The book that has been sold-out twice in a row comes to you, dear reader, in digital form. Four Color Fear: Forgotten Horror Comics of the 1950s. The finest non-EC horror covers and stories of the pre-code era by artist perennials Jack Cole, Reed Crandall, George Evans, Frank Frazetta, Jack Katz, Al Williamson, Basil Wolverton, and Wallace Wood, collected in a robust and affordable volume. And by volume, we mean four. This book is SO BIG, SO HUGE that we had to break it up into four parts: CMYK for the printing colors Cyan (blue), Magenta, Yellow and Black or parts one, two, three, four.
Editors John Benson and Greg Sadowski have sifted through hundreds of rare books to cherry-pick the most compelling scripts and art, and they provide extensive background notes on the artists, writers, and companies involved in their creation. Digital restoration has been performed with subtlety and restraint, mainly to correct registration and printing errors, with every effort made to retain the flavor of the original comics, and to provide the reader the experience of finding a most delightful read in their dusty, creaky attic. Each part is only 6.99 for 80-something pages bound to terrify and keep you up all night long, glowing from your tablets thanks to comiXology.
"[Its] a wonderfully creepy hurtle through the exuberant, cheerfully gross and icky horror comics that prevailed in the golden, pre-Comics-Code era. ...[T]he art is brilliant: indistinct piles of slimy viscera, purple-green zombies, skull-faced vampires and demons, Satan in a dozen guises, witches and occult symbols, creatures from the eleven hells of the darkest mythos of the human spirit." – Cory Doctorow, Boing Boing
• Review:Publishers Weekly gives a starred review to 7 Miles a Second by David Wojnarowicz, James Romberger and Marguerite Van Cook. "The author’s prose is poetic, arriving with a light touch while delivering a heavy, dark, and understandably angry message. Part of what makes the book unusual is that it does not go out of its way to be uplifting… Romberger and Van Cook’s art is hyperactive, with splattery color that suggests the out-of-body acid-trip world of contradictory values and constantly shifting danger that Wojnarowicz lived in."
• Preview:Publishers Weekly also posted a preview of the comic 7 Miles a Secondby David Wojnarowicz, James Romberger and Marguerite Van Cook, compiled by Ada Price for your prereading pleasure.
• Review: Beta Testing the Apocalypse by Tom Kaczynski gets reviewed on Publishers Weekly. "Kaczynski’s range is wide, and in these chronologically arranged stories, we can trace an artistic development that begins as self-satisfied…and becomes more searching and curious…although his worldview won’t connect with everyone, there is plenty of smart humor and honest perspective."
• Interview:The Writing Disorder interviews Steven Weissman on his Barack Hussein Obama graphic novel, process and original art he owns. Weissman says, "I never had a scientist’s desire for the truth. I’ve always been comfortable not knowing things."
• Interview:Shelf Life of EW.com interviews Jaime Hernandez on the 30th Anniversary ofLove and Rockets. Solvej Schou asks, "So how do you and your brothers get along, being involved in the same project?" Jaime admits, "Our secret is why we can still do it is we don't collaborate."Read more!
• Plug:Noah Van Sciver's The Hypo receives an excellent rating on the Lone Star Book Review. "… an interesting look at young Abe Lincoln and his melancholic. This is a side of Lincoln that is often overlooked…"
• Review:Four Color Fear edited by Greg Sadowski continues to generate reviews after two sold out printings. Kitty Sneezes' Rev. Syung Myung Me writes "Greg Sadowski put together a wonderful collection complete with in-depth notes in the back of some of the best from comics that tend to be thought of dismissively as also-rans…if you’re a type who has the complete EC horror libraries along with a subscription to Creepy, this will slot in real well in your collection. And, well, even if you’re not that type, it’s still a great collection of some unjustly overlooked comics from the 1950s."
