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56 of 61 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good collection of pre-code horror
Author Jim Trombetta dissects various facets of the horror comics (the werewolf, war, crime, etc.) using quite a bit of psychology. Usually that throws up a red flag for me. While there are several instances where I questioned the logic of the author, there are an equal number when a lightbulb went on over my dim cranium and I actually looked at a story differently...
Published on October 21, 2010 by P. Enfantino

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9 of 15 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Great art, lousy writing
As other reviewers have pointed out, this book's strength is its reproduction of a wide variety of comics. But the text is a prime example of academic baloney. In "The Horror The Horror" you'll learn that the entire genre of horror comics was the result of repressed anxiety over the possibility of nuclear war. And that Bill Gaines was the victim of a "show trial" because...
Published on February 14, 2012 by Michael Sheldon


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56 of 61 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good collection of pre-code horror, October 21, 2010
This review is from: The Horror! The Horror!: Comic Books the Government Didn't Want You To Read (with DVD) (Paperback)
Author Jim Trombetta dissects various facets of the horror comics (the werewolf, war, crime, etc.) using quite a bit of psychology. Usually that throws up a red flag for me. While there are several instances where I questioned the logic of the author, there are an equal number when a lightbulb went on over my dim cranium and I actually looked at a story differently. Trombetta's prose is scholarly but not academic (read: not boring). I would question whether such in-depth analysis is due a story about a young couple who buy a new house, quickly discover bottles of blood in the basement and then decide against moving out. When the "bloodman" (rather then the milkman) comes calling for "empties" and takes the couple along with him, I thought "what a couple of dopes" rather than look for any Freudian overtones.

According to Trombetta, "Skeletons perform any number of lonely personal revenges, but they most often appear less as the mirror of human self-hatred than as a quorum." Huh? Just tell me how they can speak without vocal chords! A little far fetched is this description of the cover of Mysterious Adventures #18: "Here a superb Hy Fleischman skeleton grabs his ex-wife and demands that she join him in the grave. What ups the ante is that the ex-wife's boyfriend is also on the scene - molested, prison-style, from behind by another skeleton." Does anybody really see in this cover, even squinting, a skeletal version of Deliverance?

There are 16 strips here, several of which are dopey fun. ( I'd love to own a set of Dark Mysteries, with titles like "The Terror of the Hungry Cats," "Terror of the Unwilling Witch," "Vampire Fangs of Doom," "Terror of the Vampire's Teeth"). My favorite of the batch for sheer goofiness would have to be "The Eyes of Death." Ralph Moore has always been jealous of fellow astronomer Don Reynolds' success. Don seems to have all the fame and fortune that astronomers deserve: stars named after him, awards bestowed, lots of dough, and a sweet chick named Elaine. Ralph's biggest problem is that his eyes are going bad and, sorta like a junk man with no arms, he's having a tough time getting the job done. Despite the fact that this has nothing to do with Don, Ralph has a "moment" and tosses his partner down the observatory stairs. Now, here's where it gets interesting. Instead of calling the cops and confessing, Ralph calls his cousin, the surgeon, to ask if the doctor can perform a super-secret operation to give him Don's eyes. The doctor scratches his chin, pondering, and says "I can do it, Ralph...it's unethical...but...all right, I'll do it! No one will know - he'll be buried with his eyes closed!" (At this point I pause and ask why author Trombetta didn't research the medical field of the 1950s to get to the bottom of how something like this could occur? No autopsy?) Needless to say, Don's corpse rises from his grave to reclaim his eyes at the climax. I have to believe that Trombetta is pulling our leg with his analysis of the story: "'The Eyes of Death' (Dark Mysteries No. 7, July 1952) succeeds in becoming a true nightmare out of a kids' campfire story, in which eyes can literally be ripped off. The story also presents an original idea of cosmic casuality that will no doubt have astronomers revising their theories."

If all this comes off as too negative, don't get me wrong. The Horror, The Horror is a delight from start to finish and features not only those 16 stories but hundreds of rare comic covers. Trombetta drops his professorial cap several times and made me laugh out loud. Regarding the cover of Dark Mysteries #13 (directly to my left). The author questions: "The guard expresses amazement: `It's Tom's leg.... But he was executed last night!' What is striking, of course, is how many more questions this explanation raises than it answers: How does the guard know it's Tom's leg? If this is Tom's leg, where's the rest of him? Did his execution involve his dismemberment? Are the other prisoners afraid that the leg itself will, say, give them the boot? Or has something eaten the post-resurrection Tom in one large gulp, leaving only a drumstick, and are the other characters afraid they'll be next?"

