Tag Archives: Sirens

28Apr/20

Silverline Title Spotlight: Sirens issues 1 -4

The streets of New Orleans have come alive. Mardi Gras is in full swing and the streets of the French Quarter are packed with celebrators, tourists, and the dead!

   Jeff Delmer, a resident of the Crescent City and investment broker, has been rather down and out during the week-long celebration. It’s a week without work and, while he isn’t fond of his job, it’s all he’s got. Until he and an enchanting gal exchange glances across the street. Their fling turns into a romance and then to love. There’s just one hitch in this love story. Remember earlier when I said the dead were also walking the streets?

As it turns out, Lois, Jeff’s new love, is a Siren looking to break free from the voodoo-practicing witch she’s been enthralled to. Unwittingly brought under the effects of a centuries-old curse, Jeff wakes up one day to find Lois missing, his face-melting, and the adventure of a lifetime before him.

Sirens is a story about zombies, witches, Louisiana’s mythology, and most of all love. The story takes place in New Orleans, home to a handful of stories in the Silverline catalog. Like those other stories, the city and the cultures that call it home play just as much a part of the story as the characters do. The hero of this story is Jeff Delmer, an investment broker who has inherited the business from his father. Jeff is as unlikely a character as anyone for the kind of mess he gets wrapped up in. He perseveres, however, driven by a love, unlike anything he’s felt before, aided by some strange friends, and with a little help from divine relics.

The story of Sirens starts in the French Quarter during Mardi Gras. There Jeff catches sight of Lois standing in the rain and is immediately taken by her beauty. He invites her to grab some coffee with him and something about Jeff sparks Lois’s interest. As they leave the packed street, neither of them spots the mysterious watcher who has been following Lois. Jeff and Lois immediately hit it off and spend the next several days going on a series of dates. They are inseparable and love blossoms.

The watcher in the street is not the only one who has been keeping an eye on Lois, however. Felicity Green and her cabal watch Lois through a mystic looking glass. Lois had belonged to Felicity, and Felicity is not just jealous but covetous and vengeful. She wants Lois back bad, and she has an assortment of minions to do her work for her. One of those tools is a big and burly sailor turned thrall.

Jeff wakes up to find Lois gone, a hex splattered across the wall, and a zombie at the door. The zombie, mouth stitched shut and unable to speak, hands Jeff a note. It simply reads “You are in danger!” Jeff gets dressed and follows the zombie to a shop of curios owned by Velvet Green. Velvet is an expert in the tradition of voodoo and has been keeping an eye on Felicity’s cabal long before Jeff got involved. Jeff, naturally, has his doubts about the situation but after Velvet explains Jeff’s very mortal and critical situation, he listens.

Velvet explains that Lois is one of a group of Loup Garou, commonly known as werewolves, but not quite the way folklore tells it. Her group is enthralled by Felicity Green, a voodoo witch, who uses the group as sirens to seduce men and feed off their life essence. In the process, Felicity and her sirens are kept young and the men are reduced to zombies. Velvet reveals she knows all this because she is Felicity’s daughter. As Velvet explains, Jeff is under the effect of the Loup Garou curse and has begun the transformation into a zombie.

It’s not all grim news, however, his professed love for Lois has broken her from Felicity’s enthrallment. Their romance has created an opportunity to strike at Felicity and end the curse. He’ll just need some help. She introduces him to Sheck, the zombie he’d followed and Felicity’s ex-husband, as well as Father Milligan. The good father has taken a post to confront evil in New Orleans should it arise. He is often overlooked by the church but he takes his role seriously. After performing a quick sanctification of Jeff the father says it will be up to Jeff, as his love for Lois will be what strengthens him in his fight with the Loup Garou.

The story continues as Jeff investigates the curse and searches for Lois who has been taken prisoner by Felicity. He’ll find himself going from the dingiest apartments to the swankiest hotels of the French Quarter, and even relic hunting in the bayou. Jeff’s race against time will grow more frantic as he continues to fade from the world of humanity and become more zombie-like with each day. Along the way, he meets and relies on a varied cast of characters. Jeff grows from a man who had nothing outside of his 9-to-5 to a man with love, friends, and a divine calling.

That’s part of what really sets Sirens apart from other adventure-horror stories. The human elements motivate everything in the story. While the events are surely traumatic, Jeff has experienced more positive growth from the connections he made along the way.