• Feature: At New Orleans-based website Gambit, Alex Woodward looks at Oil and Water — "As the book gets deeper south and deeper into the complexities and relationships of oil to the Gulf and its people, the stories get murky and collide, mimicking an ebb-and-flow that at first is much like oil and water, then gradually homogenizes. The Portlanders come to grips with their own misconceptions, and the characters that were once miles away from their lives become embedded into their own." — and talks to the book's creators (writer Steve Duin, artist Shannon Wheeler and editor Mike Rosen)
• Review: "...Mark Twain's Autobiography 1910-2010... is mainly an excuse to insert Twain, Zelig-like, into every decade between 1910 and today. Of course he made a lot of money in the 1920s and lost it all in the 1930s. Of course he and Albert Einstein were repeatedly struck in the head by a hammer-wielding monkey. And of course he sleeps with Mamie Eisenhower ('this lady was one hot dish.') It's all told in Kupperman's Marx Brothers-style absurdist deadpan voice, and if you like Tales Designed to Thrizzle, then you'll love this book. It's packed with laugh-out-loud moments..." – Paul Constant, The Stranger
• Review: "Gahan Wilson's Nuts features kids talking the way adults really talk... The kids in Nuts are vain, covetous, not so very bright, and they stagger around, reeling, from one unpleasant surprise to the next. They get their hair cut ('Sometimes I wonder if it's just that he's a lousy barber...') they look at some gory magazines, ('We're just not ready for that shit') and they attend funerals of uncles ('My God—I never saw them acting this way before! They've all fallen apart!'). Weirdly, by giving his kids the vocabularies of adults, he really captures the neuroses of childhood. We begin life as we live it now: Dazed, angry, and bitter at our own fundamental lack of control." – Paul Constant, The Stranger
• Review: "Fantagraphics has a nice introduction giving a brief biography of Kelly, and describing many of the struggles he had with Pogo and syndication. There is also a fantastic notes section at the end, which points out historical trivia as well as giving the context for some of the strips.... It’s possible that the appeal of Pogo may be lost on folks who are so used to everything that it influenced, be it talking animal comedies or political satires. Doesn’t matter to me, though. This strip is funny, well-drawn, and features a huge mass of likeable characters doing entertaining things. Put it together with Fantagraphics’ excellent presentation, and you have a definite must-buy." – Sean Gaffney, Manga Bookshelf
• Review: "Greg Sadowski and Fantagraphics’ Setting the Standard is perhaps the best book on Alex Toth that has been published thus far... Sadowski takes a straightforward, comprehensive approach and so Setting the Standard can rest comfortably on the bookshelf next to Fantagraphics’ other excellent recent collections of essential comics such as Hal Foster’s Prince Valiant, Roy Crane’s Captain Easy and Buz Sawyer and Carl Barks’ Disney epics.... There are... many passages of thoughtful comics storytelling. The romance work is often brilliantly articulated and visualized... Toth’s handling of horror and suspense is intuitive, sometimes harrowing and exhibits his more radical inventions.... In Sadowski’s book, Toth’s work speaks for itself and the artist likewise. The book’s assemblage and design are very well done to make a package which is pulpy but tasteful, not cheap nor overly slick, not high/low cute or old-boy sentimental. It provides a complete and important body of work by a great cartoonist." – James Romberger (contributor to the final Mome), The Hooded Utilitarian
• Review: "Sala’s new book, The Hidden, does not wholly depart from the campy fascination with the morbid that marks his previous work, but is even darker in tone, despite the vibrant watercolor work. The visual markers of Sala’s humor are present — the affected font, the twisted faces — but there is arguably something more serious and disturbing at play here." – Jenna Brager, Los Angeles Review of Books
• Reviews (Video): "This week on the Comics-and-More Podcast, Patrick Markfort and I discuss Richard Sala's work, including his Peculia books and his new graphic novel The Hidden, perfect books to read for Halloween." So says co-host Dave Ferraro — watch the multi-part video at the link
• Review: "EC is often at the center of the story [of Pre-Code horror comics]... Four Color Fear strives to provide an accessible sampler of everything else. Editor Greg Sadowski is adept at such missions.... Sadowski keeps endnotes, often heavy with hard publication facts and extensive quotes from artists and observers, in the back of the book in order to structurally foreground the sensual, aesthetic experience of reading old comics." – Joe McCulloch, Los Angeles Review of Books
