Tis the season we celebrate good old H-A-double-L-O—yeah, you know the rest—across the eerie, pumpkin-strewn landscape of America in late October. It’s also the best time of year to immerse yourself in ghouls, goblins, and Great Old Ones, whether on film or leaping out at you from the pages of a comic book. Here are a few scary-fun sequential reads you may not have stumbled across at the comic book shop (best store ever).
Wormwood: Gentleman Corpse
Aussie Ben Templesmith’s hands have been in a lot of pies. A writer, animator, graphic artist, and comic book artist, his unique style echoes the manic madness of Dave McKeon but exudes a flavor all his own. Best known for his work on Fell and 30 Days of Night, Wormwood: Gentleman Corpse is his own baby. The story shadows time and space-rending uber-worm-god Wormwood and his a ragtag batch of snide rockers, minor deities, and mechanical mercs as they wage war against a whole host of Cthulhoid baddies seeking domination, devastation, or a light snack. And Wormwood, reluctantly bound to be a world-saver status, hops into a suitably debonair corpse and uses his brain rather than his brawn to hold back the tides of evil or at least maintain a modicum of balance.
Who in their right mind would devote a comic book series to a pest control service? Vertigo, that’s who. So you know it has a good chance of being a great read. And it is. The short-lived Simon Oliver written (Gen13), Tony Moore drawn (The Walking Dead) horror comic series features freshly paroled Henry Jones as he begins work for his stepfather’s company BugBeeGone. A new bug-busting gel, Draxx, rather than killing vermin, causes them to evolve rapidly, creating a race of overblown, intelligent insectoids hell-bent on relegating humanity to fodder. Henry and his comrades aren’t just fighting bugs in The Exterminators; they’re keeping our species’ extermination at bay.
Trailer Park of Terror
TPOT might be the most familiar to comic-lite audiences due to the low budget slasher film adaption of the same name. The four-color party is hosted by ghoulish debutante Norma. Each segment delves into a short tale of morbidly funny horror blurbs, including perennial favorites like the traumas of werewolf life and a man hunting for his brother in zombie-infested Haiti. The stories are always fun and grotesque, and the host segments center on the messed up antics of Norma, her Halloween Special stalker, and her undead coterie of hillbilly zombies—including paramour Billy Ray. Forged from a clear love of classic EC horror like Tales from the Crypt, each installment always raises a smirk and/or a groan.
Locke & Key
With a literary pedigree unsung by his pseudonymous name, Joe Hill (a.k.a. Joseph Hillstrom King, son of author Stephen King), proves that yes, Margaret, there is a writer’s gene. But don’t judge him on the works of his father. Hill’s style is his own and very engrossing in its own right. Here, along with the beautiful artwork of Gabriel Rodriguez, he lays down a sweeping epic involving a New England family, the Lockes, their mysterious link to a series of elaborate, universe-altering keys (such as a one that removes fear and another that allows teleportation through physical doorways), as well as a gender-bending Lovecraftian creep who lives in a deep dark well on the property. This series is anything but entertainment for the faint of heart, exploring the horrors that dwell within and beyond the human psyche.
The inimitable Joe R. Lansdale, a Texas- and world-renowned master of horror, crime, and colloquialisms, isn’t always the easiest to translate into visual form. But his darkly funny Drive-In, a story about a cluster of humans trapped at a drive-in mega-horror movie fest after a mysterious world-altering event, lends itself well to the sequential medium—especially with Andres Guinaldo’s sparse, black and white artwork. The story, following a cluster of compadres, spins a disturbing tale about human frailty and the ways we deal with the collapse of civilization in a microcosm. And, naturally, it includes Mr. Lansdale’s prodigious talent for voice and character.
Gaming models are created by Auctoria using generative AI
Aleksander Caban, co-founder of Polish VR game developer Carbon Studio, noticed a major problem in modern game design several years ago. He manually created rocks, hills, paths, and other video game environment elements, which was time-consuming and laborious.
Caban created tech to automate the process.
In collaboration with Michal Bugała, Joanna Zając, Karolina Koszuta, and Błażej Szaflik, he founded Auctoria, an AI-powered platform for creating 3D game assets. Auctoria, from Gliwice, Poland, is in Startup Battlefield 200 at Disrupt 2023.
