Back in the late 1970’s, a small group of friends and I were regular patrons of the Saturday matinee at the Capitol Theatre in St. Thomas, Ontario. Hosted by ‘Uncle Ron’, the show included a cartoon, a Three Stooges short, an old Batman serial, and a feature film. It was at these matinees in which I was first introduced to Flash Gordon, Godzilla, and, most importantly, murderous produce. Attack of the Killer Tomatoes (1978) is the very low budget story of a tomato revolt against humanity. This was one of my earliest exposures to horror films. I can hardly be blamed, therefore, when my thoughts returned to those days of yesteryear upon learning of the premise of Blood & Gourd, the horror comic book series offered by Dead Peasant.
Blood & Gourd tells the story of the pumpkin uprising. Maligned and mistreated for centuries, maniacal pumpkins are fighting back, much like their tomato cousins before them. But, don’t get me wrong. Similarities between Blood & Gourd and Attack of the Killer Tomatoes are only skin deep (rind deep?). Attack of the Killer Tomatoes was able to get away with its very simple and largely unexplained premise because it was a comedy. The film is one long-running joke bolstered by parodies of both the horror genre in general and some specific well-known horror moments. If Blood & Gourd had gone the humorous route, the wonderfully bad pun of a title would have easily carried it through a single issue. I suspect basing an entire comedic series around this basic idea, however, would wear thin.
Despite a touch of dark comedic energy, Blood & Gourd is played very straight and there is a malignant story arc being developed here. Henderson Farms is suffering from a long-standing curse apparently brought on by a bargain made in desperation when the farmstead was first established. To add to its problems, Henderson Farms is being bought out by a corporate entity lead by a director whose evil intentions go well beyond your standard money-grubbing, employee-abusing, environment-destroying business executive. Things come to a head on Devil’s Night, or more accurately the day of Devil’s Night, during Henderson Farms’ annual harvest festival. While families take hayrides, get lost in the corn maze, and partake in craft beer and cider, the pumpkin insurgency begins. Adults, children, and even livestock are in mortal, and quite possibly spiritual, peril as the pumpkins stage a full-on and extremely violent assault.
I will avoid delving too deep into the plot. Partially, that is simply to prevent spoiling the experience for would-be readers. However, another reason to bypass an in-depth look at the mythos of Blood & Gourd is that there is not a lot of myth to discuss yet. As of this writing only three issues of Blood & Gourd have been published. Three episodes in and the saga is only getting started. That’s not to say nothing has happened. There has been quite a bit of action. The direction the story is headed, however, has only been hinted at. We have been introduced to numerous characters (beyond those destined to become mere statistics) and the basic premise has been established. An obviously supernatural and chaotic force is present while, at the same time, there is a controlling human factor. And yet we have no cohesive explanation for what is occurring or why there are those working to make it happen. At this point, there is not even a clear understanding of who the main players will be. Having expanded on the simple ‘when pumpkins attack’ concept, there is a need to ground the story in detail. Those details are trickling in and I have no doubt that more are forthcoming. I am, nevertheless, slightly frustrated with the rate at which they are being offered. Not playing all your cards up front is a smart move and I cannot deny that my curiosity has been sparked. But you have to coddle that spark a little to ensure it does not die out.
The artists featured in Blood & Gourd are a well-established group and prominent enough that even a comic novice like me can recognize many of the names. Colourist Fran Gamboa does a marvelous job contributing energy to almost every panel with a vibrant palette of oranges, yellows, greens, and shadow. The colour scheme is perfect for a pumpkin/Halloween themed series yet never seems clichéd or obvious. The pencil and ink work of Dave Acosta, Juan Albarran, Juan Antonio Ramirez, and Jonas Scharf is equally effective at bringing the chaotic Devil’s Night to life with expressive and dynamic images. Ramirez, in particular, creates some gorgeous compositions. My one complaint with the artistry is a bit of inconsistency in issue No. 1. For example, there is a prize winning pumpkin that seems to shrink and grow between seven feet and as much as twenty feet as it also changes locations both inside and outside an enclosure. More troubling, however, are changes in the physical appearance of some of the characters. I realize that most characters in a panel do not receive the same level of attention as those that are the main focus. However, there are a lot of people introduced and a lot of disorder. It is challenging enough to keep everything straight without characters being sometimes difficult to recognize or even seeming to change slightly in appearance. That this occurs in the first issue of the series, when none of the characters are familiar yet, is unfortunate.
To paraphrase an oft-employed expression that is actually used in the premiere issue of Blood & Gourd, “I may not know much about comic books, but I know what I like.” Although I read and collect a few disparate comic book series, my exposure certainly does not qualify me as an expert in this complicated field. What I can do is provide my personal perspective as a horror fan and a lover of both the written word and the artistic image. And I see a lot of potential in Blood & Gourd. Creator/writer Jenz K. Lund has set out to pay homage to the creature features of the ‘70s and ‘80s and his love for those films is obvious. His monsters are more than just the rolling (or sliding) tomatoes from Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. The fiends in Blood & Gourd are creeping, clutching, supernatural, and, above all else, scary while still retaining a little B-movie charm. The evil-looking ‘gourdlings’ are particularly fun, nasty, little creations. A word of warning to the squeamish: these comics do live up to their ’70s/’80s horror movie legacy with a heavy blood, violence, and gore quotient. But fans of that period of horror cinema would expect nothing less.
Blood & Gourd from Dead Peasant; Created & Written by Jenz K. Lund; Artisty by Dave Acosta, Juan Albarran, Juan Antonio Ramirez, Jonas Scharf, Fran Gamboa, and others. Available in both print and digital copies at webleedhalloween.com and wherever fine comic books are sold. Development of Issue No. 4 is underway, as of this writing.