• Review: "Thirty years after the debut of their Love and Rockets series, the Hernandez Brothers continue to impress readers with their incredible Love and Rockets: New Stories #4.... More than ever, Jaime demonstrates a mastery of line and pacing, making for emotional realism that is rarely matched in the world of comics.... As for Gilbert, he presents readers with the captivating 'King Vampire,' a story which revolves around killer vampires.... The result is a gripping tale filled with plot twists, violence, and absolutely gorgeous art.... With Love and Rockets: New Stories #4, the Hernandez Brothers establish once more their immeasurable contribution to the world of comics. Instead of producing works that are stale and predictable, the duo is creating comics that are as imaginative and fresh as ever." – Jason Grimmer, 211 Bernard (Librairie Drawn & Quarterly)
• Review: "David B. is one of the most important cartoonists in France. A member of L'Association, his most important work is Epileptic... But I will confess that I like the stories in The Armed Garden more. These are stories about heretics. Heresy is a subject of particular interest for certain storytellers -- for example, Jorge Luis Borges.... These bizarre fable-like tales may seem far from us, but they show want can happen when societies are stressed." – Robert Boyd, The Great God Pan Is Dead
• Review: "The stories [in The Man Who Grew His Beard] are funny, ironic and absurd. In that, he reminds me of his fellow Belgian cartoonists, Kamagurka and Herr Seele. But he also reminds one of the avant garde Belgian cartoonists of Freon (later Fremok). These are more 'art comics,' where the visual aspect is paramount. This is not to say the narratives are unimportant, mere hangers onto which to hang the art. They are amusing, weird and compelling -- the visual aspect makes them all the more so." – Robert Boyd, The Great God Pan Is Dead
• Review: "Told with great confidence and uncomfortable frankness across a sprawling 450 pages, [Today Is the Last Day of the Rest of Your Life] is a coming-of-age narrative that inevitably places itself in the tradition of German travel literature, perhaps unwittingly joining the company of such august figures as Goethe and Hesse.... Despite its trauma, the journey ends up being one of liberation. Though its description of the risks inherent to the only semi-aware need for independence characteristic of youth is sobering, the book is never judgmental. There is a distinct undertone of empowerment to this story of one woman’s instinctive search for enlightenment. It is a grand tour." – Matthias Wivel, The Metabunker (Look for our edition of this book in Summer/Fall 2012.)
• Commentary: "Long gone publisher St. John's line of romance comics has a chronicler in the person of John Benson. He edited [Romance Without Tears] from Fantagraphics in 2003. He argues that this line was superior to just about everybody else's line of romance comics and he is good at peopling his argument, particularly in a second book [Confessions, Romances, Secrets and Temptations] he put together in 2007." – Eddie Campbell
• Plug: "Two — count ’em — two books fold into one in Everything Is an Afterthought. First, we get a heartbreaking biography of the late, great rock critic Paul Nelson. Then, to prove the greatness part, the author of the first section (Kevin Avery) compiles Nelson’s most incisive hits." – Jim Farber, New York Daily News
• Plug: On Librairie Drawn & Quarterly's 211 Bernard blog, Jason Grimmer runs down some highlights from Mark Twain's Autobiography 1910-2010 by Michael Kupperman, saying "Come on, that's a helluva CV know matter how you slice it. The least you could do is read about it."
• Commentary:The Comics Reporter's Tom Spurgeon responds to The Comics Journal's Love and Rocketslove-fest yesterday with some thoughts of his own: "I agree with Nadel, Santoro, Tomine and many of the comment-makers that Jaime Hernandez's new work represents a phenomenal achievement. I'm maybe not as interested in finding its place in the pantheon right this second. There's plenty of time for that down the road. One thing that's exciting and should never be denied about a creative achievement on the level of what Hernandez seems to have given us here is what that work might say to us in the future that it doesn't say right now."
• Commentary:Robot 6's Sean T. Collins responds, in turn, to Tom Spurgeon's response linked above: "If you’re looking for realistic and well-rendered women characters, or for women creators operating on an equal playing field, or for a serious examination of issues of gender and sexuality in all their glory and misery, then yeah, you can kick against the pricks and hope that someday an issue of Captain Copyright or the Teen Trademarks will deliver these things. Or you can put those comics down, walk a few aisles over or click on a different website, and discover things like Jaime’s 'Browntown'/'The Love Bunglers' suite, which over the course of two issues of Love and Rockets packs in more quality fiction about love, aging, motherhood, fatherhood, marriage, divorce, adultery, sexual assault, queerness, mental illness, adolescence, friendship, and sex than the last half-dozen comics-internet contretemps-causing comics combined."
