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The Horror! The Horror!: Comic Books the Government Didn't Want You to Read!

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The Horror! The Horror! uncovers a rare treasury of some of the most important and neglected stories in American literature—the pre-Code horror comics of the 1950s. These outrageous comic book images, censored by Congress in an infamous televised U.S. Senate subcommittee investigating juvenile delinquency in 1954, have rarely been seen since they were first published—and a The Horror! The Horror! uncovers a rare treasury of some of the most important and neglected stories in American literature—the pre-Code horror comics of the 1950s. These outrageous comic book images, censored by Congress in an infamous televised U.S. Senate subcommittee investigating juvenile delinquency in 1954, have rarely been seen since they were first published—and are revealed once again in all of their eye-popping glory. Jim Trombetta, in his commentary and informative text, provides a detailed history and context for these stories and their creators, spinning a tale of horror and government censorship as scary as the stories themselves. Bonus DVD--Confidential File, a rare 25-minute TV show that first aired on October 9, 1955, about the "evils" of comic books and their effect on juvenile delinquency is included with the book.  Please note that the enclosed DVD begins with a 58-second test pattern, followed by the tv show.  Praise for The Horror! The Horror!: "In addition to offering a generous helping of controversial comics . . . Trombetta's book provides insightful history."  -New York Times Book Review


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The Horror! The Horror! uncovers a rare treasury of some of the most important and neglected stories in American literature—the pre-Code horror comics of the 1950s. These outrageous comic book images, censored by Congress in an infamous televised U.S. Senate subcommittee investigating juvenile delinquency in 1954, have rarely been seen since they were first published—and a The Horror! The Horror! uncovers a rare treasury of some of the most important and neglected stories in American literature—the pre-Code horror comics of the 1950s. These outrageous comic book images, censored by Congress in an infamous televised U.S. Senate subcommittee investigating juvenile delinquency in 1954, have rarely been seen since they were first published—and are revealed once again in all of their eye-popping glory. Jim Trombetta, in his commentary and informative text, provides a detailed history and context for these stories and their creators, spinning a tale of horror and government censorship as scary as the stories themselves. Bonus DVD--Confidential File, a rare 25-minute TV show that first aired on October 9, 1955, about the "evils" of comic books and their effect on juvenile delinquency is included with the book.  Please note that the enclosed DVD begins with a 58-second test pattern, followed by the tv show.  Praise for The Horror! The Horror!: "In addition to offering a generous helping of controversial comics . . . Trombetta's book provides insightful history."  -New York Times Book Review

30 review for The Horror! The Horror!: Comic Books the Government Didn't Want You to Read!

  1. 5 out of 5

    Stephen

    Let me commence this nostalgia-packed, image-heavy jaunt down the wonderfully tasteless, viscera-laden history of horror comics, with one of my favorite covers… Radium-induced face melt...uh, WIN...they don’t make comics like that anymore, and it makes me woeful that I didn’t grow up with these books. Well, reading The Horror The Horror is the next best thing. This is, by far, the best comic retrospective I’ve come across to date and is miles of grisly ahead of its nearest competitor. While I’m Let me commence this nostalgia-packed, image-heavy jaunt down the wonderfully tasteless, viscera-laden history of horror comics, with one of my favorite covers… Radium-induced face melt...uh, WIN...they don’t make comics like that anymore, and it makes me woeful that I didn’t grow up with these books. Well, reading The Horror The Horror is the next best thing. This is, by far, the best comic retrospective I’ve come across to date and is miles of grisly ahead of its nearest competitor. While I’m a big fan of the EC Comics reprints (pricey though they may be), I think they have given me an overly narrow view of the breadth of material produced in the 50’s. Well, this book seriously broadened my horizons on that front and opened my eyes to new vistas of the icky, the gory and the deliciously depraved. In other words….AHHHHH!! This book easily gets five stars just for the incredible covers included in the material. I didn’t count the total number, but there must be hundreds, and almost all of them are ones that I had never seen before. Covers from the heyday of comics, when creative freedom was at its zenith, and the covers were designed specifically to lure in readers with promises of the lurid, the taboo, and the monstrous. Nothing was out of bounds or too much, as long as it sold copies, and each new issue tried to outdo the shocking quotient from the month before. Yes….those women in the background are actually on fire!! For me, what added significantly to the fun I had perusing this gorgeously gruesome gallery of the grotesque is that the editor, Jim Trombetta, provided insightful commentary on most of the covers depicted, which evoked a great sense of admiration for the work. For example, take this cover of Out of the Shadows 8 (1953). This cover was included in a section of the book discussing war atrocities committed during WWII and the Korean Conflict, which included the taking of heads and “faces” as trophies from fallen enemy combatants. Trombetta describes how the public revulsion for such practices may have been darkly mirrored in the comics of the day. Here a medieval troll is about to perform the face-removing process on what appears to be a contemporary American …What gives the drawing life, despite its gothic conventionality, is the alertness and even zest in the assailant’s eyes. He is aware of the victim’s every move and eagerly anticipates getting to work on him. The victim, of course, can do nothing but sit and wait for it. This image suggests a form of posttraumatic stress, a memory or flashback returning in transmogrified form. But in its conventionality (dungeon, deformed assailant), it seems less the experience of any particular individual that a collective nightmare in which a whole culture could, if it wished, see itself darkly. If you go back and look at the cover again, you can now see more in the image than you did at first glance. Is his analysis speculative and a bit over the top…sure, but it’s so engaging. It’s like walking an art exhibit with the curator who points out details and nuances that make you appreciate the work even more. That is what really set me over the moon about this collection. In addition to the covers and the commentary, there is also included several dozen full length stories from the comics behind the covers. While the quality was not always high, quite a few really surprised me with how outstanding they were. Nightmare World was terrific with its depiction of a drug-induced, altered reality, complete with brain-transplants and a Twilight Zone ending, and Foul Play has to be the most ghoulish game of baseball ever played. Some really good stories, and all of them were just a bonus because the covers and commentary were more than enough. Speaking of the covers…let’s look at a few more that blew me away with how dark and brutal they were from this time I associate with I love Lucy. For example, I don’t recall Ricky ever holding Lucy’s head down on a lit stove… …or the two of them ever being terrorized by a couple of malevolent mob goons with a red hot poker. The facial expressions and the sense of malice really comes through and I think some of the artists during this period were inspired. Okay…here’s one of my favorites, but it is going to need a bit of a close up so you can get an idea of just how “holy shit, no way they just did that” the stories got during this period. Here is the cover of Law Breakers Suspense Stories 11 If you look closely at evil, drooling, psycho nutbag, you will notice what those red, dripping things are in his hand and on the floor in front on him…here look closer… ..and the caption: ”I know you are a Mute, Miss Kimberly, But even if you could yell, the people downstairs couldn’t call the police. You see…I already cut all their tongues out." When you add in to the equation what the maniac obviously has in mind for the victim, this becomes a seriously chilling visual…even by today’s standards, and this is 1953. In between all of the nasterrific crime, chaos and carnage, Trombetta also touches on the issues of censorship, and the Senate Hearings that led to the death knell of these types of comics in the wake of Dr. Frederic Wertham’s publication of Seduction of the Innocent. Trombetta’s treatment of this is very cursory and you would be better served reading David Hajdu’s The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How it Changed America for a full account of this aspect of comic history. Okay…after all of the seedy, salacious debauchery above, I want to end this review on a positive, and share my favorite image (and story) of this whole period, as a way of demonstrating the power of the medium. In 1953, Bill Gaines and Al Feldstein, the creative maestros behind EC Comics, co-wrote a story called “Judgment Day.” In brief, it tells of an unseen, helmeted spaceman who visits an alien planet to determine if the world should be offered membership into the Galactic Republic. The world is populated by two kinds of robots, one blue and one orange. The blues rule and consider the oranges inferior, forcing them to live as a permanent underclass. Even after visiting the robot factories and learning that both types are exactly the same, except for their “skin color,” the blues refuse to consider granting the oranges equal status. The spaceman’s verdict: no invitation to join the Galactic Republic until all robots are treated equally. Granted, the message is a bit obvious, but it is in the final panel of the comic that the story makes its most profound statement. Returning to his ship, the spaceman removes his helmet and we see his face for the first time…he’s a black man…and the final caption reads Even today, this is still among my favorite pieces on racial equality and an example of what comics, science fiction and other speculative genres can do so well. 5.0 stars. HIGHEST POSSIBLE RECOMMENDATION.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Paul Bryant

