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CGM #08 Cover done by artist Richard Pace depicts the feeling of helplessness and loss of control when faced with the images that send chills down our spines.
TERROR & RELIEF wayne santos
CG Magazine #08
ctober arrives, and with it, the one time when unpleasantness, fear, terror and all the other fight or flight emotions of our species are celebrated. This is the month when horror, whether it’s in movies, television, comics, novels or games, is all the rage, and many of us attempt to have the contradictory experience of enjoying ourselves by getting scared. In a lot of ways, a good horror game, comic or movie is probably one of the most difficult things to explain to someone else, especially if that someone happens to be a Vulcan from the Star Trek universe. After all, the concept of “fun” is tough enough to describe sometimes, but when it’s combined with a traditionally negative emotion, it’s pretty much a psychological paradox. How do you explain to someone that while coming home and seeing your family dead and bleeding all over the living room is one of the worst things imaginable in human experience, reading about it or watching it in a movie, or even running away from the killer in a game, is a thrill ride that you’d be willing to pay money for? Fear is one of the most primal of human emotions, firing up adrenaline and preparing us to either run or kill in order to survive. And yet we’ve also turned it into a lucrative, money maker in various media, trying to shock, surprise, disturb, or simply gross people out with all manner of terrible things. And we call it entertainment. And it is entertaining. There are a lot of reasons for that, but probably the biggest reason is that horror entertainment of any kind ends. Horror entertainment succeeds because it transports the audience into a state of acute discomfort, but then, more importantly, brings them back safely and assures them that even if they just witnessed unbearable things, they are now safe and okay. It’s the sense of release that comes from movie theater house lights coming up, closing a book, or the decisive confirmation of “Yes,”
when asked if you would like to quit playing. Maybe it’s just human selfishness at work, but there’s something cathartic about seeing someone else in a horrible situation and thinking “Thank God that’s not me.” In the same way that we need to be occasionally reminded to be thankful we’re not starving children in Africa during a famine period, or a drug addict strung out in the corner of Skid Row, there’s something reassuring about the return to normalcy from a horrifying comic, movie or game. So it’s little wonder then that this month’s issue of CGM is all about the unpleasant and disturbing things that lurk in comics, the big screen and the interactive screen as well. There are a lot of aspects to fear and horror and our writers try to cover them all. Horror and laughter are probably the trickiest emotions to play off simultaneously, but there are still a few gems of horror comedy out there for film fans. In comics, we look at one of the great pioneers that would influence hordes of writers to come, including the likes of Stephen King. I’m speaking, of course, of EC Comics and their horror series Tales From The Crypt that proved so startling and shocking it was almost single-handedly responsible for the neutering of comics for over 30 years afterwards. And in games, we run the gamut from the difference between indie and AAA efforts to exactly what kind of interactive tricks developers have to use when the audience can actually kill monsters if they feel like it. There’s no candy here, but plenty of musing here on the tricks we treat ourselves with in the genre called horror.
Senior Content Editor
CGM08 | OCT2014
FEATURED IN CGMAGAZINE #08
Jason D’aprile @ADD_Gamer_
Phil Brown is a writer for a variety of publications about a variety of topics. He loves movies, games, comic books, regular books, and comedy. As a result, he has very little life outside of these obsessions and is fine with that.
Jason D’Aprile has been writing about games since the early 90’s and playing games forever. You can find more of his thoughts and odd rantings at addgamer.com
Having attended art school, Melanie occasionally writes for CGM. She’ll play anything except RPGs and has an affinity for toys-to-life titles.
Alexander Leach wandered out of the woods of Eastern Ontario, with a servicable beard and a love for RPGs. He is a Journalist, Student, Gaming Enthusiast and Bearded individual. His Twitter is @alexanderbleach.
Reid McCarter is a writer and editor who lives and works in Toronto. He has written for sites and magazines including Kill Screen, The Escapist, Nightmare Mode, and CGMgagazine. He maintains a videogame site called Digital Love Child.
Raynika Awotwi is a writer for CGMagazine. She parlayed into CGM directly from an internship with Magazines Canada. Raynika loves to engage cideogames in a deeper context, which is one of the essential reasons she contected magazines so much.
