This an article I wrote for a "new" horror magazine that was suppose to come out last year. Needless to say the the article never got published as the magazine itself never got off the ground. With Halloween fast approaching why not upload it here, eh!?
Maybe I wasn’t your typical kid!? Whadda want I grew up between the early 70's and late 80's. I had seen Last House On Left by the time I was ten. I was memorized by the artwork on Kiss and Iron Maiden records. I loved and collected G.I. Joe, Punisher, and X-Men comics. I never wanted to grow up!
While I have fond memories of first concerts, NY Met/Yankee baseball games, and family vacations all throughout and during my late adolescent early teens I have even fonder ones of scouring comic shop shelves(and back issue bins), flea markets for my fix of macabre mementoes that materlized in the pages of Creepy, Eerie, Gore Shriek, Faust, Dead World, House Of Mystery, Taboo, Twisted Tales, Swamp Thing, Heavy Metal, (Boneyard Presses)Dark Angel, etc.
By the time I was fifteen, a time when most adolescents concern themselves with such things as dating, obtaining their learners permit to drive, and getting “fucked up”.I on the other adhered to a different top three... indy/underground comics, death metal, and horror films. Yeah ok, so I was kind of a weirdo. Friday night wasn’t date night for me it was hitting up the comic shop and renting horror films. Maybe a trip to Tape World if I had extra cash.
Ultimately it was the artwork from the likes of Bernie Wrightson, Tim and Joe Vigil, Kelly Jones, Vince Locke, James O’ Barr, Richard Corben, Bruce Spaulding Fuller, Steve Bissette, The Gurch, Hart D. Fischer, John Bolton, Allen Kozsowski,, Carlos Kastro, Eric Talbot, Tim Tyler, Frank Forte, Kyle Hotz, Tim Bradstreet, Phil Hester, Ernie/Gene Colan, Frank Frazetta, Jeff Jones, Pablo Marcos, Charles Burn, Michael Zulli and so on and so forth that really ignited that spark in me in the mid 80's that still burns still today for horror comics.
Recently I have taken on the tedious task of cataloging my comic book collection and replacing thousands of bags and boards. A nostalgic trip nonetheless. While “cleaning house” I really took notice of how many horror comics I collected in the early to mid 90's. Thumbing through them it became pretty obvious to me that horror comics from that period really pushed the limits and codes. While comics from the previous generation were more fixated on monsters and zombies, of course with a heathy dose of the old blood and gut’s, 90's horror comics upped the ante with strong sexual situations meshed with unmerciful violence and gore for gore’s sake. New and independent comic publishers like Rebel Studio, Boneyard Press, Northstar, CFD, Verotik, Asylum Press led the way in the new revolution of graphic story telling. Hell, I remember how outspoken both Boneyard Press and Verotik were in their overthrowing of mainstream comics. Especially public enemy number one Marvel Comics. Anybody got the Kill Marvel comic they did?
Just how sexual, violent and grotesque were the comics from the above mentioned companies? Well, let’s take a closer look a few. First up is Rebel Studios EO. Originally released as a special edition of 2000 copies in 1991. Story by Franz Henkel with art and plot by Tim Vigil. Phew, I remember thinking at the time it was pretty damn impossible for Tim to surpass the work he was doing on Faust, that is till I got a hold of EO issue 1&2.
What I wouldn't give for someone to make a big budget porno/horror film out of this. I mean, come on, how many times have you ever seen a guy fornicate hard enough to spill the guts (literally) of his lover? All in ridiculously detailed b&w artwork, accenting a story of intense visceral sexual hunger unleashed via a creation manifested by a scientist and taken by a thief. Ultimately something so good gone so horribly wrong. Vigil stated that EO was his anger and frustration that confronted him in all aspects of life that is reflected in the artwork. Indeed. Sweat, blood, and bodily fluids just ooze off of each page. Touching, tasting, feeling just as the characters do.