    Why must you drag us forth? It’s just a piece of paper! Ha ha! We’ll burn it! It’s found us! It’s the Worm! What sharp illusions! How strange are the fancies of the mind. Am I the only man in the world who sees them as they really are? Melt – melt! It’s Tom’s leg! My footsteps sound like drumbeats in this vacuum of an avenue. Yes, we’ll drain this dame dry. She struck down her victims in a frenzy of wanton greed. Was it vexed by a twisted and passionate love? Here is the quart of blood you order Why must you drag us forth? It’s just a piece of paper! Ha ha! We’ll burn it! It’s found us! It’s the Worm! What sharp illusions! How strange are the fancies of the mind. Am I the only man in the world who sees them as they really are? Melt – melt! It’s Tom’s leg! My footsteps sound like drumbeats in this vacuum of an avenue. Yes, we’ll drain this dame dry. She struck down her victims in a frenzy of wanton greed. Was it vexed by a twisted and passionate love? Here is the quart of blood you ordered! Using this tablet as our master cipher, we can read any inscription in the crypt. Ted!! Joyce!! I live with corpses! Pain, and more pain, and finally death, Franklin. It splits into tiny particles, but the red NUCLEUS is still there! I’d even be handsome without these thick glasses. Kiss me, Mary. Mary? Mary? No one will find us here! Wait… Harry’s come back from the dead! Hail the United World Zombies! Our power is secure. All non-zombie traitors are in custody! You weak fool! I made you love what you hated! Oh Jim – I’ll be right with you. I’ve got something to tell you, something frightful. HE DIDN’T WANT TO SHOW WHAT WAS BEHIND HIS LIPS! HE DIDN’T WANT TO SHOW WHAT WAS BEHIND HIS LIPS! HE DIDN’T WANT TO SHOW WHAT WAS BEHIND HIS LIPS! What’s the matter, sweetheart? Why does your voice sound so strange? Cannibals never boil more than one human at a time! The dank smell of the waterfront stings the girl’s nostrils as she follows her bridegroom’s hurrying steps up the creaking gangplank towards the gloomy hulk. The beads of perspiration on his dark skin twinkle like distant stars. The awful prognostications of doom. His head, grown to the size of a WATERMELON! Lorna – don’t open that – Lorna! Lorna!! AIEEE!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Kirsten

