By DAKOTA DAHL
Written by Jeff Carroll
Illustrated by Stacey Williams, Ryan Yager, Matt Reynolds, Eric Alan Nelson, Carolanne Mcfarlane
Hip Hop Comix-N-Flix
It is a sad and undeniable fact that there is a definite lack of Black voices in the horror community. For every Tananarive Due and Jordan Peele, there is an endless sea of white mediocrity drowning the genre. Ideally, the future of horror will be filled with more POC so Blackula and Tales from the Hood weren’t exceptions that prove the rule. Luckily, we have talented creators like Jeff Carroll, who is here to rectify the problem by creating a multitude of Black culture inspired horror stories under the title of HORROR STREETZ.
As a horror anthology, there was a lot of variety in the subject matter. There was a sexual enhancement drink that turns people into murderous cannibals, a fraternity of (slightly misogynistic) vampires, a Black retelling of The headless Horseman (who now kills kids who don’t know their history,) and a convicted serial killer who may or may not have time travel/teleportation powers which she uses to justly murder sexist men (one of which is Dracula.) I also got to read the Summer 2020 issue of HORROR STREETZ which includes stories about a paranoid cross-country traveler who sees racism everywhere.
The real highlight was the story of Baba, the African King. Baba was a seven-foot-tall slave who was also a champion boxer which gained him his freedom. In standard fashion, white people fuck him over and murder him, so now he comes back as a giant vengeful spirit, who goes about mulching up Klan members, which will always be satisfying to see. Baba even has his own movies from Carroll, which we will talk about in a moment.
Every story in these two volumes was written by Jeff Carroll, with a variety of illustrators bringing each story to life. Some of these illustrations are more masterful than others, while others have a more raw, unpolished quality, but all of them deliver the story appropriately, capturing the mood, theme and especially the gore in entertaining ways.
The storytelling is also a little uneven in quality, which is to be expected in anthologies, but the highs and lows are pretty drastic. Some stories have fully fleshed out character arcs while others end with jarring abruptness. There’s also more than a few spelling mistakes, but those tend to be more common in indie type comics like this, and don’t overly take away from the immersion.
What I thoroughly enjoyed about the comic was the attention to creators. Carroll opens most stories with the background for his inspiration behind the tale and which of his life experiences caused him to write them. He also shines the spotlight on another Black artist, Linda Addison, asking them questions about their lives, influences and takes on the horror genre. It’s great to see a publication that amplifies voices of marginalized people who are constantly talked over.
So, earlier we talked about Baba, and how he had his own movie. I may as well use this article to talk about Jeff Carroll’s other project Death Pledge. It’s an interesting project about University pledges telling ghost stories in the woods, before being hunted down by Baba for being disrespectful and forgetting their roots. What I found really interesting while watching it after reading HORROR STREETZ is that the kids tell each other ghost stories, but those ghost stories are the same stories from the comics, complete with illustrations. It’s a very cool little tie-in, or even universe building, looked at from a certain light (especially considering what of the comics’ Baba stories ends in a cliff-hanger hinting at a much larger world for Baba to wreck.)
Death Pledge is far from a perfect film, but it isn’t a cash grab either, so amateurish indie films with heart always mean more than someone trying to make a quick buck with a handy-cam. You can stream it now on Amazon Prime.
It’s clear from both works that something much larger is planned for Baba, and having spoken with the author, Jeff Carroll himself, I now for a fact Baba was created with the intention of being able to go toe-to-toe with Freddy, Jason or Michael. I’m personally going to place my money on Baba if that crossover ever takes place.
The author would like to take this time to remind readers that Black Lives Matter, and always have. The horror community would be nothing without Black artists. Their voices need to be heard and supported.