Boneyard Press came to be January 1991 with it's very first publication, Dark Angel.Written and drawn by founder and publisher Hart D. Fisher, Dark Angel is the story of serial killer Johnathan Gabriel and his journies down the America's darkest streets. A human wrecking machine who chooses his victims at his whimsy, Dark Angel was at the forefront of the new wave of splatter horror comics wave launched at the end of the eighties by the ground breaking horror classic Faust. Boneyard Press would go to world wide infamy with it's serial killer biographies (most notably Jeffrey Dahmer: An Unauthorized Biography of a Serial Killer and it's sequels The Further Adventures of Young Jeffy Dahmer, Dahmer's Zombie Squad and Jeffrey Dahmer vs. Jesus Christ), acidic satires of popular media figures (Kill Image, Rush Limbaugh Must Die, Howard Stern vs. Rush Limbaugh, Doin' Time With OJ, OJ's Big Bust Out, and The Mighty Morphin' Rump Rangers), hardboiled crime comics (Bill the Bull: Burnt Cain, Bill the Bull: Blowtorch Kiss, Bill the Bull:One Shot, One Bourbon, One Beer, Crime Pays, Stiff), and critically acclaimed prose novels and poetry (Poems for the Dead, Still Dead, Jones Inn), not to mention outspoken media ploys like the Marvel Can Suck My Cock t-shirts and 1998's april fools prank The Death of Hart Fisher. While initially inclined to focus in on a particular issue of Boneyard’s anthology series Flowers On The Razorwire, but while thumbing through my collection
of Boneyard nasties my attention was swayed by the first issue of Snuff. Snuff was another Boneyard anthology that surfaced in 1997. As far I know only one issue was released? Let’s see, how to describe Snuff?..hmmm. Publisher Hart D. Fisher sums it up best; “Snuff is scary shit. Some if it’s brutal and sick. It’s true horror in a scary world. I’ve always’s like the horror genre but real life always’s out does fiction. Here at Snuff we’re trying to out do life. We’re gonna rut and wallow around in the nastiest shit we can find.” Speaking of “scary shit” how does hardcore s&m complete with spiked dilidos and chainsaw shoved in a males anus topped off with feces in the mouth grab you?
Howabout a story about Ed Gein making waffles? Or a young artist with the Michelangelo Syndrome who brands, gags, tortures, and baths his subjects in his own urine. Well if that doesn’t suite you howabout a story by serial killer Richard Ramirez entitled “The Spiders Lullabye” sound? Sure sounds sick, does it not? Well, wait till you see this stuff in all it’s grisly black and white glory. Rest assured, nothing is left to the imagination in Snuff.
Over at Northstar comics(and not to be out done by Boneyard Press). Northstar had it’s own anthology in Splatter. Splatter ran 8 issues I believe? With one annual, a holiday special, and a collection in between. Splatter featured a slew of great artists like: Tim Vigil, Tommy Pons, Mark Nelson, and if I’m not mistaken Kelly Jones and James O’ Barr contributed to an issue or two? One of Splatters most memorable and disturbing issues was number 3(February 1992). Splatter issue three apprehensively(according to introduction written on the inside of the front cover) presented a tale entitled Boots Of The Oppressor. Written by African-American author LaMorris Richmond and pencilled by Dave and Dan Day(the Day boy’s pencilled a lot of the later issues of the first run of Calibers Deadworld). Boots Of The Oppressor is the story of a runaway slave who is ganged-raped and skinned alive. Her skin is then used to make a pair of boots for the oppressor himself, the slave master! Nothing is more horrifying than real-life horror, and presenting it in this medium(comics) certainly pushes the envelope. Wormed ridden necro Zombies just don’t hold their own against white racist good ole’ boy’s raping and skinning alive a black slave girl.
I highly doubt Boots Of The Oppressor would even be allowed nowadays. Banned outright on release would be a no brainier. I myself was surprised back then that this book made it through censors. The Day brothers realistic cross hatch artwork sequences of gang rape and the “skinning alive” makes you feel...bad! Author Richmond writes “Whatever your reaction, Boots Of The Oppressor is a horror story-that’s the only way it should be seen. This tale, which has it’s roots in American history, is just one of many slave stories told by African-American families with southern roots. Boots Of The Oppressor is one from mine.”
