Kool Kat of the Week: Rule-Bending and Award-Winning Author, Nancy A. Collins, Joins the Mayhem and Monster Madness at MONSTERAMA 2019

Posted on: Sep 23rd, 2019 By:

by Melanie Crew
Managing Editor

Nancy A. Collins, award-winning multi-genre author, will be joining a sinister line-up of horrorific guests during Monsterama Convention’s sixth frightening rotation around the sun! Monsterama, co-chaired by our classic monster-lovin’ fiend, friend and Kool Kat Anthony Taylor, creeps into the Atlanta Marriott Alpharetta this weekend, Friday – Sunday (Sept. 27-29)!

Prepare for a ghastly weekend of ghoulish proportions including a guest list filled to the blood-curdling brim with chillers like actor Ian Ogilvy [RETURN OF THE SAINT (78-79); DEATH BECOMES HER (1992); THE SORCERERS (1967)]; actress Jane Merrow [THE SAINT (1965); THE PRISONER (1967); THE AVENGERS (1967)]; actress Pauline Peart [THE SATANIC RITES OF DRACULA (1973); CUBA (1979)]; comic artist Craig Hamilton; author Jeff Strand [EVERYTHING HAS TEETH; FEROCIOUS; BLISTER]; creaturific artist Kool Kat Mark Maddox; Victorian chamber metal musicians Valentine Wolfe; Kool Kat Shane Morton, ghost host with the most, a.k.a. Professor Morte; glamour ghoul Kool Kat Madeline Brumby and so many more! Get wicked with our Kool Kat Nancy A. Collins and haunt on down to MONSTERAMA for a weekend of monster madness!

Collins’s writing career spans 30+ years as a spinner of wild monstrous tales in novels, comic books and short stories. She brought her infamous character Sonja Blue to life in her first novel SUNGLASSES AFTER DARK in 1989, which went on to win the Bram Stoker Award for best first novel. Collins expanded the Sonja Blue universe with several sequels and is currently working on new dark adventures for her infamous goth-punk vampire/vampire hunter character. Collins is the only woman to pen DC/Vertigo’s SWAMP THING, bringing much-needed controversy to Swamp Thing’s predominantly male perspective, from 1991 to 1993. In 2014, Collins was the first woman to be asked to write VAMPIRELLA, again giving the well-known character a new outlook with untapped new monstrous story lines and more.

ATLRetro caught up with Nancy A. Collins for a quick interview to talk comics; being drawn to monsters; killing it in a generally male-driven industries; and the monster mayhem of being a guest at MONSTERAMA!


ATLRetro
: Your debut horror novel Sunglasses After Dark [goth-punk vampire goodness featuring kick-ass vampire/vampire hunter Sonja Blue] was released in 1989 and won the Bram Stoker Award. Can you tell us what inspired you to go against the grain and create your own style of vampire?

Nancy A. Collins: SUNGLASSES AFTER DARK was, in many ways, a middle finger to the then-current best-selling VAMPIRE CHRONICLES series by Anne Rice. It was my revolt against the “pussification” of the vampire. Little did I know that it would get even worse, decades later, with the TWILIGHT series.

Following your debut, you released several others in the series [IN THE BLOOD (1991); PAINT IT BLACK (1995); A DOZEN BLACK ROSES (1996); THE DARKEST HEART (2002); and a collection titled DEAD ROSES FOR A BLUE LADY in 2002], all followed by vignettes and novellas and comics. Basically, you’ve kept Sonja Blue “alive” and kicking for a hellacious thirty years! Any exciting new horrors coming our way in the land of Sonja Blue?

Sonja Blue – Art by Mel Odom

Well, I’ve been working on a new Sonja Blue novel called Kill City for the last five years. It’s a reaction to the most recent “de-fanging” of the vampire genre. Unfortunately, it’s been slow going due to my need to work paying gigs to keep body and soul together. But I would describe it as a cross between THE BIG SLEEP, HARDCORE, and THE SEARCHERS, but with vampires. And it’s the first novel to be told from Sonja Blue’s POV.

On to your monsterific comic book endeavors! From SWAMP THING, to JASON VS. LEATHERFACE, to VAMPIRELLA and beyond, you’ve delved deep into the land of what once was a male-dominated field. Can you tell our readers how you broke the barrier and what obstacles you had to face that your male counterparts avoided?