This is how I think Jim should have tackled this project. Forget phallic symbols and emasculating mother-figures. Sometimes a zombie is just a zombie.
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39 of 42 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars coulda been more, but it's still pretty darn good., October 30, 2010
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This review is from: The Horror! The Horror!: Comic Books the Government Didn't Want You To Read (with DVD) (Paperback)
As a long-time collector of EC and pre-code horror comics, I was really looking forward to this book. I was hoping for a well-researched tome, one that might turn over some new stones and shed some light on the (still mostly unknown) second-string creators and companies whose comics captivated kids and horrified their parents in the staid 1950's. Or perhaps a volume with loads of stories that would convey the essence of these forbidden comics.
What we have is a book with only 16 stories (boo!), lots of single pages and panels (ok), and loads of covers (Hurray!) It could serve as an introduction to the horror-comic genre for newcomers, with way too much psychological analysis heaped on top. The history is mostly a few oft-repeated stories (The Senate hearings, the Comics Code, Gaines' fight in defense of the story JUDGMENT DAY). You know all these by heart if you are anything more than a very casual fan. There is nothing new or very revealing about the industry or the guys who turned this stuff out.

Instead we have reams of Freudian analysis, much of which reads like a parody of itself. Some of it is so off-base, in attempting to make a dubious point, that I sputtered out loud. (Note to future comic book analysts: LET ME DECIDE MYSELF WHAT I SEE IN A COMIC.)
Examples? The comic BATTLE CRY showed, in its logo, a soldier screaming- issuing a "battle cry". The author sees this: "The logo of BATTLE CRY, with its bawling GI head... suggests that it's all right for grown men who have lost their buddies, who have suffered the "heartbreak" of a brutal engagement, to break down and cry... the conventional war comic is the male equivalent of a romance comic." HUH?
A page later we have this, in search of phallic symbolism: ..."The artist has supplied us with a surplus, even gratuitous, phallic symbol: the GI's pistol holster. It doesn't seem to contain a pistol; it's not really connected to the pistol belt; and it rides not on the GI's hip but extends rigidly from his crotch, pointing downward directly at the dead man's splayed form." Problem is, that's not a pistol holster. It's a BAYONET HOLDER. The soldier just bayoneted someone. That's the scabbard his bayonet came from. That is why it doesn't look like a holster.

The horror comics have been analyzed to death by now. If I'm getting a history book, I just want the cold, hard facts. Or in a reprint book, give me stories with minimal commentary, allowing them to speak for themselves. That's not this book. There is almost no info about the men behind these comics, and only a broad outline of the history of the genre. Most of the books in the bibliography have been printed after 1995. It's lazy scholarship to fill pages with pop- psychoanalytical ruminations, and to rely on recent works instead of ferreting out source material from the time. I was REALLY hoping for some solid research- some real meat and potatoes- that would cast a new light on the horror era or fill in some of the blanks.

PROS: The cover is great. The book is the actual size of the comic books themselves, which is nice. There are DOZENS of covers, many excellent, mostly full- page. (To me, the book is worth it for the 9 Bernard Baily covers alone!) The author does a nice job in spotlighting the connection between crime comics and the horror comics they morphed into. Most of the stories are at least decent, some are excellent. All are worth reading, even if a couple are overly- familiar (Ditko & Wolverton). The proofreader seems to have done a good job (but that's not a Matt. Fox cover on page 201).

CONS: Most of the covers are not printed to the edge of the paper, but have a white border with the editorial info printed at the bottom. It destroys the "cover" illusion, for me- it loses some impact. The non-glossy paper also takes away from the "feel" of a cover. Some of the covers are very worn and no restoration was done to improve their appearance. The stories are scanned from the comics, so off-register coloring and some muddiness result at times- although it is true to the way these cheesy books looked. There are only 16 stories in 300 plus pages.
Another problem is the paper. In duplicating the look and feel of a cheap 1950's comic (a good intention), an absorbent matte-finish paper was used. Many of the black areas are fragmented and blotchy (pages 3 & 4 of NIGHTMARE WORLD); some of the color is dull and washed out looking. And did I mention that there is a tad too much Freudian analysis for my taste?

Despite my beefs, this book is still EASILY worth what it costs on Amazon. There are over 100 FULL-PAGE covers alone! Sorry if I sound like COMIC BOOK GUY. It's just that I was hoping for more- typical of a fanboy, I guess.
Also check out FOUR COLOR FEAR: FORGOTTEN HORROR COMICS OF THE FIFTIES by Greg Sadowski; released only a month or so apart, the two books are the best ever done on non-EC 50's horror. They pack a potent one-two punch. Sean Burns
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The other 97%, November 24, 2010
This review is from: The Horror! The Horror!: Comic Books the Government Didn't Want You To Read (with DVD) (Paperback)
The first shocker for me from "The Horror! The Horror!" came on page thirty-one, where it is pointed out that EC published only about three percent of the huge output of horror books available during 1950-1955. Almost everything that I have ever read about the pre-code horror books focused exclusively on EC. "Tales from the Crypt." "The Vault of Horror." "The Haunt of Fear." These I know. The other 97% of horror titles, like Master Comics' "Dark Mysteries." Fawcett Publications' "Beware! Terror Tales." Farrell Comics' "Haunted Thrills."...not so much.