EDITORIAL EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Brendan Frye SENIOR CONTENT EDITOR Wayne Santos ART ART DIRECTOR Jo Enaje
Cassidee is a freelance writer for various outlets around the web. When she’s not writing, she’s probably playing Mario Golf: World Tour or talking about Bob’s Burgers.
Shawn is a freelance journalist and Associate Editor at www. canadianonlinegamers.com residing in beautiful Vancouver, BC. Keeping his finger on the pulse of geek chic you’ll often find him with a controller in one hand and a comic book in the other.
Wayne Santos has been playing and writing about games all over the world for over ten years. Rumor has it his Replicant life-span is just about up, but he won’t let that--or a couple of Blade Runners--keep him down.
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CONTENTS OCTOBER 2 014 # 0 8
COMICS GAMES FILM/TV FEATURES
Playing With Fear The Challenges Of Interactive Horror Four Colour Nightmares The Rise & Fall Of EC Comics I’m A Coward & That’s Okay The Scaredy Cat’s Guide To Surviving Horror Terror On A Budget Indie Horror Games Take On The AAA Industry Femmes Fatales An Ode To Survival Horror’s Female Villians
08 20 32 42 54
14 26 36 48
Laughing And Screaming The History Of The Horror Comedy. It’s All In Your Head The Anatomy Of Psychological Horror Games Horror From Within When Horror Becomes A Deeply Personal Experience Ghosts Versus Yurei The Difference Between Western & Eastern Horror
Super Smash Bros. 3DS
Forza Horizon 2
Disney Infinity 2.0: Marvel Super Heroes
D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die
END GAME Rules Of Rose
CGM08 | OCT2014
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F E A T U R E S INTERVIEWS BRIEFS OPINION
Its All In Your Head: The Anatomy Of Psychological Horror Games Pg. 26
CGM08 | OCT2014
Playing With Fear
F E AT U R E Thereâ€™s a big difference between watching or reading about horror and going through the experience itself. Games have been exploring the ground rules of this new, interactive, digital way to get scared.
FEAR THE CHALLENGES OF INTERACTIVE HORROR
words by wayne santos
orror novels and movies are pretty well understood territory, and despite the vast difference in execution, they share a similar set of rules and philosophies for how best to frighten an audience. Games, however, are a very different medium with one defining characteristic that sets it apart from all the media that came before it; interactivity. A horror story, as told through literature or cinema, is a controlled experience. The author or director chooses how, when and where to scare the audience because the audience, at every step of the way, is being passively carried through the experience. With games, the player is in control of a protagonist, and this presents some serious challenges in terms of creating a specific, fearful experience. So what are these challenges and how are they overcome? â†’
CGM08 | OCT2014
wayne santos The Player Ruins The Pace With a player at the helm of a game’s main character, the biggest issue facing any horror game is how to control the experience so that planned scares actually go according to plan. A player moving a character around can—depending on the degree of freedom a game affords—go anywhere he or she desires, look at whatever proves most interesting at that time, and do their own thing—whether its crafting items or reading “lore” from the in-game menu— whenever they feel like it. In other words, the player controls their own actions, a complete contrast from a main character in a horror movie that is steered through a carefully paced and sculpted experience of rising fear and anxiety. A player is not going to get scared by a monster or ghost hiding in a closet if he or she never opens that closet to begin with. This is a dilemma that film critic Roger Ebert expounded at great length when he argued about why games could not be considered works of art; he felt that art was a narrative experience, and that meant an author with control of a situation. Since a game gives that control to the player, not the author, authorial intent can never be 100% assured and thus, neither can artistic—or horrific—effect. This is made even more problematic for visual scares thanks to the modern gaming convention of giving even control of the camera to the player. That carefully prepared, subtle hint that a house is unholy and cursed can be completely wasted on a player that never even bothers to look at the portraits placed on the wall to convey the scare. Bringing a staple of gaming—combat—into a horror situation is even more disarming to the horror aspect, 10
Playing With Fear since now a player has the ability to fight back. There’s a reason that Call of Duty is one of the most popular brands in gaming, and that’s because through its gunplay, it fulfills an adolescent male power fantasy. Power fantasies are the exact opposite of a horror situation, which emphasizes powerlessness, with much of the anxiety coming from a stark uncertainty about the final outcome. By giving players the tools with which to negotiate a game, the game itself defangs or declaws many of the aspects of horror that traditional narrative vehicles like books and films rely on. That doesn’t mean that these tools are bad, it just means that a lot more thought has to be put into implementing them. Combat, for example, can still be worked into a horror game, it just requires some adjustment.
