The Joy Of… Horror Comics

2015 Artwork Joy Of Horror comics sketch

Although it probably won’t appear here for a few days, I’ve started work on a new comic! Yes, you heard me correctly, I’ve finally managed to start another comic after a brief hiatus of, I don’t know, over a year.

And, since it will be a cheesy vintage-style horror comic, I thought that I’d take a look at the genre that inspired it today. But, first, here are a couple of previews of my upcoming comic:

"Dead Sector - Preview 1" By C. A. Brown

“Dead Sector – Preview 1” By C. A. Brown

"Dead Sector  - Preview 2" By C. A. Brown

“Dead Sector – Preview 2” By C. A. Brown

Ah, vintage horror comics. Although the heyday of American horror comics was long before my time, they are – by far – one of the coolest genres of comics.

In fact, they were so cool that they actually got banned at the time – on both sides of the atlantic – by the comics code in the US and by actual legislation in the UK (although the old horror comics laws are, quite thankfully, completely unenforced these days). They were, in a way, the “video nasties” of the 1950s.

Horror comics might look laughably old today, but it’s a timeless lesson that- whenever anything cool appears – there will always be a group of miserable old whingers (and, these days, miserable young whingers too) who will try to ban it. Whether it’s rock and roll music, horror comics, heavy metal music, horror movies, rap music, violent videogames, newspaper cartoons or- in modern Britain – anything even vaguely risque – there will be a moral panic about it.

Sometimes, these prudish armchair censors don’t win and we can laugh at them. But, sometimes they do and the world loses a little bit of it’s richness as a result. But, although horror comics’ reign of garish terror was horrifically murdered by grumpy middle-aged people in stuffy suits and hideous floral dresses, we still have plenty of comics from the heyday of this genre to enjoy.

I can’t remember exactly when I first discovered classic American 1940s-50s horror comics, but it could have happened at one of three times in my life.

It could have happened when I was about fourteen and bought an ex-rental VHS of Stephen King’s “Creepshow” and was promptly terrified by it. But, this isn’t when I really discovered them – after all, I had no clue at the time that “Creepshow” was based on old American horror comics. I was too busy having nightmares!

It could have been in 2010 when, whilst looking through a bookshop in Aberystwyth, I stumbled across a giant paperback tome called “The Mammoth Book Of Horror Comics” and, since I had more money back then, ended up impulse-buying it. But, back then, I was far more interested in reading Neil Gaiman’s “Sandman” comics than I was in reading some old black and white comics from the 1950s.

No, I only really discovered American horror comics in autumn 2012 when I found an absolutely amazing blog called “The Horrors Of It All“. This site is absolutely crammed with extracts from old American horror comics. Since I had become serious about being an artist by then, I was able to look at the comics in a slightly different way and pay more attention to the detailed artwork.

And, yes, although many of the old horror comics just use classic American-style comic artwork, there are some real works of art in this genre.

For example, just take a look at this comic page – it looks like something from a hallucinogen-fuelled “alternative” comic from the 1970s-90s, right? Wrong. It was originally published in 1952!

Seriously, as genres go, old American horror comics were often way ahead of their time in terms of imagination and creativity.

Not only that, many of these “horror” comics are absolutely hilarious. Seriously, from the ludicrously melodramatic cover art, to the wooden dialogue to the gleefully twisted plot twists at the end of many of them, they’re often laugh out loud funny. The idea that anyone could have actually been scared by these comics at some point in history is too funny to think about.

Another great thing about old horror comics was how badly-written they were. It’s true, most of them are terribly written – plot twists often come out nowhere, the dialogue is stilted as hell and there’s an over-reliance on cheap scares. But, somehow, they’re able to be “so bad that they’re good”. This also means that they’re both very easy to write and ripe for parody too.

So, yes, is it any wonder that I chose this glorious genre as a way to gently ease myself back into making comics again?

——

Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂

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