The horror (comics)! The horror (comics)! #11: Twisted Dark
Guess who's back. Back again. Matt is back. Tell a friend...
A few years back I overheard a friend being asked something that surprised me… “how do you discover things?”. Fairly innocuous right? Well, it caught me off guard because I’d never considered there could be one, or even a handful of places you can go to that are perfectly curated to one person’s taste. If you’re reading this, odds are you don’t use the HoH website as a sole guide as to what to watch or read or play…or maybe you do…who am I to judge… but you’ve got fine taste…mighty fine…mighty mighty fine.
You probably have a few places you trust more than most for recommendations or reviews but when it comes to horror, I’d be willing to bet that you’re a passionate fan who goes looking far and wide for new ways to scratch that itch, someone who’ll take a punt on a small podcast that might offer you another perspective on a genre you’ve loved since you were too young to watch them, the kind of person who chuckles if they see someone sporting a black and red striped jumper, who serves Chianti to friends when they come over for dinner, who likes their Rubik's cube to look like a lament configuration and thinks of the ballet as the perfect location for an elaborate front for a mega coven of witches...
Anyway, why am I going on this tangent (yes Nick I know it’s a ramble…but it often serves a purpose)?
Well, the way I came to be in possession of the first volume of this indie horror comic series would probably seem unorthodox to the person who’d ask “how do you discover things?”, but to you; the person who sees a shopping centre as nothing, but a good hideout from zombies, this is as normal as eating a cornetto or perhaps enjoying a twinkie and I have an intuition, that if you’re the person I think you are, you’ll be pleased we brought this horror to your attention.
It was 2016 London Comic Con (if you were there, it was the one where they premiered Preacher and were pushing the World of Warcraft Movie) and I was wondering around with some friends hoping to find some Cowboy Bebop memorabilia and a stall caught my eye. Black backing, red painted font and a bloodied black and white smiling face peering from the shadows. Maybe it was the unhinged smile that drew my attention, after all the amount of people dressed as Heath Ledger’s Joker walking around, failing miserably to catch any of the psychosis of that performance, made the image a good contrast point. I went over to the stall to see what it was and walked away with a horror comic that captured what made me fall in love with horror as a kid.
And so, after that length ramble, I present to you, Twisted Dark.
Twisted Dark is by Neil Gibson, who happens to also be TPub’s founder and Editor in Chief, and he writes horror of the kind that lingers in your subconscious well after you’ve finished. Twisted Dark is also the easiest horror comic I think we’ll ever be in a position to recommend to you on this site. If you like your horror without a seat belt, to pull the carpet out from underneath you, or to deliver a finish that would make Jigsaw proud then Twisted Dark is for you.
We’ve already established that if you’re reading this, you’re like us in that you don’t want to skim the surface, you want to go deep…so if this recommendation chimes with you I imagine it won’t be long before you head over to Tpub to pick up the first volume of Twisted Dark (which they’re also offering as a free download) and you’ll be probably find yourself reading their blog that sets out Twisted Dark's inspirations and aspirations.
We here at HoH have a habit of spoiling everything (Ed- it's sort of "our thing"), so let me spoil that piece and tell you that Twisted Dark's influences include Black Mirror, Tales of the Unexpected and the The Twilight Zone. Now I’m going to tell you that those three are definitely littered throughout Twisted Dark, but even more so it reminds me of The Outer Limits.
The Outer Limits, the second run, which graced our screens in the UK from 1995-2002 was one of my first forays into horror. It was shown just after six on weeknights and my young mind had never really experienced anything on TV, film or book that didn’t have an uplifting ending. The stories in The Outer Limits were brutal but always poignant, The New Breed from Season 1 has never really left the shallows of my memory. Despite it being released first and being generally considered to be the more iconic of the shows it wasn’t until years later that I came to watch the The Twilight Zone and whilst it is undoubtedly brilliant, the impact was slightly lost on me because of the dark depths The Outer Limit had plundered. I thoroughly enjoy Black Mirror and Jordan Peele’s The Twilight Zone reboot has its moments, but reading the first volume of Twisted Dark is the closest anything has come to capturing that reality questioning level of fear that The Outer Limits inspired in my youth.
Twisted Dark has a distinct artistic style that feels a lot like a storyboard from a film. Thankfully this really works with the anthology style it has been written in and you’ll note that the Volumes are considered part of an overall series. Volume 1 contains ten stories, some of which are obviously linked, others possibly linked, but I haven’t quite worked out how yet. To this, I’d point out that wanting to go back and find all the Easter Eggs is never a bad thing. Each story starts with a quotation which can vary from Oscar Wilde to Robert Downey Jr and usually ending with something that requires you to question everything you’ve seen (and as a hint…if it doesn’t immediately it will later). I don’t particularly want to tell you more about the stories because it would be a disservice to them and fail to capture the back and forth between certainty and awestruck uncertainty that you will encounter, but I am confident that if you enjoy any of the influences TPubs noted or the big one I’ve shoehorned in then this is going to float your horror loving boat.
Much like the other ongoing series we’ve talked about in The Horror (Comics) series, Twisted Dark takes inspiration from the classics of horror film and TV, but it very much stands by itself. In my experience you won’t find another graphic novel series like it, in style or story. Luckily for you, if anything I’ve noted above has caught your attention there are six volumes of Twisted Dark (which combined make Season 1) alongside a series of other titles that I’m yet to dip my toe into. Talking of which, you may be wondering why, if it’s so good, I didn’t go back to continue the series after 2016 ComicCon? Why didn’t it feature in the first run of The Horror (comics)? Simple answer to that one, I did go back to Twisted Dark….but I couldn’t find a hard copy of Volume 2, it was out of stock when I looked. I put it to the back of my mind and decided I’d go back and look again in a few months….and then I forgot ….for I am both human and prone to lapses of memory and judgement. In my defense TPubs is as indie as they come and it still amazes me that I’ve not seen Twisted Dark outside of that ComicCon, maybe I’ve not been looking hard enough, but I’m yet to see any of their titles in either my local comic book store or those that I’ve frequented on my travels.
Thankfully writing this piece has meant that I’ve had the joy of re-reading Volume 1 with some of the stories showing incredible prescience of the past four years and others remarkably still fresh in the memory. Even better than that, in heading over to the TPub site as I finish writing this article I can see Volume 2 in stock…so I’ve ordered it…and Volume 3…and a bandanna…because that broken toothed sinister smile still creeps me out and in this age of Pandemic I would like my face mask to have the same impact on others that seeing that stall had on me.
So as much as I want to say that all’s well that ends well, that wouldn’t be very Twisted Dark of me, so lets finish with a quote to bear in mind as you begin reading Twisted Dark:
“You are about to experience the awe and mystery which reaches from the deepest inner mind….to the outer limits”
We're sticking with the world of indie comics for our next piece, looking at:
THE SOCCER MOM KILLER
Remember to support your local comic book store. Our favourite, as ever, is Chaos City Comics- they've got an online store so, you know, no excuses. If you have any suggestions of horror comics we should be covering then get in touch to let us know...