Halloween is just around the corner people, so it’s paramount we talk about a horror comic at some point. Unfortunately The Strain doesn’t seem to have a new issue set to release for a long while, so we’ll just have to make due HAUNTED HORROR #1, from the good people at…Yoe Comics?
Way back in the Golden Age of comics – specifically the late Golden Age of the early fifties – superhero stories lost their popularity in a big way. As is the case with market forces, other genres moved in to fill the void, including westerns, crime, romance, and, of course, horror! These were the days when a million keepers of crypts and dark guides presented their sordid tales of spilled blood and grisly fates. It was a good time to be a horror comic.
Unsurprisingly, they became the target of concerned, well-meaning but ignorant moral guardians. Hence why we had the Comics Code Authority. Ironically such engineered the resurgence of the comparatively bright and moral superhero comic. The other kinds, especially the horror ones, were not so lucky.
So hard was the fall that dozens of publishers went belly under, their comics left to sleep in the ground of the public domain. Waiting for some opportunistic modern publisher to reprint them with impunity. The public domain is good to us sometimes.
And so comes in Yoe Books, a little known publisher which seems to specialize in digging up old comics and reprinting them. They’re well connected to IDW Publishing, and its at their website that I became aware of the release (unearthing?) of HAUNTED HORROR #1. Quite simply, it’s a collection of old books presented in an anthology format, kind of like Womanthology except replacing the feminism with murder. It even has its own horror host, Forelock the Warlock!
He mainly just adorns the cover, gives a brief tongue-in-cheek nod to the infamous nature of the genre, and intervenes where one original comic already had its own host. Forelock retroactively tied himself to an earlier horror host. Like a boss! It helps that the guy is Doctor Death! It’s a shame Forelock himself only has the one stock image of himself to parade around in.
Because of how much work goes into reviewing an anthology, I’m not going to go into much detail about the individual stories if I don’t have to. There are six of them, from different horror comics originally released between 1952 and 1955. Strangely enough, four of them involve basically the same plot: a guy kills someone, and their karma is balanced by a terrible punishment. And three of those had their victims vocally curse their murderers as they died, regardless if it’s likely. These horror comics got a lot of mileage out of that plot.
My personal favorite of the stories would have to be “The Constant Eye”, partly because it’s the longest of the tales, partly because it’s got the most creative and visceral descent into madness for our hapless murderer. And partly because it’s presented by the aforementioned Doctor Death!
The other story worth noting is “Slaughter-House”, the single most unique of the stories for two reasons: 1) it’s more a science fiction story, though there’s plenty of horror in it, and 2) because it was done by the legendary Jack Kirby and Joe Simon. I know right? It’s like biting into a pastry only to find out it’s filled with chocolate. And aliens!
I really enjoyed HAUNTED HORROR #1. Perhaps the spirit of Halloween settled over me and induced a spooky mood, but I got a real kick out of these old stories. Sure the dialogue is stilted, but it’s to be expected from the era. I’m impressed by the artistry of the works, where one might have expected the same art over and over. These stories took longer to read than the modern stuff, which is always good in my opinion. It feels like I really got my money’s worth.
The second issue comes out in two months, and I’m going to be waiting with baited breath. After all, what’s better than a Christmas season full of monsters? (Insert maniacal laughter here.)
By the way, if the thought of horror comics intrigues you – or you just like listening to a creepy guy talk about comics with speech ladden with ghoulish references – check out the Longbox of the Damned, a spin-off series of horror comic reviews made by the always lovable Linkara. Or should I say…Moarte? (Insert more maniacal laughter.)