Friday, May 18, 2012

Review- THE HORROR! THE HORROR! COMIC BOOKS THE GOVERNMENT DIDN'T WANT YOU TO READ

THE HORROR! THE HORROR! COMIC BOOKS THE GOVERNMENT DIDN'T WANT YOU TO READ (Abrams Comicarts, 2010; Softcover)
Collects selections from Chamber of Chills No. 6, Chamber of Chills Magazine No. 16, The Clutching Hand No. 1, Crime Mystery No. 9, Dark Mysteries Nos. 3, 7, 18, 20, Mister Mystery No. 7, Strange Fantasy No. 7, The Thing No. 14, Tomb of Terror No. 16, Uncanny Tales No. 14, Voodoo No. 14, and Weird Tales of the Future No. 3 (cover dates October, 1951- August, 1954).
Writers: Basil Wolverton, Al Eadeh, Howard Nostrand, Bob Powell, and others.
Artists: Basil Wolverton, Vic Donahue, Al Eadeh, Howard Nostrand, Sid Check, Steve Ditko, John D'Agostino, Harry Lazarus, A.C. Hollingsworth, Bob Powell, and others.
This is a really nice sampler book of 1950s pre-code Horror. While Fantagraphics' Four Color Fear: Forgotten Horror Comics of the 1950s is a better value overall, this is a great companion book to that wonderful compilation. If you have never read any pre-code Horror comic books, these two books are a great place to start. While EC Comics are the gold standard, there are many worthwhile talents in many of the off brands and knockoff titles as well.
This is a beefy book, but only 91 out of the 306 pages are complete stories. The rest of the pages are articles which provide invaluable historical context, excerpts from other stories (including Marvel/Atlas and EC), and hundreds of covers. The great thing about these covers is that they demonstrate the breadth and depth of the genre. The bad thing is that I now want all of these comic books collected in books! Fortunately for us, PS Artbooks has answered the call since this book's publication, with their Harvey Horrors and ACG hardcovers. They reprint the complete issues of several of the stories presented here and in the aforementioned Four Color Fear. Go to the Harvey Horrors website and see for yourself. I've been buying them all, and will buy as many as they release. Marvel has been re-releasing their Atlas '50s output slowly with their Marvel Masterworks line of high end hardcovers. The EC Archives are progressing slowly, with the announcement of two more coming soon. We are truly living in the golden age of collected editions. 
I love these old Horror comic books, and often chuckle at the black humor contained therein. It also pleases me to know that these comic books helped to open the minds of the youths that went on to become the counter culture of the '60s and help bring about social change in this country. No wonder the powers that be wanted to shut these types of comic book down.
This book also contains a 25 minute long DVD with an episode of Confidential File. First aired on October 9, 1955, it was an alarmist show about the dangers of these comic books. I love seeing the kids of the era reading these now obscure and valuable comics with reckless abandon.
The OCD zone- This book is a high quality affair from top to bottom. The cover is what I call a “hard” softcover, being made of a super thick cardstock cover that flexes a bit but is highly durable. The paper is an incredibly thick, uncoated stock. It prevents the book from laying flat, even though this boasts sewn binding which is glued to the ribbon and flexes very well.
They use high resolution scans, although they aren't cleaned up like Fantagraphics or PS Artbooks use. These are some pretty rough copies, though, with dog eared covers, splotches on some of the pages, and other anomalies. While the nostalgia fetishists like this approach, I like the appearance of mint condition copies used by the aforementioned companies. I want the look and feel of the book being fresh off of the presses, not a crumbling old comic book.

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DC has made strides in fixing the problem of their books not laying flat. Join the cause page if you want make sure that DC keeps up the recent good work on their hardcovers. Don't do it for me, do it for the children. Won't somebody please think of the children??

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