My top ten horror comics: 1: EC Comics

Every single horror comic produced today in the West owes something to the horror comics produced by EC Comics. In fact, EC’s influence is such that if you’ve seen a zombie film, or something written by Stephen King, or made by George Romero, or influenced in any way by these people (which is pretty much everything in horror these days) then you’ve been touched by EC.

crimesusestories22

Springing out of their crime comics, EC found that kids in the 1950s loved grisly, gory, wonderful horror stories drawn by some of the greatest ever artists to draw comics then and now.

Haunt_of_Fear_Vol_1_12

Many of the stories were actually pretty routine sting in the tale stories, but some were extraordinary such as the adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s The Small Assassin, which is still chilling and horrific 70 years after it was first published.

shock-suspenstories-07-27

Or the gloriously gory end to Foul Play

94e61bebfcdfd061e958937ecac0cdd8

Sadly this run of fun and games didn’t last long in the censorious days of 50s America, and soon the authorities cracked down on horror comics, and in doing so held back American comics for 40 years.

250px-Tales_from_the_Crypt_24

But those few years pumping out horror, fear, crime, gore and terror hit a mark that horror comics have tried to better for decades, and on the whole, failed to his the same standards. These comics are truly golden and will forever be the best horror comics you’ll come across.

My top ten horror comics: 2 : Swamp Thing

Swamp Thing is DC’s version of a mud-monster archetype that goes back decades in comics, and even further, but it is by far the best known as well as being host to at least three classic runs. The first by creators Len Wein and Berni Wrightson.

swampy1

Wein and Wrightson’s run is full of Gothic angst as Swamp Thing tries to regain some measure of his lost humanity while fighting other monsters, not to mention Batman. In that story is writer Len Wein’s favourite ever panel of Batman and he’s not wrong in how bloody great it is.

swampybats

Wein and Wrightson’s run is lovely old-school horror but it was short-lived, and followed on was a run memorable only for some nice Nestor Redondo art but nothing else. Swampy was a character who drifted for nearly a decade before a writer by the name of Alan Moore was assigned the book when it was one of DC’s worst-selling titles. Moore, along with Steve Bissette, John Totleben and Rick Veitch redefined the horror comic from issue 20 of Saga of the Swamp Thing to an extent where its influence hangs over comics today. Current best-seller The Immortal Hulk owes a lot to this title, and Moore’s approach in particular.

SOTSTv2 p12-35

Moore was less influenced by horror comics of the past, and instead took a literary approach assuming the reader could, well, read, and wasn’t an idiot. Very quickly the title crawled from the swamp of near cancellation to being one of the flagships of how DC reinvented themselves in the mid-80’s by producing a critical and commercial success.

SOTSTv2 p199-222

This run is simply the best horror comics produced by either Marvel or DC. Moore also slips in and out of horror genres so one issue would be a monster of the week, followed by a sort of slasher story, then a werewolf story and then something entirely from leftfield.

SOTSTv2 p110-150By the end of the run, it was hard to imagine how to follow it but writer/artist Rick Veitch took over the chores, and did so well until DC pulled his run over a story where a lost in time Swamp Thing would meet Jesus Christ.

swampchrist

But we were left with nearly 80 issues of classic stories, with Moore and company’s run being near perfection, and Veitch’s being high-quality work throughout. Sadly since then, Swamp Thing as a character hasn’t been served well (though Mark Millar’s run does deserve a mention for trying) which is a shame as there’s still potential there but to be honest how can you really follow what Moore, Veitch, Bissette and Totleben did?

My top ten horror comics: 3 : The works of Junji Ito

There are few artists whose entire body of work is troubling. H.R Giger is one, Junji Ito is another.

1555356649_16286421

I’m a latecomer to Ito’s work as I find wading through the masses of manga chaff tiresome, but I had a reaction to Ito’s work that I’ve not had in years. Yes, there’s extreme gore in there but his work uses and reshapes human bodies in twisted, bizarre ways with almost Lovecraftian stories and ideas that weld together Western and Eastern horror in a package that works amazingly well. The best example of this is his adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, which is a fascinating read not only because it’s accurate, but because this is the original story of body horror being adapted by a 21st century master of the genre.

frankito

As for his work, Uzumaki, to think a creator could make a horror story based round the spiral seems laughable til you read it…

uzamakiito

There’s also a film version of it that I must track down, as well as an adaptation by Adult Swim.

I’ve barely touched his work but the sheer amount of quality I encounter with each new book is remarkable as Ito is simply a twisted genius and I look forward to discovering more and more of his work.

My top ten horror comics:4:The Spectre by Michael Fleisher and Jim Aparo

How can a comic be exceptionally violent, brutal and grotesque in ways that 40 years later still horrify but manage to, just, stay within the limits of the Comics Code in the 1970’s? A lot of comics tried but in 1974 in Adventure Comics #431 showed how it could be done.

Adventure_Comics_Vol_1_431

Adventure Comics was at the time one of DC Comics longest running titles, but at this time it was a fading title used mainly for trying out new characters or somewhere to dump Aquaman in. With issue 474, editor Joe Orlando assigned writer Michael Fleisher and artist Jim Aparo revamped the Golden Age hero, The Spectre, for a run that became instantly controversial. Reason being is that Fleisher couldn’t show actual people being dismembered or tortured, so he’d have the Spectre (an all-powerful supernatural being) turn people into wax, or wood, or when that wheeze ran out artist Jim Aparo would push the Comics Code as far as it could have went in 1974.

spectrewood

Sadly the controversy meant the story was curtailed as the story neared the end after ten issues though in 1988, Fleisher and Aparo were invited to complete the story in the Wrath of the Spectre mini-series.