Perhaps the thought “Didn’t anyone ever get in trouble for these comics” has crossed your mind now or at some point during the reading of this article? Well, the answer is yes. In 1995 a rather new at the time comic company by the name of Verotik owned by a fellow named Glen Danzig(yes, of Misfits infamy) came under fire for an issue of the Verotik anthology series Verotika. Now, if I’m not mistaken I believe the issue in question was issue four. To my surprise though, I can not find one article on the internet to confirm my assumption and the exact location. I want to say it was a customer and comic store in the south that was fined for selling obscene material(i.e. Verotika issue 4). Even though I can not recall the specifics of the case I know this incident to be true as comic store I frequented(Cave Comics in Newton CT) had the said copies hid behind the counter as to prevent “problems”. Exactly what was the big deal about this particular issue? Snuff films my friends. "Taste of Cherry," one of the most disturbing stories about snuff films you’ll ever read and see in a comic book setting thanks to Christian Moore, Hart D. Fisher, and Lief Jones. In some way’s the story, to me anyway’s, play’s out kinda like a cross the films Last House On The Left and House On The Edge Of The Park. A teenage cheerleader is kidnaped by three thugs by van on her way to school. She is raped from the get go in the back of the van by one of her assailants. When finally reaching their desired location(a secluded forest/park) the three kidnappers tie the teens body to a large tree trunk and wrap her in barbed wire. Wait! It gets worse. The three then take turns raping her, beating her with a crowbar, burning her face with a cigarette and finally dosing her with gasoline and burning her alive. All the while documenting the whole event on video. To add insult to injury the victims scumbag father is shown masturbating to the video on the last page and placing a phone call to one of the lowlifes(Pete) he put up to the task. I quote “ I just got it. Great job. I’ll close out her college fund account and send you boys a little bonus” This a strictly “adults only” comic. Though I think even a good many adults were shocked, turned off, and possibly outraged by it’s contents. Taste of Cherry pulled no punches. The contents are straight up XXX. Forced sexual intercourse, ejaculation is shown is full color. You have been warned.
The last comic I would like to focus in on is Tim Tyler’s Hades which came out in 1994. Some may recognize Tim’s name if you at the time were a fan of his rather popular prior comic Blood Reign which ran for nine issues. Tim really hit his stride with Hades. His artwork really matured followed in suite with the likes of Wrightson and Vigil on Hades. Shame as only one issue ever materialzed(two issues were planned). Can’t make any real sense of the story line but it’s like a cross between a Spaghetti Western infused with some sci-fi(think Alien) with a dash of Excaliber thrown in. Main character and bad ass goes by the name of Jeremiah Claw. Fans of the 80's comic series Grim Jack take note as Jeremiah look seems “borrowed”. Hades is a really fun violently gory comic with great black and white artwork.
There you have it, some of my personal favorites and arguably some of the best “horror” comics that came out from arguably the last great period of horror comics(the mid to late 1990's). While in the last few years horror comics seem to have made a come back, none I have
come across even begin to scratch the surface of what I presented from the previous decade. There is hope however and of course it’s the indy/underground artist, studio, company that will make it happen again.
Not only do the following keep the sprit of indy horror comics alive, they also encompass loads of talent. It would be in your best interests to check out:
DOOM (http://www.idwpublishing.com/titles/doomed.shtml), Tales From Uranus by Jake Kerns(http://www.talesfromuranus.net), Jose’s Psycho Sleaze(http://exploitedfilth.com), and talented artists like Putrid(http://www.myspace.com/putridgoreart) and Jeff Zarnow(http://www.yourmidnightreader.com).
Here’s to a resurgance someday soon...Cheers!
Bill Connolly (Sept 2007)
Mental Funeral Zine-myspace.com/mentalfuneralzine
Mental Funeral Zine-Blogspot-http://mentalfuneralzine.blogspot.com
For more info on the origins of the horror comic I suggest you track down the book Horror Comics The Illustrated History by Mike Benton. Originally printed in 1991 by Taylor Publishing Company.
Also Liquid Cheese issue 25 (http://hometown.aol.com/dkosanke/myhomepage/index.html) has a great horror comic book article focusing on indy’s and some mainstream titles from the 80's right up till present time.
If your looking to purchase the comics I mentioned in this article I did come across most on E-Bay and also through Mile High Comics(http://www.milehighcomics.com/)