I landed the gig writing SWAMP THING largely for three reasons: DC was looking for a horror writer to take the character back to his “roots” (pun intended); I’d worked with the then-new editor on the book, Stuart Moore, on a Freddy Krueger prose anthology, and he put me on his short list because he’d had the fewest edits on my story; and, I was living in New Orleans at the time, and was able to provide local flavor. I was the first woman to write for SWAMP THING, and to date the only one, as well. For the most part, I did not run into any real obstacles regarding my gender among the editors and staff at DC. Most of the push-back I got was from the fans, many of whom did not appreciate or understand my focus on Swamp Thing as a “family man” and the emphasis on his family. I also received some blowback for depicting LGBTQ characters and depicting ecologically-driven protestors as something besides terrorists. I remember a particularly virulent letter from a fan who resented my depiction of abortion as a fact-of-life for many women. I also got a lot of hate for ending Swamp Thing and Abby’s marriage (an editorial edict, btw), for which some fans have still not forgiven me, decades later. However, DC/Vertigo is releasing my entire run on Swamp Thing in early 2020 in a hardcover omnibus format—nearly 1,000 pages—called the SWAMP THING BY NANCY COLLINS OMNIBUS. It’s currently available for pre-order through Diamond Distribution and Amazon, among other outlets.

Art by Scott Eaton and Kim DeMulder

What was it like to be the first woman writing Vampirella, a character created by the one and only Forrest J. Ackerman? There’s got to be an interesting story about how you landed that gig. Care to share?

I ended up writing VAMPIRELLA largely due to Gail Simone, who asked me to write a story for her RED SONJA miniseries “Legends of Red Sonja” for Dynamite. It was my first comic story in fifteen years. I then pitched Nick Barrucci a Red Sonja one-shot called “Berserker,” which sold extremely well. Then Nick offered me VAMPIRELLA and allowed me free reign. As one of my mentors at DC Comics had been the late Archie Goodwin, one of the first real writers on VAMPIRELLA, I always felt he was looking over my shoulder the whole time I was working on the book. I’d like to think Archie would have approved.

Can you tell us one thing you did with the character, stepping away from the usual male-created female characters, to bring her into the twenty-first century, a character both men and women would be drawn to and proud of?

I often joke that I was probably the first writer on the series to never pleasure themselves to the character, which might have something to do with how I approached my run. I chose to reach back to characters from the original Warren run and incorporate them via modern storytelling into the series’ continuity. I also made the decision to make Vampirella a more integral part of the supernatural world by bringing in classic “monsters” from myth, legend, and the public domain, and expanded on her family and backstory. I also gave her a werewolf boyfriend and depicted their relationship as that of equal partners. Vampirella in my series is a no-nonsense monster-hunter with a well-defined sense of right and wrong but is also capable of recognizing her own prejudices and misconceptions regarding her fellow “monsters”.

What can you share about your current collaboration with comic artist Craig Hamilton? Anything monstrous and exciting being brought to life?

Art by Patrick Berke

Craig Hamilton and I, along with inker Larry Welch and colorist Gerhard, are working on BECOMING FRANKENSTEIN, a six-issue graphic series from Mel Smith’s Wild Card Ink. It is a prequel, of sorts, to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. I’m not allowed to say much more than that, for the time being. But I will say that Craig’s art on it is absolutely gorgeous and we’re intensely proud and excited of what we’re creating. Becoming Frankenstein is shaping up to be best work of both our careers.

Before you became “Author Nancy A. Collins,” what inspired you to write? Did you begin writing as a child?

I’ve always been a storyteller. Even before I could read and write, I would draw stories and stand next to my parents and explain what was going on. It was a given from the age of three that I would eventually become a writer. Marked from birth, I guess you could say.

Have you always been drawn to monsters? Care to share your favorite monster or horror story? What makes that story special to you?

Like I said, I was marked from birth. My maternal grandfather was a huge Boris Karloff fan, and introduced me to the genre very early. It also helped that I grew up in the 1960s, when monster mania was percolating in the kid subculture with stuff like THE ADAMS FAMILY, THE MUNSTERS, Hammer Films, late night horror movie hosts, and GODZILLA flicks. It is hard for me to pick a favorite monster or horror story, but the first one that I can remember was a Dr. Seuss story about a pair of green pants with nobody in them that walked around on their own, which scared the bejesus out of me as a 3-year-old, for some reason.

