Topic: Comic Book History
TODAY'S FEATURE - Blog #3443:
I have mentioned before, both in this Blog and at my Facebook Fan Page, (Michael D Hamersky On Comics), that I used to buy old comics from Lanning's Bookstore in Downtown San Diego.
That bookstore was usually run by Mrs. Peggy Lanning, and I could always depend on a shopping cart full of old stripped-covers comics for sale there. The stripped-covers were 'returns' that had been stripped of their front covers for reimbursement by the publishers in the 'good old days', when there wasn't any local comic book shops, (LCBS), in existence. The practice continued for many years.
Anyways, in that shopping cart I would find old Atlas war comics, western comics, and yes... HoRRoR comics! As well as other from other publishers, but I was just learning that Atlas Comics was the precursor to what became known as Marvel Comics!
So, I've always had a 'fondness' of reading comics from those years. Which is hard to do now, because even the 'reader copies', (Good to Very Good grade), are expensive now.
So when I saw this book, I just had to pick it up!
Here is a great video on what this book is about:
Pretty Cool, huh?!
While I'm at it... Here is the publisher's info on this book:
"The Horror! The Horror! uncovers a rare treasury of some of the most important and neglected stories in American literature—the pre-Code horror comics of the 1950s. These outrageous comic book images, censored by Congress in an infamous televised U.S. Senate subcommittee investigating juvenile delinquency in 1954, have rarely been seen since they were first published—and are revealed once again in all of their eye-popping glory. Jim Trombetta, in his commentary and informative text, provides a detailed history and context for these stories and their creators, spinning a tale of horror and government censorship as scary as the stories themselves.
Bonus DVD--Confidential File, a rare 25-minute TV show that first aired on October 9, 1955, about the "evils" of comic books and their effect on juvenile delinquency is included with the book.
Please note that the enclosed DVD begins with a 58-second test pattern, followed by the tv show."
If you are new to this topic, and / or new to my blog, I'll just recap some of the history of 'HoRRoR Comics'!
First, as you may or may not know...The HoRRoR comics of the 1950s are seeing a lot of interest lately. That's because other publishers have been printing books on that period in comics history.
Sure, there were more than just HoRRoR / MONster / Crime comics during that period, but it was those comics genres of the 1950s that were so 'shocking' to several adults, most notably the child psychologist Frederic Wertham, author of the anti-comics 'Seduction of the Innocent'.
Indeed our own U.S. Senate actually held hearings on these comics! To stop this assault on their publications, several comics publishers started a "voluntary" Comics Code that banned much of what those three genres of comics pictured.
Indeed, the Comics Code wiped out many of the comic book publishers, and left those that were still printing just a shadow of their former publishing glory.
So many things were banned during this period. Even in westerns, the gunsmoke of guns going off were deemed to be too much and were censored! So it did go from one extreme to the other in the mid to late 1950s.
Much of this comics history is recounted in this book: 'The Horror! The Horror! Comic Books the Government Didn’t Want You to Read!', along with the following:
1) An interpretive essay for the start of each chapter. The essays were on 'The Age of Nuclear Terror', 'Crime', 'The Critic', 'The Dead Don't Die', 'Skeletons', 'The Grin', and other topics.
2) Front Cover art and some complete and incomplete stories from many of these hard to find comics!
3) The book also comes with a DVD of a 30-minute TV program from 1955, which of course was warning parents about the dangers of crime and horror comics.
So... Now you have a basic idea of what the book is about...
What's 'My Take' on it?
Well, let me start with the front cover, which like a comic book either grabs me to pick it up or not. This one did... Right away!
The interpretive essays is something that I am used to, because I did one last year for the the 1966 Batman TV Series book, 'Gotham City 14 Miles'. So I know how hard it is to write one of them! Plus I read my fellow essayists essays for the book, all 13 of them, and know how hard it is for those to be written, let alone edited! The author, Jim Trombetta, did a pretty good job, IMO, on presenting each one of the chapters' topics. Some were very knowledgeable, some were funny, and others were in between serious and over the top. Yet a good balance was struck throughout the whole book!
Now for the front cover art. Quite honestly there are a few websites that offer front cover art for this time period. However, none have the full sized comic book art that this book has! Yes, there are a few pages where four comic book covers are presented, but for the most part each cover is a stand alone page. It is there on those pages that I once again encountered the L.B. Cole front covers that I grew to appreciate reading the magazine 'Comic Book Marketplace', and it was here that I found even better scans of the Don Heck covers from this time period.
Yes, Don Heck is mainly remembered today for his Iron Man and Avengers work at Marvel Comics, but I 'marveled' at these HoRRoR comics that illustrated the front covers for. And yes, 'everyone' knows about the bullet in the head front cover, as seen here in Horrific #3, but there are several other covers that have beautiful, but not so 'horrific' in nature to view. It made me appreciate Don's works even more today. Don's 'wiki' entry can be found here.
The DVD would be 'special' for someone who hasn't seen it. I've already seen it on YouTube, so while it is a nice addition to this book, it is something that appears to be in the 'public domain'. Yet, if you haven't viewed it, it is a very interesting commentary on those times. Plus, keep in mind, that when this documentary was produced... The Comics Code had already come into existence! Just another one of those sensationalistic TV show episodes... after the fact.
Please don't get me wrong about this book! I found it to be informative, as well as a 'good read' on this period in comic book history... My comic book grade for this one-shot comic book is a VERY FINE / NEAR MINT (VF/NM) 9.0 out of a possible 10.0 grading scale.
Here's info on the book itself:
Paperback: 304 pages
So where do you buy it? Here's a link to an reputable online connection: The Horror! The Horror!: Comic Books the Government Didn't Want You to Read!
Thank you for reading this blog today, and be sure to come back for more informative yet entertaining, (I hope!) blog posts!
~Michael D Hamersky
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