Scarcity subverts the conventional expectations of gaming, and is one way that horror games use gameplay itself to generate fear. Every Shot Counts The typical action game with combat and shooting is all about constant engagement. Because combat is the central design element, the game usually tries to keep you fighting as often as possible. As a result, ammo is plentiful, enemies die quickly, and the entertainment comes from the tactics and strategy of combat. This largely the opposite of how it works in a horror game with a combat system. Resident Evil was the franchise that coined the term “survival horror,” and by that, they meant that part of fear
came from trying and fighting to stay alive in a world ruled by one concept; scarcity. Combat is less frequent, and rifle or pistol fights are tense scenarios simply because the player has a limited amount of ammunition, and the enemy is lethal either because of overwhelming strength, numbers, or both. The tension and eventual fear in survival horror games like Resident Evil, earlier Dead Space games, and even less combat oriented games such as Silent Hill derive a sense of tension—that ultimately builds to fear—from actual risk and danger to the player’s character within the game. With limited ammunition and powerful enemies, the player must act intelligently and conservatively. Using up all the pistol ammunition one fight means certain death for the next battle. Scarcity subverts the conventional expectations of gaming, and is one way that horror games use gameplay itself to generate fear. The beauty of scarcity in a horror game is that players create their own tense moments. The creators of the game don’t have to plan for a critical battle in which the player no longer has any ammo to shoot with; players can do that all by themselves with one panicked battle. Anyone that has ever found themselves facing a horde of faceless nurses in Silent Hill II with only a pipe knows true anxiety. It’s the same for Resident Evil if a panicked gun fight emptied out both the pistol and shot gun. A roomful of slow, shambling zombies is fear-inducing if the only weapons left are punches and knives. This is the kind of fear mongering that plays with a game’s inherent conventions. There are other techniques that throw those conventions out the window entirely.
Resident Evil was the franchise that coined the term “survival horror.”
wayne santos When In Doubt, Hide Fear often comes from a feeling of powerlessness, from a sense of being the hunted rather than the hunter. One less common tactic that games use to emphasize this helplessness is to simply remove the ability for players to defend themselves. Like the foolish teenagers in an 80s hack n’s slash movie, the players’ chances of survival are effectively zero if they should encounter a killer. If fighting is no longer an option, then the only alternatives left are running and hiding. Now, instead of audience members feeling anxiety over the fate of a character in a book or on the screen, there’s the distress that comes from being prey themselves. They, or rather, the character they control, are now being hunted, and therefore any stupid, panicked or impulsive decisions that lead to death are theirs to bear. Clock Tower was one of the earliest examples of this in horror games, releasing back in 1995 and spawning a host of imitators including current generation releases like Outlast and Alien: Isolation
Playing With Fear which released this month. Here, the central mechanic is not to defeat opponents, but to simply get away from them. In Clock Tower, the antagonist was a maniacal killer using a giant pair of scissors named, unoriginally, “Scissorman,” and he chased after a young girl. Outlast dropped a reporter with only a nightvision video camera into a mental asylum in the throes of riot. Alien: Isolation uses, of course, one of the most feared monsters in movie history, the original H.R. Giger designed incarnation of 1979’s Alien directed by Ridley Scott. In all of these cases, the key ingredient is making the main characters normal. These are not soldiers trained in combat, but average people pursued by a supernatural or science fiction menace against which they have no realistic chance to beat in a fight. What makes hiding such an effective tactic for horror in games is, once again, the fact that this is all under the control of the players. They can choose to run, or to hide under a bed, or duck into a locker, or simply sit in a dark corner and hope they are passed by. If they CGM08 | OCT2014
are caught, they can’t blame the stupidity of the character for tripping while running, or choosing a bad spot as they would in a normal story, because the choice of hiding spots, or running into a dead end was a choice they made in their own panic. The fear is more immersive because they are interacting with it, and the detachment that comes from calmly watching something happen to someone else is absent. It is happening—even by proxy— to the character they are controlling. That doesn’t mean that cinematic devices can’t be used to good effect, though. Siren: Blood Curse, one of the great underrated horror games of the last generation, used a hiding mechanic but added extra tension by giving players the ability to see the world from the point of view of their pursuers. There’s a unique from of anxiety to be had in looking through the eyes of a demonic zombie staring at the exact closet you happen to be hidden in. It’s an effective way to build anxiety in a player but nothing does so more than the last, rare tactic that very few horror games resort to. 11
