Sunday, February 03, 2008
Horror Comics return to the High Street
There's a certain satisfaction for comic fans seeing The Mammoth Book of Best Horror Comics in High Street bookshops. Fifty years ago many of the stories within this collection were originally published in the sort of horror comics that outraged "decent folk" to the point that the comics were banned under the Children And Young Persons (Harmful Publications) Act 1955. Even the word "horror" was forbidden in a comic title.
The Act may have inconvenienced British publishers but it didn't really prevent "horror comics" coming into Britain of course, hence the availability of American comics such as Eerie, Nightmare, and Vampire Tales etc in newsagents in the 1970s. However, I understand The Mammoth Book of Best Horror Comics is the first time that any British publisher has compiled such a collection of pre-code horror strips.
Edited by Peter Normanton (who can usually be found editing the excellent From the Tomb magazine) the chunky 544 page book features around 160 pages of Fifties pre-code horror comics including such crackers as Hitler's Head and Terror of the Stolen Legs. Then the book continues with sections on subsequent years covering the likes of Skywald's Psycho, Charlton's Ghostly Haunts, Kitchen Sink's Death Rattle, and right up to the present with strips by modern-day horror masters such as David Hitchcock.
The book's contents are entirely black and white, which is a shame for the colour strips reproduced in greytone, but the reproduction is good. There are no reprints of EC, Marvel, or Warren material as those have been covered profusely in other books. Editor Normanton knows his stuff, and there's a great selection of material from the past fifty-plus years here which represents the genre well.
This isn't a text-heavy history of horror comics. Short introductions give us the necessary information but the book lets the strips speak for themselves.
Published by Robinson, The Mammoth Book of Best Horror Comics (r.r.p. £12.99) is available from bookshops such as Waterstones or from Amazon. A companion book on Best War Comics has been available for quite some time, and The Mammoth Book of Best Crime Comics is scheduled for later this year.