Archive for the horror comics Category

I was a Teenage Horror Fan

Posted in fear magazine, horror, horror comics, horror fiction, horror magazines on 06/16/2012 by vincentstark

During the 80’s I seemed to read nothing but horror fiction – it was a boom time for the genre. In the US Stephen King was outselling everyone and over in the UK, James Herbert was topping the best-seller lists. Direct to paperback horror novels were everywhere Guy N. Smith, Shaun Hutson, Gary Brander, Graham Masterton.

It was a great time to be a horror reader – in the newsagents there were magazines like the excellent, Fear  (and we have an interview with editor, John Gilbert here soon) which as well as offering all the latest horror news also published short fiction and encouraged its readers to try and become the new Stephen King. Fear was an excellent magazine and back in the day I never missed a issue, I bought its entire run. The magazine looked at horror in an intelligent way and as well as the latest gore books it also covered the classics such as Poe and Lovecraft. The magazine had a spin off fiction magazine called Frighteners but the first issue had to be pulled off the shelves because of a gory cover illustrating a Graham Masterton story. The story Eric the Pie, has become infamous and many claim it went a step too far and was responsible for the demise of the magazine. Those with a strong stomach can read the story as a PDF from the author’s website HERE. Be warned the story is rather gruesome – it comes from respected author Graham Masterton, author of The Manitou and the author told an interviewer in 1996 that, ‘On reflection I think it went too far.’

Having to pull the magazine after customer complaints dealt publisher, Newsfield a massive blow. Frighteners would go to another two issues and Fear vanished with issue no 33. There’s an interesting article on the demise of Fear and the Frighteners story HERE.

The closure of Fear really pissed me off – I had a short story, Cissy’s Heebie Jeebies lined up for the mag – I really wanted to get some fiction in Fear. Ahh well, I eventually placed the story with small press publication, Peeping Tom where it was well received. During this period there was a vibrant small press with publications like Skeleton Crew, Samhain and Peeping Tom keeping the torch burning for horror fans. And there were still several newstand horror magazines, The Dark Side and Shivers being the most well known, but for me none filled the void left by the demise of Fear.

I wrote for several of the small press magazines as well as interviewing writer, Peter James and being delighted when I managed to sell the piece to the well respected and long running, (still running) Interzone. My own horror novel, entitled Misty remains however in the loft, unloved and unpublished. And to be honest unpublishable.

Horror books though, for the moment, remained numerous in the shops – there were all manner of creature on the prowl. James Herbert may have started it with The Rats but since then we had Slugs, Crabs, Cats, Locusts,bats, snakes and more than the odd slime beast. There were vampires, ghouls and werewolves running wild.

There were some great new talents being published around that period, some who have lasted, some who have not – Steve Harris scored high with a string of chillers starting with Adventureland, Mark Morris wowed us all with his novel Toady and these days writes, among other things, Dr Who novels for the BBC, Michael Slade (actually a team of American lawyers) grossed us out with The Ghoul and Clive Barker burst onto the scene with his innovative Books of Blood.

There was a period when the genre was getting unexpected critical respect. Stephen King analyzed the genre in his Danse Macabre and respected critic and writer, Douglas E. Winter put together the excellent Prime Evil anthology.

New subgenres sprung up – Splatterpunk which was horror’s answer to the Cyberpunk movement and didn’t really mean much – if a book was overly gruesome it was labelled as Splatterpunk. Brian Lumley set about successfully reinventing Lovecraft with his Necroscope books.

So what killed Horror – overkill. The market became saturated and not only with books but slasher movies, each less inventive than the last. The Jason’s, the Freddy’s and the Michael’s ruled the celluloid roost. The Nightmare on Elm Street saga was particularly successful with Freddy becoming something of a superstar and even getting his own spin off TV series.

These days the horror genre is still there but like, the western, it is in a state of recovery – Stephen King no longer writes out and out horror, slasher movies generally go straight to DVD and horror is no longer a certain thing in marketing terms. But have no doubt one day horror will remove the stake from it’s festering heart and return to once again torment the popular culture.



War gets weird

Posted in horror comics on 05/20/2012 by vincentstark

Genre mesh-ups are quite common in comic books and this weeks’ strip comes from the long running Weird War Tales which was published by DC Comics. In fact this standalone strip comes from the very first issue.

The original title ran for 12 years and 124 issues and was brought back by DC’s adult line, Vertigo for a four issue mini series in 1997 and then in 2000 a single special issue was produced.

