Sunday, June 2, 2013

Review: 'Horror Comics in Black and White: A History and Catalog, 1964 – 2004'

Like black & white photography or cinema, B&W horror comics have their highly partial fanatics. Comics historian Richard J. Arndt ranks among them, and his new book Horror Comics in Black and White: A History and Catalog, 1964 – 2004 gives his obsession with titles such as Creepy, Vampirella, Eerie, and Nightmare a neat outlet.

After a general history of the genre (not surprisingly, the writer emphasizes how the anti-comics congressional hearings of 1954 were still hovering over the horror comics industry a decade later), Arndt breaks down each chapter by publisher, providing specs, historical data, and a brief review of each individual issue. Horror Comics in Black and White is coolest when spitting out historical tidbits, such as the updates on which future artists (Iron Giant/Ratatouille filmmaker Brad Bird being one example) sent in fan mail. Arndt’s reviews tend to be fairly cursory, as when he deems the cover of Creepy issue #21 “probably the worse (sic) single cover Warren ever published on their comic magazines. Absolutely awful” without explaining why or what the cover depicted. Such teasing comments about the art and contents of these comics also made me wish Arndt’s book was a bit more generous with its illustrations. Still, even with its flaws, Horror Comics in Black and White is a worthwhile overview of a strain of horror comics that generally doesn’t get as much attention as its splashier color cousins. 

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