Category_Comics, Comics, Horror -

Forgotten Horror Comics

Let’s face it . . . most of us collect old horror flicks on VHS because the cover art kicks major ass. The movies themselves are, for the most part, pretty terrible & very much a product of their time. But looking at VHS box art is like time travel – we instantly remember the time & place on the shelf where we first laid eyes on them. The tag lines, the dripping fonts, the gore that graces the front & back of each box – all of these elements (unfortunately overlooked as strategies to entice the viewer in today’s market) evoke a feeling of nostalgia within collectors that shapes & defines the very reason why we collect. There are few forms of physical media that tickle this realm of the psyche quite like VHS . . . except of course, the horror comic of the 1950’s – 1970’s. These horror comics have seen a renowned interest among genre fans today, with the help of a slew of recently published books & collections. Rising from the grave more than 50 years later, the harmony of horror comic art & the written word has almost the same impact as VHS box art & the moving pictures they represent. Turning the pages is like cracking open a clamshell, with terror lurking around every corner. Lunchmeat takes a look at the latest publications on the subject and proves that print will never die, no matter how many times you wack it with a machete . . . Four Color Fear: Forgotten Horror Comics of the 1950’s Edited by Greg Sadowski; Introduction by John Benson Fantagraphics Books, 2010 While it is impossible to ignore the impact that EC Comics had on horror fans in the 1950’s with their unforgettable titles Tales From The Crypt & The Vault of Horror (which are also being re-released as hardcover collections, rolling out new editions all too frequently at $50 a pop), Four Color Fear kicks off by reminding the reader that EC only made up 7% of the horror comic output. What about all the rest, you ask? Comic book historian Greg Sadowski answers by compiling a small sample of that other 93%, in a stunning 320-page ode to the forgotten comics of the time. Focusing solely on horror, there are over 40 original stories scanned & re-touched from titles such as Weird Tales, Ghost Comics, and Chamber of Chills, not to mention an amazing 30-page center section of handpicked comic covers in all their full-color glory! Sadwoski spends little time on the history (which is welcome), but packs a nice punch in the final pages by summarizing the time period of their original release. Also to note are the two different cover versions – you’re gonna want the cover art by Adam Grano (if you can still find it) with a decomposing corpse rummaging through the fridge and devouring a chicken leg while a couple looks on in fright! Priced between $20-30. The Horror! The Horror! Comic Books The Government Didn’t Want You To Read Selected, edited, and w/commentary by Jim Trombetta; Introduction by RL Stine Abrams Comic Arts, 2010 Although published in the same year as Four Color Fear, The Horror! The Horror! takes a different stab at the “pre-code” horror comic phenomenon. A history lesson combined with select re-prints of lost stories across a myriad of titles and over 200 cover scans from the author’s personal collection, the book serves as a time capsule for readers and is one of the best accounts of horror comics to date (with a must-read intro by the legendary RL Stine). The cover art by Steve Ditko is killer! Much more text heavy with detailed commentary on society in the 1950’s in each chapter, but nonetheless still delivers the goods. Includes a bonus DVD of Paul Coates’s documentary Confidential File, which investigated the effects of horror comics on impressionable fifties youth. Start with this one if you’re a history buff, then move on to Four Color Fear if you want more of the meat. Priced between $20-30. The Complete Illustrated History of the Skywald Horror-Mood by Alan Hewetson; published by David Kerekes Headpress / Critical Vision, 2004 The Skywald book takes a step back from the flooded horror comic market & focuses on the output of “post-code” company Skywald Publications in the 1970’s, namely Nightmare, Psycho, and the short-run of Scream titles (which I’ve seen go as high as $100 for one comic on eBay!). The format is similar to the above two collections, with tidbits of history scattered among 19 original stories. It is interesting to see how young gun Hewetson took the reigns at Skywald and created his own unique “horror mood,” transforming a sluggish company into a major player, and the book chronicles his rise to fame in great detail. Skywald titles competed for shelf space with popular titles like Weird (from Eerie Publications – not to be confused with the Warren series of the same name, also well-known for Creepy), and thanks to some incredible cover art by a stable of talented artists (all of which are interviewed here), the Skywald books have become the stuff of legend. Sadly, Hewetson passed away before completion of the work, but Kerekes finished the job without missing a beat. It’s a slow read, and the stories don’t quite measure up to the quality of art that graced the covers, but still a great addition to your bookshelf and you’ll want to collect these comics for the same reasons we collect VHS – sick artwork! This book was a little tough to find (mine took 2 months to ship since it was on back-order), but should run you around $25. The Weird World of Eerie Publications: Comic Gore That Warped Millions of Young Minds by Mike Howlett, intro by Stephen Bissette of Swamp Thing Feral House, 2010 Enter the strange world of Myron Fass & the gang at Countrywide Publications! The 1970’s were a different time for horror-comics, and most publishers bypassed the strict guidelines of the comic code by calling themselves “magazines,” which allowed them the creative freedom to display gore & terror in black & white, with brutal full-color covers. Titles like Weird and Witches Tales are dissected in great detail in this hardcover. Spanning 340 pages, Howlett presents a chronological account of some of the sleaziest comics ever to hit newsstands. The icing on the cake is the strategy by which Fass assigned his artists their work, instructing them to take old pre-code comics (which by the 70’s had become public domain) and draw over the original panels to make them more “gory.”His tactics, which would have earned him a hefty prison sentence today, worked like a charm and readers ate it up, making Eerie Publications stand out from the competition. Howlett also does an excellent job of covering Countrywide’s non-horror catalog, making The Weird World of Eerie Publications a historical account of comic magazines in general. There’s something for everyone here, and if you try tracking down some of these titles online be prepared to start bidding at $20 for one “magazine” on eBay! Keep in mind these titles were printed on cheaper paper than other players, so finding original issues in decent condition proves to be quite a task. But if the VHS hunt isn’t enough to slow you down, why not add some Eerie Pubs to your wish list? Priced between $20-30. - John DeSantis

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