Auctoria was founded on a passion for limitless creativity, according to Zając in an email interview. It was designed to help game developers, but anyone can use it. Few advanced tools exist for professionals; most are for hobbyists and amateurs. We want to change that.”
Using generative AI, Auctoria creates various video game models. One feature generates basic 3D game levels with pathways, while another converts uploaded images and textures of walls, floors, and columns into 3D versions.
Like DALL-E 2 and Midjourney, Auctoria can generate assets from text prompts. Or they can submit a sketch, which the platform will try to turn into a digital model.
All AI algorithms and training data for Auctoria were developed in-house, according to Zając.
She said “Auctoria is based 100% on our content, so we’re not dependent on any other provider.” It’s independent—Auctoria doesn’t use open source or external engines.
In the emerging market for AI game asset generation tools, Auctoria isn’t alone. The 3DFY, Scenario, Kaedim, Mirage, and Hypothetic startups create 3D models. Even Nvidia and Autodesk are entering the space with apps like Get3D, which converts images to 3D models, and ClipForge, which generates models from text descriptions.
Meta also tried tech to create 3D assets from prompts. In December, OpenAI released Point-E, an AI that synthesizes 3D models for 3D printing, game design, and animation.
Given the size of the opportunity, the race to market new solutions isn’t surprising. According to Proficient Market Insights, 3D models could be worth $3.57 billion by 2028.
According to Zając, Auctoria’s two-year R&D cycle has led to a more robust and comprehensive toolset than rivals.
“Currently, AI-based software is lacking for creating complete 3D world models,” Zając stated. “3D editors and plugins offer only a fraction of Auctoria’s capabilities. Our team started developing the tool two years ago, giving us a ready-to-use product.”
Auctoria, like all generative AI startups, must deal with AI-generated media legal issues. Not yet clear how AI-generated works can be copyrighted in the U.S.
However, the Auctoria team of seven employees and five co-founders is delaying answering those questions. Instead, they’re piloting the tooling with game development studios like Caban’s Carbon Studio.
Before releasing Auctoria in the coming months, the company hopes to raise $5 million to “speed up the process” of creating back-end cloud services to scale the platform.
Zając stated that the funding would reduce the computing time required for creating worlds or 3D models with Auctoria. Achieving a software-as-a-service model requires both infrastructure and user experience enhancements, such as a simple UI, excellent customer service, and effective marketing. We’ll keep our core team small, but we’ll hire more by year’s end.”
Syphon Filter on PlayStation Plus Premium: Dark Mirror and Ape Academy 2 Have Awards
Even though trophy support for older games on PS Plus Premium isn’t always great, you can always count on Sony’s first-party games to have it.If you like collecting these digital trinkets, you’re in luck, because today’s big PlayStation Plus update includes two classic games that can now be used to earn Trophies.
Each trophy list for Ape Academy 2 and Syphon Filter: Dark Mirror includes the platinum cherry on top. You can look at their respective listings here and here if you’re interested.
The list for Dark Mirror appears to be quite simple—you can basically earn them all by finishing the game. The trophies in Ape Academy 2 appear to be a little more complicated, requiring you to complete particular objectives in card battles and advance to specified rankings. Nonetheless, it doesn’t seem too difficult, so we’re looking at a couple of quite simple platinums.
Ridge Racer: Type 4 is this month’s other premium classic game; sadly, it does not offer trophies. But it makes up for it by being a complete banger.
However, will you be obtaining some of these trophies with a nostalgic flavor?
Beautiful New Book Teaches About the Art of Horizon Forbidden West
This year, Sony produced some truly outstanding work, releasing four high-profile games on the PS5 and PS4 (not to mention the numerous PC ports). The earliest of these, Horizon Forbidden West, arrived in February of 2022 and got the year off to a strong start. One of Aloy’s sophomore journey’s greatest strengths, among the many other things we like about it, is its excellent art direction. The Art of Horizon Forbidden West allows you to now delve deeply into the game’s visuals.
This coffee table book, which was published by Dark Horse Books, contains 200 pages of concept art and developer commentary. It provides an inside look at the process used to develop engaging characters and settings, and Forbidden West is certainly not lacking in either.
There will be two editions of the book: standard and deluxe. Both are hardback books, with the deluxe edition having pages with metallic edges and a unique slipcase. These are now up for pre-order and will go on sale on April 25, 2023.
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