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Sunday, October 28, 2007

Who says comics fanzines are dead?

The glory days of numerous self-published comics fanzines may reside in the 1970s and 1980s but the internet hasn't completely killed off these labours of love. At the Birmingham International Comics Show a few weeks ago I picked up two titles that dedicate themselves to two sometimes neglected areas of comics; classic British weeklies and Fifties horror comics.

From the Tomb No.22 has 72 chunky A4 pages for £4.95. This fanzine has been around for several years now and has massively improved since its early days. Its main focus is on 1950s American horror comics, but it also explores a few comics of a more recent vintage too. Reproduction is sharp and clear, and the articles are richly illustrated with covers and pages from those old strips. Most of the material covered is "before my time" as they say, but I've always had a passion for those Fifties horror classics with their expertly rendered artwork and stories of lurking weirdness shadowing the white picket fenced suburbia of repressed 50's America. Therefore From the Tomb is a "must buy" for me.

Most coverage of Fifties horror comics usually centres around the wonderful output of EC Comics, but From the Tomb always gives us a taste of what other publishers were doing as well. The material from Marvel, Harvey, etc may have often been more gory or less structured than EC, but their pages were still full of atmosphere and creepy imagery. This issue has features on Stan Lee's pre-Fantastic Four horror stories; the theme of "corpse brides" in comics; full colour features on Fiction House comics and Eerie Publications; an interview with Goon creator Eric Powell, plus reviews and other features, all lavishly illustrated. From the Tomb really is essential reading for anyone interested in the history of horror comics.

To order copies of From the Tomb see A 3 issue (one year) subscription costs £13 in the UK.

The second issue of Crikey! The Great British Comics Magazine is also out now, with 48 pages packed with bright and breezy features on old UK comics. As with the first issue there are still some errors creeping in, including a most serious one wrongly stating that Terry Bave had died. Some of the articles seem to be written from hazy memories of comics rather than reference, but there's a lot of enthusiasm from the writers.

Highlights in this issue include Steve Holland working out the complex ownership history of Amalgamated Press / Fleetway / IPC / Fleetway Editions / Egmont; a nicely illustrated feature on Ron Embleton; an interview with Terry Bave; and a feature on Rocket comic. There are several other short articles including items on Scorcher, Victor, Our Ernie, and Zeg the Dalek.

A bit shallow in places, but an improvement on issue one. Editor Brian Clarke comments that he doesn't want Crikey! to have too much "trainspotter-ism", but who else but hardcore comics enthusiasts are going to be interested in articles on obscure 50 year old comic strips? All in all though Crikey! is worth supporting.

Copies of Crikey! can be bought from the address on the website at:

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