Publisher: IDW Publishing
Artists: Alex Toth, Bill Savage, Bud Thompson, Ken Landau and more
Editors: Steve Banes, Clizia Gussoni, and Craig Yoe
Release Date: 9th March 2016
‘Haunted Love’ is an essential collection for any comic horror fan. From IDW, and following on from their previous collections ‘Haunted Horror’ and ‘Weird Love’, this three-part series is a lurid combination of the two elements. This is horror with a heart; a beating, bloody one at that, with clear homages to the narrative construction of American horror literature, particularly H.P. Lovecraft and Edgar Allan Poe, in the tales of sinister romance.
The book features stories from 1950s pre-Code comics originally published by infamous names such as EC comics and Forbidden Worlds. As such, the tales present an historically framed representation of gender, society and race that must be taken into consideration when reading.
Similarly, the various artists and writers means that the art and stories fluctuate in their effectiveness and quality. Despite this, ‘Haunted Love’ is a fun, dark and devilish exploration of love within horror. Older readers will no doubt enjoy the nostalgic element of the comic, and the pre-Code stories will also appeal to younger readers wanting to expand their knowledge and collection of horror comics.
The second of the three issues contains several stories and begins with its strongest contender, ‘Love Me Forever’, which was originally published by Forbidden Worlds in 1953. The story is very much reminiscent of Poe’s style, as a rejected lover takes love by force via magical means and suffers eternally as a result. The misogynistic elements of the story, in which a woman is beaten and becomes a ‘worshipful slave’, provide an immediate example of the uncensored landscape of pre-Code horror comics. Ken Landau’s artwork is typical of the time, with heavy ink and lines, and this is highlighted to great effect by blocks of colour. The colour bleeding only serves to render the comic of its time.
A weaker example of story construction would be ‘Death do us Part’, published by Haunted Thrills in 1954, in which an explorer is wounded in a cave and is cared for by a baboon – a female baboon, who wants to keep him. Escaping, he returns to his beloved only to find that the baboon, wonderfully named Tasha, has come for him – and intends to rid him of his pesky wife. The artwork, by the Iger Shop, is much cruder here – it is unintentionally comical at times – but this only works to further provide further nostalgic charm. However, it must be noted that the protagonist has several slaves, which makes for a few uncomfortable frames.
Thus, the reprinted comics are both a nostalgic delight and a fascinating look at the social and cultural representations of 1950s America through the uncensored medium of comics.
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The writer of this piece was: Rebecca Booth
Rebecca Tweets from @rebeccalbooth