Comic Shots #7 with Chris Neseman: Ragged Company and ‘House of Mystery’

August 21, 2008

Each week Chris Neseman drops by to pass along a tasty drink recipe and an even tastier comic book recommendation. The cocktail and the comic can both be enjoyed independently, but they have a common theme and when served together they can make for the perfect reading experience.



Welcome to week two of my month of bourbon drinks. Last week I kept it simple with a great sipping whiskey and how you can best enjoy a straight bourbon. This week we’re adding several ingredients and making a cocktail that’s sure to warm the bones and arouse the senses. This one comes courtesy of my wife who shares my love of bourbon, but not in the same obsessive, talk your ear off about it way that I do. She just enjoys a good drink, and was up to the task of helping me find a new one to pass along to you. This week’s drink is called Ragged Company, and it lives up to the moniker. It’s very similar to a Manhattan with it’s Sweet Vermouth and Bitters, but the addition of Benedictine makes this a warm earthy drink with herbal undertones.The Benedictine liqueur has a pretty fascinating story itself, and I encourage you to click the link and check it out. I’m usually not a big fan of the herbal liqueurs due to a bad jagermeister experience about 10 years ago, but the Benedictine adds a nice flavor to this cocktail. I would certainly call this a winter drink, but this is bourbon month, and it fits the theme of the comic I chose this week. More on that in a minute. So, if you want to warm yourself up, or are looking for a neat twist on a Manhattan, I present to you The Ragged Company.

Ragged Company

  • 2 oz Bourbon
  • 1/2 oz Sweet Vermouth
  • 1/2 oz Benedictine
  • 2 dashes Bitters
  • Garnish: Lemon Twist

This is made like just about every other martini. Chill your martini glass with ice water while you prepare your ingredients in the shaker. Add you ice, Bourbon, Sweet Vermouth, Benedictine and bitters to the shaker and then shake it like there’s no tomorrow. You’re wanting to get ice crystals to form in the concoction when you strain it into the glass. That is one of the marks of a well shaken martini that you should always look for. One quick note about our star ingredient, the bourbon. In a drink like this that has some pretty powerful side ingredients like Vermouth and Benedictine I like to use at least a 100 proof bourbon. Jim Beam is a great everyday bourbon and works well with colas and other mixers, but we need something that stands a little taller than Jim’s 80 proof. I suggest Knob Creek or Wild Turkey 101 for this and other drinks that will try to cover the bourbon. So when you’re arm is tired from shaking you can toss out the ice water from your glass and strain the drink. Drop in a lemon twist to make it fancy and your all done. Except for the drinking of course.

A Ragged Company makes a good Fall or Winter drink. I’m sure I’ll come back to it when the leaves start to fall from the trees and I’m looking for a good cocktail to have on the back deck Sunday afternoon before a football game, or while reading:

 

HOUSE OF MYSTERY
Publisher: Vertigo/DC Comics
Writers: Matthew Sturges & Bill Willingham
Artists: Luca Rossi & Various

Vertigo has been putting out some of the most inventive and exciting comics of the past couple of decades. When a new Vertigo title comes out, I always have the hope that I might be starting a long and epic comic book journey. Nobody does a better job of publishing smart, dense stories that can run for five or six years and leave an undeniable mark when they conclude. When I read the first issues of Fables, Y: The Last Man and 100 Bullets, that was the feeling I had, and now I’m getting that feeling again with House of Mystery. The new House of Mystery has all of the earmarks of a series destined to run for sixty to a hundred issues and tell an amazing and complex story along the way.

