Ice Cream Man – a horrifying anthology series that plays with the comics medium

With Ice Cream Man, writer W. Maxwell Prince and artist Martín Morazzo have crafted a psychologically and aesthetically terrifying horror comic. Prince draws inspiration from his personal life rather than the horror genre. 

“I think Ice Cream Man is a way for me to talk about things that… as a husband, as a son, as a friend and just as a citizen of the world… make me worry and afraid,” Prince said. “Where the horror genre is concerned… I don’t know anything about it. I don’t read horror. I don’t watch horror movies. I’ve never read Junji Ito or any of that stuff.” 

Ice Cream Man is one of my all-time favorite comic books, a currently ongoing series from Image Comics that takes the form of single-issue, self-contained horror stories that constantly play with the comics medium.

Prince and Morazzo previously collaborated on The Electric Sublime, an eclectic comic published by IDW. Ice Cream Man debuted in January of 2018 and currently has 20 issues. Every issue in some way involves the Ice Cream Man, a horror villain that can take on just about any form, sort of like Pennywise from It

Throughout the series, Prince and Morazzo have stretched the comics medium in truly fascinating and impressive ways. One issue is split into three stories that run parallel to each other on each page, one third of the page dedicated to each story. Perhaps most notable is #13, an issue that functions as a palindrome, meaning it tells the same story read both forward and backward. It’s hard to imagine such a thing even being possible, but it works. 

Prince said coming up with a big storytelling challenge helps him find motivation to come up with ideas and finish scripts. 

“Every time we have one of these ideas, I enjoy it, because it’s nice to solve it and to get it done right,” Morazzo said. “Particularly, with the palindrome issue, it was really tough because, as a comic book artist, you always try to generate movement with still images. This time, every movement has to be ambivalent. It’s going in one direction, but it could go in another.” 

My favorite issue out of the bunch is rather conventional in terms of format but one that tells a story that really stuck with me. Issue #8, “Emergencies,” (inspired by the short story “Emergency” by Denis Johnson, Prince said) follows paramedics on a night of horrific ambulance calls. It’s a thematically haunting story, equal parts dreadful and beautiful. 

“Suffering, pain, is something that, at the individual level, can make you feel very separate from the people around you,” Prince said, “but the truth of it is it’s one of the few things we all experience and that we all relate to.” 

Prince has a knack for getting into the reader’s head and spiking anxieties about very real, human concerns, and Morazzo has a knack for creating really scary imagery. He also draws facial expressions in a really unique style. 

“I like drawing people in extreme situations,” Morazzo said. “What I do most for the expressions is take a picture of myself and move it more over the age, emphasizing the eyebrows and the mouths. Again, my phone is full of pictures of myself doing some scary stuff. If somebody found my phone somewhere, they wouldn’t understand what the fuck I was doing there.” 

He also loves drawing the titular villain of the series, a character that constantly morphs to fit a given story and a character that has changed over the course of the series. 

“Drawing the character is great,” Morazzo said. “He’s so sinister. The smile and the eyes and all that. It’s really fun. It took me some issues to get it done right. When I see issue one now, I don’t recognize him much.” 

***

images courtesy of image comics. you can buy ice cream man by clicking here

the patreon page for this blog is currently suspended, but these are the fine folks who supported the blog in october: 

Vali Chandrasekaran

Josh Farkas

Eddie Trizzino 

here’s a doodle owed to vali – some fan art of a small character in his comic genius animals? that i figured would be fun to draw – and she was!

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