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Artists John G and Jake Kelly have created a monster

The Lake Erie Monster could be the best thing to happen to Cleveland comic books since Harvey Pekar or Howard the Duck, depending on your particular tastes. The first issue of the quarterly comic, freshly released in stores, combines the influential style of popular horror comics from the '50s with local history and playful nods to a time when comics didn't take themselves so damned seriously.

The idea sprang from the 10 Imaginary Movies series of posters co-creators Jake Kelly and John G exhibited at the B-Side in Cleveland Heights last year.

"I devised pretty fleshed-out plot synopses," says Kelly, best known for his concert posters and the Cleveland-centric murals found at Melt Bar & Grilled. "We decided to go all the way and adapt the fake movie into a real comic. It's only natural that we'd make it into a comic as opposed to writing a book or, God forbid, trying to corral actors and a film crew to make a movie."

The full-color comic includes two stories and a one-page piece devoted to local folklore called "Commodore's Cleveland." (This month's installment is about a hobo-slaying tree monster that terrorized railways back in the day. Good times!) The lifelong comic fans, writers, artists, and pals are also responsible for the old-school comic book ads, featuring places like Big Fun and Melt.

"Those things are an integral element to the comic-book-reading experience," says John, who like Kelly is responsible for many great posters seen around town, in addition to Melt's iconic monthly promotional materials. "We wanted to give our readers that experience we used to love."

The premiere issue's centerpiece is the first part of the "Monster" tale, which is loaded with '70s-era Cleveland landmarks like Record Revolution and the Sportsman. It also includes girls in bikinis, stoned hippies, and a head violently separated from its body by a menacing claw emerging from Lake Erie.

"There's something particularly magical about the language of comics that allows the creators to do things that just aren't possible in any other medium," says John. "I think we're tapping into that, especially as the series progresses." Head to thelakeeriemonster.com to see what it's all about.

Adam West won't be visiting the Horror Hotel in Hudson on May 19. Neither will anyone who was in Night of the Living Dead. In fact, there's a good chance you've probably never heard of any of the movies screening at this daylong convention at the Clarion Inn. But it sounds cool for fans of DIY horror and those hoping to learn about breaking into the business; among the day's activities are talks on everything from stunts to how to be a horror star.

In addition to Scream Queen and other contests, Horror Hotel has a full schedule of movies, including Hampshire: A Ghost Story and Ninja Zombies. Plus, there are haunted rooms put together by set designers, makeup artists, and effects gurus. It starts at 11 a.m., and tickets are $20. Learn more at horrorhotel.net.

For Your Shelf

Baby's in Black: The story of Stuart Sutcliffe, the fifth Beatle, is recounted in this wonderfully detailed black-and-white graphic novel by Arne Bellstorf. Yeah, yeah, yeah!

Chicks Dig Comics: A Celebration of Comic Books by the Women Who Love Them: The coolest girls in the world talk about comic books. Why can't they all be like this?

Monster Movie Pack — 12 Creature Features: DVD set collects a dozen movies, including The Creeping Terror and Horrors of Spider Island. We didn't say they were good movies.

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