Are You Reading “HAUNTED HORROR”?Book and Comic Reviews,Books/Art/Culture,News Svetlana Fedotov
As their numbers dwindle, pre-code horror comics have become a staple of the comic collectors’ market. From swarming the industry with ghoulish monsters and vengeful spirits in the late 1940s to mass comic burnings less than a decade later, the Comics Code Authority changed everything about what was acceptable to read. Thanks to their determination to protect America’s children, swarms of horror titles have been lost to modern readers, until recently. Publishers such as Dark Horse and Fantagraphics have been snatching up long forgotten titles and re-printing them in hardcover collections, beautifully recreating the original feel of the work. Following their success, IDW and partner Yoe Books! hopped aboard the terror train as well, re-publishing stories from the contraband comics in HAUNTED HORROR for easy reading. Unlike its predecessors though, these tales are being released in a single issue format, recalling that classic feeling of picking up your favorite, lurid title at the local dime store.
One of the more thrilling points of this particular collection is that HAUNTED HORROR is not limited to one comic series, but collects works from more obscure horror titles across the board. Among the pages of HAUNTED HORROR #9 for instance, you will find “Ghosts from Mars” (DARK MYSTERIES #3, 1951), a gruesome little story about the dead ghosts of aliens raining down onto Earth and the one man who can stop it. Following it is the curiously titled “Absent Minded Professor” (HORROR FROM THE TOMB #1, 1951), about a handsome teacher who just can’t seem to keep himself together no matter how hard he tries. Hot on its heels is the spine-tingling “Return of the Ghoul” (JOURNEY INTO FEAR #15, 1953), the story of a man re-awakened after a 150-year sleep in the grave, only to find the world unaccepting of his dead-man appearance. Clearly, there’s a lot of fun to be had with here, with that single issue format likely making access to these old comics a lot cheaper for those that can’t afford the fifty dollar price tag for other hardcover works.
While comprehensive collections of significant series such as TALES FROM THE CRYPT and CREEPY/EERIE are certainly essential, this collection is snatching up old, forgotten gems and reprinting them for our sticky, little hands. We get to experience writers and artists across the board working on these spooky tales, catching quick looks at bygone creators who might have completely disappeared if it wasn’t for this. It’s a reminder that in addition to names Jack Kirby and Joe Orlando, there laid dozens of talented individuals who lived and died behind the scenes. To see their work get a second chance at being read is quite the honor, and could perhaps open the door to seeing more unknown work get reprinted. Golden Age comics chewed up and spit out creators as each company fought to outdo the other one because at the time, comics weren’t art, they weren’t creative property, they were just business. We lost some good men in the name of business and it’s awesome to see them revived.
The stories, like many of the older works, are pretty standard by today’s terms. Short, bite-sized tales of zombies and monsters thinly veil overarching morality plays while delightfully splattering post-war paranoia and the dangers of human curiosity into the unknown. HAUNTED HORROR nails the feel of these old pulps, from the grim cover to the restored interior and with the thickly written dialogue, guaranteeing the reader a good thirty minutes of shivering terror. The range of artists and writers in spans the dizzying work of Lin Streeter on “Arise, Oh Undead Druids!” to the simple, but effective illustrations by Joe Certa on “The Survivors.” Plus, the restoration process is fantastic, successfully working with the initial inks instead of recoloring them. Grimy, ghoulish, and sinfully devilish, HAUNTED HORROR is effectively bringing old horror to a new generation.