    3.5 stars This was a little bit disappointing, in that it was sort of neither fish nor fowl; it seems a bit like the author both wanted to release a big fancy collection of horror comics, and also write an historical, critical book about them, and the end result is that this book is a mediocre example of both. If you just want to see the horror comics, you will be a bit disappointed, as many of the stories are only alluded to or not reproduced in full; each chapter averages most of one story, alo 3.5 stars This was a little bit disappointing, in that it was sort of neither fish nor fowl; it seems a bit like the author both wanted to release a big fancy collection of horror comics, and also write an historical, critical book about them, and the end result is that this book is a mediocre example of both. If you just want to see the horror comics, you will be a bit disappointed, as many of the stories are only alluded to or not reproduced in full; each chapter averages most of one story, along with a lot of covers and a few single pages or frames from other stories. Additionally, if you're looking for in-depth critical discussion of the role horror comics played, or a detailed history of their censorship, you will also be disappointed. This is still an entertaining book, however, and the paper quality is great -- I doubt the comics have looked this good since they were first printed. It made me want to see out more information about the Comics Code, and find more horror comic reprints.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Doug

    This book is two things in one. First, it is Jim Trombetta's reminisces, anecdotes, and discussion about the horror comics from the 1950s, before "The Code" shut them down. Secondly, it is a collection of lots and lots and lots of rare covers and panels of art from those comics. As the EC trio--Tales from the Crypt, Vault of Horror, Haunt of Fear--are well known and still reproduced today, Trombetta focuses mostly on all the others that have been forgotten. The majority of the artwork in this bo This book is two things in one. First, it is Jim Trombetta's reminisces, anecdotes, and discussion about the horror comics from the 1950s, before "The Code" shut them down. Secondly, it is a collection of lots and lots and lots of rare covers and panels of art from those comics. As the EC trio--Tales from the Crypt, Vault of Horror, Haunt of Fear--are well known and still reproduced today, Trombetta focuses mostly on all the others that have been forgotten. The majority of the artwork in this book has been practically forgotten, which is worth the cover price alone. L.B. Cole's early proto-psychedelic art, Hy Fleishman's many takes on the human skeleton, the rotted semi-mouths that the undead wear on horror comic covers, and don't forget the spider webs. It might be surprising to see multiple covers of facial explosions (is there a technical term for this?) or rotting flesh and moderately obvious homo-eroticism (as is pointed out, one artist, Don Heck, loved to paint pictures of male monsters attacking prostrate men, often with artistic focus on the attacker's crotch). As for the second half, the commentary, it can be hit or miss. In some sections, Trombetta nails the hypocrisy and overwrought panic of the officials that were gunning were comic censorship [see Comic Code Authority's Charles Murphy who objects to a sympathetic black character in a story about overcoming racism]. He expounds on common motifs and ideas, summing up large chunks of an era. In others, though, he breaks out the psychoanalysis stick and some pop-lit critique that is never 100% off the mark, but comes across as trite. Still, it reads like a fan talking to fan, and that is something I can always dig.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Lee Foust

    My first impression of this book was pretty much inline with the other reviews I see here: that it's neither fish nor flesh, that it's bound to please no-one as it reproduces too few comics to satisfy a reader who wants to enjoy the comics themselves and that its commentary is too light to please someone who wants to read a serious, scholarly study of the crime/horror/sci-fi comics of the pre-code early 1950s. As I went on, however, I found that I actually enjoyed the variety, seeing the comic ar My first impression of this book was pretty much inline with the other reviews I see here: that it's neither fish nor flesh, that it's bound to please no-one as it reproduces too few comics to satisfy a reader who wants to enjoy the comics themselves and that its commentary is too light to please someone who wants to read a serious, scholarly study of the crime/horror/sci-fi comics of the pre-code early 1950s. As I went on, however, I found that I actually enjoyed the variety, seeing the comic art, reading the occasional story, and thinking about how the commentary sections put the art and stories into historical, social, and political perspective. Because it's an Abrams art book, it's bound to fit into those perimeters--color reproductions of art with some, but not too much commentary--it's a coffee table book, after all. Since I wasn't leafing through but actually reading it, I did occasionally bray at the panels or single pages cut out of the context of a full story, and yearn to read a story only alluded to in the commentary, to turn from the many covers to see what's inside some of those books. Still, a mix can be a good thing. The reproductions are lovely, and although I liked the Four Color Fear volume that I bought a couple of years ago better--it's a straight compilation of stories reproduced from non-EC horror comics of the 1950s from their original artwork, I imagine--the technique here of actually photographing the old strips and covers, showing the creases, yellowed paper, and printing errors, was effective in evoking the material aspect of reading comics as opposed to perfect reprints. This book also smells really good. The worst thing about the tome is Trombetta's writing, I'm sorry to say. Too much silly journalistic technique and not enough clever scholarly acumen. He says many interesting and thoughtful things, he just says some of them awkwardly and others poorly. For instance you don't "need" so many quotation "marks" to always "disown" words with which you don't "agree." Do you?

  6. 5 out of 5

    Sesana

    I think I would have liked this better if it had been purely a collection of 50s horror comics. I may have even liked it better if it been purely a nostalgic critique of 50s horror comics. Instead, it's a little bit of both, a jack of all trades and a master of none. Part of my disappointment comes from how few stories are reprinted in full. I would have dearly loved to see the entirety of "Judgement Day", for example, instead of just the most famous panel. But the work that is reprinted here is I think I would have liked this better if it had been purely a collection of 50s horror comics. I may have even liked it better if it been purely a nostalgic critique of 50s horror comics. Instead, it's a little bit of both, a jack of all trades and a master of none. Part of my disappointment comes from how few stories are reprinted in full. I would have dearly loved to see the entirety of "Judgement Day", for example, instead of just the most famous panel. But the work that is reprinted here is generally great, in a fun, pulpy way. Exactly what I expected, really. The reprinted covers are great, and I can see exactly why these things were apparently flying off the shelves. I can also see why the idea of kids reading this stuff was alarming to some people. Trombetta's commentary can be fairly insightful, but it can also miss that mark wildly. In particular, I was unimpressed with how casually he dismissed the sexualized nature of the violence against women in some of these comics. Yes, men are menaced and brutalized, too, but the nature of the violence is quite different in tone. But that was a bit of a low point for him, and he's considerably more thoughtful in most of his other commentaries. The chapter about heads as trophies is particularly good. Still, I think I would have enjoyed this book much more if it had more full stories. The covers are just the first impression of a comic, and there's much more inside.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jason Coffman