Wrath of the Spectre 001AB

By 1988 the sort of viciousness displayed in the 70’s run was still horrific, but the ending lost some of its impact have a decade and a half between both parts of the story. That said, it is still a classic and a bridge between the horror of the 50’s with EC and what Alan Moore would later introduce with Swamp Thing in the 80s. Trade paperbacks are easily found so go get a copy for a bit of horror comic history.

My top ten horror comics:5: Yummy Fur

Chester Brown is not a comic creator to get on too many vapid ‘best of’ lists on YouTube channels obsessed with superheroes, but he’s not only a bloody genius, but his work is among the most challenging you’ll read in the medium today. His comic, Yummy Fur, started as a surreal work of horror along the lines of David Lynch, especially Eraserhead.

yummyfur9

His story, Ed the Happy Clown, is a work of such demented genius that the story deserves to go into as clean as possible, but be warned, this is not an easy read. It will however be worth it as you’re caught between horror/comedy/revulsion.

ethc

It’s also worth pointing out that each edition of the collected Ed the Happy Clown has been revised in some way by Brown, so each edition comes at you in a slightly new way, but the original edit as it were are in those early issues of Yummy Fur.

220px-DefinitiveEdBookCover

Brown’s latter works leap between autobiographical work that is often challenging and leftfield work such as his adaptations of the Gospels. His book, Paying For It is the sort of work that other creators would find hard to put to paper but he does, and the challenging questions it raises will be argued about for years. For me though, the story of a happy clown and the things he encounters will forever live with me because of the images and ideas Brown uses. It’s a work that needs to be read.

My top 10 horror comics:6: Tomb of Dracula

By the 1970’s the Comics Code was starting to loosen up a bit, so DC and especially Marvel, took advantage of this by pushing their lines of horror comics. Marvel at this point ended up not just publishing the best of this boom, but one of their best ever ongoing series. Tomb of Dracula by Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan starts as a pretty good cash grab, then develops into a wonderfully dark horror comic with the odd superhero showing up too.Something you’d find over a decade later in DC’s Vertigo line, and in fact, this comic could easily have slipped into that line in its early years.

tod1

Through 70 issues, plus assorted annuals and specials, Wolfman and Colan told the story of Dracula who begins as your typical baddie, but eventually becomes a sort of antihero as he becomes a sympathetic character rather than just a monster.

tod6

Colan’s art too develops with his traditional swirling shades of black fitting expertly in a story increasingly grey in morality and nature.

tod50

Tomb of Dracula stood out in 1970’s Marvel because it lasted. Other just as experimental titles passed but this lasted til it eventually came to a natural end with issue 70.

tod70

And when it ended the horror comic faded with it. Sure, DC tried to keep the odd title going but this was the start of American comics being dominated totally by the superhero. This was the era of the X-Men by Chris Claremont, and it was time for the horror comic to have a rest before DC decided to give someone called Alan Moore a chance on one of their lowest selling titles…

But Tomb of Dracula is a classic of horror. It is at times genius and obviously horrifying. There’s lots of collected editions out there to fit your budget, go search them out.

Brexit will never end…

Parliament has backed Boris Johnson’s shite Brexit deal but the entire thing is going to drag on for more agony forever. We are literally faced with a situation where everyone involved in some shape or form in the UK has fucked it up royally in some way. From arrogant, ethno-nationalists pushing for the hardest Brexit ever though to middle class Remainers who think a second referendum will magically reset everything to the 2012 Olympic opening ceremony.

Frankly I’m fucked off with it all, so I’ve rethought how things should go. I’m no longer fully supportive of a second EU referendum for several reasons.

  1. Remain will lose again. Every major politician in England is a Brexiter from Boris Johnson to Jeremy Corbyn. Some have lept on the Brexit bandwagon for personal gain while some are lifelong Brexiters and they will not give up. Plus if Leave win twice and you can forget ever coming back into the EU for generations. No Westminster government will want to revisit that for the longest time.
  2. It drops Scotland in it. A second EU referendum to validate the first one seems sensible but as many have pointed out, if we ever do get a second Indyref do you really think they won’t pull the same stunt on us? And frankly the SNP are working their arse off to save England and Wales from Brexit for what goal? It isn’t going to give us a Section 30 order we need to hold our already democratically agreed referendum, nor are all these folk down south praising their actions going to be allies for Yes in a second vote. They’re Remainers. They just want their votes.
  3. Not executing the result of 2016 is again, something that paves a dangerous path for Scotland. Say we win our independence? All that will happen is court case after court case holding it up for as long as possible.

The fact is some form of Brexit is coming be it from a Johnson or Corbyn government, and rather than fighting for a second referendum which isn’t going to happen, the SNP should grow some balls and fight for the second Scottish referendum because that helps solve a lot of problems all round. We now have another extention from the EU, so they need to shape up and actually remember why folk voted for them in 2017.

But once independent, ourselves and a unified Ireland can leave England and Wales to live out their fevered dreams of the past til it all goes tits up, sanity is restored and we can all end up being normal countries again.

I wish.

Anyhow, we’re back to endlessly hoping for the unobtainable which means when the mountain hits, it will fucking hit us bad. Good luck to us all.