• Review: "The conventional wisdom surrounding Prince Valiant these days characterizes it as a fussily drawn, belabored relic of the past. Of course, critical judgments of a comic stop mattering once you read it. A few pages into the fourth of Fantagraphics’ beautifully reprinted new editions of Hal Foster’s masterpiece and it’s difficult indeed to remember that this isn’t the greatest comic ever.... And the mastery Foster brings to bear on his every panel may have been equaled both before and since his prime, but it’s never been surpassed." – Matt Seneca, The Comics Journal
• Plug: "I could easily write a whole post about the brilliance of Barks (and probably WILL, at some point down the road!) but for now I will just say that this December Fantagraphics is releasing the first volume of a NEW Carl Barks Library, which is going to finally, finally, FINALLY put Barks's work back into print in America, in an accessible full-color format.... So please, if you have a kid in your life, PLEASE, for ME, buy them this book! And if you have never read any Barks and you don't understand why I'm being so crazy about this, buy one for yourself. I can personally guarantee that you won't regret it!" – Alec Longstreth
• Review: "It should go without saying by now that any new volume of Love and Rockets is a must for any serious comics fan... [and] New Stories 4 is... one of the major events of the comics year ... [A]nyone who loves brilliant cartooning technique should appreciate the way Jaime draws the casual sag of a post-coital naked body, or the way he illustrates a pre-schooler tugging at his mother, oblivious to any notion of 'personal space.' And anyone who’s alive in the world should be moved by this story’s depiction of life as a series of accidents, miscommunications, and embarrassments, which sometimes work out okay regardless." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Love: At The Tearoom of Despair, Bob Temuka offers some spoiler-filled thoughts on Love and Rockets: New Stories #4, saying "this is no review. This is love. The art is as beautiful as always, evocative of time and place, and Jaime still draws the best body language and facial expressions in the medium, telling entire stories in a frown or wink.... While it’s no surprise that Jaime Hernandez is still producing magnificent and beautiful comics, it is also still incredible to see how big his storytelling balls are, man."
• Review: "Though not strictly a comic book, Michael Kupperman’s Mark Twain’s Autobiography 1910-2010 is very much of a piece with the cartoonist’s gleefully absurdist Tales Designed To Thrizzle series. ...Kupperman picks up the story of an American icon beginning with what the newspapers reported as Mark Twain’s 'death.' Kupperman’s Twain quickly sets the record straight, then relates what he’s been up to for the past century: fighting in World War I, losing a fortune by investing in chocolate-covered olives, making gangster pictures inspired by The Wizard Of Oz… y’know, the usual. Kupperman’s working method seems to be just to let his mind wander, making stream-of-consciousness associations that fuse into comedy." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "Initially published in the ’80s, [The Cabbie] mimics the basic comic strip format — even going as far as aping the way Chester Gould used thick black lines for basically everything with Dick Tracy — but is supremely screwed up. The protagonist, a cab driver is obsessed with money, has a tricked out cab, happens upon bizarre crimes, and even gets tortured by a family living in the slums. It is a really uncomfortable experience from cover to cover, and I am stoked it exists." – Sam Hockley-Smith, The Fader
• Review: "This is a harsh and uncompromising tale of escalating crime and uncaring punishments: blackly cynical, existentially scary and populated with a cast of battered, desolate characters of increasingly degenerate desperation. Even the monsters are victims. But for all that The Cabbie is an incredibly compelling drama with strong allegorical overtones and brutally mesmerizing visuals. Any adult follower of the art form should be conversant with this superb work and with a second volume forthcoming hopefully we soon all will be." – Win Wiacek, Now Read This!
• Interview: At The Comics Journal, Jay Ruttenberg sits down for brunch with Drew Friedman to kibbitz about the Old Jewish Comedians books: "Well, I found Jerry [Lewis] to be completely delightful. Just great. He’s very inquisitive about the process about what I do. He asks, 'Drew, how do you do what you do?' So I say, 'Jerry, how do you do what you do?' You gotta butter him up: 'I especially love drawing you, Jerry.' But a lot of them hate each other. It’s very funny. You bring up one comedian to another comedian, and there’s venom. It’s amusing to me. There’s nothing funnier than angry comedians. Nothing better!"
• Interview: Jason Diamond at Jewcy also gets a crack at Drew Friedman: "I kinda bounce around the [nerd] map. I don’t really fit into one category. I love comedians, comic books, and old movies. Really anything from the past. With these Old Jewish Comedian books, they have nothing really to do with comic books, but everything I’ve done in my career led to these books."
• Interview:Robot 6's Tim O'Shea has a quick chat with Mome contributor Eleanor Davis about her contribution to that Nursery Rhyme Comics anthology
• Feature: October means features on horror comics, and Casey Burchby's look at the history of the genre at SF Weekly says "A recent collection called Four Color Fear, edited by Greg Sadowski, collects terrific examples of horror comics from non-EC sources, including Eerie, Web of Evil, and Chamber of Chills. The work in this volume is much wider ranging in subject matter and style than Tales from the Crypt, which tended to follow a handful of formulas."
• Commentary:Robot 6's Chris Mautner lobbies us to put out a collection of Mack White's Villa of the Mysteries and other comics, saying "CIA conspiracies. Carny shows. Obscure pagan rituals. Snake handlers. Brainwashed assassins. Nudist nuns. Roman gods. Psychedelic western landscapes. Very short men with very, very large penises. Such are the essential elements found in the comics of Mack White, who, for the past couple of decades, has created some of the most bizarre, paranoid and succulently pulpish comics around. Born and raised in Texas, Mack's comics are infused with the Lone Star state's own unique blend of rugged individualism and suspicion of authority."
