Monday, January 19, 2015

What I'm Reading: Roundup

Haunted Horror I haven't written about any comics series I've been reading for a while (I think the last series I mentioned was The Wakehere). Haunted Horror comes out bi-monthly and is one of my favorites. It reprints stories from old fifties comics with titles like Weird Mysteries and Chamber of Chills. These are stories from pre-code comics, meaning before the imposition of the Comics Code in 1954, when far more violence, gore, and sexuality was allowed in comics. There are four to five stories per issue, and usually at least one or two are really good and creepy. Often, though, the stories feel pretty hack-like. Since I imagine the editors are culling the best stories from the old issues, I hate to think what was left on the cutting-room table. That thought brings me to my next entry--

Tales From the Crypt, Vol. 3 This is a hardcover collecting EC's Tales From the Crypt issues 13-18, from 1952-53. EC was the premiere publisher of horror, war, and crime comics during this era. They had the best artists and writers in the industry--legends like Jack Davis, Joe Orlando, Wally Wood, Joe Kubert, and on and on--no hackwork here! The Comics Code in 1954 cut out the heart of what EC was doing, and by 1955 they had cancelled practically their whole line. Editor William B. Gaines decided to keep publishing one comic, however, switching over to magazine format to avoid the dictates of the Code, a little humor magazine you may have heard of called Mad.

There are a number of great stories in this volume of Tales of the Crypt, but one sticks out in my mind as especially bizarre and sick (that's good in this case!). Titled "Lower Berth," it tells about a traveling carnival in the old days, one with an especially good sideshow. The stars of this sideshow are Myrna, a real mummified teen-age girl from ancient Egypt, and Enoch, a two-headed inbred hillbilly from the Ozarks who died at sixteen and is kept in a vat of formaldehyde. At each new stop the carnival makes, the owners of these two attractions are in constant competition for better placement and billing. What they don't realize is that their freaky exhibits can see each other from across the midway and are falling in love with each other! I don't want to give away the ending but it's unexpected but appropriate for the nature of the material.

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