So settle back and enjoy a war story like no other

Legal Note: These scans come from my own comic collection, and I do not own the copyright. The scans are presented to illustrate articles looking at the considerable contribution comics have made to popular culture, and will be removed if requested by the copyright owners. Where possible we have obtained permission for the use of copyrighted imaged.




































































The Demon that Devoured Hollywood

Posted in horror comics, horror magazines on 05/13/2012 by vincentstark

Curtis Magazines was actually Marvel Comics, but the imprint was set up in 1971 to exploit the interest in all things fantastic with the more mature comic book reader. The reason the imprint was set up was because the comic didn’t carry the Comics Book Authority Code and Marvel didn’t want any backlash reflecting on its better selling mainstream titles. Marvel published many comic/magazines using the Curtis name and perhaps the bestselling was the Conan series.

Todays’ strip comes from Monsters of the Movies which had a short run between 1973 and 1974 –
Covering classic and contemporary horror movies, Monsters of the Movies included interviews, articles and photo features. The magazine was an attempt to cash in on the success of Warren’s Famous Monsters of Filmland . The Monsters of the Movies staff was roughly composed of half freelancing West Coast horror fans, and half members of the Marvel bullpen located on the East Coast.


Our strip this week is The Demon That Devoured Hollywood written by the famous Roy Thomas, with art by Barry Smith.


Legal Note: These scans come from my own comic collection, and I do not own the copyright. The scans are presented to illustrate articles looking at the considerable contribution comics have made to popular culture, and will be removed if requested by the copyright owners. Where possible we have obtained permission for the use of copyrighted imaged.







































































































































































A Golden Age for Horror

Posted in horror, horror comics, horror fiction, horror magazines, HORROR MOVIES, horror novels, horror short stories, HORROR WRITERS on 12/12/2011 by vincentstark

Horror tends to thrive during times of crisis, offering catharsis, escapism and a metaphoric means of coping with problems that seem unsolvable.

Historically this has always been the case. It certainly was true during the Great Depression, when Universal Pictures was rescued from bankruptcy by its golden age of horror film – Dracula, Frankenstein , The Invisible Man , the Creature from the Black Lagoon  and all the other creepy creatures that lit up the silver screen, offering escapism to cash strapped moviegoers. Right across the spectrum of modern media horror is booming – take the two biggest successes in popular literature over recent years – Harry Potter and Twilight and whilst neither are strictly horror they both use many of the conventions of the genre. TV shows like The Walking Dead and American Horror are massively popular, and of course HBO’s True Blood is still holding its own. The horror novel is most certainly on a high. There are some great writers out there from the well know masters such as Stephen King, Clive Barker, Jack Ketchum and others to relatively new names like Christopher Ransom, Joe Hill, Max Brook and (dare, I say it) Vincent Stark. The latter of course is wishful thinking since his debut horror novel, following a string of bestselling westerns,  isn’t due out till the end of the month and he is me

So why is it that during shitty times we turn to the dark side? Maybe it’s the increasingly polarized political landscape, generating so much us against them rhetoric. Perhaps it has something to do with all the  college students’ fears of  being unable to find work or middle-aged parents’ worries about keeping their homes. Then again maybe its something to do with the fact that we, in Britain at least, have the Dark Party in government. Or maybe it’s just the fact that we, viewers,readers, like the safe scares that films and books provide. And whilst it is true that thought-provoking horror works are few and far between recent years have seen several horror novels of real depth – Låt den rätte komma by  John Ajvude Lindqvist , known by its Anglo title of Let the Right One In (I’ve not enjoyed a novel as much as this is years)is a masterpiece of literature whatever the genre, and Christopher Ransom has taken age old themes and twisted them through modern sensibilities. Both of these writers need to be read by anyone interested in the horror genre.   And it’s the same with film and TV and for every predictable slasher of the week flick you will find films and programs of true worth. Horror as a genre is changing, mutating and it is at last gaining some of the acclaim that has been denied it through snobbery for far too long. Stephen King is no longer considered a hack writer and real critics are dissecting his work  and finding relevance to the society we live in – something  all great writing mirrors.   And this is a good thing because for too long horror has been consigned to the ghetto and looked down upon with disdain and yet TV shows like American Horror Story, Being Human, The Walking Dead and True Blood are popular with mainstream audiences, horror novels are read by millions and fright films are always popular.

Yep this truly is a golden age for horror – and ain’t that just fine and dandy!

Modern classics – Creepshow

Posted in creepshow, george romero, horror comics, HORROR MOVIES, modern classics, salem's lot, STEPHEN KING, Uncategorized on 10/21/2011 by vincentstark

The three men had come together to discuss the possibility of making a movie version of The Stand. Stephen King, George Romero and producer Rik Rubinstein spent several weeks during the summer of 1981 talking about the pros and cons of adapting what was, up until that time, King’s most ambitious novel. George Romero had long been eager to work with King and had narrowly missed out on directing Salem’s Lot before the studio decided to pull the plug on plans for a big screen movie and go with a television mini series instead.