Which writer from the past and which writer from the present have influenced and continue to influence you the most, and what is it about them that draws them to you?

There have been so many. But of the past, I would have t0 say Robert Bloch, who I would later meet as a young writer. Bob befriended me and was like a second grandfather. I devoured his short story collections, which are routinely excellent and the yardstick I use for what I consider makes a great short story, especially when it comes to weird/dark fiction.

Not only are you a killer storyteller, but you’re also a spooky horror film junkie and fanatic like us! Can you tell us your favorite horror movie and why it ranks at the top of your list?

I would have to say my favorite remains the original THE HAUNTING from 1963. It is a textbook example of how the viewer’s own mind can create far more intense scares than a room full of CGI technicians. Even after all this time, I still get goosebumps watching it.

As a writer working in the science-fiction, urban fantasy and horror genres, what challenges have you personally faced that seem to be a common theme amongst women in the industry?

Mostly being pigeonholed. I’ve written westerns, Southern Gothics, erotica, crime noir, urban fantasy, as well as horror—but I largely get described as a “vampire writer”, and that has become a largely female-centric field, in a lot of people’s minds. I also find myself labeled a “Strong Woman”, which is the nice way of saying I’ve had to put up with a lot of bullshit that male writers rarely are subjected to.

Can you give us five things you’re into at the moment that we should be watching, reading or listening to right now— past or present, well-known or obscure?

I’m currently enjoying the final season of PREACHER on FX, as well as the third and final season of LEGION, also on FX. I’ve also been binging THE BOYS on Prime. I also recommend GENTLEMAN JACK; a historical romance/drama on HBO about Anne Lister, an actual Regency-era noblewoman who lived openly as a lesbian, and even went so far as to marry another woman.  And I always recommend watching THE VENTURE BROTHERS, regardless of the situation.

Any advice for women writers out there trying to get their foot in the door?

I have the same advice I give everyone, regardless. Keep submitting your stuff. Learn to tell the difference between legitimate criticism and bullshit. Nothing you write is carved in stone. Never fight with an editor. Never respond to the reviews on Amazon.

Getting back to what brought us here, MONSTERAMA 2019! Do you have anything exciting planned for our readers this year?

I’m hoping we’ll have the full-color promo posters for BECOMING FRANKENSTEIN ready in time for MONSTERAMA! If so, Craig Hamilton and I will be there signing them. And I’ll be on several panels over the weekend. The first is 6pm Friday, where I discuss Swamp Thing. The second is 10am Saturday, where I’ll be on a Southern Gothic panel, and the third is 10am Sunday, where I’ll be yacking about werewolves. Otherwise, I’ll be at my table in the dealer’s room.

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Shop Around: Creature Feature: You Don’t Have to Ask Your Momma How to Make a Monster When Kyle Yaklin Is Around

Posted on: Oct 19th, 2014 By:

mask1Monster masks were truly an art in the golden age of Universal horror before CGI. That creepy craft has been resurrected by some astounding Atlanta area artists including Shane Morton and Marietta-based SFX Make-Up Artist Kyle Yaklin. Kyle really turned heads with not only his Creature From The Black Lagoon masks but also entire suits at Monsterama and Dragoncon this year, even taking the Creature for a swim. And he crafts custom masks and suits for sale at remarkably reasonable prices.

Find Kyle’s Creature creations and other artwork at the acclaimed seasonal experiential attraction Atlanta Zombie ApocalypseJust in time for Halloween, ATLRetro hunted him down to find out more about what drew him to Creature-craft, see if he’d share a few of his scary secrets and get the scoop on what’s happening this year at AZA. Read our ATLRetro review of AZA and Atlanta’s other top haunts here.

ATLRetro: When did you first see THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON and why did the creature appeal to you?

Kyle Yaklin: Well, I first saw it when I was around three years old! My grandmother got me a copy of the VHS, and I was just fascinated with it! The suit in particular was just amazing to me, it didn’t look like the rest of the B-movie monsters from the time. It looked intelligent, frightening and most importantly like something that could actually exist. I think that’s what made the creature so popular.