Which is why I got so much out of this book. Even after having read books like Seal of Approval: The History of the Comics Code and The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How It Changed America (not to mention actually owning a copy of "Seduction of the Innocent") I really didn't get the idea of scale. So many books pit the Comics Code as a private war waged against Bill Gaines to try and take away his market share, when it was more than that. With "The Horror! The Horror!" I finally got an idea of what the newsstands must of looked like during that Golden Age of 1950-1955 when almost every comic on the pile was a horror comic, outdoing themselves for blood and gore, for monsters and mayhem.

Really a coffee table book, "The Horror! The Horror!: Comic Books the Government Didn't Want You to Read" is mainly a collection of pictures and stories. Author Jim Trombetta has offered a few short essays and edited the selections down to a few chapters, but that is really the fluff of the book. The real fun is flipping through the pages, looking at all the covers and the sheer variety of weirdness that was available then. The images are sectioned by theme, like "The Tale of the Head" showing shrunken-head covers, or even more simply "Skeletons," "Werewolves" and "Death and the Maiden."

Also included are sixteen complete stories, some of which are just peculiar like Basil Wolverton's "The Brain-Bats of Venus" from Aragon's "Mister Mystery" comic, or Steve Ditko's "The Thing" from Charlton Comics, which does not feature a certain orange and rocky good guy. There are a few that are just scraps, like the seeing-eye human serving a blind werewolf from Prime Publications "Uncanny Tales." I would have liked more stories, sure, but I thought the balance was good leaving room for the cover galleries.

Trombetta's essays are hit and miss. He seems to have the same eye that Dr. Wertham had, able to spot symbolism everywhere. Too many of his essays would describe a picture, but when I looked at the cover itself I just didn't see what he saw. The soldier on the cover of "Battle Cry" didn't look like a "bawling GI head" suggesting that "it's all right for grown men who have lost their buddies...to break down and cry." It looks like a tough soldier giving a loud battle cry. You know, just like the name of the magazine.

Some of the essays I found very interesting, like the recap of Robert Warshow's 1954 essay "Paul, the Horror Comics and Dr. Wertham" of the uncomfortable position of a father caught between hating Dr. Wertham's sensationalist methods but also unhappy with his son Paul's choice of reading materials. The final verdict; "I would be happy if Senator Kefauver and Dr. Wertham could find some way to make it impossible for Paul to get any comic books. But I'd rather that Paul didn't get the idea that I had anything to do with it." I am sure there are many parents who find themselves in the same quandary.

Also included with this book is the "Confidential File" DVD, an obscure 50s' documentary on horror comics. Think Reefer Madness for comic books, and you get the idea. A very cool little piece of history that I was glad to see.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Horrifically wonderful! A must-have book., April 4, 2011
This review is from: The Horror! The Horror!: Comic Books the Government Didn't Want You To Read (with DVD) (Paperback)
I want to give a very enthusiastic recommendation for THE HORROR! THE HORROR! Horror comics of the pre-code era is an area of the history of comics that I was not very familiar with and this volume taught me a lot. Lots of insightful commentary, history lessons (and perhaps some far-reaching amateur psychoanalysis) accompany dozens of beautifully presented cover images as well as complete stories. I especially enjoyed how the images come from actual comics themselves and are reprinted mostly life-size and show off staples, yellowing and cracking you would expect if you held the actual 60+ year old comics in your hand! Many familiar creators' names are showcased here but many more that I was totally unfamiliar with and am thankful for the introduction! A must-have book for anyone interested in the history of comics.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hours of Fun, January 10, 2011
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This review is from: The Horror! The Horror!: Comic Books the Government Didn't Want You To Read (with DVD) (Paperback)
This is a great collection. I got it for my 65 year old father because he used to display horror comics on our wall when i was a child. What a wonderful, interesting book!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Three Thumbs Up!, January 22, 2014
By 
Richard Testa (Los Angeles, CA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Horror! The Horror!: Comic Books the Government Didn't Want You To Read (with DVD) (Paperback)
I spent this past Holiday reading this and even dedicated one night in Vegas to perusing its pages. The compilation is a great collection of horror comics that would be nearly impossible to collect individually. I recommend it to horror comic fans with three thumbs up (and if that's not creepy...trust me this book is).
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cosmic Comics !, January 3, 2011
This review is from: The Horror! The Horror!: Comic Books the Government Didn't Want You To Read (with DVD) (Paperback)
The compiler has really done a good job here.Firstly, it is beautifully printed, coloured and bound,with pages faithfully reprinted from the off white and slightly ragged originals, so the reader very much has the feel of holding an early 1950's original -- it is a very 'tactile' book !