wayne santos Nowhere Is Safe The Fatal Frame series is distinct in the horror game genre for many reasons, the most prominent of which is that players fight off vengeful Japanese ghost using a “spirit camera” that can damage—and eventually absorb ghosts— through repeated photography. One of its less celebrated characteristics however, is the fact that aside from cutscenes, there is no time or place in the entire game in which the player is completely safe. Many games, such as Outlast, have areas with no monsters or antagonists, giving players a short respite to explore or catch up on some plot. In Fatal Frame, no such safe harbour exists. Any area that the player lingers in too long can draw the attention of ghosts
Playing With Fear that will attempt to chase and kill them. Even pausing the game results in bloody marks appearing on the pause screen, reminding players that they were never safe. It’s a very risky tactic to take since pacing is an important aspect of horror, and constantly subjecting the player to stress can backfire. Too much exposure can drain an encounter of fear, or, the player may simply get fed up with being constantly upset and stop playing. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons why Fatal Frame—while well regarded— has always been a niche title that’s never caught on in the way Dead Space did with Western audiences. Horror in games, like horror in literature and cinema, has a broad range and there’s no one way to do “right.”
Horror, when done correctly in a game, can be one of the most intense, frightening and potentially upsetting experiences a person can have.
The one thing that most people can agree with is that horror, when done correctly in a game, can be one of the most intense, frightening and potentially upsetting experiences a person can have. The best horror games completely obliterate the detached objectivity of being an observer, making the fear feel more immediate and intense. With the likes of virtual reality on the horizon, this is bound to become even more elaborate and immersive in the years to come, which may be a good thing or a bad thing depending on the state of your heart and your tolerance level for stress. Still, for now the future of horror is brighter—or darker—than ever, something clearly reinforced by the popularity of the genre in this latest generation of hardware.
Fatal Frame V
CGM08 | OCT2014
Phantom Of The Paradise
Laughing & Screaming
F E AT U R E Horror movies have always been a staple of genre cinema, but horror comedy has always been much harder to find, let alone make.
THE HISTORY OF THE HORROR COMEDY
words by phil brown
o into any professional or makeshift haunted house around Halloween season and there are two noises that you’ll hear echoing down the halls: screams and laughter. There’s something about that combination of visceral audience responses that can come together with the sweet perfection of chocolate and peanut butter. The reactions are both similar in a number of ways, hinged on surprise and filled with glorious endorphins. Yet at the same time, they
come from two wildly different impulses and storytelling styles. To really creep someone out, the tone must be deadly serious. To make someone guffaw with pants-wetting intensity, the tone must be playful. There’s something contradictory about trying to combine those two tones and emotional states together in the same place at the same time. Yet, when pulled off in the movies, audiences are given a rollercoaster ride of pure entertainment that few experiences can match. CGM08 | OCT2014
Since we’re now in the month of October when more people will be consuming horror movies and bite-size candies together than any other time of the year, there’s never a better time to watch a horror/comedy. They make for the best Halloween party movies after all, so here at CGM we thought we’d take a little space to peak back at the history of the horror/ comedy and in the process maybe even figure out what makes them tick. → 15
phil brown Shoving laughs into horror films stretches all the way back to the genre’s invention in the silent movie era. It’s hard to find a horror movie without a single laugh, simply because it’s such a great way to release tension before revving up for the next big scare. Silent comedians got a kick out of staging their laughs in spooky settings going all the way back to Harold Lloyd in his short Haunted Spooks or in ridiculous little silent flicks like Dr. Pyckle And Mr. Pryde. These movies were rarely actually scary though, they simply used popular horror tropes to help make the latest silent comedy feel slightly different from the dozens of competitors rolling out at any given time. The first movies to really put the horror into horror comedy came at the early peak of the genre in the early sound era.