    Amazing collection of comic book covers and selected stories (and excerpts) from controversial pre-Comics Code horror and sci-fi comics, presented in themed chapters with insightful introductions. Huge, full-color reproductions of some seriously unbelievable stuff, some of which must be incredibly rare. My one nitpick is that some of the stories are only presented as one page or the last few pages (rather than full stories), but the fact that the book comes with a pack-in DVD of a TV special mad Amazing collection of comic book covers and selected stories (and excerpts) from controversial pre-Comics Code horror and sci-fi comics, presented in themed chapters with insightful introductions. Huge, full-color reproductions of some seriously unbelievable stuff, some of which must be incredibly rare. My one nitpick is that some of the stories are only presented as one page or the last few pages (rather than full stories), but the fact that the book comes with a pack-in DVD of a TV special made in 1955 about the "comic book menace" (and the fact that hardly a page goes by without something to completely blow your mind) more than balances out any small complaints. If you're a fan of comics and/or horror in general, this book is going to make you very, very happy.

  8. 5 out of 5

    David

    I adored this book. I love the genre of the 50’s horror comic, but this book presents the art form beautifully. It’s heavy on pictures, light on text. The reproductions are carefully chosen and thoughtfully arranged. The accompanying text by Jim Trombetta is minimal, but illuminating. He does a great job of describing the context of the 50’s, and not as the golden era of MAGA, but as a decade as dark and twisted-up as any other. But it’s the stuff itself, page after page of hilarious, disgusting I adored this book. I love the genre of the 50’s horror comic, but this book presents the art form beautifully. It’s heavy on pictures, light on text. The reproductions are carefully chosen and thoughtfully arranged. The accompanying text by Jim Trombetta is minimal, but illuminating. He does a great job of describing the context of the 50’s, and not as the golden era of MAGA, but as a decade as dark and twisted-up as any other. But it’s the stuff itself, page after page of hilarious, disgusting, trippy, gross-out horror comic art; front covers, panels. Taken altogether, this book is a strong argument for the cultural importance and relevance of the horror comic. I was an avid reader of horror comics as a kid, when I could find them. I was devoted to 2000AD which in many ways carried the torch from William Gaines EC comics. Some of the pleasure of reading this book is nostalgia, but you can’t help being impressed by the energy in the comics. Reading the story of the huge popularity of these comics, the moral outrage they inspired (book burnings, etc), and the ultimate censorship that drove them out of existence, it’s easy I think to imagine the 50’s as an era of uptight, buttoned-up, repressed and brittle morality, but that takes away from the fact that this stuff is still shocking. It shocked me. There’s at least one cover, that hints at pedophilia, that I think should still be banned. Reading this book, made me think about censorship, and also think about the politics of the horror form itself. Is the horror genre conservative or subversive? It’s an interesting question, isn’t it? It traditionally pushes the boundaries of good taste, but often does it to ultimately reassert the established moral order. Good triumphs over evil, or good is distinguished unambiguously from evil. Or, is horror like the spirit of carnival, a temporary moment of release and subversion that somehow allows order to be maintained for the rest of the year? What are the politics of horror? I went to talk by Rachel Cusk recently and she made the point (made many times before) that most popular entertainment seems like the violent fantasies of a troubled, psychotic mind. We’re a long way from the 1950’s, but it’s still troubling to think that entertainment can be made from violence. Not only that, but to think that violence and horror is where the fascination lies. It’s easy to think that we live in more enlightened times. It’s easy to snigger at the 1954 criteria of the Comics Code Authority, we can laugh at a demand like; “In every instance good shall triumph over evil and the criminal be punished for his misdeeds.” How unsophisticated! How quaint their fixed moral values! And yet there are some demands that still seem reasonable; “Females shall be drawn realistically without exaggeration of any physical qualities.” I have a friend who is concerned about letting her girl play with Barbie dolls because of the unrealistic representation of the female form. The point is, there is a genuine danger at the heart of the horror genre. It can’t be argued that it is always progressively subversive. In these comics, racism is promoted as much as it is challenged. Violence against women is a common trope. There is something atavistic and reactionary in the way that our deepest fears are exploitatively provoked and titillated. In these times, when facism is on the rise, I admit to feeling a little queasy at the power and fascination of these images. Am I being melodramatic? I picture myself as I’d be drawn by one of these artists; bulging eyes, hands as claws, my mouth a salivating grimace, sweat pouring off my forehead. My speech bubble saying, “ NO! NO! MAKE IT STOP! I THOUGHT IT WAS JUST A SILLY COMIC BOOK! BUT IT”S ACTUALLY…..A TOOL OF FASCIST INDOCTRINATION!’ Having said all that, these comics are great fun. I laugh my nuts off every time I open the book. The highlight for me is undoubtedly ‘Bargain with a…Worm’ in which a man makes a Faustian pact with a black garbage bag. Oh god, that is hilarious. And, if I’m honest, a tiny, tiny bit scary.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Dionisia