Now, to the content, and these stories are just completely off the beaten track and extraordinary -- the stuff is totally insane.

As I have said in my Amazon review of "The Mammoth Book of Horror Stories",the compelling thing in these stories also, is that these skint and desperate artists --Ukrainians, Sicilians, Georgians, Armenians,Ashkenazim, Romanians, Irish and Lithuanians -- apparently arrived in NY, Chicago etc in the '30's to '50's, and just poured out the most insane folk tales from their own cultures onto the pages, with all the overtones of ethnic clashes and prejudice and phobias etc from their own beleaguered cultures still very much alive... it makes for very strange reading ! Some of the really fearful, paranoiac,claustrophobic views of Nazis and Aryans, for example, are likely reactions that were all too real to the authors/artists of their time, and some of the hateful views of bureaucracy and the 'nobility' were also probably all to real to the authors.

As such, these stories provide a very weird take on 'folk history' to the reader.

These stories are a real revelation -- in my view, the stories here are,surprisingly, far superior to most of the EC/DC product.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A nice overview - not intro - to pre-code horror, May 15, 2012
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This review is from: The Horror! The Horror!: Comic Books the Government Didn't Want You To Read (with DVD) (Paperback)
There are some complete stories in The Horror!, but the focus is predominantly on excerpts and covers to show a broad representation of publisher and artist's styles. The book is arranged thematically, with titles like "Lexicon Devil" and "The Age of Nuclear Terror" leading into the editor's commentary. The commentary is an attempt to place historical and/or psychological context for the chapter's symbolism. An historical curio in the form of a DVD (Region 0, NTSC) is included, presenting Confidential File, an anti-comics episode of a documentary television show that aired on October 8, 1955.

A big selling point of this book is the large L.B. Cole section, one of the largest Cole sections in recent memory. If you are not familiar with his work, search it out; he basically created psychedelic art with his illustration work in the 1950's. Lurid, nightmare landscapes in garish colors were his stock in trade and impossible to ignore, even the romance covers. There are more technically proficient cover artists of the 1950's, but few are as unique as Mr. Cole and their inclusion here is very welcome.

The Horror! is a good read for the comics fan with a background in the pre-code era who wants a nice selection of off-brand covers and a scholarly discussion (without getting too stuffy) of the context and content of these books. Although it seems unlikely that the writers of these garish tales had more in mind than separating people from their dimes, there is the requisite Freudian analysis of common themes in the genre. While the covers, excerpts and stories are attributed where information is known, the lack of additional indexes or appendixes limits its value as a reference volume. It is a worthy, colorful companion volume to one's collection of Tales Too Terrible to Tell or From the Tomb magazine, but not recommended as an introduction to the genre as a whole, due to the lack of many complete tales.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Comic Books the government didn't want you to read!", November 12, 2010
By 
C. Wagner "cecilkunkle" (On the banks of the Wabash far away) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Horror! The Horror!: Comic Books the Government Didn't Want You To Read (with DVD) (Paperback)
A refreshing collection of criticism, covers, art illustration, and complete stories, divurging from the reprinted E.C. line, printed on quality paper perhaps intending to resemble what would now be the yellowing originals.
A few political nuts in the 50s effectively made hay with this material, although frankly I still cannot catch the entire range of sexual innuendo in the commentary, but that is just as well.
Art and story range from good to crude. But, the important part is that it is all in fun.
So, settle back for a bit of information and a good read.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Those wonderful horrible comics!, November 18, 2012
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This review is from: The Horror! The Horror!: Comic Books the Government Didn't Want You To Read (with DVD) (Paperback)
By the time I was old enough to buy my own comic books the "code" had gone into place but my older cousins still had a trove of the forbidden gems of yesterysar. These were treasured by me and my friends, stashed in tree houses and under clothes in drawers where parents wouldn't find them. This book brings them back. They were like story boards for horor movies that we could imagine. I'm sure some of the authors wound up penning scripts for Twilight Zone and Outer Limits as well as some of the low budget horror movies but it was the art work that stood out. I guess some of these artists went on to illustrate super hero comics for DC and Marvel. The ban is a sad chapter to those Eisenhower years that coinsides with the McCarthy era persecution of the "Commies" in our society. The documentary DVD though not nearly as lurid reminds me of "Reefer Madness" in portaying the threat to our nation's youth.
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The Horror! The Horror!: Comic Books the Government Didn't Want You To Read (with DVD)
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