Bloke’s Terrible Tomb of Terror: Classic Horror For the Modern Age
by Steven Ringgenberg
In an era where current comics are dominated by manga-styled art, and cookie-cutter dark and gritty superhero stories, Bloke’s Terrible Tomb of Terror harkens back to an earlier age of black and white horror comics. If you’re a fan who grew up on the Warren, Marvel, and Skywald black and white horror and science fiction mags, the Bloke’s terrible offerings should be right up your alley. One of the biggest treats the magazine offers are regular helpings of Mike Hoffman’s color covers, and black and white interior stories. Hoffman, the co-publisher, along with his partner in crime, The Bloke, A.K.A. Jason Crawley, write most of the scripts, ably abetted by artists like award-winning Scary Scotsman Rob Moran, Nik Poliwko, Mark Kidwell, Trevor Denham, and others, who all try to re-capture the glory days of Warren and Marvel’s black and white mags. Interspersed with the stories are beautiful one-page pinups by the regular artists, including Hoffman and Moran.
The Bloke, Crawley’s alter-ego, is a natty, top-hatted Edwardian dandy who would not look out of place assisting Burke and Hare in their grave-robbing business, appearing to have superior hygiene to Uncle Creepy, Cousin Eerie, and E.C.’s Three Ghoulunatics. Like the aforementioned horror hosts, The Bloke introduces all of the terror tales, and is frequently worked into the splash pages in ingenious ways. Rob Moran, for example, draws him as a lawn gnome in the story “Until Death Do Us Not Part” in issue #6. For the most part, writers and artists are successful in supplying snap-ending horror and sci-fi stories in the old tradition, evoking the comic book stylings of classic Warren contributors like Luis Bermejo, Frank Frazetta, Steve Ditko, Wally Wood, and Jose Ortiz. This is not to say these magazines are ripping off their sources, but rather paying affectionate tribute to the artists and writers that obviously inspired them. The Terrible Tomb of Terror is nostalgic, fun, and fresh all at the same time. The Moran/Crawley collaboration, “Beneath the Surface” recently won “Best Short Story In An Anthology” at the 2014 Ghastly Awards, so congratulations to Rob and Jason.
The overall feel of this title is like a Warren horror mag from the 70s, though without the pages and pages in the back that offered comics, films, toys, puzzles, and other ghoulish goodies that Warren’s Captain Company offered, whose sales kept his publishing empire afloat during lean times. About the only merchandising The Bloke offers is back issues, color and black and white prints of Hoffman’s luscious covers and pinups by some of the other artists, PDF downloads, and a trade paperback collection of the earlier issues. Bloke’s Terrible Tomb of Terror sells for $8.95 an issue and is available from the mag’s own website: www.etsy.com/shop/blokestomb, or on Amazon, since this self-published effort is not available at most comics shops.
You can also “Like” the Tomb on its Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/BlokesTerribleTombOfTerror
If you live on the East Coast, you may be able to procure copies from The Bloke at one of his many con appearances, since he’s a regular fixture at horror and comic cons. The magazine frequently posts photos of The Bloke posing with fans, and I have to admire all the hard work that goes into producing and promoting this very entertaining magazine.
Now in its fourth year of publication, I give this magazine a big thumbs up. If you’re a fan of black and white horror mags, or Mike Hoffman, or Rob Moran, I guarantee you’ll like Bloke’s Terrible Tomb of Terror. If you do take the trouble to journey to Bloke’s Terrible Tomb, please tell the Bloke that Heavy Metal sent you. ‘Till next time, Metal Heads!
8 Questions with Steve Ringgenberg:
What initially got you interested in writing?
I guess I’ve always been interested in writing because I was an avid reader from an early age. My mother always had a book in her hand, and would frequently take us to the local library to get more books. When I discovered Edgar Rice Burroughs at the age of twelve, I knew I wanted to emulate him and write my own stories.
How did you decide to make the move into becoming a published author?
I first wrote for my high school newspaper and made sporadic attempts at writing my own fiction. By my second year in college I knew I wanted to be a writer, and so switched my major from Biology to Creative Writing. I began writing short stories in college, and also wrote for a local “hippie newspaper” before leaving for New York City in 1979 to seek fame and fortune. My first sales were some comic book scripts to DC Comics, and a short story published in 1981 in a men’s magazine.
What do you want readers to take away from reading your works?
I don’t consider myself a very literary writer. I simply want to entertain people. If I’ve accomplished that, then I’ve achieved my purpose.
What do you find most rewarding about writing?
Creating new worlds and characters that never existed before. Writing snappy dialogue that sounds believable is especially satisfying. Some days I’m so excited about what I want to write that I sit down first thing in the morning and get to work.
What do you find most challenging about writing?
Getting started on any given day. There are always a thousand distractions, so it requires a real effort of will to actually sit down and do the work. Some days, the muse is just not present.
What advice would you give to people wanting to enter the field?
Writing is not easy; it requires a real personal commitment of time and energy. Learn your craft by studying other good writers. Read, read all the time, and write when you’re not reading. As with anything else, practice helps you perfect your skills. Don’t be afraid to take criticism, but don’t take it personally. You’ll write thousands of words of lousy prose before you get to the good stuff. If the characters start talking to you inside your head, that’s a good sign. Listen to what they say and write it down. That dialogue will be some of the truest and best you’ll come up. Don’t be afraid to rewrite; rewriting is the whole secret to writing good prose.
Is there anything else besides writing you think people would find interesting about you?
I spent part of my childhood in Japan, and have always had an affinity with Japanese art and culture. I collect zeppelin artifacts and remain fascinated with the promise of lighter-than-air technology to make a better future. In my writing career, I’ve conducted many interviews, including interviewing famed fantasy artist Frank Frazetta, Blade Runner designer Syd Mead, NASA artist Robert McCall, most of the EC Comics contributors, and two of the Apollo astronauts, Pete Conrad and Alan Bean. As a ghostwriter, I have written 6 Hardy Boys novels and 3 Tom Swift graphic novels. In 2014, I published my first book of short stories, and I currently working on a science fiction novel based on Synwulfe, a character I first published in Heavy Metal back in 1985. I’m a lifelong aviation and space buff, and I relish any chance to fly in different kinds of planes, visit air and space museums, and to learn more about space exploration. So far I’ve ridden in a 1925 Stearman bi-plane trainer and a B-25, along with my dad, who actually flew that plane back in the day. Years ago, I visited Cape Canaveral and got a tour of the Vehicle Assembly Building. It was so huge there were birds flying around inside it. I’ve been fortunate to meet many of my culture heroes, like Frazetta, 2001 stars Gary Lockwood and Keir Dullea, Al Feldstein, Harvey Kurtzman, Al Williamson, Joe Kubert, Jack Kirby, Stan Lee, and too many others to list here.
What are the best ways to connect with you, or find out more about your work?
I don’t currently have my own blog, so the best way to contact me is to visit my Facebook page: Steven Ringgenberg. I’m always happy to get in touch with my readers and answer their questions. If you ever see me at a convention or a bookstore, please come over and say hi.