He was such a skilled technician that the flicks had audiences howling in fear and sweating in their seats anyways. Specifically, we can look back to a single man who discovered that magic balance: director James Whale. He came from England to Hollywood with a career of prestigious movies to his name, but soon found himself on the B-list in his new country. He made the best out of it by making the absolutely masterful Frankenstein with Boris Karloff, which only got him pigeonholed into a genre that he didn’t really care about. So to shake off boredom, Whale started to slip subtle, sardonic humor into his horror films like The Invisible Man, the deeply underrated The Dark House, and most memorably Bride Of Frankenstein. He was such a skilled technician that the flicks had audiences howling 16
Laughing & Screaming in fear and sweating in their seats anyways. Most people didn’t even notice his dry British wit. Yet when watched today, the mixture of self-conscious mockery and beautifully constructed gothic horror makes Whale’s classic movies infinitely more enjoyable than any other titles from the golden era of Universal monster movies.
The era of giant bug monsters and ludicrously theatrical stars like Vincent Price were very silly despite their tone, and as a result, the B-movie hits of this era helped create camp comedy for a whole generation. That era also came to a close with a horror/comedy that essentially killed off the classic movie monsters: Abbot & Costello Meet Frankenstein. The movie itself is a blast that holds up quite well, simply because the monsters were treated with enough respect to give off genuine thrills and threats around Abbot and Costello’s mugging insanity. It’s a great movie, but like all great movies that become hits in Hollywood, a legion of knock offs followed. Soon Abbot and Costello starred in sequels with every other conceivable movie monster of the time, while other comedy duos like Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin (who starred in Scared Stiff) each got their own horror/ comedy. The overload killed off the public’s interest in mixing scares and laughs. So, for the duration of the 50s and most of the 60s horror movies were
played entirely straight, which led to the next era in horror comedies rather accidentally. The genre movies of the 50s may have been without overt humor, but that’s not the same thing as saying that they weren’t getting laughs. The era of giant bug monsters and ludicrously theatrical stars like Vincent Price were very silly despite their tone, and as a result, the B-movie hits of this era helped create camp comedy for a whole generation. Since none of the filmmakers or producers creating horror movies in the 50s took the projects particularly seriously, budgets dropped, special effects got ridiculous, and acting hit an all-time low. Yet, the kids kept coming out to the pictures and had just as much fun laughing their way through the latest Ed Wood epic as they did screaming at the movies that worked. Eventually filmmakers started to notice and played with deliberate camp comedy. As his career wore on, Vincent Price’s once creepy performances turned into near slapstick selfparody. Italian horror imports with horrible dubbing got huge laughs in between beautifully constructed scares. Jack Hill’s brilliant Spiderbaby was both a subversive tale of a sicko family of murderers and a perverse send up of the genre. Even Roman Polanski delivered a Hammer Horror homage with a tongue jammed straight through its cheek in The Fearless Vampire Killers. The selfconscious camp style peaked in the early 70s with such cult classics as Brian DePalma’s The Phantom Of The Paradise or most famously The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Suddenly, classic horror tropes played as pure comedy without any hope of genuine chills. In response, the genre changed again.
Rocky Horror Picture Show
Phantom Of The Paradise
The Fearless Vampire killers
Eventually filmmakers started to notice and played with deliberate camp comedy.
