Sunday, October 17, 2010

A Visit to Heroes Club The Art of Toys in San Francisco - Horror Collectibles


My buddy Clifford Brooks was showing me around San Francisco neighborhoods when he did an abrupt U-turn and grabbed a parking spot the other night. "You have to see this place," he said, nodding toward a showcase window with a giant blue robot: Heroes Club: The Art of Toys.

We could only stare in the windows at the shadowed array of collectibles since the shop had closed for the day.

But since we both grew up with Aurora model kits and Famous Monsters of Film Land, we returned the next day for a museum-like tour through an array of super heroes, soldiers, Bruce Lees, steampunk figures and a generous smattering of monsters including a full-sized Jason Voorhees looking down from a ceiling perch.  

Before the Icon
Smaller Jason replicas including a Friday the 13th Part 2 version in a pre-hockey mask burlap sack joined various iterations of Michael Myers, Freddy and a host of other vampires and creatures. An incredible life-size Nosferatu offered a sinister gaze from a rear showcase, and a wooden-frame 3-D replica of the Famous Monsters back page monster mask ad graced another shelf. 

"Are you guys collectors?" he asked.

"Just looking," Cliff said, observing a price tag. 

That didn't seem to bother him. He proceeded to show us a Count Dracula ring and a similar Mummy ring with, he noted, finer detail than some other versions. 

A Hong Kong native, he noted his favorite movie is The Exorcist and pointed to a wall where a bas-relief face of Pazuzu stared forward.

Stan's eye
A hand-eye-coordination statue, not for sale, peered from another case. "That was a gift from Stan Winston," he said. On yet another shelf stretched, a monster from a Twilight Zone-like series from Asia, never seen in the U.S. "Asian people know this," the proprietor said.  "U.S. people not so much." 

A Godzilla figure with an actor stepping out of it was a littl more more recognizable for U.S. audiences. 

Stake out
One of the most fascinating items was a hand-crafted vampire hunter's kit (seriously click the link and have a look) from Zom Bee Toys, maker of Frozen Dead figures as well. 

Moving it from a shelf to the counter, the proprietor offered a closer look. It looked Van Helsing-ready with bottles of holy water and a metal crucifix, plus a weighty wooden mallet and an array of stakes.

"These are hand crafted," the proprietor said, noting the handle-rings etched in the wood and the finely-honed points.

"They sharpen these by hand," he noted, demonstrating the twisting technique and stressing the whittling style of points would be much more jagged. "It takes a lot of time to do that right," he said.

I'll never convince Christine to adopt a collectibles decorating theme, but it was a nice spot to visit. 

Here's hoping the economy doesn't squeeze out this kind of coolness. 

Saturday, October 09, 2010

A Universal Horror Writer Moment

Maybe it's not exactly a moment, but there's an experience shared by many writers of a certain age who've put pen to horror.

In Night Shift, Stephen King's fabulous first collection of short fiction, a glance at the copyright page notes many of the tales first appeared in, shall we say delicately, men's magazines. In the seventies, King found a steady outlet for his fiction in Cavalier and similar publications.

In those ancient of days, the '80s, when I was finishing college and discovering the horrors of general assignment reporting, I began to finish stories that I felt were worth sending out. Keep it down out there. I heard that.

I got Writer's Market like many other young, aspiring scribes  and perused magazines that accepted mystery and horror. Through a lag in editing or updates, Cavalier and other publications that had gone in new editorial directions by the eighties were still listed as outlets for horror fiction.

So, it was a.) where Stephen King was published a few years before and b.) it accepted horror. Seemed like a good idea for submission.

The results for everyone who went through those same paces, I suppose, confirm the writer advice adage that you must read the markets to which you're submitting. Reading stories from the same publication in anthologies isn't always quite the same, especially if there's been a lag of a few years.

When I sent a story to Cavalier, I got a form rejection with--the bright side--a personal note scribbled on it: "It's good, but we need strongly sex-oriented stories."

The world had begun to change. The specialization of newsstand publications and niches had begun. Scarcer were the er, well-rounded editorial styles that offered "readers" pictorials mixed with a couple of stories and relevant articles.

The only fictional narratives in Cavalier--once the publisher of King and tales such as Roald Dahl's ├╝ber classic Man from the South--were now captions for pictorials of women fighting.

Happily, in this new era, writing marches on, and even as old venues for words die, new venues are born. I guess that's the good news.

And I've got to get back to re-editing some of those stories that were rejected by Cavalier but found other print homes.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Gnelfs Cover Art - October Horror

Especially since it's October, Halloween time etc. that I'd put up a nice-sized view of the new e-book cover art from Neil Jackson. The sad side of e-books is that covers are mostly thumbnail propositions.

The original mass market paperback's art was nice, but this really makes me shudder.

Get Gnelfs via the banner at right for the Kindle. It's a few pennies more but available in multiple formats at Smashwords.

It's about the title characters but also features dueling sorcerers, or OK one bad sorcerer and one mysterious occult investigator and dark trails.
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