The characters he connects differ from the traditional stereotypes that can found in horror. The roles and titles they fill are definitely staples of the genre but they act in ways not typical of titles that share the same shelf-space.

First of all, Jeff Delmer. The well-to-do business guy is certainly a mainstay of horror and is usually a hyped-up playboy who the audience loves to see get killed. Jeff, however, is quite the opposite. Jeff is rather down about his lot in life because he didn’t choose it. Romance was something he didn’t think about until he saw Lois. His change really shows what good purpose and meaningful connection can do for a person.

There is also the case of Velvet Green. Every story having to do with the occult or voodoo has a mystic of sorts. Even better if they are related to the bad guy. Rarely, however, are they as practical as Velvet. Mystic types are often portrayed as aloof, their head wrapped up in ritual and esoteric elements of the problem at hand. Velvet, however, is thinking the next step forward. She is aware of the very real and physical danger the group is in and is thinking of how to combat that with the combined arms of brunt and mysticism. When she comes into play, she very easily takes the role of leader, knowing exactly what needs to be done and how to do it as efficiently as possible.

Father Milligan also lives outside of the norms of how religious authorities are portrayed in the genre. This role is portrayed by some stories as the subject of ridicule for sounding crazy despite being right, or as the powerful and domineering voice of authority. Father Milligan is neither. He is not ridiculed, he is just unimportant and often overlooked. Nor is he domineering, he is thoughtful and patient. This is Jeff’s crusade and Father Milligan knows that and simply offers him help and resources where he can.

One of the most unlikely characters is Sheck, the zombie. Not mindless or a monster. Sheck is Jeff’s stalwart protector and is oddly charismatic. Despite being unable to speak, Sheck’s body language and physical presence in panels provide to be both eerie and endearing. Through acts like watching over Jeff as he sleeps or just the way he holds his face, Jeff and Sheck develop a tight but strange relationship that is reminiscent of the central relationship in a “buddy- cop” story. In the end, the reader finds themselves rooting for the two as friends fighting back to back.

Through smart characters and a new take on Creole mythology Sirens does a lot to set itself apart and is a memorable and engaging read. This is a great comic for fans of action/adventure stories and classic horror.

Sirens was written by Sidney Williams, known to comic fans for writing The Mantus Files, Marauder, and the upcoming Bloodline and Friar Rush. He is best know for his novels such as Gnelfs, and Night Brothers, as well as for many pieces of short fiction.

Art for Sirens was penciled by John Drury, who created Pendulum, and inked by Chuck Bordell, whose credits include Marauder, Switchblade, and several games like the Neverworld RPG.

Sirens 1, 2, and 4 were lettered by Brad Thromte who has worked on such titles as Mouseguard: Tales of the Guard, Pantheon, Switchblade, and Marauder. Issue 3 was lettered by Todd Arnold.

As can be seen in assorted color panels above, Sirens is getting the color treatment from Silverline’s own super-talented Barb Kaalberg, and will be available as a color trade once complete.

10Mar/20

Craft: Sidney Williams – 5 Guidelines and a Few Thoughts on Comics and Captions

Hello again, Silverline Family. I had the pleasure of being able to talk with author and comic writer Sidney Williams. In terms of comics, some of his titles include The Mantus Files, Bloodline, Sirens, Marauder, and The Scary Book. In my personal opinion, he is a master in terms of suspense and dark or unsettling themes. He is also one of the most reliable and professional individuals I know. He agreed to contribute a piece about the craft of writing comics. In the following entry, Sidney talks about Captions, how he views their place in comics and how he uses them when writing himself.
-Tim

5 Guidelines and a Few Thoughts on Comics and Captions
by Sidney Williams

I’d like to say a few words in defense of captions.

Media evolve and affect each other. Film impacted the detail and flow of the 19th Century novel as the 20th Century moved forward. Literature affected comics then film affected comics, eventually comics affected literature and so on.

Comics, of course, draw on prose fiction. Heavy use of prose narration is characteristic of some early comics. Check a reprint of one of the ‘50s EC Comics (https://www.eccomics.com/history) titles such as Tales from the Crypt, and you’ll find instances of dense text blocks and speech bubbles with characters saying a mouthful.

