BOB POWELL'S TERROR (Yoe Books/ IDW, 2011; Hardcover)
Collects selections from Black Cat Nos. 34-36, 51, Chamber of Chills Nos. 6, 7, 19, This Magazine Is Haunted Nos. 4, 12, Tomb of Terror Nos. 3, 5, Witches Tales Nos. 4, 6, 10, 23, Worlds Beyond No. 1, and Worlds of Fear No. 2 (cover dates July, 1951- August, 1954).
Artist: Bob Powell
Praise be Craig Yoe for his Chilling Archives of Horror Comics line of hardcovers. While the line seems to have slowed down as of late, we did get three high quality, value priced offerings from his Yoe Books imprint published by IDW. One could argue that this book is a largely redundant release, since the bulk of these stories have been, or soon will be, collected by PS Artbooks in their various archive lines (Black Cat, Chamber of Chills, Tomb of Terror, and Witches Tales) as well as other numerous pre-code '50s Horror compilations.
That argument would be missing the entire point of this collection, however, since this focuses solely on the work of Bob Powell. Further making this an essential addition to any self respecting Golden Age or Horror comic book fan is that several of these stories were shot off of the original art, scans of which were generously donated by collectors. Yoe often solicits help from fandom, asking for scans so that he can procure the best quality source material. He puts so much time into these collections that he probably makes .25 an hour. His selfless sacrifice is fandom's gain, as this book is more affordable than the assorted Archives of this material.
|An example of the original art used in this book. Mind you, these are ENTIRE STORIES shot from the original art. Incredible.|
The introductions are a detailed analysis of Powell's career, and offer snapshots and scans of correspondence. Powell, like so many other Golden Age greats, bailed from the comic book industry after Frederic Wertham's witch-hunt linking comic books to juvenile delinquency chopped off artistic expression at the knees. Titles, genres, indeed, entire companies folded because of Wertham and the Senate subcommittee hearings.
There are some terrific reads in this book. I enjoyed all of them, but will list my favorites:
So What's Next, from Witches Tales No. 23, is the story of serial killer and an office secretary working the night shift. Disturbing and plausible, its ending can be easily predicted by today's more sophisticated audience. Still, I go for execution as well as originality. I know what the outcome of sex will always be, yet I enjoy that, too.
Green Horror, from Witches Tales No. 6, has been collected elsewhere but remains enjoyable and effective. Powell's monstrosities are always a joy to behold.
And finally, my personal favorite in this book is Happy Anniversary from Chamber of Chills No. 19. In it, we get a heartwarming anniversary dinner filled with reminisces of the beginning of their relationship. Needless to say, it's whacked and I loved the ending a lot and lot. My 3 year old daughter always says that: I liked it a lot and lot.
If you want to dip your toe in Golden Age, pre-code 1950s Horror comics, then this is as good a place as any to start. Even if you obsessively gobble up every piece of pre-code Horror brick-a-brac like I do, this book is well worth the price of admission just to get the scans of the original art and the introductions.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 4.5 out of 5.
The OCD zone- I will try this in a blow by blow style. Let me know if you prefer this to my typical stream of consciousness nit-picking. The dimensions of this book are similar to the Creepy, Eerie, and EC Archives, albeit slightly wider.
Linework restoration rating: 4 out of 5. These are direct scans of the issues with minimal tinkering.
Color restoration rating: 4 out of 5. Like I stated above, these are scans, which means that you get all of the imperfections of the four color printing process. Dots, line bleed, off-register printing, etc. Take it for what it is. It is scanned extremely well, which is why it gets such a high rating.
Paper rating: 5 out of 5. Uncoated paper stock with zero sheen, can be read easily in all forms of light with no glare. It looks creamy, like mint condition pulp stock. I like the creamy color of pristine pulp stock, hate the yellowed, powdery feeling of moldering paper stock that has not been in plastic bags. This is a super thick, heavy stock that should age extremely well.
Binding rating: 4 out of 5. This has sewn binding, but the casing is glued square to the spine. It doesn't lay completely flat, always a pet peeve of mine. It lays reasonably flat a little ways in, and it is only 148 pages, so it's not a big deal.
Cover coating rating: 3 out of 5. This book has no dustjacket. Instead, it has a screen printed image on the cover, which has a coating of decent thickness. The rest of the cover (the non-image portions) are easily scuffed, even when handled gingerly. I can't imagine how beat up this would get with repeated handling or on a comic shop's bookshelf. IDW can do better than this, but they choose not to. Sad.
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