- Paperback: 304 pages
- Publisher: Harry N. Abrams; Reprint edition (November 1, 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0810955954
- ISBN-13: 978-0810955950
- Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 1.2 x 10.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2.8 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 34 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #516,453 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Horror! The Horror!: Comic Books the Government Didn't Want You to Read! Paperback – November 1, 2010
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Horror comics dominated the comic-book industry in the early ’50s before they were targeted by congressional hearings aimed at stemming their lurid excesses. Trombetta documents the phenomenon, reprinting more than 100 covers, dozens of excerpts, and a handful of complete stories that amply demonstrate the imaginatively gruesome tales that shocked a nation but captivated millions of readers. Since his aim is to accurately characterize the genre, most of Trombetta’s examples sport crude artwork, preposterous plots, and risible dialogue. However, several rise above the mediocrity: while EC Comics—the artistically preeminent publisher of the decade—is represented only in passing, complete stories by such auteurs as the celebrated Basil Wolverton and the underappreciated Howard Nostrand are included. Trombetta strings together the selections with perceptive commentary that assesses the comics’ recurring elements—not just zombies and werewolves, but also such themes as hunger and sexual hostility—and ties them into such cultural and political currents of the era as anticommunism, nuclear terror, and racism. A suitable companion volume to David Hajdu’s 2008 account of the anticomics witch hunt, The Ten-Cent Plague. --Gordon Flagg
About the Author
Jim Trombetta has been a Shakespearean scholar, a reporter and editor for Crawdaddy, the Los Angeles Times, and other publications, and a writer of numerous TV shows, including Miami Vice, The Flash, and Star Trek. He lives in Los Angeles.
R. L. Stine is the bestselling author of hundreds of horror novels, including the Goosebumps and Fear Street series.
Top customer reviews
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Yes, as Americans it is vital to our core beliefs, and yet it also leaves us to wrestle with protecting our young children from very dark and disturbing visual images. As this book shows, this is a conversation that started more than 50 years ago and continues to be relevant up 'til today.
This is a comprehensive book, and I'm grateful to the author for providing an in-depth history of this genre of entertainment. I admit there were images in the book that I found very disturbing, and I would definitely hesitate before putting this book in the hands of a young child.
Sadly, students today may find learning about censorship through instances of book burning in our country's history to be boring. Using comic books to discuss censorship and Congress in action is a way to bring students into the conversation, and once there, they begin to understand some of the complexities of free speech in America. I also have my students watch the documentary Comic Book Confidential, available through Netflicks, which includes Wm Gaines being questioned before Congress about his "severed head" comic book cover.
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