EC stories were inspired by, or culled from, pulp magazines, so that’s possibly one culprit. Ray Bradbury wound up adapting his own stories for them, often preserving the narrative voice of the source material in pieces like “The October Game” in Shock Suspense Stories #9. (Link: https://comicvine.gamespot.com/shock-suspenstories-9/4000-517/)

Read more about Ray Bradbury’s relationship with comics and graphic novels
https://www.saturdayeveningpost.com/2019/08/ray-bradbury-comic-book-hero/

You don’t even have to look that far back,. As recently as the 1980s and Frank Miller’s run on Daredevil, the captions are almost novelistic.

Over time, narrative prose has given way to more reliance on visual storytelling in comics reflecting perhaps what many filmmakers and theorists consider the ideal, where speech and images convey the story with no intrusive narration. But in the ‘80s you’d get passages like:

“He feels the cut of the October wind hears the dull throb of New York City below him. He wonders when the city started making him sick.” — Daredevil #226, January, 1986. Story by Denny O’Neil & Frank Miller
(Link for Marvel Database on issue: https://www.marvel.com/comics/issue/8214/daredevil_1964_226)

That certainly gives us a look into a Matt Murdock’s soul.

I’m not saying comics script writers need to be Charles Dickens or Bradbury or even ‘80s Miller.

I would suggest that comics, while they’re a visual medium, aren’t film. They’re of the printed page. They afford some tools not available to filmmakers. The right use of those tools help make the comic book and graphic novel world more dynamic and enriching.

So what’s the rule of thumb for captions? In a word, judicious. In an expansion on that thought:

1. Captions should be used to expand or enrich the reader’s experience, never as a crutch for the writer.

If you just need to tell us it’s Los Angeles, “Caption: Los Angeles” will do.

Maybe a few more thoughts in black and white are in order to stimulate conversation and the creative imagination.

2. If we can see it, you don’t need to tell us what we see.
That’s the big duh of comics writing, but sometimes if you don’t print things outright in black and white text, people don’t pay attention. If we can see a hero approaching a vampire’s crypt, opening the coffin and positioning a stake over the heart, don’t tell us: He positions the stake over the vampire’s heart.

If you use a caption for a scene like that…. [Note from the editor: I will cut that caption SO FAST]

3. Make sure a caption provides insight into character, the hero’s soul, spirit or philosophy.
That’s not an excuse to go full Kierkegaard, but if it tells us something more than we can see like that Miller passage above, the reader’s invited to think, not just look on.

Caption: He hesitates as the stake’s whittled point rests against flesh.

Caption: Is this a life he is about to end?
Or something different?

Caption: What should the act of terminating the undead be called?

Gives us a little more than:

SFX: Thunk!

Vampire: Aieeeeeeee!

4. Captions should fit the world established in the comic book or graphic novel.

You might not want to get heavy-handed with captions. When can they be used artistically? In something like Image’s Fatale from 2012, the comic’s world is inspired by film noir, where voiceover narration was used to carry some of the flavor of the first-person crime novels of Raymond Chandler or James M. Cain that helped give birth to the noir style. You’ll find far more effective captions in evidence in Fatale or in something like Frank Miller’s similarly noir-inspired Sin City, which started in 1991.

5. First-person narration open a character’s thoughts.
Speaking of first-person narration, that has supplanted the old comics staple the thought balloon. Thought balloons are so passé they’re almost out of sight in the rearview mirror. First-person captions, on the other hand are still handy. The staking contemplation above could easily be rendered in first person.

When the concept was fairly new, you’d get a tiny little mug shot of the character inside the caption box, and the text would be in quotation marks. The convention’s familiar enough that that’s not needed any longer, though sometimes we get cues such as the caption being the color identified with the character. John Constantine’s first person captions match his raincoat in Justice League Dark, for example.

Just apply all of the judicious thought to first person as you do any captions. Do they help the story? Add something to character or thematic texture without getting heavy handed? Then deploy.

Those are just a few thoughts. Nothing’s set in stone nor a replacement for your own careful observation or environmental scanning as you read the comics you enjoy. Don’t just read. Take note.

Meanwhile…

Creators went on with their work.

Caption Marauder:

My way-back Silverline title, the noir-inspired Marauder, used a bit of first person narration. Note quotation marks were still the convention in those days.