The three men realised that making a movie of The Stand would prove far too expensive and after looking at several other projects, it was decided to make an all original horror story based on the comic books that had influenced the young Stephen King – the project would end up being called Creepshow.

‘King was like a big kid,’ Rik Rubinstein commented during a documentary shot to accompany the special edition DVD of the movie. The author threw himself into the production and not only starred in one of the segments, as the moronic Jordy Verrill but also roped in his son Joe King (these days known as writer, Joe Hill) to play the young boy reading the Creepshow comic in the movie’s prologue.

The movie was made up of five stories plus the prologue and epilogue – two of the stories, The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill and The Crate were based on King stories, while the remaining three stories were written for the movie. All of the tales had something of the flavor of the old horror comics about them which was intentional although some critics seemed to misunderstand this point and found many of the performances over the top. King’s performance ( mouth agape and bulging eyes) in the Jordy Verrill story is perfect, even if the author does these days seem embarrassed by his acting. Sure it’s comic book and OTT but then the film’s meant to be that way – a celluloid version of a comic book and on that level it succeeds fully.

Creepshow is both a horror movie and an affectionate almost loving tribute to the tacky horror comics of the 50’s and 60’s. It’s not meant to be taken seriously but to be fun and it sure enough is.

The currently available two disc special edition DVD is superb. A rich clean transfer backed up by a wealth of special features, including a fascinating making of documentary as well as a commentary by George Romero himself.

Confessions of a horror fan

Posted in horror comics, horror fiction, horror magazines, HORROR MOVIES on 08/18/2011 by vincentstark

For a period in my early Twenties I was a horror nut – my viewing and reading had to be in the scary genre, I voraciously read the works of Stephen King, James Herbert, Clive Barker, Guy N. Smith, Shaun Hutson, I became friends with horror author, Steve Harris after interviewing him for a magazine, I would stay up until stupid-O’clock if anything even vaguely horror related was on the TV. For several years back then I used to write for magazines like Samhain, Skeleton Crew, Interzone, Peeping Tom and even selling a spooky little story to the radio. Alas, this one was never broadcast and seemed to vanish with the change of producers. I wrote many stories for the small press horror mags, all the while wishing I could be as prolific as D. F. Lewis who seemed to pop up everywhere – anyone remember him?

There was a great magazine out called Fear and I never missed an issue – it was published by Newsfield Publications who were big in the computer gaming magazine market. The magazine was edited by John Gilbert, a huge and knowledgeable horror fan, and featured as much coverage of books as it did of films. For a genre magazine it was very intelligent and I was gutted when it eventually folded.

It was this magazine that encouraged me to try the old masters – Poe, Lovecraft and co. And although I moved onto other genres I still hold a lot of these old macabre classics in high esteem. The Monkey’s Paw, for instance, I still rate as one of the best short stories I’ve ever read. And I was once so into Poe that I wrote a short story entitled, A Continuation of the facts concerning M. Valdermar.

These days the horror genre seems to be gore obsessed rather than concentrating on creating unease in the reader/viewer it goes for gross out which, in my opinion, isn’t half as effective. The big names are still out there Stephen King especially and although James Herbert is still writing I find his recent books derivative and think his last classic was the elegiac Magic Cottage.

So has the horror genre lost it’s bite?

I don’t think so – like the western, the horror genre has been pronounced dead many times but it’s still out there kicking about, refusing the remain in its mouldering grave.

Fangtastic studies

Posted in horror comics, horror fiction, HORROR MOVIES on 06/11/2011 by vincentstark

Students at the University of Derby are being offered a taste of the dark side with a new degree in horror.

Ghosts, serial killers and vampires will all feature in the university’s new postgraduate MA in horror and transgression.

The one-year course, which is aimed at would-be film-makers and writers, will examine all aspects of the genre.

From the BBC


British horror author and director Clive Barker has given the degree his backing and hopes to take a class.

Lucrative genre

Students will learn about the history of horror on screen and in books while the transgression part of the course will focus on films and literature with disturbing and taboo themes.

Dr Jason Lee, the university’s head of film and media, said the degree was relevant because horror was one of the film industry’s most lucrative genres.

“People want jobs with international scope and this MA offers that,” he said.

“In terms of doing something which will enhance you as a writer, cultural theorist, film-maker and a person, this degree is ideal.

“The horror industry is booming so if people want to move into films or writing, this is the only MA in the world of its kind.