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Saturday, July 16, 2011

Dawn of the Dreads

Just a quick heads up for those of you interested in the genesis of British story papers. The latest issue of American horror magazine Fangoria spotlights British horror, and amongst such items on Amicus films and an interview with Ian Ogilvy there's also a feature on the 19th Century "Penny Dreadfuls".

It's a short article, running to just over three pages, but it covers the basics and is well illustrated. The author Ashley Thorpe recounts how, 200 years ago, cheap fiction was mainly aimed at the middle classes (6d a book being far too much for working class people). Enter the birth of the weekly serial publication at just a penny a copy, with lurid tales of crime and horror from Varney the Vampire (predating Dracula by half a century) to Sweeny Todd, Demon Barber. The public lapped it up and, inevitably, Parliament blamed the "Penny Dreadfuls" for "the lamentable amount of juvenile criminality", therefore sowing the seeds of suspicion about horror entertainment that still lingers today.

Fangoria No.305 is $8.99 and should be available from comic specialist shops. Some independent UK newsagents also stock it at £4.99.

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