Now I say “new” title, but that’s a matter of opinion. The House of Mystery has been around for a long time. The first incarnation started back in 1951, and has gone through numerous changes over the years. The old House of Mystery stories are fantastic, and you can find a good portion of them in the two Showcase Presents volumes from DC. But the series I’m here to tell you about today is the new relaunch of the House of Mystery. You don’t have to know your HoM history to jump into this one, but there are some nice connections for those familiar with old series and some of the characters appearances in Sandman. The old series started as a horror anthology, and the the new HoM takes the best parts of an anthology and wraps it into nice scary package. The premise of the series is that people have been plucked out of reality and are now stuck in a sort of purgatory in The House. Our central character is a young woman named Fig who has just crossed from her reality into that of The House. Fig was an aspiring architect haunted by dreams of a house she described as “A big, sprawling, overworked Victorian, on a weed-filled lot abutting a graveyard. The stuff of B-movie nightmares. But frightening enough.” This of course is The House of Mystery where she now finds herself trapped. Fig is not only the central character, she is our unknowing guide in the series. The viewer rides right along with Fig as she encounters the other residents of The House, and tries to figure out her situation. Fig is not alone, as it appears that a wide cast of characters share residence in or around The House. The central meeting and gathering place of The House is the bar. I for one, love the idea of a house with a fully operating bar, and would never consider this any sort of purgatory, but that’s just me. The bar is for the most part where Fig meets her mostly reluctant companions, and they are the inspiration for this week’s cocktail. Fig finds herself in the Ragged Company indeed. Because there is no form of currency in The House, patrons of the bar must pay for their food and drink by telling stories. This is where the fantastic anthology aspect of the series comes into play. Each issue of the House of Mystery contains a bizarre and twisted tale of one of the bar’s customers. Each of the smaller stories has been written by either main series scribe, Matt Sturges or Fables creator Bill Willingham. The stories themselves are great, but it’s the variety of artists that make each issues bar tale a true pleasure. The first four issues featured Ross Campbell, Zachary Baldus, Jill Thompson and Steve Rolston. It’s the inclusion of these tales and the amazing variety of art that really sets House of Mystery apart from other books on the shelves.

 

The main story is fascinating and has all of the promise to be a slowing unwrapping and revealing epic. Writer Matthew Sturges has a big canvas to work with, and I get the feeling that he’s planning on using every corner of The House of Mystery to create one of those smart and dense books that Vertigo is so well known for. Regular series artist Luca Rossi has a beautiful, expressive style, and is a perfect fit. It’s not an easy task to switch from quiet bar scenes to ones with giant sea monsters and breathtaking vista, but Rossi makes every panel work.

House of Mystery is poised to be one of those series that people look back on in a few years and include it with the great Vertigo titles that have helped shape modern comics. Only time will tell if that promise is fulfilled, but the first four issues couldn’t have started off much better. So go mix up a Ragged Company and spend some time in the House of Mystery. I think you’ll enjoy both.  See everyone back next week for another round of Comic Shots!

 


Chris Neseman is the host of The Around Comics Podcast and a co-host of the 11 O’Clock Comics podcast. You can contact him at chris@aroundcomics.com and suggest a cocktail or comic of your own, because good drinks and good comics should be shared.

Please obey the law and only drink if you are of age. Drink responsibly and never drink and drive. Buy the comics that make you happy, and when they do, pass them on!

Comments

  1. I looooooove House of Mystery

  2. I love House of mystery tooooooo. Can’t say enough about the first four issues of this title. 

     

  3. I have not ready ANY House of Mystery new or old.  I’m definitely going to check it out.

  4. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    Every time Chris posts, he costs me money.  Stop recommending stuff I want to read, Neseman!

  5. @Paul: I always end up spending money on the drinks hahaha

  6. Making people spend money and get drunk is what I’m here for.

     

    🙂

  7. I truly believe that HoM should be on EVERYONE’S pull list.  Kudos to the Neseman!

     

    the Tiki 

  8. Neseman is batting a thousand so-far! He even got me reading Thor.

    He is the purveyor of fine comic book reading and sloppy drunken nights spent crying alone in underpants.

     

    I think I just projected my experiences onto him. Ignore that last underpants part.

  9. God, I want to jump to trades on House of Mystery but I can’t peel myself away. Its one of those books that’s a major treat to find on the new release shelf. I’ll probably donate the single issues to a new reader when its time to get that first shiny trade.

  10. Good idea! 

    I’ll do the same thing. I get a kick out of giving away enjoyable trades as well. It’s all about getting more people to read.