Here's an interesting fact I only discovered when I was looking up postal charges to England: you can't send horror comics in the mail to the UK.
Fine, I thought, I've been wanting to write the piece on horror comics for this long so here's the sign. I can't imagine why there should be a one-sided traffic in horrific storylines (or if the restriction applies to not competing with the retail importation of The Many Ghosts of Dr Graves) but I'll leave that for others to ponder.
Harlan Ellison doesn't like the term 'horror' when applied to fiction as he feels it should be reserved for real life events. He prefers macabre and so do I; but I'd say we're stuck with horror now.
Given that horror creators have an unpleasant tendency to want to involve we, the reader, in the impact, yea the fear, of the monstrous tableaux unfolding, perhaps it suits their purpose to have the horror that happens and the horror one only imagines, intertwined.
Though there is the counterclaim that we have the fictional horror played out so we don't have to experience the real thing. We have vampires and werewolves to give us the creeps instead of homicidal burglars and people sneaking things that can get us into deadly peril, into our luggage or into our drink. They, along with mummies and an assortment of other undead are more readily depicted in comic book form in any case.
Monsters proved irresistible to both creators and readers alike since the imagination can run wild without (necessarily)riling the censors or breaking with tradition. They're the all purpose creature of the genre, shambling, stomping, slithering their way through allegory and cheap gory thrills with equal abandon. And they're 'easier to deal with' than the monster who suffocates a small child and rapes the corpse, then pleads leniency on the grounds of diminished responsibility. We can watch the stake being driven through the heart of fictional monsters and know that this does nothing to combat the thrill killer or the serial sadist in real life.
Perhaps this is a furphy and it is as relevant to say we have never fired a handgun but read Dick Tracy and the Lone Ranger, never had powers of any kind but still 'identify' with Blue Bolt.
Perhaps, too, horror stories play on our fear of the unknown. We are repelled by the work of cruel despots but we read about them in newspapers and current affairs magazines. They have no business hiding waiting for us in some dark corner like a dark creature will. They cannot seep through our walls and enter our dreams the way demons and ghosts can.
Posted by berko_wills at 10:45 PM NZT
Updated: Monday, 16 May 2005 12:50 AM NZT