Published on October 8th, 2014 | by JCDoyle0
Haunted Horror #13 – Comic Review
There is a kind of innocence to some of the 1950’s horror comics: not in the characters or even in the stories but in the intentions of telling them. It’s true that they are gruesome and scary but the writers and artists wanted to tell the best stories they could to entertain the comic buying public, they had every intention for the tales of horror to be read and enjoyed.
And in the latest issue of IDW’s horror anthology, there are some wonderful little stories awash with gore, fear, morals and cleverly scripted narratives.
The first standout story, City of Fearful Night, is a tale full of ghastly ghouls working in a limbo land somewhere between the living world and the dead. Frank Thompson just misses his flight home and is forced to take a train instead. He quickly falls asleep but is awoken by a veiled woman who tells him they have reached his station. He thanks the lady and disembarks to find himself is a ghostly town full of gruesome characters such as the Stationmaster who has a dagger buried deep into his back. As Frank stumbles around the town like a fish out of water everyone he meets tries to convince him that this is where he is meant to be, trapped between the living and the dead. Obviously he disagrees and tries everything to escape.
The script is beautifully over written and is dripping with the type of language associated with the popular pulp fictions of the early 20th century.
“The night was one with Terror. As Frank Thompson fled, the sound of his shoes on the station platform echoed hollowly, beating out a frantic desperate warning that there was no escape.”
At every turn, whether it is in the text or the art, Frank’s escape is doomed to failure which helps to build a sense of frustration and increasing terror. The reader is constantly told that Frank cannot escape and there are plenty of panels with ghouls blocking not only the characters movement but also the reader’s view of the scenery, making it difficult for the reader to see a way out. This story, originally printed in Worlds of Fear in 1952, is a brilliant start to the anthology and reason enough to buy it.
The stories continue in a similar vein with intriguing titles like Face in the Shroud and Death a La Carte, there is even a single page story called The Screaming Skulls which tells a horrifically haunting story in just 7 panels. And one of my favourites, The Fifth Corpse, looks and reads like one of Dick Tracy’s nightmares.
However, the second most outstanding story is so disturbing they could only have called it A Rose is a Rose. Okay, the title is not fear inspiring but the story itself contains corruption of the Adoption services, child abuse and the ending is so perfectly nasty and soaked in the stench of uncomfortable justice. The story is about a boy who believes he can hear what flowers and plants say and feel. He gets adopted by a mean couple who love adorning their home with freshly cut roses but Tommy can hear the plant’s pain. The couple ignore him, mistreat him and lie to him until they go one step too far and Tommy snaps, leading to a bloody and violent conclusion.
This tale is more disturbing than the others in the comic because it deals with child abuse and some of the panels will, and should, make you angry at the adult bullies. Although by today’s standard it’s not very shocking or outrageous it’s easy to see why it would have caused a stir at the time. The treatment of the Tommy at the hands of the couple is horrendous but the implications of this treatment are more important. This story was originally printed in the Tomb of Terror comic in 1953 and suggests that the way children are treated will affect the way that children act. In the story the cruelty aimed at Tommy is turned around and visited back upon the adults with devastating consequences. In A Rose is a Rose, the writer and artists are daring to suggest that we should take care of our children because otherwise, they might turn into monsters. This was something that some people didn’t want to accept at the time hence the controversy.
Not every story in the anthology is of the same standard and you may find yourself skipping one or possibly two but as a whole there is enough entertaining content to warrant buying this. The large, dense text boxes with panels full to the brim with action and detail provides a fascinating glimpse into the horrors of the 1950’s and is a welcome change of pace from today’s modern, fast paced stories.
Title: Haunted Horror
Publisher: IDW Publisher