    It seems fitting that I finished this book on a Friday the 13th.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    Man, I loved this book! More art book than textbook, the author reprinted dozens of covers from 1940s-1950s horror comic books in all their gory glory. There are ten or so fully reprinted stories, too, which I adored. I can't call this a trip down memory lane, really, since I wasn't born when these comic books were published, but I certainly remember reading a lot of reprints when I was a kid. Some of my fondest childhood memories revolve around me snuggled up in a warm bed with a stack of horro Man, I loved this book! More art book than textbook, the author reprinted dozens of covers from 1940s-1950s horror comic books in all their gory glory. There are ten or so fully reprinted stories, too, which I adored. I can't call this a trip down memory lane, really, since I wasn't born when these comic books were published, but I certainly remember reading a lot of reprints when I was a kid. Some of my fondest childhood memories revolve around me snuggled up in a warm bed with a stack of horror comic books to keep me company. I still read the damn things whenever I can. What struck me was how graphic all of this was. I mean serious gore and violence: vampires, cannibals, devils, ghouls, zombies, werewolves, beheadings, mutilations...it was awesome, and all during the staid and stolid Eisenhower years in post-WWII America! I have long thought I'd like to live in the Golden Age of America: 1945-1965. Good movies, good books, great science fiction. I'd have to wear a tie, though. Whatevs. So if you like classic horror comics, this beautiful book is for you. It comes with a DVD, too, but I don't have a DVD player so that's a bit of a bummer.

  11. 5 out of 5

    J. Gowin

    I didn't know exactly what to expect when I bought this book. (Usually a bad sign.) I'm glad to say that it turned out to be an educational and entertaining light history of the "golden era" of horror and crime comics. The writing was informative, without getting bogged down in minutiae, and the included reproduction covers and comics were a joy to read. If you enjoy any of those things, give it a try.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Ken Saunders

    History and analysis combined with an expertly curated collection of fun (if occasionally disturbing) examples from "bottom-feeders" of the post-war cultural psyche.

  13. 5 out of 5

    John Smith

    Wow what a fantastic coffee table book about the horror comics of the 1950s and their eventual censorship by the comics code of America. The art for some of these covers is absolutely breathtaking Some of these covers would be considered pop art some a decade and a 1/2 before that was a thing in the sixties. If you are a fan of comics in comics history This book will open your eyes to some fantastic art.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Massanutten Regional Library

    Neil, Central patron, July 2018, 5 stars: A selection of comic stories from the fifties that helped to create the backlash sanitizing what could be shown in comic books. Something of a guilty pleasure; however, most of the stories are well crafted and have the fifties Twilight Zone twist endings.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Liz

    Enjoyable if thick title featuring comics and a information about them. While not collecting necessarily the most popular titles, it certainly covers the different sub-genres within horror very well. Many of the featured comics were new to me and I liked that.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Garrett Zecker

    This book was a lot of fun to get through, and the supplementary material, imagery, attention to detail, and research that went into its production by Trombetta was absolutely fascinating. The best part of this exploration into pre-comics code artwork and storytelling is the allegorical and symbolic nature of all of the work the artists were doing at the time. It is absolutely fascinating to me that so much subtext about race, religion, the atomic age, government and social subversion, sexual re This book was a lot of fun to get through, and the supplementary material, imagery, attention to detail, and research that went into its production by Trombetta was absolutely fascinating. The best part of this exploration into pre-comics code artwork and storytelling is the allegorical and symbolic nature of all of the work the artists were doing at the time. It is absolutely fascinating to me that so much subtext about race, religion, the atomic age, government and social subversion, sexual repression, and the basic fabric of our lives and the real versus imagined dangers that we all face on a daily basis are so clearly shown in these works that contained vampires, werewolves, cannibals, aliens, corpses, rape, murder, dismemberment, invasion, aliens, violence, and zombies. It is almost obvious once it is pointed out to you. But the mastery of this nonviolent resistance and fear, and the sometimes brave steps that these comic book artists and writers took in order to make the message that racism and inequality and all of these other things that they were showing in a time where segregation was an all too real aspect of American life was astonishing. My favorite part of the book was in a chapter that discussed this very issue, where the author talked about a comic where an astronaut goes to a planet where different colored robots were living but all made of the same parts. The blue robots repressed the green ones, however, and the blues were constantly torturing and persecuting the greens. The astronaut leaves because he is in fear of danger, and when he takes his helmet off in the last panel, we see that he is an African American. The artist's boss and many others told him he couldn't publish it as it was, and with racial tension in the US coming to a boil in the time it was published it may have been for good reason - but he did anyway at the risk of many things. This book was really fun to read and look at, and it is richly illustrated, well researched, but also very approachable. I enjoyed every page, and laughed out loud at some of them. I also enjoyed watching the accompanying DVD that had a period documentary included, and was surprised at two things - 1. that something that was so very staged was considered to be nonfiction at one time, and 2. that people were so worried about kids being brainwashed with the comics, but, they found value and fun in reading. I have not heard any 8-10 year olds in 2012 use the language that some of the 8-10 year olds in the featured interviews use in this 1955 documentary. I may go as far as to say even adults in 2012. I wonder where the real danger lies?

