Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Young Ghouls in Love: Marvel's Horror/Romance Comics

 There's been a lot of revisionism about Marvel's 1960s rennaissance, both from fans and detractors. One of the all-time silliest articles I've ever read about anything was a Comics Journal "essay" about how Marvel's attempts at humanizing superheroes was unneeded and that not only were DC's heroes already three-dimensional complex characters, they were more so than Marvel's ever were and would be. I'm no DC basher (obviously), and it's true that a lot of Marvel's series back then really were no more complex than what DC was doing other than having the heroes angsting about their sex lives, but that statement is just silly. What made the article even funnier was that it outright ignored a lot of Silver Age DC series like Doom Patrol, Enemy Ace, Hawk & the Dove, Deadman, The Creeper, Metal Men, Metamorpho and Eclipso that arguably did equal or surpass Marvel's "heroes with feet of clay" approach and would have made for great backup evidence. Tsk. Tsk. Squandered potential for an already lost cause.

 That said, I do have to wonder if Marvel's attempt at making it's characters darker and more misanthropic, with distinct horror overtones, was really an innovation, or if it was just because Marvel was doing what it had always done best. Marvel, in all it's incarnations, such as Timely or Atlas, always had a dark streak. Other publishers characters seemed influenced by newspaper strips and "hero pulps" like Doc Savage and The Shadow. Marvel's characters seemed to be influenced by horror films and "weird menace" pulps. Their main heroes of the Golden Age were a Frankensteinian-Android (The Human Torch), a psychotic half-human hybird who was prince of a race of Lovecraftian fish people (The Sub-Mariner), and even Captain America was the product of a scientist's experiment and spent most of his adventures not fighting the nazis, but fighting monsters (both real and fake) and bizarre serial killers.

 Plus as I've shown, Marvel was never shy about introducing horror or sci-fi elements into comics of other genres; such as the Western genre, which I've covered before.

 So it was inevitable that if they would fuse horror with super heroes and cowboys, then they'd fuse horror with the other big 1950s comic craze; Romance.

  I mean, just look at these covers, that last one is one of the most savage parodies I've ever seen of romance comics:
Thus, with this being the month of Halloween, I've decided to post two of my favorite Marvel "Horromance" stories. Enjoy!

 This first one is from Astonishing #35, and was reprinted in Vault of Evil #8. It has quite a few similarities, both in title and in plot, to Bernie Wrightson's more famous Jenifer, which was adapted as an episode of the Masters of Horror Tv Show. It has the feel of a grim country ballad, and is so poignantly creepy I wonder if it was copied from something. If it wasn't, then this proves that Marvel/Atlas could be just as good as EC when they felt like it.


 This second one is from Adventures into Terror #10 and was reprinted in Dracula Lives #4. I actually know someone who has a copy of Adventures into Terror #10, but I'll post the Dracula Lives reprint because hey, it's Joe Maneely art in black and white. Sorry for the blurry scans.

 Nice artwork, and I like how it avoids the cliche happy ending, but it's hard to truly feel sorry for Lyra. Still, much better than average.

 All (c) belongs to Marvel.

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