1995: Death Rattle

Death Rattle (1995) #1-5 edited by Chris Couch and others

Now, I know nothing about no publishing comics, but launching a 32 page black and white anthology in 1995? … wha…? It seems like the least commercially viable thing you could possibly do, doesn’t it? On the other hand, Xenozoic Tales started in the previous Death Rattle incarnation, so perhaps lightning would strike again, and using the anthology as a loss leader talent scouting operation would work again.

It’s worth an attempt?

On the other other hand, perhaps they just really wanted to do it, and there were no commercial considerations. (Although I think by this time, all the Kevin Eastman money was gone.)

But it makes commercial sense to start off the first issue with a story by Mark Schulz (i.e., Mr. Xenozoic Tales). But it’s only written by him, and the artwork is by Roger Petersen. He does nice inking, but the figures are really awkward.

The story isn’t exactly an EC ironic ending one. It’s more of a “huh?” ending. But it’s fine.

Tim Eldred does a quite spooky little story.

Brian Biggs is not somebody you’d expect to find in a horror anthology. His Frederick & Eloise was great, and this confirms that his thing isn’t really horror. And, as you can see, it’s “to be continued” (in the next issue), and basically one third of the things here are like that. It makes sense not to let any one story overpower a 32 page anthology, but it doesn’t make for satisfying reading, either, which is why 32 page anthologies are so tricky to get right.

This thing, by Zane Campbell, runs for several issues, and it’s all like this, except that we get more and more and more text, and it doesn’t make much sense. (And the artwork devolves from here, really.)

Mark A. Nelson’s twist story isn’t really much of a story, but it looks great.

So: That’s the first issue. Is this a winner? Well… it does satisfy many of the cravings a typical EC comics horror anthology fan has, and it has some nice surprises, too. So… er… Thumbs up?

But as with Death Rattle vol 2, they front-loaded the series with more compelling things, and the rest of the series feels way more random. But actually the best thing in the series is this insane thing from Simon Morse. It’s not scary, but it’s really funny. And totally off the wall.

But the issue is more “let’s find stuff to fill the pages”, or as here, “let’s put in something to boost sales”: A three page preview of the next Crow series. The artwork by Alex Maleev is great, but the preview doesn’t really … convey much beyond Alex Maleev being good.

Tony Millionaire’s thing is very funny.

Some of these pieces, like this one by Remy Bastien and Bachan, are quite interesting to look at, but don’t really make for satisfying reading.

So we get more random illustrations from Bachan: I’m guessing these were just blind submissions Kitchen Sink was getting?

So we get more “let’s get Crow collectors” stuff in. O’Barr explains that he had to remove several sequences from the Caliber series, because he didn’t know that “a comic book had to be a multiple of twelve”. Which is wrong; they had to be a multiple of 16 (or 8 at some printers, but from what I understand, it could sometimes be more expensive to print a 24 page book than a 32 page book).

I was expecting to get some of these sequences, but instead:

Just a bunch of random illustrations and sketches.

This is a really sloppy anthology.

Doug Potter expresses his love for the military.

Just kidding! I love how this is drenched in pure hatred and disdain, and even the O. Henry ending is pretty surprising. (I mean, it was clear that it was going to end with … something like that, but it was still an original twist.)

Matt Howarth does a sci fi/horror two-parter, and while I really enjoy the artwork, the story didn’t really… er… have much of a story.

Ooh! For the fifth issue, it seemed like they were saying “well, nobody’s buying this anyway, so we might as well just put some good stuff in”, so we get this wonderfully illustrated story from Thomas Ott. With a twist ending! It’s very depressing, and I like that.

And… whaa? But in a good way. By Matthew Coyle/Peter Lamb.

I must admit to not actually being able to make heads or tails of the Tom Sutton thing, and the second instalment ends with a “next”, which never happened.

But further issues were apparently planned.

They even have an ad for Death Rattle #6. But I’m guessing it was cancelled due to low sales.

I’m unable to find any reviews of this, but here’s a news item from 1997 about Kitchen’s shutdown:

This is the one hundred and ninety-second post in the Entire Kitchen Sink blog series.

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