Back in 1984 DC Comics had it’s 50th anniversary which was an historic turning point, as DC finally turned into a company that could take Marvel on. 1984-5 is a serious time of transition just as the Bronze Age closes and the modern era starts and this video is the sort of video they used to send out to comic shops back in the day but mainly what would happen is they’d be watched once, then end up gathering dust somewhere.
What’s great about this is the foreshadowing of the new era to come. Alan Moore, Alan Davies, and Dave Gibbons get namechecked, you get to see Julie Schwartz and Dick Giordano, plus a half-cut Joe Orlando. IT really is a wonderful bit of history.
Now here’s a thing. I’m no fan of Andrew Lloyd Webber. His musicals have been a blister on the arse of modern culture for decades, but the reaction to the film version of Cats is extraordinary and has been since the first bizarre trailer.
There’s something called the ‘uncanny valley‘ and this first trailer was full of it so people were naturally unnerved by something which looked weird at best, utterly terrifying at worst. So for the last six months, the general school of thought is this was a disaster in the making and that people should be ready to hate this film. Now the film is out, reviews are not kind to say the very very least.
But the thing was I didn’t feel involved with the pile-on. In fact I thought the trailer looked interesting in a way where the director Tom Hooper has went for a complete anthropomorphisation of the characters in a neon world. Basically Hooper has done something unexpected, but this uncanny valley problem wasn’t going away mainly as I think this as the first time a number of people encountered it.
Standing alone in the tsunami of hate is Mike McPadden’s glorious review at Daily Grindhouse. It is probably the best thing written about the film so far, and you can read it here. This bit I liked especially;
To wit: any time Groupthink issues a “WORST. MOVIE. EVER” edict, my instinct is to champion their target. I grew up circling any title rated “BOMB” in Leonard Maltin’s annual movie guidebooks and then scoured my local TV schedule each week to hunt them down. That was my film school, and it worked. Consider, too, some specific masterworks reflexively bemoaned on arrival by Big Stupid Everybody: EXORCIST II: THE HERETIC (1977), SHOWGIRLS (1995), and THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU (1996), to name just three favorites. Which do you think is more challenging, more exciting, more rewarding—those films, or whatever topped the box office and/or mainstream critics’ lists of their respective release years?
I could add hundreds of films which bombed critically and at the box office which are now genuine classics, which isn’t to say Cats is a classic, but it will be a cult film within the decade. In the meantime people will move onto another film to pile onto leaving me wondering what sort of fucked up society we’ve become where I defend something Andrew Lloyd Webber has touched…
So, Prince Andrew and that interview…
I won’t go into the gory details as I’m sure there’s nobody in the Western world who hasn’t heard Andrew’s word and how much of a lying liar he is. The lack of ability to sweat has been debunked for the steaming bollocks it is, and at no point does he say anything honest.
But the fact is that if this had been an ordinary member of the public they’d be in a cell today after answering police questions, but because he’s a member of the British elite he’s able to avoid prison so Andrew can spend the rest of his life not sweating because the establishment looks after their own.
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.
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.
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.
Or the gloriously gory end to Foul Play…
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.
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.
There are few artists whose entire body of work is troubling. H.R Giger is one, Junji Ito is another.
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.
As for his work, Uzumaki, to think a creator could make a horror story based round the spiral seems laughable til you read it…
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.