Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Friday, April 26, 2013


Atomic Chili:  The Illustrated Joe R. Lansdale (1996)

Eight stories and one novel by hisownself are adapted in comic book format in this marvelous collection edited by Rick Klaw.  The stories collected here show a new dimension to some of Lansdale's best early work; the varied artwork is a great complement to his tales.

I've always considered Lansdale to be a storyteller rather than a writer.  I can picture these stories being told around a campfire, each tale told to exaggerate perfection while the listener hunkers before the fire quivering with a soupcon of delighted fear.  There is no other voice in literature like Lansdale's:  incisive, profane, witty, audacious, and just plain fun.  He's one of the best writers we have and whatever Texas did to make him what he was was right on target.

Here's a run-down of the stories:

  • "The Grease Trap" - Scripted by Lansdale and drawn by Ted Naifeh.  This one is dedicated to EC Comics and features a squid-like monster made of fecal matter. 
  • "Trains Not Taken" - Adapted by Neal Barrett, Jr. and drawn by John Garcia.  In an alternate universe where the Japanese control the west coast of America, Samuel Morse has invented the pulsating energy train, and cavalry and samurai alike were slaughtered at Little Big Horn, Bill Cody and James Hickok strike up an acquaintance on a train and talk about what might have been.
  • "By Bizarre Hands" - Adapted by Jerry Prosser and drawn by Dean Roher.  Itinerant "Preacher" and pederast Preacher Judd tries to use Halloween as an excuse to molest a severely retarded girl -- with bloody results.
  • "Night They Missed the Horror Show"  Adapted by Barrett and drawn by Marc Erickson.  One of Lansdale's most powerful stories and hands-down one of the greatest stories in any genre.  Two good ol' boys discover what prejudice really is.
  • Dead in the West - Adapted by Barrett and drawn by Jack Jackson.  From Lansdale's early weird western novel and presented in two parts, this 96-pager pits the Reverend Jebidiah Mercer against an Indian curse and a townful of zombies.  Mercer is also featured in several of Lansdale's latter stories.
  • "Tight Little Stiches in a Dead Man's Back" - Adapted by Barrett and drawn by Phillip Hester.  A man tries to survive in a bleak, mutated future while knowing that he is responsible for Armageddon and the death of his daughter.
  • "Pilots" - Adapted by Richard Klaw and drawn by Tom Foxmarnick.  Four disfigured Vietnam vets exact a bloody vengeance against truckers.
  • "Steel Valentine" - Adapted by Klaw and drawn by Erickson.  A revenge story about a cuckolded husband and the biter bit.les as a paid killer.
  • "The Job" - Adapted by Klaw and drawn by John Lucas.  An Elvis impersonator doubles as a hired killer.
All but two of the adapted stories ("Pilots" and "The Job") have appeared previously.  The first story ("The Grease Trap") appears to have been original to this book and had not appeared in prose form before.

All in all, this is strong meat and will not be to everyone's taste.  For Lansdale fans, though, this one is a treat.


  1. Joe Lansdale reminds me of Harlan Ellison. But writers have had their work turned into graphic novels.

  2. For me, Ellison's stories seem fueled by rage, a love for humanity, and talent while Lansdale's stories are fueled by a sense of outrageousness, a love for humanity, and talent.
    Both writers work well for me, George. I love them both.

  3. And Harlan Ellison resented being shoehorned into a New Wave, and Lansdale into a Splatterpunk movement...