CGM08 | OCT2014
Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Laughing & Screaming
The people who bought tickets for titles like The Last House On The Left, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Dawn Of The Dead, or The Exorcist expected to laugh off a genre they didn’t take seriously anymore, only to be pinned to the back of their seats by real-world flavored horror that cut deep and felt remorseless.
In the 70s a new wave of horror director arrived who realized the old gothic horror style meant nothing to contemporary audiences and so they found new ways to terrorize viewers. The people who bought tickets for titles like The Last House On The Left, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Dawn Of The Dead, or The Exorcist expected to laugh off a genre they didn’t take seriously anymore, only to be pinned to the back of their seats by real-world flavored horror that cut deep and felt remorseless. Suddenly horror was scary again and even though there was plenty of camp at drive in pictures, it was no longer in vogue. Then came John Landis. The young filmmaker wrote his deeply influential classic An American Werewolf In London during the 70s as a new type of horror film that would play its’
monster elements completely straight, while also delivering character comedy in between for a near-perfect piece of entertainment. When he tried to sell the script, producers were confused saying that it was either too funny to be scary or too scary to be funny without understanding that was the entirely point. Eventually after scoring box office hits with Animal House and The Blues Brothers, Landis could make whatever he wanted. So he returned to his passion project and changed the genre for the 80s. An American Werewolf In London was one of the first true creature features in years with astounding make up effects and genuine laughs. It removed pretensions from the genre without sacrificing scares and set the tone for horror in the next decade.
Shaun Of The Dead
phil brown The 1980s was the era of the horror/comedy. Filmmakers like Sam Raimi (the Evil Dead trilogy), Stuart Gordon (Re-Animator), and Joe Dante (Gremlins) pushed the genre to new extremes of hilarity. Suddenly that became the norm as it was the most entertaining way possible to enjoy a horror movie. New horror icons like Freddy Kruger emerged who were just as famous for their one-liners as their horrific kills. Movies like Return Of The Living Dead, Evil Dead 2, and Bad Taste founded a brand of humor known as splatstick, which pushed the gore horror effects of the era to slapstick comedy extremes. The genre became so popular that even mainstream comedians wanted in, delivering comedy-first genre-benders like Ghostbusters. The age of rubber effects and one-liners made the horror genre more popular than ever thanks to the advent of VHS, which allowed kids to hold sleepover horror movie marathons where they could laugh and scream themselves silly. Of course, as always, the genre eventually tired itself out. By the 90s, horror devolved into overly serious twaddle and would-be franchises that never
Laughing & Screaming took off. Audiences were tired of horror in general and so the subgenre of horror/comedy slipped away, It was also the decade of irony though, so it was only a matter of time before that led to the horror/ comedy masterpiece of the era. The movie was Scream, which played off of the fact that audiences were tired of genre clichés by delivering a slasher movie populated by kids who loved slasher movies. They were aware of the fact they were in the middle of clichés and acknowledged them as they were happening. That style eventually got copied to death, making it easy to forget just how sharp and brilliant the original Scream truly is. The film delivers scares with harsh effectiveness thanks to veteran horror director Wes Craven, yet the witty script by Kevin Williamson constantly undercuts the horror without ever overwhelming it. Horror/ comedy brought the genre back from the dead in the 90s and it’s never gone away since. While the last fifteen years of horror are most remembered for the decidedly humorless torture porn and found footage CGM08 | OCT2014
trends, it’s easy to forget how many horror/comedy classics have slipped out as well. Titles like Shaun Of The Dead, Trick R’ Treat, Bubba Ho-Tep, and You’re Next have kept the tradition of mixing laughs with screams alive. The horror/ comedy remains as active and fruitful as the horror genre itself. The combination is simply irresistible, combing the two schools of filmmaking that provoke uncontrollable visceral response into a cinematic experience that gives your body a work out. It’s a difficult tone to nail given that effective laughs and scares are so difficult to pull off in isolation and require such different skill sets. Yet, with the results so singularly entertaining when pulled off just right, it’s safe to say that it will never really die. Some viewers dismiss horror/comedies as lesser entries in the genre since the laughs undercut the scares. These people need to get a sense of humor and take a peek into film history. If they did, they’d realize that laughs and scares have been inseparable buddies for almost a century and they always will be. Boo! Ha! Happy Halloween.. 19
Tales From The Crypt No. 21 Cover
Four Colour Nightmares
F E AT U R E It’s not often that a single intellectual property can, for better or worse, be credited with changing an entire industry, but EC Comics and their Tales From The Crypt series did just that. And it took decades for comics to recover.