• Plug: At Comic Book Resources, Greg Burgas goes "Flippin' Through Previews and finds "Fantagraphics offers Flannery O’Connor: The Cartoons on page 294. Yes, you read that correctly. Apparently O’Connor was quite the cartoonist in the 1940s. This has to be awesome, right?"
Fantagraphics resident genius Jim Woodring outdoes himself in the new annual edition of The Simpsons' Treehouse of Horror. Li'l Bart discovers a shopworn copy of "Harvest of Fear" — an E.C. knockoff in the tradition of Four Color Fear — at a yard sale and all hell breaks loose. Woodring works within the Simpsons canon while cleverly incorporating his own idiosyncratic sensibilities. In the story, our mischievous protagonist sets out to solve the mystery of the mid-century comic book and finds the last page is the missing piece. Spooky.
After the first printing, released in Fall 2010, sold out in a matter of months, we went back to press with a brand-new cover design for the 2nd printing!
Of the myriad genres comic books ventured into during its golden age, none was as controversial as or came at a greater cost than horror; the public outrage it incited almost destroyed the entire industry. Yet before the watchdog groups and Congress could intercede, horror books were flying off the newsstands. During its peak period (1951-54) over fifty titles appeared each month. Apparently there was something perversely irresistible about these graphic excursions into our dark side, and Four Color Fear collects the finest of these into a single robust and affordable volume.
EC is the comic book company most fans associate with horror; its complete line has been reprinted numerous times, and deservedly so. But to the average reader there remain unseen quite a batch of genuinely disturbing, compulsive, imaginative, at times even touching, horror stories presented from a variety of visions and perspectives, many of which at their best can stand toe to toe with EC.
All of the better horror companies are represented: Ace, Ajax-Farrell, American Comics Group, Avon, Comic Media, Fawcett, Fiction House, Gilmor, Harvey, Quality, Standard, St. John, Story, Superior, Trojan, Youthful and Ziff-Davis. Artist perennials Jack Cole, Reed Crandall, George Evans, Frank Frazetta, Jack Katz, Al Williamson, Basil Wolverton, and Wallace Wood contribute both stories and covers, with many of the 32 full-sized covers created by specialists Bernard Baily, L.B. Cole, William Eckgren, and Matt Fox. (See below for a link to the full Table of Contents.)
Editors John Benson and Greg Sadowski have sifted through hundreds of rare books to cherry-pick the most compelling scripts and art, and they provide extensive background notes on the artists, writers, and companies involved in their creation. Digital restoration has been performed with subtlety and restraint, mainly to correct registration and printing errors, with every effort made to retain the flavor of the original comics, and to provide the reader the experience of finding in the attic a bound volume of the finest non-EC horror covers and stories of the pre-code era.
• Review: "Fantagraphics' collection Four Color Fear: Forgotten Horror Comics of the 1950s, edited by Greg Sadowski, is a wonderfully creepy hurtle through the exuberant, cheerfully gross and icky horror comics that prevailed in the golden, pre-Comics-Code era. ...[T]he art is brilliant: indistinct piles of slimy viscera, purple-green zombies, skull-faced vampires and demons, Satan in a dozen guises, witches and occult symbols, creatures from the eleven hells of the darkest mythos of the human spirit." – Cory Doctorow, Boing Boing
• Review: "Considering how much I enjoyed the first four years, when Foster was still finding the strip’s voice, I wasn’t sure how much better Valiant could get. Turns out, Prince Valiant achieves sheer radiance. [...] In short, Prince Valiant is noble romantic adventure fiction at its finest. The plots are classical, yet surprising, with chivalry and fair play constantly at the forefront. Poetic and strikingly descriptive, the narrations could nearly stand alone, but fortunately are accompanied by some of the finest comics art ever produced. [...] Prince Valiant v. 3: 1941-1942 finds a legendary strip reaching yet greater heights of creative accomplishment, presenting the strips with the full majesty of size, color and detail that its author always hoped for. After Foster, comics were never the same; this series is, simply, a must-have for any serious comics library." – Michael C. Lorah, Newsarama
• Review: "Excoriating, withering humour and viciously necessary satire tellingly rendered and savage yet personable and winningly intimate reportage make [Twilight of the Assholes] one of the best cartoon coshes ever applied to the politics of this century." – Win Wiacek, Now Read This!