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Chains of Blood

Horror fans have remained ever vigilant holding the torch for cinematic monsters like Freddy Kruger, Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees and good ‘ole Leatherface. In fact these screen heavies dominated the movie theatres for close to three decades now and there seems to be no end in sight.


I ‘sigh’ here for a few reasons. Now don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed all these terrific slasher characters over the due course of time, but I feel like we missed one along the way. I even fear that most people won’t even remember who Daniel Edward Flowers Bunkowski is, let alone realize how enormous his appetite for murder and mayhem was.

If you still haven’t clued in yet, then let me spit out another name that he goes by: Chaingang. Does that ring a bell? Not yet? Well then let me mention another name…Rex Miller and perhaps this may further illuminate you. When you put these two names together you get a terrifying literary monster that probably should have had a movie version made of his unspeakable exploits.

But alas, it never came to pass. Instead, we got a comic book adaptation released way back in 1990 from Northstar Publications; spawning two issues and assembling a fine cast of creators. On the cover of the first issue there was Peter Gross, Mark Nelson and Mort Castle - all excellent creators in their own right and ripe for the picking in order to bring Chaingang to life in sequential form. Surely this wasn’t a big screen adaptation, but sufficient enough for those who enjoy stark, gritty B/W tones.

Writer/artist Peter Gross does a great job setting up the atmosphere surrounding the city of Chicago, especially when you get down to the sub levels existing underneath the vast expansive network of subway tunnels. The city is also dealing with a troublesome bout of panhandlers and the homeless infiltrating the streets, but that is the least of their worries. There’s another more pressing matter for the police to contend with and he comes in the form of 500 plus lbs of pure brutalism.

He’s known as Chaingang; a relentless killing machine wielding a rustic, blood stained chain and harboring an unending appetite for death. For a man of his size, he’s able to rely on stealth, ascending quickly from the cavernous regions of the city’s underground and snatching up Chief Inspector Flynn – whisking him away within the blink of an eye. At this point we know full well what Chaingang has in mind – dispatching his prey as justification for the Chief’s war on the homeless.

The first issue comes to an end as a close-up panel reveals the predatory lust in the eyes of Chaingang, raising his blood-stained chain above his head. We don’t actually witness what comes next, but the last few panels cut out to a series of rusty pipes spiralling along the cavern walls of the underground. You can hear the shrieks of Chief Inspector Flynn in the process, so it is safe for the reader to assume that this man has met his untimely end at the hands of this homicidal beast.

What is also great about this first issue is the descriptive analogies utilized in Peter Gross’s script to describe the sub levels of Chicago’s underground as a hellish maze. The words and pictures expertly work in tandem and the interplay between the two keeps the pace and tone fueled to the max. It’s definitely a great read for a first issue and it had me wanting more.

The second issue takes a completely different approach all-together though with a new art team of Joe and Tim Vigil (of Faust fame) taking over. The story is credited to Rex Miller and it begins with a post mortem being done on a crime wrought out by Chaingang in a bloody orgy of violence. There’s only 8 pages of exposition accounting for Chaingang’s relentless quest of dispatching a group of nefarious research centre workers conducting unlawful animal experiments.


Then the carnage is illustrated in the following 14 pages with no dialogue attached. The pictures are rendered beautifully in the gut wrenching style that the Virgil brothers are known for. At first I wasn’t just sure why the change of artists was needed for this issue, but once flipping through the whole book you quickly understand why. Joe and Tim have always had a penchant for violent imagery in their comic book work and they do an incredible job of actually showing you Chaingang at work.


What I also liked about the issue is how a little more information is given about Chaingang. We learn that Daniel Edward Flowers Bunkowski was once a part of the Viet Nam war and was said to be an expert at weaponry and demolition. His use of the British Sten 9MM Mark 1 during the assault on the research centre gives you another angle on what drives this 500 lbs behemoth.

Again we’re left off with another story told about Chaingang that leaves you wondering what will happen next, but sadly that never happened. For whatever reasons the series was cancelled after the second issue and no more comics were produced on the character. It’s a real shame though, since Chaingang is a fascinating horror character and could easily compete with the likes of other slasher characters in the genre.

I’ve always had a fondness for Chaingang and I am still holding out for a film based on his murderous exploits. Author Rex Miller created the character to appear in his first novel called Slob (written in 1987) featuring Chicago Detective Jack Eichord, but perhaps it was just too close to another famous literary monster – the one known as Hannibal the Cannibal made famous in Silence of the Lambs. Although oddly enough, the book written by Thomas Harris came out a year after the release of Slob in 1988, but for whatever reasons caught on quicker with the public than Slob did.

Personally, I prefer Chaingang over Hannibal Lector probably because he’s far more exaggerated as a serial killer and perhaps people can’t buy a 500 plus pound man running around dispatching victims with such ease. It’s really hard to say what the reason is, but I suggest you go out and search for the books that Miller continued to write about Daniel Edward Flowers Bunkowski. We may never get a film series to watch, but at least you have two comic books to peruse through and I guess we have Northstar Publications to thank for that.

Kenneth Gallant, HMS

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