The issue in your hands and those to come will bring you glimpses of the primordial, the penultimate and dreams outside time from the visionary mind of Mike Dubisch and many of the finest fantasists working today. Forthcoming issues will explore discrete themes and genres but whether it’s cosmic horror, retro-pulp futurism or comics, always the unspoken drive drawing it all together, is Mike’s passion for the otherworldly, his uncanny ability to tap into some ineffable quality that feels like he’s been spying on your dreams.
In a word, by love.

Love takes you to strange places, makes you do unthinkable things. It brought us together to bring you this thing you’re reading, and we suspect you’ve come to us because you share this passion for the otherworldly and half-remembered fantasies in cold hard print.

When I first came across the art of Mike Dubisch in his MORBID CURIOSITY collection, it was hidden among a shambles of indie and underground commix and graphic novels in a dusty corner of a Santa Monica comic shop. With that one book, Mike resoundingly introduced himself and reminded me why I love monsters, and why I haunt these bins and long-boxes.

Every horror comic fan knows that to the suspension of disbelief must be added the suspension of disappointment, the burden of keeping the guttering love and anticipation alive through an ever-deepening blizzard of crap neutered by comics codes, derivative storytelling or just lousy technique but buried among mountains of flaky disappointment, here was the real gold. The arc of his fusion of so many beloved influences into a coherent and uniquely mutated style compelled me keep it close by my desk as the kind of brain-fuel I thrive on when writing.

Later that year, when cruising the labyrinthine dealer’s floor of San Diego Comic-Con, by happy accident, I encountered Mike in the flesh, doing sketches at a booth. I found him to be not only humble and lovable, but driven by the same obsessions with monsters and horror comics as I, and hungry to create stuff that would not only repay those hallowed childhood influences, but push them forward.

Strange places.

Unthinkable things.

Sure, this chain of circumstance might still have gone down similarly in a purely digital world, but the purity of print and its inimitable tendency to find its way into your life when it’s needed most, is a gift to which we all feel profoundly indebted. All the accidental encounters with a friend or stranger’s comic collection, all the forgotten gems among the jetsam in used bookshops and thrift store and library sale bins, came to seem like destiny, like the patient, serendipitous seduction by wizards from a weird realm just behind batwing doors in the back of every comic shop.

If this is a generational condition, then it will die with us, or mutate into something else. Happy digital accidents persist, and a vast sampling of fantastic sequential and genre art can still be discovered, but the Internet cannot tell you what it has forgotten, doesn’t care much for anything not currently for sale.

Love of print is hardly a generational thing, but the end of it will be. Print sales of books and single-issue comics continue to outpace digital, despite price hikes and other market-shrinking factors, but mainstream publishers have a stake in killing print exclusive of economic concerns as part of the corporate move to deny you ownership of the media you buy and even solid consumer products, replacing it with a license like the software terms agreements we never read. Print belongs to you in a way digital simply can’t, and that intimacy only deepens, becomes an intimate collaboration between artist, author and reader.

Comics as a medium might well have slid into the arcane hobbyists’ netherworld of numismatists and philatelists, if superhero comics hadn’t spawned the most valuable intellectual property in our culture and become wholly synonymous with the medium itself. A weird paradox for readers like myself, who only came to superhero comics for the monsters, and those monsters who sometimes fight crime with their underwear outside their pants.

Always a beloved but marginal presence, horror comics as a genre has been as much a victim of its success as their failures. Ankled by the comics code from depicting anything remotely horrific, mainstream horror comics cleaved to a watered-down version of the morality-play anthology formula of the EC comics, with one foot firmly planted in a real world better portrayed in cinema, long after the code became irrelevant. Warren’s Creepy and Eerie kept horror for the love of horror alive with far-out art bolstering often hackneyed or half-baked scripts, but still observed stern decency standards to stay on newsstands.

Eerie, more importantly, broke out of the anthology format with a stable of recurring characters in serialized stories, demonstrating the kind of deeper, weirder stories you could only get at with a monster as your hero. Only through sporadic and uneven underground work like Last Gasp, Pacific and other indies, and Heavy Metal and hard-to-find European imports, could one find genre art with the curb-feelers and training wheels cut off.

But even with the horror boom following the monster-positive success of Hellboy, too many modern horror comics feel like storyboards for high concept movies. Even Hellboy only went to Hell after his many Gothic pulp adventures ran together into a homogeneous mush, and a long, introspective hiatus.

Granted, no comics project reaches fruition without someone sweating blood for it, but all too often, the element of the impossible enters into a world too much like our own, or grafted onto another genre. Cowboy… zombies… pirate… vampires… Devil… gangsters… reshuffle until optioned. Far too few fantasy and horror comics start in the weird place, and then go digging into what’s under it, and nobody goes in there with more tangible zeal than Dubisch.

Alongside his many other virtues, Mike is a fearless creator. With Weirdling, he confidently hatched a deeply bizarre reality that was only the outer layer of a Dante’s Inferno of cosmic surrealism. With Crypt Kid, he conjures a family-friendly (for older, weirder kids, anyway) young ghoul as our reliable guide to an underworld uniquely his own.

Naturally, we hope this issue of Forbidden Futures will be the first of many. But even if this is also the last one, we hope to share with you the love of holding the unimaginable in your hands, and that by setting it adrift in print, Crypt Kid and countless other creations will continue to spread the love of strange places and unthinkable things long after the lights have gone out and the Internet is just another story the tribal shaman tells.