How did you get into mask-making, how old were you and what was your first mask?

I was a freshman in college when I made my first mask, and of course, the first thing I sculpted was the Creature! It took me around three months to sculpt inbetween classes, and the result was fairly good for a first attempt! 

creaturesonlyYou use the original mold from the Creature, don’t you? How did you get a hold of that?

Actually no, I do have castings from the original molds from the first two films, but I sculpted every bit of my suit by hand, including the mask. Last May I decided to go back and re-sculpt the Creature mask that I had made three years earlier. I used my casting of the original land head as reference when I sculpted the new version so that I could get my sculpt as close to the original as possible!

And you’ve made entire suits and even swam in them. Can you tell us a bit about that?

I have recently completed the entire Creature suit! And again, the origins of the project go back to my freshman year when I sculpted my first Creature mask. The main goal of that mask was to eventually make a whole suit, so I did a ton of research on how the original suit was created, and planned out how my suit was going to be made. At the time though I realized I neither had the time, money or skill to achieve something I’d be happy with. After I sculpted my second version I was much happier with the results, so I started sculpting out the rest of the suit in small sections just like the original was done. It spread the project out over time and made it seem not so daunting of a project. After six months of working on the various pieces I had finally completed everything! Now I just needed to glue all the pieces down to a skin suit and paint it! 

headlesssuitHere’s the first fully finished suit hanging in my shop which you can see was a huge mess at the time..

fullsuitHere’s the suit at its premier at Dragoncon!

suitsubmergedAnd here are a few photos from the Marriott swimming pool!Taking the suit swimming was just amazing, I got to live out one of my childhood dreams that day and I can’t wait to take it swimming again! I’m hoping to be able to make the trip down to Wakula Springs in Florida where the original film was shot, and get some photos and videos swimming in the actual Black Lagoon! The suit is actually more comfortable in the water than it is on land, and the hands and feet really do work as flippers so the original design really was a very functional suit.

swimsuit1

What’s the most challenging aspect to crafting a mask? 

The most challenging part of making the masks are, of course, sculpting it and making a mold, but after that is taken care of, I guess the most challenging part would be slushing the latex around an 80-pound ultracal mold. 

And the most fun part?

The most fun part is always painting the masks, I use a combination of airbrushing, painting with an actual brush and applying washes. And each mask is personally painted by me, so each one is a little different and one of a kind!

headWhat other masks and other work are you making now?

I do make a variety of other masks including zombie masks, a Karloff Frankenstein monster, my own version of the shock monster, Jason Voorhees, and more! 

I understand you’ll be down at the Atlanta Zombie Apocalpyse. What are you doing at AZA?

I’ve been working at the Atlanta Zombie Apocalypse for three years now as one of the main makeup FX artists and actually got the job based on my first creature mask!

We’ve heard AZA is even more rockin’ and scary than ever. Without giving away any big spoilers, what are a few of your favorite things about this year’s experience?

This year is the final year for the Zombie Apocalypse, but were definitely going out with a bang! This year’s story is one of the best yet, and it’s the longest show ever! In past years we’ve split it into two separate shows, but this year it’s one massive zombie experience!

masksHow can folks reach you if they want to purchase a mask?

If you’d like to get in touch with me my email is supergzilla@gmail.com, or you can send me a message on my Facebook page Kyle Yaklin FX! You can also see tons of progress photos of the creature suit and updates on new projects at my Facebook page as well. Thank you all for your time!

 

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One of Us! One of Us!: Monsterama Celebrates the Monster Kid Aug 1-3 in Atlanta!

Posted on: Jul 31st, 2014 By:

By Andrew Kemp
Contributing Writer

For some poor souls, the term “monster kid” means nothing more than a particularly destructive toddler, or one of those teens raising hell on daytime talk show stages.

For the enlightened, however, there’s Monsterama.

