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New comic book goes to Hell

Characters are fiction, but the town is real
/ Source: The Associated Press

A woman takes an ax to her husband in their new home, someone is boiled alive in a public pool and a father is swallowed by the earth.

Just another day in Hell.

The gruesome acts never actually happened in this rural hamlet with the diabolic name, but such macabre tales are brought to life — and death — in the new comic book, “Hell, Michigan.”

Two years ago, Tilman Goins Jr. heard about Hell while watching a news report on religious representations in state flags and names.

“I was, like, ‘Is there really a Hell, Michigan?’ And then, ‘Wow, that would be a great story,”’ said Goins, a 28-year-old resident of Morristown, Tenn.

The longtime comic book fan quit his job as an Army air traffic controller two years ago to form Funnel Cloud 9, a company he expects will produce comics, children’s books and movies.

Goins hopes “Hell, Michigan” leads to bigger things, including a film version of the horror comic.

The first issue, which debuted in late June, was written by DC Comics veteran Dan Jolley and illustrated by Clint Hilinski, who have collaborated on several “Voltron” comics.

Many of the violent scenes are set apart from the rest of the narrative by a bloody red background, a setting that lets readers and characters know there’s an atrocity to come.

The debut issue goes gruesome right away. A young couple moves into Hell, and a pregnant wife chops up her husband and then shoots herself. Later, a pack of wild-eyed thugs attacks a couple at their home.

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Husband and wife Dixon and Diana Cole are two of the few people in the fictional town that realize something horrible is going on. They’ve seen crime in their community grow increasingly more vicious. They sense a wickedness all about them. Then resolute newcomer Regina Lockridge shows up, claiming to have premonitions about the place. The Coles bring her into their circle of trusted friends, the few good people in town: the elderly mayor and his wife, a priest and a town eccentric.

The group of unlikely heroes bands together to find the source of evil.

Hell on EarthThe real Hell — located 60 miles west of Detroit — has a population of about 250 and no elected government. The origin of the name is unclear. One of the most popular theories holds that George Reeves, an early settler, was asked what he thought the town should be named. He reportedly replied, “I don’t care, you can name it Hell if you want to.” The name stuck.

** FILE ** The horror comic "Hell, Michigan" is shown in Detroit, in this June 29, 2005 file photo. The real Hell, Mich., has only about 250 people and no elected government. The comic book version has a mayor and a population of 19,199 in the first issue. Tilman Goins Jr., a longtime comic book fan, quit his job as an Army air traffic controller two years ago to form Funnel Cloud 9, a company he expects will produce comics, children's books and movies. Goins hopes "Hell, Michigan" leads to bigger things, including a film version of the horror comic. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)Paul Sancya / AP

The comic book version has a mayor and a population of 19,199. But after a number of freak deaths, that number begins to dwindle.

“In the comic book, the town is the main character. It’s trying to rid itself of good souls — the less good there is living in it, the more evil it gets,” Goins said.

Barbara Barden, executive director of the Livingston County Convention and Visitors Bureau, said she sees “no parallels between the evil theme in the comic and the actual Hell.

“Hell — well at least the Hell on Earth — has always been a family oriented place,” she said.

John Colone, who owns Screams Ice Cream and Hell Country Store and Spirits in the real Hell, plans to carry 200 copies of the monthly comic.

“My only concern is that people will think Hell is an evil place,” he said.

Goins said the first run is sold out to mom-and-pop comic book shops across the country. He also shipped some copies to Europe. A single copy sells for $2.95.

He’s never been to the real Hell but said he expects to make it there soon. “I figure I’d better go to Hell at least once,” he said.