  17. 4 out of 5

    Ollie

    Here we have a very very cool book. The Horror! The Horror! details an interesting part of comic book history, which involves horror comics that were either banned or used in order to justify their banning or the founding of a comics code to hold comics up to a "higher" standard. Got all that? Good. What strikes the reader immediately is the size and scope of the book Jim Trombetta has put together. First the book itself is massive in size and thick with content. Split up into topics ranging from Here we have a very very cool book. The Horror! The Horror! details an interesting part of comic book history, which involves horror comics that were either banned or used in order to justify their banning or the founding of a comics code to hold comics up to a "higher" standard. Got all that? Good. What strikes the reader immediately is the size and scope of the book Jim Trombetta has put together. First the book itself is massive in size and thick with content. Split up into topics ranging from the history of how the comics code came about and the specific themes these comics dealt with, such as vampires, werewolves, the undead, a fixation on eyes, and even necrophilia. The chapters contain a well written and well researched (but not overly long) analysis of the content in these comics, why they appealed so much to the readers, and how it was perceived. Trombetta breaks down the different comics mostly by discussing their cover and the different elements that might have escaped the casual eye. Often we get an analysis of the story in these comics and a reproduction later in the chapter. As if that wasn't enough, there's also a DVD with an old program from the 50s discussing the dangers of horror comics. It's everything you think a program from that era to look like. Let me just say how great and well put together this book is. The content is fascinating and the analysis interesting. Clearly a lot of work and time was put into this. And the look! The Horror! The Horror! is printed on thick, matted and oversized paper which makes it an absolute delight to hold and sift through. These aren't original drawings reassembled for the books but actual aged covers rescanned in high quality and reprinted, yellowing, scratches, and tears included! This gives the art an aged, decrepit, tortured and VERY VERY moody look. It's absolutely amazing. The Horror! The Horror! is both an informative and fun book to look through and read. With the history and work put into this book, you really should be careful, because you might end up actually learning something.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Wink

    INCREDIBLY LURID COMIC BOOKS THAT SPARKED A PANIC IN THE 1950S People who complain that today’s video games are too violent are lucky they weren’t around in the 1950s, when children’s entertainment was far more gruesome. The Horror! The Horror! has over 200 horror comic book covers and complete stories that depict dismemberment, disfigurement, sadism, bondage, torture, electrocution, blinding with red hot pokers, decapitation, and cannibalism. No wonder kids loved comics so much in those days. It INCREDIBLY LURID COMIC BOOKS THAT SPARKED A PANIC IN THE 1950S People who complain that today’s video games are too violent are lucky they weren’t around in the 1950s, when children’s entertainment was far more gruesome. The Horror! The Horror! has over 200 horror comic book covers and complete stories that depict dismemberment, disfigurement, sadism, bondage, torture, electrocution, blinding with red hot pokers, decapitation, and cannibalism. No wonder kids loved comics so much in those days. It was too good to last, of course. In 1954 a crusading pro-censorhip psychiatrist named Fredric Wertham published a book called Seduction of the Innocent that described the damaging effects of comic books on young minds (he included many sexually suggestive comic panels in his book, which is no doubt a reason why many people bought it). That same year, Wertham was invited to present his findings at a US Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency. Under threat of having their industry shut down, comic book publishers formed a self-censoring association called the Comics Code Authority, which banned common horror themes from their stories. And comics stopped being as much fun. (Decades later it was discovered that Wertham distorted the findings of his research to bolster his arguments.) Fortunately, some copies of pre-code horror comic books escaped the bonfires. Jim Trombetta’s massive anthology collects the most interesting examples of an era when there were no rules. – Mark Frauenfelder The Horror! The Horror! Comic Books the Government Didn’t Want You to Read by Jim Trombetta Abrams ComicArts 2010, 306 pages, 8 x 11 x 1.2 $23 Buy a copy on Amazon

  19. 5 out of 5

    Amanda Keck

    I need to disagree with a few of the reviews I scanned of this book while reading it. I don't think that the book needs to choose between being a history of the horror genre of comics and a graphic representation of those comics. I think where this book went wrong was in the organization of the material it was trying to present. I've read a few histories of comics, and while I was reading them I often wished that I had examples of the things that were being discussed. That's exactly what this boo I need to disagree with a few of the reviews I scanned of this book while reading it. I don't think that the book needs to choose between being a history of the horror genre of comics and a graphic representation of those comics. I think where this book went wrong was in the organization of the material it was trying to present. I've read a few histories of comics, and while I was reading them I often wished that I had examples of the things that were being discussed. That's exactly what this book does. "Hey, let me tell you about this cool thing AND here's the actual cool thing to reference." Unfortunately, to find those examples you are left leafing through the pages, and nothing is presented in the order it's discussed in the text. I think what needed to be done here, instead of foregoing the text altogether, it needed to be split up more and used as almost caption material to the actual comics and covers presented in the book. I think would have allowed the information that was presented to flow better and would have driven some of the points in the text across more easily. This being said, I REALLY enjoyed having so many examples of this genre in full color all in one collection. The artwork in this book very well could stand alone, but is enhanced by the text if you're willing to skip back and forth to hunt down the examples. For anyone interested in the history of comics it's a worthwhile read. Oh, and the included DVD! :) For someone who wasn't around when the whole craze against the comics happened, it was amusing to see just how horrified adults were over things that would now be considered pretty tame. I'd be interested in knowing just how much of the original comics code is still around!

  20. 4 out of 5

    Dominick

    This is an interesting collection that goes some way towards testing the theory that EC was the gold standard of 1950s comics. OK, it was, but this book goes a long way towards demonstrating that there were many other talented artists working for other interesting companies at the time. Reprints several stories, a few excerpts, and a whack of covers, mostly from horror books but also from crime and SF ones, to explore the range of subversive and transgressive subjects tackled in these books. Exc This is an interesting collection that goes some way towards testing the theory that EC was the gold standard of 1950s comics. OK, it was, but this book goes a long way towards demonstrating that there were many other talented artists working for other interesting companies at the time. Reprints several stories, a few excerpts, and a whack of covers, mostly from horror books but also from crime and SF ones, to explore the range of subversive and transgressive subjects tackled in these books. Excerpts are frustrating, but I guess they allow a bit more breadth. There's no shortage of that here, actually, with many short chapters (text-short, that is--a page or two of commentary on the subject) on a wide array of subjects--creature kinds, motifs, censorship, etc. Several of the stories reproduced demonstrate that the EC formula of the twist ending mainly offering poetic justice was far from the required structure for horror stories; there are many here that offer far less conforting resolutions, and there's some dandy art from relatively lesser-known hands, though there's also stuff from greats like Wood and Wolverton (who seems to have done a fair bit of loopy horror stuff, given how relatively frequently he comes up here). Those curious about the fooferaw about pre-Code 1940s and 1950s comics might find this book especially useful, but I think many a comic fan will find much to appreciate here. The reproduction is generally pretty good, and there are many unexpected treasures along with some more familiar stuff. Haven't watched the accompanying DVD yet.

