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Detail of Paul Lyons’ wraparound cover for “Monster,” all photos by the author.

Ever wondered what your childhood nightmares would look like if they met your adult nightmares? Well, take a peek at Monster, the latest installation of Providence, Rhode Island’s giant, horror-themed comic book (published in October 2010, but recently made available by the Chipsylvania online store).

Monster is monstrous: at 10”x14” and 88 pages long, it’s a gigantic collection of some of Providence’s most well-known comic artists. Comic critic Sean T. Collins affectionately describes it as “gettin’ the band back together, man!” The collection’s editor, Paul Lyons, was a founding member of Fort Thunder — once a show-space and artists collaborative house in Rhode Island, now, a genre of comics spawned from the artists who lived there. Monster features many of the original Fort Thunder team as well as some newer faces in Providence’s alternative comics scene.

“Monster” cover by Paul Lyons

With a distinctly punk feel, Collins’ “band” descriptor is apt; Fort Thunder was a squat, or a “punk house” that hosted live shows in its heyday and many of its artists have also played in bands or gone on to illustrate albums or other musical paraphernalia.

Most of the collection is made up of experimental comics that can at times be incomprehensible; like dreams or nightmares, that may be the most unsettling part. Mat Brinkman’s evil flying creatures recall Stephen Gammell’s illustrations for the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark series, for me at least, and bring me back to that totally creeped-out-before-bedtime place.

Detail of Mat Brinkman’s work

Part of what’s great about Monster is its wide interpretation of what is horrifying. In one spread, Nick Thornburn breaches the more adult and unfortunately real topic of child porn, while on the following page Melissa Mendes’ lighthearted protagonist, a young girl enjoying a summer swim, may meet the ugly fate of being pinched by a crab.

Detail of Nick Thornburn’s work

Mickey Zacchilli’s full-bleed pages about a magical eye emerging from a dead girl’s body (I think?) are just exciting to look at, her gritty style emitting energy and electricity. Dennis Franklin’s monster portraits could easily be separated from the book and serve as artist prints. On the other hand, Brian Ralph uses a pretty classic storybook format to display gratuitous violence and carnage in a way that most of us are familiar with, by the hands of a satanic robot. Perhaps my favorite part is the book’s cover, a wrap-around piece by editor Lyons, beautifully silkscreened in blue and white on cream, that pulls me right into its creepy, pukey nightmare.

One of Mickey Zacchilli’s two-page spreads

I really enjoy this collection as a fan and advocate of the weirdos, but I felt as if I didn’t get a true introduction to some of the artists (perhaps because it’s a themed book?). They certainly did something right, though, because I plan on finding out more.

Monster, edited By Paul Lyons, is available in an edition of 666 at Chipsylvania and other online booksellers.

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Kate Wadkins

Kate Wadkins is a Brooklyn-based writer and curator. She believes in the transformative power of punk. Find her online @kwadkins.