I wasn’t quite what to make of Peter Normanton’s book, ‘It Crept From The Tomb’. I mean, the cover shows an alien with phallic eyeballs attempting to strangle a woman, who has a small knife preparing to strike back. Horror Science Fiction as befitting anything from EC Comics and Warren Publications. The introduction that the material was a development from a PS Publishing book still didn’t wise me up as to the content. Then the first article is about the Cold War. Granted, flicking through the pages revealed there was a lot more horror type material to come but it and a couple of the succeeding articles did throw a curveball as to just what the content of this book was really focusing on.
Normanton is a Brit, so much of his knowledge reference material related to availability is pretty much the same as my own. Although his focus is how American horror comics circulated into the UK through ship ballast as rare gems, he and a couple other writers then discuss a variety of subjects and artists so you should be on home ground regardless of country.
There is a lot of surprising information here. His reveal that Don Heck did a lot of horror comics covers back in the 1950s. That’s not to say super-hero comics are ignored and reference is made to both Batman and Captain America’s encounters with vampires. There is also a jump up to the ‘Star*Reach’ comic and something I hadn’t explored, although notes I really should look up TwoMorrow’s ‘Star*Reach Companion’ book sometime. Tom Sutton also did a lot of horror material for Charlton Comics in his spare time as well as working for the Big Two, which should make any of his fans searching for this material interesting.
Further into the book, Don Heck gets a section to himself as Peter Normanton explores his work at Comic Media doing horror comics and this is what essentially gave him his break with a certain Stan Lee. Although the covers shown are mostly head shots, Heck could covey horror which was oddly not exploited since.
I have to confess to not ever hearing about George Pumphrey, the UK answer to Fredric Wertham, but then the circulation of American horror comics wasn’t great over here anyway by then.
I should point out that that most of this book is in black and white until the centre twenty pages covering Richard Corben and Bruce Jones. Horror comics have always had a norish look to them and I’m not sure if they look and other gems good in colour. If you ever wondered at what was in Marvel/Timely/Atlas’s ‘Strange Tales’, ‘Marvel Tales’, ‘Journey Into Mystery’, et al prior to super-heroes, there’s a healthy selection of covers to look at here. The same also applies to DC Comics, with ‘Mystery Into Space’. I hope the tales matched the covers although one of them gave me an idea for a short story.
A large section is devoted to a look at the anti-communist comics of the 1950s which is something I’ve never seen before and very illuminating, more so as the Cold War and atomic bombs loomed.
This is also the first time I’ve come across The Gurch, but the art gag on page 144 is one to die for, literally. Make sure you take a horror book in your coffin as it’ll give you something to pass the time.
Just in case you think super-heroes are forgotten completely, there’s a look at Superman’s pal and girl-friend and how badly the Man of Steel must have treated them for the extremes they went through unreciprocated. I wonder why Lois was never given a signal watch?
I did wonder when they would come to the UK’s own ‘House Of Hammer’ magazine and glad that it wasn’t forgotten. I’m not sure if the covers were suited by being in black and white here but I suspect those of you who are piqued are going to be after # 11 for the painted Raquel Welch cover.
Finally, a look at the early Marvel horror and Science Fiction books as done by Kirby and Ditko which brings things full circle.
The mixture is diverse but there’s enough material to entertain fans both sides of the pond and there’s bound to be some knowledge here that you didn’t know or have an opportunity to see at the time. Don’t be scared, the horrors are there to read.
(pub: TwoMorrows Publishing. 192 page illustrated softcover. Price: $29.95 (US). ISBN: 978-1-60549-081-6. Direct from them, you can get it for $25.46 (US))
check out websites: www.TwoMorrows.com and http://twomorrows.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=95_137&products_id=1350