  21. 5 out of 5

    ReverseThePolarity

    Trombetta explores the topic of comic books that the United States government censored in the 1950s, so as an avid comic book reader this is something that interests me greatly. The book attempts to do two main things: 1.) Give the reader a taste of what comics in the 1950s that were banned were like and 2.) Give the reader commentary and context about what happened. The book succeeds partially on both accounts. The book would have been better served solely as a look at the comics of the 1950s th Trombetta explores the topic of comic books that the United States government censored in the 1950s, so as an avid comic book reader this is something that interests me greatly. The book attempts to do two main things: 1.) Give the reader a taste of what comics in the 1950s that were banned were like and 2.) Give the reader commentary and context about what happened. The book succeeds partially on both accounts. The book would have been better served solely as a look at the comics of the 1950s that were banned and caused so much ire in many communities. Trombetta included some great examples, but unfortunately there weren't many pages of any comic. The commentary was also limited due to having to commit space for the comics. As the author mentions in the book, The Ten-Cent Plague The Great Comic-Book Scare and How it Changed America would be a good book to read to learn more on the subject. Overall, The Horror! The Horror! is a worthwhile afternoon (or late night if you're daring enough) read about a fascinating subject in American history.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Greg Pettit

    This large book is full of beautiful art from an often forgotten period of comic history. The accompanying text is not as good. Each chapter is more of a short essay that talks about some of the themes and some of the history. Unfortunately it is not very in depth, so for the most part I just scanned it and concentrated on the art. Crime and horror comics were unbelievably popular before the Comics Code of the early sixties essentially eliminated them. Though classics like EC's Tales from the Cry This large book is full of beautiful art from an often forgotten period of comic history. The accompanying text is not as good. Each chapter is more of a short essay that talks about some of the themes and some of the history. Unfortunately it is not very in depth, so for the most part I just scanned it and concentrated on the art. Crime and horror comics were unbelievably popular before the Comics Code of the early sixties essentially eliminated them. Though classics like EC's Tales from the Crypt are mentioned, most of the artwork comes from relatively unknown titles. I really appreciated this, because it gave a better idea of the shear breadth of titles out there. There are a few selections of stories from the comics, but the vast majority of artwork is just the covers. This is also a good choice, as the cover art is usually of much better quality. I was a little disappointed that apparently no effort was made to clean up the images. Many times a date stamp or other mark appears on the cover, and that would have been very easy to remove digitally. For a coffee table book, it performs its function well: plenty of interesting and thought-provoking art to look at. As a source of information, it falls flat.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Mike

    An interesting look at the 1950's fad for horror comics, which lead to Congressional hearings, and the infamous self-censorship program known as the Comics Code. Each chapter starts with a two or three page essay on an important event or theme related to 50's horror comics. The text of the essay is supplemented by a gallery of covers and excerpted pages relevant to the chapter. Most chapters also reprint an example of a full story (most comics stories were about 3-6 pages at that time). While it An interesting look at the 1950's fad for horror comics, which lead to Congressional hearings, and the infamous self-censorship program known as the Comics Code. Each chapter starts with a two or three page essay on an important event or theme related to 50's horror comics. The text of the essay is supplemented by a gallery of covers and excerpted pages relevant to the chapter. Most chapters also reprint an example of a full story (most comics stories were about 3-6 pages at that time). While it's not a terribly scholarly history of the period, it gives a good overview and context for the reprinted stories and art (many not seen since the 50's). It might have been nice to see a few more full stories, but to be honest, a little goes a long way. It is true that the stories pushed the boundaries of a stultifying and conformist time, but they were churned out in the hundreds to tight deadlines. That's not exactly a formula for high quality writing. The book gives some better examples of the genre without weighing the reader down with too many bad examples.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jeff Raymond

    This book was so, so cool. This is a book that's part historical piece about the horror comics of the comics code days, and part museum of sorts, as the book is packed full of covers and excerpts from those classic comics. It's a great read on its own. The historical primer, both on the time of the comics of the era and of how we got to that point, is fascinating. The pieces are provided in bite-size form, with just enough detail to keep you interested and leaving enough to the imagination that I This book was so, so cool. This is a book that's part historical piece about the horror comics of the comics code days, and part museum of sorts, as the book is packed full of covers and excerpts from those classic comics. It's a great read on its own. The historical primer, both on the time of the comics of the era and of how we got to that point, is fascinating. The pieces are provided in bite-size form, with just enough detail to keep you interested and leaving enough to the imagination that I must have Googled a bunch of different names and figures while reading. The best part, though, is absolutely the different comics. There's a wide range of different books from the era, from zombie books to skeleton books to alien horror to some really gruesome (for the time) stuff. You look at them today at how corny they are, and yet you realize how much they got the government nervous. Absolutely worth your time if you care about comics, or history, or some combination of the two. A really, really fun read.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Chris Laskey

