Sunday, November 23, 2008

The complete Horror

In issue #9, our latest issue, the foward was written by notable comic historian N.C.Couch. Of course he did a spectacular opening so much so, that due to space constraints we could not publish it completely. The full text is published here now and below!

The Horror of the Every-Day

N. C. Christopher Couch

When Bill Gaines set out to create entertaining comics, he and his gang of idiosyncratic and talented writers and artists tapped a vein of American literature singularly appropriate for the suffocating and conformist 1950s. Tight girdles and tighter minds, business boosterism and soul-deadening suburbs, McCarthyism and repression aimed at artists and poltical activists were the order of the day. Gaines’s dad’s death in a freak accident in 1947 left him publisher of a faltering company, Educational Comics. Bill, plus Al Feldstein, Harvey Kurtzman, Wally Wood and a stellar crew turned Educational into EC, the home of horror, terror, and weird, all words soon to be banned from comic book titles by the Comics Code of 1954.

Uniquely American horror fiction poured from the pen of Howard Philips Lovecraft and his peers early in the 20th century, setting the background for Gaines, King and other modern masters. In his Supernatural Horror in Literature, H.P. said “the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown… the true weird tale has…a malign and particular suspension or defeat of those fixed laws of Nature which are our only safeguard against the assaults of chaos and the daemons of unplumbed space.” Creepy. The Cthulhu stories and others chilled our spines with ancient evil. Gaines and his gang loved classic horror, but instead of the eldritch past or the chasm of space, they found fear in our own homes and towns. Suburban neighbors and upright citizens, teachers and baseball players, our children, our wives and husbands—these were the loci of evil in the EC stories of the haunted 1950s.

Everyday horror lives in these Rabid Rabbit pages, too, from Aya Kakeda’s and Kripa Joshi’s ‘[un]happy meals’ to Tao Neu’s and Chadwick Whitehead’s bathroom agonies to Sakura Maku’s dead-on daily typography (“rent bills”). Menace in ordinary places looms in the haunted cityscapes of Paul Hoppe and Edwin Vaskez, in the kitschy Joisey gardens of Dunja Jankovic, and the biomorphic forests of Ben Sea. It’s no day at the beach in Fay Ryu’s freaky Coney Island, or Adam Kidder’s perfect surfing spot, No bed or bedroom is safe in the nightmare tales of Marion Vitus and Sofia Falkenhem and the viscera(l) story by Matt Rota. Child’s play becomes terror in S.Y. Choi’s basement and Sal Amendola’s haunted house, and teen love in high school halls becomes a true horror in Reuben Negrón’s affecting “Horror 88.” Frustrated teen love goes to sea in a boat drawn by John Green for Dave Roman’s mermaid fantasy.

EC stories had plenty of Siamese twins, given the fairy-tale treatment by Wendi Koontz (fractured fairy tales were also an EC standby), while Ye Ed and Choi recall EC horror hosts in their Zombie-fest jam. The ’50s had monster movies aplenty. Anuj Shrestha takes a leaf from Mad magazine (the only EC comic to survive the Code) and its movie satires, Ben Marra channels Gene Colan and takes superhero movies to hell, while Chris Butzer turns his Hawk’s eye on Arctic aliens, suggesting he has a thing for Campbellian SF. Lovecraft would have loved the malign daemons that haunt the mythological Mexico of Andres Vera Martinez.

N. C. Christopher Couch teaches SF and comics in Comparative Literature, UMass Amherst, and MFA Illustration at School of Visual Arts.

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