Short Story: “Haunt Of The Horror Comics” By C. A. Brown

It’s not that bad, darling. It isn’t as if they’re going to ban them.‘ Mary placed her hands on her hips and stared out at the row of comics. In the dim light of the corner shop, the garish covers almost seemed to glow.

Her eyes settled on the latest issue of The Haunt Of Fear, the cover showing an Egyptian mummy looming large over some gaunt unfortunate who was searching an old crypt for treasure. Beside it, another comic cover proclaimed CRIME DOES NOT PAY above a picture of a handsome gangster tommygunning his way out of a bank vault with sacks of cash under his gun arm. His other arm was, of course, around the shoulders of a beautiful cabaret dancer.

Beside her, Clive let out a sigh: ‘They are banning them in America and that’s the problem. Of course, we get them a few months later. So, we’re fine for now… I think‘ He leant over and opened a comic.

A full-page spread proclaimed THE HOUSE OF DEATH in dripping red letters above an illustration of the Grim Reaper towering above a bucolic landscape whilst a couple, not unlike Clive and Mary, calmly strolled towards a crumbling manor house.

They’re banning them in America?‘ Mary stuttered ‘I thought they were just putting an age limit on them like parliament are going to.‘ She permitted herself a small laugh ‘As if people somehow grow out of these wonderful things when they turn sixteen.

It could be that we’re a little immature, dear.‘ Clive chuckled, as he picked up another horror comic. The strapline proclaimed THE BARONS OF EVIL and, to his delight, he noticed that the cover showed no less than three giant Grim Reapers standing tall against the midnight moonlight.

Does this mean that we’ll have to buy the Telegraph or those awful gossip magazines now?‘ Mary frowned ‘I’m certainly going to miss comics.

Worse.‘ Clive sighed ‘By my guess, the only comics that will be left are The Beano and those ones with people in silly costumes. Of course, no-one reads those.

To prove his point, he knelt down and rifled through the rows of comics until he found one and plucked it out. The cover proclaimed ACTION COMICS # 1 and showed a strongman in blue overalls holding a car above his head. As Mary leaned closer, Clive tapped part of the cover.

Mary raised her eyebrows and smiled: ‘1938?

Rather proves my point, doesn’t it?‘ Clive sighed. ‘The only comics that will be left are these children’s ones. Once they don’t sell, old Beale and a thousand others like him will decide that the shelf-space will be better served with periodicals, almanacks and journals. Our comics, my dear, will die a slow and painful death.

An impish grin flickered across Mary’s face, followed by a sombre frown: ‘It’s kind of fitting, I guess.

Clive tried to think of a witty retort, but he couldn’t. She was right. If popular comics were going to die, then it was only fitting that they went out in a grasping, drawn-out fashion with the Grim Reaper cackling loudly in the background. Or, for the glorious gangsters that graced the covers of the crime comics to be gaoled for life in a cardboard box in a warehouse somewhere, before unceremonious burial in a rubbish tip.

Mary dipped her hand into her bag and opened her purse. Coins clinked in the silent shop. Finally, she said: ‘I’ve got six shillings to spare. You?

Clive rifled his pockets ‘Four and sixpence. I must save the rest though.

Their eyes met and they smiled. Like the last page of every crime comic, they were ready to go out in a blaze of glory. One last triumphant hurrah of comic-buying, before the implacable, zombie-like forces of law and order closed in on them. This was going to be a trove of comics to remember, a purchase of such magnitude that the memory of it would be whispered about in news-stands, tobacconists and corner shops for years to come.

But, they just stood there. Finally, Mary turned to Clive and said: ‘I’m sorry, darling. I just can’t choose. If it’s our last time, then it matters so much more. Whichever ones we leave behind, we’re sure to regret it.

Clive let out a sigh and put on his best Hollywood gangster movie accent: ‘Yeah, doll. Me too.

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6 comments on “Short Story: “Haunt Of The Horror Comics” By C. A. Brown

  1. babbitman says:

    Ha! Superman #1, worth a squillion quid these days 😉

    • pekoeblaze says:

      LOL! I wonderered if anyone would spot that reference 🙂

      • babbitman says:

        Nice story about the impact on the UK of the introduction of the American Comics Code. 🙂

      • pekoeblaze says:

        Thanks 🙂 Ironically though, the US comics code was actually less strict (since it wasn’t legally-binding, even if it was far stricter on paper) than the actual laws that were introduced here during the 1950s (which, unlike the comics code, didn’t prohibit horror comics – but set an age limit on them. Which seems ridiculously draconian/outdated these days).
        Of course, since a lot of these horror comics were made in America, they were still affected by the comics code too.

        Plus, it’s also sad to think that the current over-abundance of superhero movies etc.. can all be traced back to a silly moral panic during the 1950s. I mean, just think of all the cool horror movies that could be in the cinemas instead if it had never happened LOL!

      • babbitman says:

        I think the way superhero stories (& films especially) developed into SF / Fantasy is really interesting. I’m not that much into horror (I like it as an element in other stories rather than the main focus) but I love the way that Marvel’s characters (& latterly DC’s, with a little less success) have got their mojo back and now occupy the same epic hero niche as has been found in all cultures throughout history (Beowulf, Hercules, medieval saints, etc. etc.)
        🙂

      • pekoeblaze says:

        Ah, I hadn’t really thought of that. Although sci-fi and fantasy existed for quite a while before superheroes, I can see how the genres overlap these days. But, yeah, it’s interesting how some genres tend to work best as elements (although, for me, this probably applies more to the fantasy genre than the horror genre).

        But, it’s kind of depressing that superheroes occupy this niche at the moment. This is mostly because, unlike the popular myths and legends of old, the popular superhero characters are all “owned” and controlled by commercial companies (eg: DC, Marvel etc..).

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