Ilex Gift, $5.95, ISBN 978-1-908150-36-3
Popular Culture, 2012
Just like the other books in this series, Little Book of Vintage Horror is a novelty book that offers a collection of selected pages reprinted from “horror comics” from the 1940s to 1950s. These comics were practically purged in a self-imposed censorship effort by the comic book industry as a result of the inevitable “these comics are turning our children into deviants” hysteria from impressionable adults.
During that short era, though, there were many, many titles in circulation: Tales from the Crypt (of course), Vault of Horror, Adventures into the Unknown, and more. It would be in the 1970s before folks started making anthology movies and TV series loosely adapted from these titles, and, just like their comic counterparts, quickly sputtered out of steam. Still, things were great while they lasted, as there were campy lunacy galore.
Little Book of Vintage Horror plays on that sense of nostalgia. To someone unfamiliar with “horror comics”, this would be a frustratingly superficial and often disjointed look into those pulp comics. There aren’t stories here, just short snippets, so this is nowhere near an academic case study or anything of that sort.
Things are more campy and ridiculous than scary in these snippets, and everyone is aware of that. It’s all about, as Tim Pilcher put it in his introduction, young women molested by “weird menaces” and mad scientists bent on world domination via their perverted creations. Toss in zombies (often paired with voodoo), ghouls, and monsters and it’s a melting pot of sexism, racism, and bad science, all too absurd to be taken seriously in any way. The monsters are unintentionally – or perhaps, deliberately? – hilarious, from walking giant ants to human-looking things colored green to mark them as “scary” compared to their paler counterparts. My favorite is this very hirsute vampire that, for some reason, wears short shorts and a bizarre cape when he’s naked everywhere else. Or is that cape actually a pair of bat wings? I can’t tell from the art, heh.
All things considered, this one is a pleasant stroll down memory lane, but it doesn’t have much depths to make it anything more than a pleasant novelty gift. It’s worth a look if you’re a fan of “horror comics”, but if not, it’s not exactly compulsory reading.