Monster kids of all ages will soon descend onto Monsterama, a new horror and fantasy convention launching this weekend under the care of some of Atlanta’s most stalwart champions of the horrific and the macabre. And although the city may at times seem infested with horror-themed gatherings, Monsterama is aiming to capture more than just a piece of the action. “Though there were conventions that had horror-related programming, there wasn’t a show here that fully embraced the ‘monster kid’ aesthetic,” says Monsterama co-founder Anthony Taylor. Shane Morton, another key voice behind the convention and alter-ego of con guest Professor Morte, agrees. “Having attended the greatest cons ever conceived—Forry’s [Fantastic Monster] Cons of the mid-90s—I find it hard to be impressed by any recent horror, sci-fi, or fantasy shows. We have tried very hard to capture the feel of those shows, albeit on a smaller scale, and to provide a family friendly alternative to the current debauched cons.”

“Forry,” for the uninitiated, is Forrest J. Ackerman, the late founder of the seminal monster movie magazine Famous Monsters of Filmland. Ackerman’s impact on American horror and science-fiction fandom is surprisingly easy to quantify—it wouldn’t be out of line to say he’s the father of it all. Ackerman and his partner James Warren created Famous Monsters in 1958 in response to a glut of horror movies beaming into American living rooms. Because horror and sci-fi films were considered disposable and unimportant in the shadow of studio prestige pictures, these old programmers were cheap to acquire and broadcast for television stations, exposing them an entire generation of new fans. Through the magazine, conventions and other outreach, Ackerman helped these kids find one another in the days before chat rooms and sub-reddits, when the world was truly a lonely place for a kid who knew more about rubber suits than car engines or home economics.

But what really made Ackerman’s brand of horror fandom so special was his unabashed, undiminishing love of the genre and all of its tropes. No matter how many monsters wreaked havoc on the screen, Ackerman and his monster kids never lost their “gee-whiz” enthusiasm, which in turn bred more enthusiasm. It’s this atmosphere in particular that Taylor and Morton hope to recreate.

“I’ve been a monster fan all my life, and I knew Atlanta was full of folks like me,” writes Taylor. “I’d see them at Silver Scream Spook Show screenings, DragonCon and other events.” Monsterama aims to capture that audience by filling the con with irresistible programming for the monster-initiated. The guest list is populated with names from all eras of horror cinema, including Veronica Carlson of Hammer Films fame; Larry Blamire, creator of the contemporary throwback cult favorite THE LOST SKELETON OF CADAVRA, and author and public speaker Victoria Price, daughter of Hollywood icon Vincent Price. On the literature side, writers like Brian Keene (THE RISING), James R. Tuck (DEACON CHALK) and comics author Dan Jolley (FIRESTORM) will shed some light on the author’s process. Rounding out the guest list are filmmakers like this week’s Kool Kat Daniel Griffith (LET THERE BE LIGHT), Atlanta voice talent C. Martin Croker (Adult Swim), artist Mark Maddox and professional ghost hunter Scott Tepperman. Check out the full guest list here.

[Full disclosure: ATL Retro editor Anya Martin is also a writer guest and may be found on a number of spooky panels throughout the con.]

For classic movie buffs, the events are possibly even more compelling. The convention boasts a selection of horror films screening in—oh, happy day!—16mm, which is where you’ll be likely to find this author if you need him at any point during the weekend. Other events include author Gordon Shriver performing his one-man show as Boris Karloff, local comedy troupe Cineprov riffing on the cult oddity EQUINOX, and the glorious return of the Silver Scream Spook Show as Professor Morte and his crew introduce the cowboys vs. dinosaurs classic, THE VALLEY OF GWANGI. And that’s in addition to a museum of “rare monster and kaiju artifacts,” filmmaking panels, and photo ops. The full schedule of panels and events can be yours by clicking here.

Monsterama hasn’t forgotten that “gee-whiz” spirit that lies at the heart of every monster kid. Even Taylor himself can’t help but name some genre cornerstones when describing the show. “I hope that everyone who grew up loving KING KONG, GODZILLA, FRANKENSTEIN or the CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON will come out and have a grand time celebrating with us,” says Taylor. Morton chooses to invoke another iconic figure. “I can guarantee that you will feel the ghost of Uncle Forry hovering over our haunted hotel this weekend! Don’t miss this show, it’s gonna be legendary!!!”

Monsterama begins on August 1 at 4:00 at the Holiday Inn Perimeter. Three day badges are $55. Single day badges for Friday or Sunday are $25, and Saturday single-day badges are $30. CHILDREN 12 AND UNDER ARE FREE.

