McFarland Publishing; $55.00
Horror Comics in Black and White: A History and Catalog, 1964-2004 by Richard J. Arndt is a fully comprehensive look into the history of the genre. It is perfect for both the long established collector and the brand new fan that has just discovered the amazing art and writing these magazines often featured.
Many comic fans seem to take these magazines for granted, but as Mr. Arndt makes clear in his history, they are really brothers of anything all in color for a dime.
In the early fifties the Senate decided to hold special hearings into the effect of comic books on juvenile delinquency. The validity of these hearings is still debated, but regardless of how accurate the idea was, the hearings had some serious and very well documented results on the comic industry.
Titles from EC Comics (which were referenced inside the hearings) disappeared. Other companies that had been publishing horror titles either folded up or moved into new tamer genres. The best example is Harvey. They had published some horror titles which critics today find extreme even by the standards of the times. Eventually the company decided to emphasize their growing licenses with Paramount animation. As a result Richie Rich and Casper become beloved children’s icons.
The most important result of the hearings (aside from the loss of the great EC titles) was the formation of the Comics Code Authority. Designed by the comic industry, this self-regulating board was to monitor all comics to insure that such content adhered to a “family-friendly” style.
Naturally there were publishers that didn’t like this idea. Since the CCA was designed to regulate comic books content, some folks realized that the newly formed organization could do little about magazines. EC’s owner William Gaines famously moved MAD from a color comic into a black and white magazine format in order to escape the clutches of censorship.
Mr. Gaines wasn’t the only one with a sharp mind. Over time one or two others decided to start publishing real horror comics again. Only this time they were featured in magazines so the CCA couldn’t touch them. These new stories were often created by the very same artists and writers who had once been employed by the famous EC titles.
Horror Comics in Black and White: A History and Catalog, 1964-2004 documents the rise and eventual decline of the black and white horror magazine lines. The just released reference book covers all the major publishers such as Warren, Marvel and Skywald.
The book was written by Richard J. Arndt and features a great foreword by Stephen R. Bissette who not only published the legendary magazine Taboo, but is responsible for some of the greatest Swamp thing stories ever created.
The author makes a solid case for the magazines that he has chosen to include. Titles such as Eerie, Creepy, Vampirella, Taboo, Warrior (the first issue held the first installment of V for Vendetta) and Blazing Combat are discussed in detail.
Each issue of every title is detailed with writer and artist credits as well as some critical perspective with a just a touch of personal commentary. The book holds a wealth of information for long time fans and is also a wonderful introduction to the world of black and white horror for the brand new reader.
Columnist and critic Mark Squirek contributed this review.