Monday, March 3, 2014

Review: 'The Simon & Kirby Library: Horror!'


As if we needed any more proof of the insanity of the anti-comics Senatorial hearings of the 1950s, one of the comics called into question was Black Magic. E.C.’s horror comics were the most visible victims of the senate’s witch-hunt, both because William Gaines courageously/foolhardily challenged the subcommittee directly and because his comics were really, really gruesome. In comparison, Black Magic was a paragon of restraint. Most of the tales Joe Simon and Jack Kirby whipped up for the comic were tastefully illustrated, usually lacking in violence or even the explicitly supernatural. To put it in TV terms, if Tales from the Crypt was Boris Karloff’s Thriller, then Black Magic was One Step Beyond. 

A lot of the stories compiled into The Simon & Kirby Library: Horror!— part of a series compiling the guys’ work by genre— barely qualifies as horror. Pieces such as “The Girl Who Walked on Water” and “A Giant Walks the Earth” are squarely in the uncanny or fantasy drawers. “The Scorn of the Faceless People” is presented as a psychological study by a couple of cartoon shrinks. There’s also a short piece on Nostradamus’s vague predictions. Quite unlike Crypt’s menagerie of zombie and vampire tales, many of Simon & Kirby’s stories could have really happened. Even a tale about a mysterious werewolf lady is plausible. Although a few stories close in on the graphic muck the more committed horror comics deliver (“Freak”, “Nasty Little Man”, and the genuinely horrifying “Hungry as a Wolf”, for example), readers who really want to swim in that stuff might be a bit disappointed by the maturity of Simon & Kirby’s dalliances with the genre. The duo’s artwork is more in line with the gooey romance comics they pioneered than goopy horror.

Those who already count themselves among the artists’ fans will be most impressed with The Simon & Kirby Library: Horror! This is a great looking volume with restored artwork that doesn’t look absurdly digitized, as the recent volumes of Dark Horse’s The E.C. Archives do. You also get more thrills for your buck. There are over fifty stories collected here; everything Simon & Kirby contributed to Black Magic and the weirder (and wonderfully titled) The Strange World of Your Dreams, which featured illustrated dramatizations of the actual dreams of that comic’s founder, Mort Meskin!

Get The Simon & Kirby Library: Horror! at Amazon.com here:

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