the kind of story that flips the superhero genre on its head. The tale is an interwoven web of family trauma, corporate intrigue and espionage, complex emotional growth, and deadly dealings with one’s idols. With a rich and deep narrative delivered both in art and prose, it feels like a reader could just as easily be reading a classic noir thriller novel as much as a “cape-comic.”

Creator, writer, and penciler John Drury also gives the reader a little peek behind the curtain of his mind with each chapter in the story of Pendulum. At the top of each issue, Drury talks about the unique aspects of that respective issue’s creative process and how that translated into bringing Dr. Row’s story to life. John also worked on Silverline’s Sirens as a penciler, and Cat & Mouse as an inker.

Pendulum was inked and lettered by Ted Slampyak who also worked on Neil Gaiman’s Mr. Hero – The Newmatic Man as a penciler and cover artist. Slampyak also worked as the writer and artist for Annie in 2013.

Pendulum also featured letters by Debbie Woods in issues 3 & 4, who has also worked on Cat & Mouse.

Covers were done by Steven Butler and Ken Branch for issue 1; Ken Branch on issue #2 and #3; John Drury and Thomas Florimonte on issue #4. Tom O’Connor provided the colors for all covers. Steven Butler has also worked as the penciler on X – Men Legion – Shadow King Rising , Sonic the Hedgehog, Silver Sable, and as a cover artist on Lady Death. Ken Branch has also worked on 28 Days Later as penciler. Ken also inked titles such as Cat & Mouse, Green Lantern: Kyle Rayner and Iron Fist: The Book of Changes. Thomas Florimonte has inked Cat & Mouse and other titles, and is the creative force behind Zomboy.

15Oct/19

Silverline Title Spotlight: The Mantus Files, 1-4

New Orleans is home to many heroes and do-gooders in the Silverline Universe. In The Mantus Files, we learn that the Crescent City is also the home of things that go bump in the night, ghoulish conspiracies, and the handful of characters that are about to get tangled up in it all.

This four-issue mini-series, originally published in 1991, is set in the familiar city but explores the dark workings in the city’s shadows. It is the job of Peter Mantus, investigator of the arcane, to dive into those shadows and thwart the evil within.

The story of Peter Mantus has a standout role in Silverline, not only bringing a unique view on the arcane and magic but also being one of the press’s few titles to deal with horror themes. Silverline’s dedicated readers will notice that like many of Silverline’s titles, the series is rooted in crime. It takes the crime-thriller structure to play on and bend some tropes and concepts commonly found in horror.

Peter Mantus himself is a play on a type of character seen throughout literature. Mantus has been haunted by demons ever since he was a young boy. After his family’s dark dealings were put to an end, and he was rescued, Mantus raised himself to fight the darkness that nearly consumed him. He has spent so long investigating supernatural evil that he has become an expert in the subject. To better his fellow man, he has written down his knowledge on all things evil in hopes that the lay-man could equip himself to fight off the darkness. The pure sensationalism of it all, however, seems to be what grabs most people’s attention. Through publication and publicizing Mantus has earned himself a reputation as a celebrity “ghost hunter.” Mantus finds himself in situations where to get others to take him seriously, he’ll have to show them just how malevolent the forces of darkness can be.

The series starts with little attention paid to Peter Mantus, instead focusing on the evil he is sworn to destroy. Jennifer Morris, a lady of the night, suddenly finds her life is at its end as a madman raving about “closing the gate” sets her and himself ablaze in a dingy hotel room. From there we transition to Sgt. Ferris Jackson, a detective for New Orleans homicide. After establishing the current state of New Orleans, we are introduced to Peter Mantus as he returns home to search for his friend Raymond Evers. Raymond is a social worker with a long and deep relationship with Peter. He is also one of many individuals tied to the city’s homeless population to go missing.

This brings Peter into contact with Sgt. Jackson as he thinks one of the bodies in the fire might have been Raymond. Sgt. Jackson takes away two things from their interactions. The first being that now he has the name of Raymond Evers as a suspect in a murder-suicide. Second, Mantus is a talking head on television, espousing mystical nonsense. Mantus’ search then leads him to find Tammara, a mother whose daughter went missing. As they investigate, they draw the attention of a group of vampires who would prefer they stop asking questions.

Issue 2 picks up with the duo of Mantus and Tammara cornered by the pack of vampires. Mantus launches into action with a big boot to the chest of one of the vampires. Mantus discovers the vampires to be surprisingly fragile. The attackers themselves seem surprised to have a victim that’s putting up a fight. It’s not long before Mantus creates an opening for their escape. As Mantus and Tammara break for it, a photographer by the name of Quaid assists in their retreat, blinding the vampires with the flash on his camera. After they regroup, Quaid leads Mantus to the cemetery where the disappearances and vampire sightings seem to be dense. There Mantus begins to unravel the mystery of the dark power orchestrating the recent events in New Orleans.

The series continues as Mantus draws connections from his past to the cult conspiracy, bringing him closer to learning the truth of what happened to his friend Raymond Evers. Quaid enlists the help of a special local magic practitioner to ascertain the motives of the dark forces in the city. Sgt. Jackson Ferris and Peter Mantus attempt to break through the distrust to develop a professional relationship for the sake of the city. As each investigator moves closer to the truth, we learn that much more than the Crescent City is at stake.

The Mantus Files doesn’t truly fit in just one particular category. It’s more like Demon-Noir, with the tone and trappings of a hard-boiled detective novel. The Mantus Files feature strong narration from the characters, a slow burn as the layers of the mystery are peeled back by the team of investigators, and an explosive finish when it all comes to ahead. This unique voice delivers the story of a dark thriller. The clock is ticking for the heroes to make it out alive. Around every corner is a beast looking to turn an investigator into prey. The dead rise, and mortal men are used as fuel for dark and ancient plots set in motion long ago. Bookended with a splash of body horror for the connoisseur. The Mantus Files sets itself apart as both a crime-procedural and horror-thriller.

Written by the incomparable Sidney Williams, this is one of Sid’s four entries with Silverline Comics. A novelist by trade and madman by heart. Sid has also written several novels and pieces of short fiction as he has honed his craft over the years.

Penciled by Thomas Giles. The Mantus Files showcases his ability to illustrate anything and everything from a crime scene investigation to ancient unspeakable horrors.

Inked by the prolific Dan Vincent Schaefer. Dan has done just about everything from writing, to illustrating, editing, and inking on too many titles to count since 1986. Some notable credits of his include writing Mickey Mouse Adventures and inking Spider-Man: The Next Chapter.