Scott's Classic Comics Corner: Big & Cheap Bronze Age Horror

Horror anthologies can be pretty hit and miss, so a giant-sized book is often a better bet, as you’re more likely to find a few good stories. With Halloween just around the corner, I though I’d highlight a handful of inexpensive giant sized horror books from the Bronze Age. The combined cost of these books would only be a down payment on DC 100-Page Super Spectacular #4. Let’s take a peek:

Chamber of Darkness Special #1 is a great place to start. It’s a fairly odd one-shot from 1972, published more than a year after the cancellation of the parent title. Nevertheless, it’s a fun read, collecting stories from the first two issues of Chamber of Darkness. It's pretty standard Marvel fare, helped out by an all-star lineup of creators, with scripts by the likes of O’Neil, Thomas and Goodwin. John Buscema adds some very moody artwork and Don Heck really shines on two stories (you’ll seek what a good inker can do for him. Of greatest interest to me is the rather ‘non-Marvel Bullpen looking’ Tom Sutton drawn story Mr. Craven Buys His Scream House - a clever play on an old Cary Grant movie. It's pure Sutton, which I love – and it’s great to see Marvel taking a chance on a young artist. This one but certainly looks out of place in a Marvel book. I’ve seen decent copies of this one for under $5 both on eBay and with on-line retailers.

After a few years of incredible work, Warren Publishing became somewhat notorious for reprinting stories not long after their initial appearance. That surely would have bugged the crap out of me as a monthly reader, but as a back issue bargain hunter, I've got no problem with it at all. Creepy #91 is a wonderful issue, it collects some of the best mid-70s horror stories by a who's who of talent and it can be found for next to nothing. If you like a good disillusioned sniper story (and who doesn't?); this is the magazine for you, as it has two of ‘em. The infamous ThrillKill with luscious Neal Adams artwork is partnered with the Phantom of Pleasure Island with Alex Toth in top form. For the same low price, you also get Wrightson, Severin, Wood and Heath. It boggled the mind to think that comics once had some many talented people collected in a single issue. Can you even try to beat that team? One story that I found to be particularly compelling is Cold Cuts written by Wrightson with Jeff Jones art. It's very atmospheric and really stands out from your typical Bronze Age horror tale. If you see this one - do not pass it up. I’ve seen high grade copies selling for $20, so something in the VG-F range should be under $5.

To me, Ghosts was always the dull spinster of the DC horror family. It featured some nice artwork from time to time, but the stories were quote tame as compared to other titles in the genre. This entry, buried in the DC Special Series (#7 to be precise) line of books, still doesn’t quite hit EC levels of gore and suspense, but it’s quite a bit stronger than your average issue of Ghosts. Unlike the other books I’m featuring today, the stories collected here are all-new. Bob Haney’s weird (are all of his ‘weird’?) Beware the Beggars Feast is a good old school tale of a greedy banker getting his just desserts, while Madness of the Moon is an entertaining 3-pager with great Tenny Henson artwork. The real highlight for me is Night of the Vengeful Corpse, which is a rather sinister ‘revenge from beyond the grave’ story with stunning Alex Nino artwork. I found this one is a dollar bin, and I bet you can too. A VG copy didn’t sell at 99 cents at a US-based eBay auction that ended last week. Surely, it’s worth a look at that price.

Much like the Chamber of Darkness Special, Giant-Size Chillers #3 reprints some of the better Marvel horror stories published between 1969 and 1971. The cover story features some breathtaking Berni Wrightson artwork, and a nice twist ending. Gene Colan fans should note that this one features two reprints by the Dean, one inked by Esposito and the other by Adkins (I’ll take the latter, thank you). The Monster is a real hidden gem written and drawn by Jack Kirby and To Sneak, Perchance to Scream is another great Denny O’Neil tale drawn with great gothic gusto by Tom Sutton. One prominent on-line retailed has a VG/F copy for $4.80, but I’m sure you can find it for less.

My final pick was a very recent discover for me. In 1981, Harvey Comics published Shocking Tales Digest #1, and it is an amazing book. Seemingly out of nowhere, Harvey decided that this would be a good time to reprint a bunch of old Jack Kirby stories from the late 50s (Marvel and DC had the same epiphany, only a decade earlier). It has a mixture of pre-Code and post-Code horror stories from titles such as Witches Tales (one of my favourites), Alarming Tales and even Race for the Moon. Aside from Kirby, there is also excellent artwork by Bob Powell and Howard Nostrand in there too. This book features some true classics, including the infamous Colorama and The Last Enemy, which will be a big hit with Kamandi fans. The reprint quality is quite good, and the artwork stands up to the reduction in size. Harvey I know that Kirby's artwork likely doesn't translate well to the digest page, but I really love Harvey horror, and we're not likely see it reprinted elsewhere. I bought a FN copy for $8.40, which was a bit steep for me but more patient readers may find a better deal (HINT – I just spotted at $7.21 FN+ copy at retailer that rhymes with Blue Radia).

There you have it – some inexpensive Bronze Age horror collections that are sure to keep you entertained through the Halloween season. For more comic book nonsense, stop by my blog Seduction of the Indifferent

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