Tag Archives: horror comics

The Rise And Fall Of Horror Comics

Source: wikipedia

Horror comics have had it rough.

For a few years they were at the forefront of the comic book industry, pushing the envelope with the stories they told, and influencing some of the most recognizable names in horror over the past five decades. From the late 40’s to the mid 50’s, horror comics essentially printed money for their publishers.

It would not, it could not, last.

There is some debate as to the first horror comic; Prize Comics #7 began an eight page feature adapting Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein,  causing some to label it as the first true horror series. There were other adaptations during the early to  mid 40’s, one of which was Gilberton Publications Classic Comics #13. Printing a full adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case Of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Classic Comics #13 is the earliest known comic book dedicated purely to horror.

Comic book cover shows a bald, robed man moving toward a frightened woman on the floor in a strapless dress. Her hands and feet are bound. Price of the comic is listed as 10 cents.

Source: wikipedia

However the first horror comic with original content is widely recognized as Eerie Comics #1, by Avon Publications cover dated January of 1947 (but the comic was actually published at the tail end of 1946). This volume of Eerie Comics never had a second issue, but it was relaunched in 1951.

Horror comics enjoyed some popularity on the newsstands, but it wasn’t until 1950 when EC Comics came on the scene that the genre really exploded with EC’s “trifecta of terror”: The Haunt of Fear, The Vault of Horror, and Crypt of Terror – which later became Tales from the Crypt.

The stories in the above comics, and the others that would follow, are bloody, gory, gruesome, macabre, sinister, and, at times, silly. They were truly horrific comics, but for some they were absolutely wonderful, and their influence on game-changing artists and writers can’t be overstated. Stephen King and George Romero, both hugely influential men on their own, created the film Creepshow as a love letter to the comics that influenced them as children. Alan Moore, one of the most acclaimed comic book writers of the past few decades, has a character reading an EC Comics-like story at a newsstand throughout the main story of Watchmen. Years later, HBO would develop a very successful anthology television show that ran from 1989 to 1996 based on the content of many EC stories published in during the 50’s, turning the Cryptkeeper into a household name.

But the golden age of horror comics of the early to mid 50’s would not last.

With the fallout from Fredric Wertham‘s book Seduction of the Innocent, and the Comics Code Authority (CCA) that resulted, horror comics, hit hard than any other genre, were virtually wiped out over night. Jobs were lost, publishers nearly went out of business, and the face of comics changed forever. Horror comics were everywhere, until suddenly they weren’t.

To say horror comics vanished over night isn’t strictly accurate. The essence of the comics stayed alive despite the CCA’s best efforts. James Warren of Warren Publishing would produce black and white horror comics, but published as a magazine, they were exempt from the CCA’s rules. By publishing these stories in a magazine format, Warren paved the way for other publishers to produce horror comics magazines.

Horror comics, like any good villain, wouldn’t stay down forever.

Although the Comics Code Authority spelled the end of horror comics for many years, we are currently experiencing a resurgence in horror comics – in a large part, perhaps, because the CCA has been entirely abandoned by publishers. The  old EC Comics, those classically macabre stories that are finally making their way into reprinted volumes that for fans of the genre are an unparalleled look into the past. Modern comic books like The Walking Dead, American Vampire, and 30 Days of Night are only a handful of the titles that are carrying the torch of influence that can traced back to the golden age of horror of the early 50’s.

While perhaps not as popular as they were 60 years ago, when they accounted for almost a quarter of all comics published, horror comics have been making a steady return to prominence in the comic book world.

That’s not a bad thing.

Review: Grimm Tales of Terror #3

grimm tales of terrorFilling a void in the modern comics industry is Grimm Tales of Terror, an anthology series from Zenescope that offers self-contained, one issue stories. Whether or not it fills that void well is an open question, however. The latest issue, plotted by Joe Brusha and Ralph Tedesco, written by Meredith Finch, and drawn by Milton Estevam, #3, is bad. The story in this issue, tagged “Don’t Turn On the Lights,” follows a few college women and their scares with a serial killer. The book follows an interesting mystery layout, having the reader constantly guess whodunit, but it fails in execution. Boring and confusing attempts at red herring and a light misogynist streak taint any fun to be had with this simple horror comic.

The idea of a one-off horror story is a great one, especially in today’s arc-filled storytelling. The comic is reasonably well-written, meaning that it is constantly intriguing to read. A lot of time is spent on certain, shady characters with what I assume to be the intention to trick readers into thinking they may be the culprit. These keep things interesting, even though this can sometimes feel like irrelevant fluff. Distracting to a lesser degree is the uncomfortable portrayal of women, with clear stereotype (Loves chocolate? Check. And Gucci bags? Check. Getting money from “Daddy”? Check.) and often pointless and gratuitous appeals to the male gaze. Perhaps there is some charm to be had from sleaze in horror stories, but it can certainly be done better than this.

The art work is technically proficient, offering ample expression and storytelling. When the book calls for a character to be frightened or menacing, they certainly look frightened or menacing. It isn’t particularly aesthetically pleasing, however, with dull coloring from Marcio Freire and little to no stylistic flair. It’s not an attractive book.

With all of the book’s failures and successes, everything ultimately comes crashing down at the climax, when the killer is revealed. The reveal is arbitrary and lazily-done, with no clues alluding to it and nothing natural to it. The idea behind this series has promise, and there were some things to like about this issue. It’s not tough to get through, but it consistently disappoints, leading to the biggest disappointment of all in the ending.

Story: Joe Brusha, Ralph Tedesco, Meredith Finch Art: Milton Estevam
Story: 4.0 Art: 5.0 Overall: 4.0 Recommendation: Pass

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Zenescope provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review