FOUR COLOUR NIGHTMARES T H E R I S E & FA L L O F E C C O M I C S
words by phil brown
s gaming fans, we’re used to getting caught up in debates about the moral and ethical implications of violent video games. It happens every few years, normally around the time that a new Grand Theft Auto is released. There are flood of Fox News exposés and think pieces from worried parents and then it all disappears. However, things weren’t always that way. Back in the 50s, there was a similar controversy and brouhaha
about the negative impact horror comics were having on children. That one made it all the way to a Congressional hearing and essentially led to the government banning the entire genre. The only reason it happened was because those comics in addition to being outrageous and shocking were also really damn good. When they disappeared suddenly from newsstands, they became legendary. Now the fabled EC Horror comics are available CGM08 | OCT2014
in reprint the Fantagraphics, the most high minded and artistically accomplished comics publisher in the land, while the books’ influence on horror films and television is legion and irreversible. Superheroes may have dominated the medium over the last 50 years, but it’s arguable that the five years of EC horror comics had just as massive of an impact on American culture through its glorious flame out. → 21
phil brown EC ironically began its run with the acronym standing for Educational Comics in the 1940s. Hard though it may be to believe, this company dedicated to inoffensive funnies and comic book bible stories wasn’t exactly the most successful publishing house in the business. Yet, it did well under the watchful eye of Max Gains. When Max suddenly died in 1947, his son William took over the business and promptly rebranded the company as Entertaining Comics. In 1949, he drastically altered the company’s fate by introducing new anthology series with a scifi, crime, military and of course horror focus. In 1950, Gains hit the mother lode by launching his marquee horror titles The Haunt Of Fear, The Vault Of Horror, and Tales From The Crypt. Each book shared the same formula. A wisecracking and morbidly humorous host would introduce a tale of terror usually defined by a perverse morality lesson, an ironic twist ending, and some sort of rotting corpse (or at least some form of dismemberment). The books started selling out 22
Four Colour Nightmares instantly. No one had ever seen anything like them and Gains’ fearless disregard for good taste in favor of good stories was mindboggling to a 50s readership.
Gains may have settled into a set formula for his horror comics, but beyond that, the freedom he afforded his writers and artists was remarkable. There are so many reasons why the books were so strong and groundbreaking. What’s most amazing is that most of the books still work to this day for those same reasons, while pretty much any 50s superhero story feels quaintly culturally irrelevant. Gains may have settled into a set formula for his horror comics, but beyond that, the freedom he afforded his writers and artists was remarkable. Editors
and writers like Al Feldstein and Harvey Kurtzman created stories that delved deep into dark human impulses and touched on themes no one else would dare discuss in polite society. Classic monsters were robbed of elegance to become horrible playthings for the twisted tales. The morally rigid and prominent vision of 50s America was ignored in favor of a more honest (if horrifically exaggerated) tales of corruption. In their spin off war books, the nature of military heroism was questioned. In their suspense stories, liquor, drugs, and sexuality were explored openly in a way that no one dared before. EC Comics dealt with issues of race, nationalism, infidelity, sex and murder in a time when everyone agreed to pretend they didn’t exist in favor of Leave It To Beaver fantasies of America. The fact that these stories were always presented within the framework of a perversely ironic morality lesson was clearly lost on the reactionary politicians who had them banned.
FORMORE OFTHI SI SSUE VI SI T WWW. CGMAGONLI NE. COM MAGAZI NEALSOAVAI LABLEON
October arrives and in keeping with the times, CGM looks into the abyss and finds absolute, mortal terror staring back. It’s our Halloween i...
Published on Oct 6, 2014
October arrives and in keeping with the times, CGM looks into the abyss and finds absolute, mortal terror staring back. It’s our Halloween i...