All that said, I thought I'd exhume a few choice comic volumes to share. Ironically, none of them are specifically Halloween-themed, but they clearly occupy a shadowland that exists apart from most modern horror. Let's dive in with some of the most innocuous entries in my cobwebbed longboxes:
Spooky, the Tuff Little Ghost
|Spooky, May 1972|
|Spooky Haunted House, February 1973|
|That second panel, from Spooky Haunted House, may be my single favorite thing in Harvey Comics.|
Most stories in Spooky's books are short, often single-page gags. Here is one that actually lasts a few pages, and is "continued" later on in the same book. Weirdo scientists subject Spooky to some creepily bizarre tests, including being photographed.
|"We're NOT movie producers and STOP ASKING QUESTIONS!" did make my skin crawl when I read it, though.|
Turns out, these geniuses are wanting data to build a ghost robot. Yeah, I know.
|Seriously, these scientists didn't even think to become defense contractors?|
Supernatural Thrillers Featuring the Headless Horseman
|Supernatural Thrillers #6, November 1973|
|You get the idea.|
Elvira's House of Mystery
|Elvira's House of Mystery #1, January 1986; Halloween makes the cover!|
|Well, maybe more like eleven issues, El.|
|Haunted Horror #11, June 2014; originally the cover for Mister Mystery volume 6 #3, December 1946; art by Warren Kremer|
Haunted Horror collects choice stories from the early horror comics of the 1940s and '50s, and they sure know how to pick them over there. That's the most spectacular cover to a horror comic I've ever seen. It tells a story on its own, which is good, since it doesn't reflect any of the stories in the book. And, really, no story could measure up to that cover, anyway. But the book itself is crammed with content; these comics are from an era dense with dialogue, so it takes considerably more time to read a given tale in them than modern comics. And they're often rife with grue that would comfortably fit into an episode or more of The Walking Dead. The no-holds-barred approach to gore and evil (though they were quite chaste when it came to sex) would cause a crackdown on horror comics in general, until publishers like Marvel and DC began to push back (see the issue of Supernatural Thrillers above). But even at their most blood-soaked, few of the more modern comics could compete with these old comics for outright lunacy.
|Peripatetic noggins, for example.|
|Added for emphasis.|
|I always imagined Ol' Scratch as a bit more suave, but OK...|
Hellboy: The Crooked Man and Others
|Even the grotesque has a certain beauty at the hands of Corben.|
|Few artists know how to balance shadow and light, and detail and blank space, like Corben.|
|And Corben has the ability to render insanity and evil in the faces of his characters in ways that unsettle me deeply.|