Review: The Horror! The Horror!

The Horror! The Horror! Comic Books the Government Didn’t Want You to Read! written by Jim Trombetta and published by Abrams, is a hefty volume weighing in at 304 pages. It is a collection of  (pre-comics code) 1950’s horror and crime comic books, which in 1954 became the target of a live televised U.S. Senate subcommittee investigating their ‘connection’ to juvenile delinquency. The result was the censoring and banning of the titles contained within this volume.

The book is divided into twenty-two chapters including ‘The Age of Nuclear Terror’, (the amusingly titled) ‘Tom’s Leg’, ‘The Comforts of War’, ‘The Tale of the Head’ and ‘Death and the Maiden’. Each chapter contains an introduction, which while informative, I found to be a bit too dryly written and ‘academic’ for my tastes and I soon found myself skipping over those sections. Fortunately though these pages are quite brief and bulk of the book is given over to the reproduction of the original covers, which was the main appeal for me. The format of the book allows the majority of the covers to be reproduced in full size and the uncoated paper stock the book is printed on gives the comics a vintage ‘newsprint’ look. The featured titles include pulpy (and trashy) classics such as Tomb of Terror, Crime Does Not Pay, The Unseen, Terrors of the Jungle, Dark Mysteries and Weird Tales. Very little restoration appears to have been carried out on the covers but I find that the creases and scratches add to the ‘character’ of the covers. Along with Mail Order Mysteries this is another great resource for retro/vintage design inspiration.

The volume also includes several reproduced strips such as Cycle of Horror!, Dungeon of Doom! and (my favourite) The Brain-Bats of Venus. None are particularly sophisticated compared to today’s standards of writing in comic books but they are at least entertaining! Another added bonus is the inclusion of a DVD, Confidential File, which is a rare documentary from 1955 about the ‘evil’ of comic books. It would be interesting to see what the U.S. Senate subcommittee of 1954 would have made of modern titles such as Crossed, The Walking Dead, The Boys or Alan Moore’s Necronomicon!

Examples of the images featured in 'The Horror! The Horror!'. This shows the front cover to 'Witche's Tales' and 'Baffleing Mysteries'. Both feature gruesome images.