Saturday, November 25, 2017

Review: 'Mummies: Classic Monsters of Pre-Code Horror Comics'


Mummies are the least interesting of the classic movie monsters because there’s never much personality under all those bandages. They don’t get to say creepy things like Dracula or project pathos like the Frankenstein Monster. That’s why Boris Karloff spent the majority of the best mummy movie out of swaddling. Subsequent mummy movies The Mummy’s Hand, The Curse of of the Mummy’s Tomb, and Bubba Ho-Tep are only interesting because of their human characters. The monster is never much more than a leg-dragging drag.

Because they are so one-note with their shuffling and gaits outstretched arms, mummies are more at home on the pages of horror comics where depth is not nearly as important as a good drawing of a slimy thing from the grave (or sarcophagus, as they case may be). Mummies: Classic Monsters of Pre-Code Horror Comics, Craig Yoe’s latest anthology of forgotten horror comic tales, pays tribute to the Egyptian wings of also-ran titles such as Web of Mystery, Web of Evil, Baffling Mysteries, A Hand of Fate Mystery, and a couple of comics with neither Web nor Mystery in its title. 

The nice thing about the off-the-wall nature of the lesser horror comics is that common tropes often went out the window, so in addition to the standard grunting ghouls, there’s also room for loquacious mummies, a tribe of mummies, phony mummies, a mummy necklace, quite a few amorous mummies, and in the absolutely bonkers (and atrociously illustrated) “Vault of the Winged Spectres”, a sort of mummy bird. My favorites of the bunch are Bob Powell and Howard Nostrand’s “Servants of the Tomb”, which is kind of like a cross between one of those gruesome E.C. fairy tales and a Masters of the Universe mini-comic, and Charles Nicholas’s more sensible “The Demon Coat”, which simply squirms with monsters mummified and otherwise. There’s also a neat 15-page history of mummies from ancient Egypt days through the horror comics era. Neatest factoid: John Balderston, writer of Karloff’s The Mummy, was supposedly present at the discovery of King Tut’s mummy!
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