Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Hellraiser Relaunched at BOOM! - Clive Barker Comics Continue

With the glorious news that BOOM! Studios is going to release a new Hellraiser ongoing, penned by Barker himself, and also release a new collection of the old Marvel Hellraiser works, it seems a fitting time to look through the history Clive Barker has had with comics. It’s been a wild and wacky ride so hit the jump to see why one of the masters of horror continually returns to our four colour medium.


Clive Barker is a British horror novelist who has crafted many classics in the new era of horror. He put together a set of short story collections titled The Books of Blood and the various tales that reside within those pages range from the scary to the bizarre and the weirdly sweet and the downright brilliant. These collections definitely show Barker has imagination and he’s not afraid to use it.

He has written sweeping novels of fantastically epic nature like The Books of the Art, Weaveworld, and Imajica. Barker uses the pages to craft a world, and worlds within those worlds, to completely take the reader away from anything they think they might know. These books are like brain juice tapped straight into words and there’s a sense that magic is being performed. They are long, and involved, but completely worth the investment.

There is also a series of children’s fantasy novels, The Abarat Quintet, that Barker is writing that feature a strong blend of illusory writing and Barker’s own artworks. You see, while Barker is adept with the typewriter he is also quite a master of the brush. His scratchy, blotchy, and brilliant creations show Barker knows about what he creates. He can see it in his head, probably even smell it, and he brings that to us through much of his art. He has used this vision to direct many of his own stories on the silver screen, Hellraiser and Nightbreed being two stand out selections, but he’s also worked with the comic industry for decades now.

Hellraiser In Four Colour

Strangely enough, it all started with Hellraiser, back in 1989. Barker published the novella The Hellbound Heart in 1986. A year later he would adapt the story to the screen as Hellraiser. Two years later, Barker would be seeing more stories set in the universe of pain and Cenobites published by Epic Comics, an imprint of Marvel Comics. Many writers and artists would work to bring this comic to a fiendish audience for over twenty issues.

At the same time, many of Barker’s short stories were seeing print as graphic novels through the collective title Tapping The Vein, and being published by Eclipse Books. These comics would show work from Steve Niles, P. Craig Russell, Klaus Janson, and Chuck Wagner. They are a creepy set of collections and if you ever get the chance to find them (I got mine through second hand booksellers) then you should snap them up. The melding of prose and art is often done in innovative and exciting ways. The tales gruesomely depicted with dark art and heavy tones. Eclipse would spend a few years peddling in the trade of four colour Barker adaptations. And damn fine ones, too.

As this collaboration wore down, Barker soon found himself with the opportunity to create brand new comic characters. Marvel was going to invest in a line of Clive Barker comics. Now, you have to understand, these were different times. Barker had become a name as large as Stephen King in horror circles and so he had a good run of the entertainment industry. Never a titan but someone clearly seen as having far too much imagination and not enough time to process it all into his own works.


Marvel brought us the Razorline brand that consisted of EctoKid written by James Robinson and then Larry Wachowski, Saint Sinner, Hokum & Hex with inks by Andy Lanning, and Hyperkind with some pencils by Luke Ross. You probably haven’t heard of these comics, have you? One looks at heroism as the greatest accomplishment of childhood, one is about heroism as a land of martyrdom, one is a magical and mystical look at heroism, and one looks at the mythology of heroism and global superheroics.

These comics all existed within a Barkerverse of tales but none lasted past a year. They weren’t quite the usual Marvel fare and most readers did not know what to do with them. Some might call them revolutionary, ahead of their time, and others would probably just be honest and say they weren’t the greatest books being produced at the time. A real shame but at least the chance was taken.

Hellraiser Ongoing From BOOM!

It’s been nearly twenty years since Barker’s heyday of comics but now he is back and I am pretty well pumped for his return. He’s back to the initial story that broke him open to the public, Hellraiser. After all of the films and comics that have come before, it makes me curious to see what new tales can be spun from the Hellraiser thread. Considering Clive Barker is co-writing, with Christopher Monfette, it feels like this could be a very well thought out and written addition to the mythos. Surely it can’t be worse than many of the sequels.

Not much has been leaked about the nature of the story, or whether this comic will adhere to the more current arcs or instead structure itself like the old vignettes the comic used to do but either way just the announcement that Barker is bringing this one forward as an ongoing should make you feel relatively safe. It also helps that Leonardo Manco is going to be working on the interiors and covers will come from Tim Bradstreet and Nick Percival. And they sure are pretty.

Set your pull lists to pick this up next March as it ships with an oversized first issue that will include a bonus story from Larry Wachowski.

There will also be a collected edition published in the same month. Hellraiser: Masterworks Vol 1 will put together a stack of the old Epic Hellraiser comics which are quite hard to find now. They will include stories from the likes of Clive Barker, Neil Gaiman, Mike Mignola, Alex Ross and others. If you have never been able to track these comics down, which I haven’t, then you are going to want the Masterworks edition, which I do.

I wonder if BOOM! will be able to collect much of the other older Barker comics. I’d just about step up for all the volumes, if they become available.

There aren’t many horror comics on the stands these days, there just isn’t a market for them, which is a shame. I love horror novels and so am keen to check out a good horror comic, which I hope this will be. BOOM! has been very good at publishing titles all across the spectrum of available genres. From slanted superheroic titles to unabashed kid’s franchise titles, BOOM! has often done me right so I’ll definitely be dipping a toe into some new Clive Barker work. There was never any doubt.

I just wish they'd get him to do more cover work, or even some interiors. His artwork truly is phenomenal and I'd love to see how he handled a sequential page.


As a Clive Barker fan, I am all over this news. I’ll definitely check the comic out and it will be great to be able to finally get the older Hellraiser comics in collected form. Are you a Clive Barker fan? If so, what do you think of this news. And if not, are you interested in getting this title in either form? It will be interesting to see how such a pure horror comic fares in today’s comic sales climate.

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Anonymous said...

This is great news. I'm loving the artwork on those covers also.

Mark Pellegrini said...

I have all three volumes of Checker's "Best Of Hellraiser" series, collecting random issues from the comic. I actually enjoyed the one storyline written by Barker *the least*. "The Harrowers". Pretty terrible, even with the Alex Ross artwork.

However, I adored everything else by the multitude of different writers that really shaped the universe beyond the movies. In regards to Barker on comics, I dug the "Tapping the Vein" graphic novel quite a bit, so there's no hard feelings.

I'll be picking up the Boom! series and I might double dip on those reprint collections since the "Best Of" volumes from Checker actually edited pages from the issues.

Nathan said...

The first three or so issues of Saint Sinner were great! I especially loved the art work (which was my biggest draw for that book!)

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