Thursday, June 1, 2017

Judging Horror Comics by the Cover

When I was a kid we didn't have a lot of money to buy comic books and every penny I made babysitting I always spent on records, concert tickets or band t shirts ( I had my priorities). I made a deal with my mother that I could earn Archie or X-men comic books from our local variety store with good grades but that plan was kind of flawed from the start as a "C" was considered pretty good in my world so my youthful comic collection was quite a minimal one.

   Except for the horror comics.

 Horror comic digests always seemed to be plentiful at Goodwill and other local thrift shops. I actually had quite a collection of comic digests from those book shelves where I learned about all sorts of things both amazing (Thanks Dennis the Menace for your trip to The Smithsonian) and seriously creepy. I learned quite a bit about vampire lore and more specifically, what a banshee is from reading those old used horror comic digests.

  Last summer was a fun summer of trying to make a go of what (even tho it eventually closed) "the little comic shop that could". I learned a lot about comic books and the comic business but i also revisited my old friends, horror comics.

   It was fun finding old titles in the many long boxes owned by Dan Vince of The Comic Shop (Randolph, MA) and a bit of a rude awakening to find what the genre has become.

   I have not yet found any of the same titles that I read in those digests as a kid but I did see many of that variety:

   The art and vintage clothing are very familiar:

 Note the magazine title sitting in the rack in the below page scan, I wonder how many people were involved in the meeting where "Look" was changed to "Saw" and how many of those people could have known that small word "Saw" would live on as a horror series of movies 40+ years later?

So time marches on and horror "lite" enters the mainstream and thus, comic tie in's soon follow. Not quite as creepy as the circa 1960's reprints that I read as a kid but probably still too creepy for the 1950's comics code:

  However as the sci-fi universe taught us and comics have produced in a frame by frame format, time sometimes moves sideways. Many of those sideways factions of our time space continuum are not places we would like to visit but none the less, (much like the god awful gory Saw movies) we would be lacking in our education if we did not own up to the fact that they exist.
Modern horror comics seem to have split into factions of the kind of creepy and the truly gross:

The only way I can stomach selling Tim Vigil comic books is by digesting the art with a critical mind. Look at that woman's right arm, not her left which seems alright but her right arm? The perspective is all off, where is her elbow?
  I will not include the gross inside pages to this title or other Tim Vigil drawn titles but I think one can get the idea of what this type of book contains by the cover. Dan Vince and I had a few conversations about these titles when I worked for him at The Comic Shop and our joint decision was that we wanted to do business and make a profit but the type of customer that gets excited over that kind of gore? Probably not people we wanted in the shop and certainly not anyone we would want to meet in person.
   That said, I was a little surprised by recent social media reports that grim rock star Glenn Danzig was quoted stating opposition to Planned Parenthood (an organization that I actively support). Mr. Danzig has collaborated in the past with Tim Vigil and all I could think was,

   "Dude, some woman making the hardest decision of her life grosses you out but necrophilia doesn't? Who on earth have I been supporting with my record buying money?"

 I do know where I stand on the Planned Parenthood debate and as much as I support freedom of the press (I have sold many Tim Vigil titles through Randolph Comix) I am still seriously grossed out by these types of modern horror books (and movies, I groove on clever tension not gore) I still have a soft spot for vintage horror comics of my childhood and teen years and am always delighted to find some indie title keeping the flame alive.
It brings me joy to think that through local thrift stores some of these vintage inspired titles might wind up in the hands of some modern creepy minded kid just like me.

   Note the proper perspective the artist used on this cover, the hands might be weirdly distorted but they are placed in a realistic manner....

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