Andrew Kemp is a screenwriter and game designer who started talking about movies in 1984 and got stuck that way. He can be seen around town wherever there are movies, cheap beer and little else.

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The Horror! The Horror! Our Top 10 Retro Reasons to Go to DAYS OF THE DEAD 2014

Posted on: Feb 6th, 2014 By:

What are we doing this weekend?! We’re heading down to the third annual Days of the Dead at Sheraton Hotel Atlanta, Friday-Sunday Feb. 7-9.

1) THE THING REUNION! Given that John Carpenter‘s THE THING (1982) is one of those rare remakes that surpasses the original, we can’t think of anything more fun than meeting a bunch of the guys who signed on for Antarctic duty and ended up monster-meal. Keith David, Richard Masur, Joel Polis, Peter Maloney, Thomas Waites all together on one stage at 1 p.m. on Saturday and signing all weekend.

2) DAMIEN ECHOLS. We have followed the case of the West Memphis Three since 1993, and couldn’t be more happy that he is finally free. He talks about “Life After Death” Row Saturday at 7 p.m.

3) RUNAWAYS. We’re not sure how two of rock’s most badass babes ended up on the horror con circuit, but we’re not complaining about any chance to meet Lita Ford and Cherie Currie. Also rocking the roster are crazy ’80s metal man Dee Snider and Skinny Puppy’s Twiggy Ramirez.

4) SID HAIG AND BILL MOSELEY.  Sid Haig, one of those rare B-movie icons and character actors whose career spans the decades from Jack Hill’s blaxploitation films of the 1970s to the chaotic, creepy Captain Spaulding. Quite frankly you and Bill Moseley scared the sh-t out of us in THE DEVIL’s REJECTS and since we’re not easily scared, for that we salute you both!

5) BUTCH PATRICK, MEG FOSTER, CHRIS SARANDON, AND THE CRYPTKEEPER JOHN KASSIRThe guest list just seems to go on and on with Retro-horror goodness including the original Eddie Wolfgang Munster, one of Hollywood’s most eye-catching actresses and the star of another John Carpenter classic THEY LIVE (1988), the hot neighborly vampire from the original FRIGHT NIGHT (1985), and the man whose voice creeped us out so many times hosting TV’s TALES FROM THE CRYPT.

6) THE HISTORY OF THE SPOOK SHOW! Atlanta’s own Professor Morte leads the SILVER SCREAM SPOOK SHOW in a history lesson of this macabre art form which we are certain will both amaze and entertain. We may even learn something, too!

Professor Morte (Shane Morton). Photo courtesy of Shane Morton.

7) MARK MADDOX. If you’re a classic horror or sci-fi fan, you’ve undoubtedly encountered the work of this Rondo Hatton and Pulp Factory Award-winning artist on the covers of countless publications from Little Shoppe of Horrors to the 50th anniversary issue of DOCTOR WHO Magazine. His appearance is sponsored by Monsterama, Atlanta’s newest horror con which debuts August 1-3, 2014.

8) SPOOKTACULAR SHOPPING  Horror cons are the perfect place to stock up on both macabre movie memorabilia, cult classics on DVD and creepy clothing, costumes and accessories.

9) MACABRE MAKE-UP, CREEPY COSTUMES AND PHANTAMAGORIC PARTIES!! Check the schedule for make-up demonstrations, VIP parties, costume contest Saturday night at 11 pm followed by the Monster Ball. On Friday night, learn SFX make-up from the masters in the Atlanta Zombie Apocalypse Presents Putrid Prosthetics, hear the funny side of wrestler-actor Roddy Piper, followed by a midnight Murder Ball hosted by Atlanta’s own most extreme Halloween attraction Chambers of Horror.

10) FRIGHTENING FILMS! The JABB 48-hour film festival featuring new indie horror, such as THE MORNINGSIDE MONSTER by ATLRetro Kool Kats Jayson Palmer and Chris Ethridge, as well as crazy has-to-be-seen-tobe-believed cult classic NEON MANIACS (1986).

Days of the Dead main con hours are Fri. Feb. 7 from 5 to 11 p.m.; Sat. Feb. 8 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.; and Sun. Feb. 9 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., with parties going late into the night on Friday and Saturday. For more info, visit http://www.daysofthedead.net/atlanta/.

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