    A great overview of the horror and crime comics during the late 40's into the repressed fifties. While it didn't really provide much of the high end comics ie: EC publications, it was a nonetheless a real hoot to follow the b-level comics that proliferated the newstands and provided the source material for this analysis and compilation. I especially liked that the reprints were direct scans from original comics, not cleaned up or recolored allowing you to sink into the cheap thrills in a real s A great overview of the horror and crime comics during the late 40's into the repressed fifties. While it didn't really provide much of the high end comics ie: EC publications, it was a nonetheless a real hoot to follow the b-level comics that proliferated the newstands and provided the source material for this analysis and compilation. I especially liked that the reprints were direct scans from original comics, not cleaned up or recolored allowing you to sink into the cheap thrills in a real smeary off-printed colors way. It is great to have comics scanned and recolored, cleaned up and presented on high quality paper - but you sure lose the essence of the material by moving so far from how they really looked. The essays are well researched,informative and entertaining however a bit redundant after while. How long can one go on providing psychological understandings to this period and its reaction to comics? A great addition to anyone collecting the history of comics.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Bart Hill

    This is a fantastic collection of pre-code stories and comic book covers along with insightful commentaries on a wide range of themes depicted in 1950s horror comics. At times, I thought the commentaries didn't exactly match up with the covers depicted, but that's a small quibble. And occasionally, I thought the commentaries were a bit "reaching" in trying to depict certain issues, such as: sexuality and hunger, but again, those were such minor issues that I will stand fast to this 5 star rating. This is a fantastic collection of pre-code stories and comic book covers along with insightful commentaries on a wide range of themes depicted in 1950s horror comics. At times, I thought the commentaries didn't exactly match up with the covers depicted, but that's a small quibble. And occasionally, I thought the commentaries were a bit "reaching" in trying to depict certain issues, such as: sexuality and hunger, but again, those were such minor issues that I will stand fast to this 5 star rating. Also included with the book is a 26-minute video of Paul Coates' "Confidential File" TV show that aired in order to show the connection of horror comics and juvenile delinquency. The show makes such leaps of claim, without any supporting evidence, that in today's light the show would be highly ridiculed for its ridiculousness-- or, at least, I hope it would be.

  27. 4 out of 5

    SHUiZMZ

    Focusing on many of the horror comics lesser-known to readers (non-E.C. titles), this large-format book had plenty of full-page covers of comics and artwork displayed to pour over and read. Each chapter focused on a particular genre or style of comics from the horror titles to the mystery titles to the crime stories---All of which are Pre-Code comic titles. Some of the greatest artists artwork showcased such as Steve Ditko, Don Heck, and many others. It also includes a bonus DVD of Confidential Focusing on many of the horror comics lesser-known to readers (non-E.C. titles), this large-format book had plenty of full-page covers of comics and artwork displayed to pour over and read. Each chapter focused on a particular genre or style of comics from the horror titles to the mystery titles to the crime stories---All of which are Pre-Code comic titles. Some of the greatest artists artwork showcased such as Steve Ditko, Don Heck, and many others. It also includes a bonus DVD of Confidential File, reporting to citizens the HORRORS of comics! Very insightful, author Jim Trombetta enlightens readers with a bit of history to go along with the titles and the timeline in which they were published in.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jeff

    What is here in terms of comic covers and stories is amazing. So much to take in. It helps that the majority of covers are presented here in full pages so it is easy to fully appreciate all of the art and detail. But Trombetta also gives little articles/essays, usually focusing on one aspect of the horror comics of the 40s and 50s. There are some crime comics here as well, but mainly the focus is on horror. I was hoping for more actual comic content than is given here, but in terms of what is gi What is here in terms of comic covers and stories is amazing. So much to take in. It helps that the majority of covers are presented here in full pages so it is easy to fully appreciate all of the art and detail. But Trombetta also gives little articles/essays, usually focusing on one aspect of the horror comics of the 40s and 50s. There are some crime comics here as well, but mainly the focus is on horror. I was hoping for more actual comic content than is given here, but in terms of what is given I feel it's a great representation of the material of the day. There is also a DVD included featuring a vintage mid-50's TV broadcast focusing on the "dangers" of horror comics. I skipped through most of it. It's by no means essential viewing. The book content is vastly superior.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Stewart Tame

    A loving look at the horror and crime comics of the 1950s. Since the EC comics are easily obtained through reprints and their story is well-known, Trombetta focuses instead on the other 97% of crime and horror titles being published at the time. A few complete stories are included, but most of the non-text portions of the book are covers of various titles, plus a few internal pages. As would be expected, there is some lovely art here, some be well-known artists of the day, some by literal unknow A loving look at the horror and crime comics of the 1950s. Since the EC comics are easily obtained through reprints and their story is well-known, Trombetta focuses instead on the other 97% of crime and horror titles being published at the time. A few complete stories are included, but most of the non-text portions of the book are covers of various titles, plus a few internal pages. As would be expected, there is some lovely art here, some be well-known artists of the day, some by literal unknowns. The book includes a DVD of a rare contemporary documentary about the "problem" of the lurid comics of the day. All told, this is an excellent book that should appeal to both hardcore comics fans and more casual readers.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jon Shanks

    A fascinating book about the comics that were subject to the 1950s U.S. Congressional inquiry witch hunts Fredric Wertham et al. Many of the book covers and a few complete stories are reprnted in all their pulpy glory as well as a DVD of a contemporary documatary about the "dangers" of these comic books to "innocent" children. The text for each section is well written but the only problem is that it often refers to many comics where the covers are reproduced within the book, but with no indicati A fascinating book about the comics that were subject to the 1950s U.S. Congressional inquiry witch hunts Fredric Wertham et al. Many of the book covers and a few complete stories are reprnted in all their pulpy glory as well as a DVD of a contemporary documatary about the "dangers" of these comic books to "innocent" children. The text for each section is well written but the only problem is that it often refers to many comics where the covers are reproduced within the book, but with no indication as to which pages they are on, so you can end up flipping back & forth before finishing reading each section. Just a minor quibble in what should be essential bookshelf fodder for anyone with even a passing interest in the subject matter.

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