HARVEY HORRORS COLLECTED WORKS: CHAMBER OF CHILLS VOL. 4 (PS Artbooks, First Printing, 2012; Hardcover)
Note: Book actually released in 2013
Collects Chamber of Chills Magazine #20-26 (originally published by Harvey Comics, cover dates November, 1953- December, 1954)
Writers: Howard Nostrand, Bob Powell (both unconfirmed but strongly suspected) and other, unidentified writers.
Artists: Joe Certa, Manny Stallman, John Giunta, Howard Nostrand, Bob Powell, Lee Elias (covers), Jack Sparling, Mort Meskin, George Roussos, Al Avison, and possibly other unidentified art assistants.
Dreams can come true! Ten years ago it was nothing more than a pipe dream that I would own these Pre-Code Horror comics in deluxe hardcovers. Now I have a room full of them! This fourth and final volume in PS Artbook's Chamber Of Chills line shows the title going full steam ahead with no real change from any of the earlier issues. That's fine by me, because they are all fun reads.
The writing and artwork are all great, with work by many forgotten greats. The Internet and collected editions have given some of these guys a second life and they have finally gotten their due, albeit too late for most (if not all) of them to enjoy while they were alive.
The stories all run the typical Horror gamut of the era (voodoo, black magic, zombies, vampires, etc.) and for the most part attempt to ape the EC ironic shock twist ending with varying degrees of success. While nothing can compare to EC, Harvey was one of the few who had art talent that could go toe to toe with some of the EC guys. Some of the more interesting stories are ones that veer away from the formula (there is a Sci-Fi story and even a war story with Horror accents).
There is a lot of overlap in this book. Seven of these stories have been reprinted in various Yoe Books after I bought this. I will be doing more research before buying more of those, as I see no value in rebuying material with similar restoration. One of those seven was also reprinted in Fanatagraphics' Four Color Fear: Forgotten Horror Comics Of The 1950s, which was an excellent precursor to these PS Artbooks. Fantagraphics really dropped the ball not diving deeper into the well of public domain comics. Pete Crowther and company over at PS Artbooks saw the opportunity and seized it, and now the fans of this material own dozens of books. There is overlap within this series as well, as the bulk of #25 is from issue 9 of this series and #26 is the bulk of #5. Those stories were collected in Volumes 1 and 2 of this series. That feels like a ripoff to me. I can see collecting the cover and the material not found in those issues, but to get the same stories again seems like a waste.
That aside, this was a terrific read and I am proud to have this book in my library. While I tend to aggressively prune my library to keep it at a svelte 1,100 books, complete Pre-Code Horror comics will remain in my collection until I die. I will revisit this material again someday and enjoy it every bit as much as I did this time, something that cannot always be said for modern comics, which have a good for one read only feel to them.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 4.25 out of 5.
The OCD zone- I enjoy huffing these Chinese made books. PS Artbooks smell the best. Whenever I crack one open I sit there and snort it every so many pages...oh yeah, that's the stuff.
Linework and Color restoration: Raw scans of varying quality with minimal tinkering. Mostly decent but occasionally murky.
Paper stock: Uncoated bright white stock. Given the yellowed nature of the scans an off-white would have worked better.
Binding: Smyth sewn binding. Lays flat.
Hardback cover notes: No dustjacket. Image printed on casewrap with matte finish and spot varnish.