- Posted by Johanna on March 30, 2014 at 6:19 pm
- Category: Graphic Novel Reviews
- CREDITS: by Joe Simon, Jack Kirby, and others; edited by Steve Saffel
- PUBLISHER: Titan Books; $49.95 US
This volume reprints comics I didn’t even know existed — stories by Jack Kirby and Joe Simon from Black Magic #1-33 (1950-1954) and The Strange World of Your Dreams #1-3 (1952). There’s not a lot of explanation of what these titles were or how they came to be, I assume because most people interested in reading these stories likely already know of their existence and how rare they are. There’s more information included on how the famous Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Deliquency showed Black Magic #29 at their hearing as an example of how inappropriate comics were.
The stories are Twilight Zone-ish, short pieces of supernatural poetic justice or suggestions of forces in the world beyond what we can see. There’s little blood or violence; instead they rely on creepiness and implication. We begin with a tale of a rich man, flush with power, driven mad by his desire to know what a dying person sees in the last moment, which sets the tone appropriately.
There are guilt-driven nightmares, possessed clothing, a girl werewolf, voodoo dolls, creepy coincidences, a murderous dummy, an ancient flying monster, aliens, a killer leprechaun, deadly horoscopes, hidden family freaks, and much more. Turning out a variety of spooky stories every month made the selection catholic, from folktales to science fiction. Often, the guilty are punished, but sometimes people just wander into situations far outside the norm. Those who greedily seek a shortcut to riches lose a loved one (to a demon) or themselves (to a ghost prospector) after a deal with the devil. Some are just weird, as when two crashed pilots find a giant’s campsite.
All the fear comes from suggestion. We rarely see the demon or giant or monster, when there is one — instead, the focus is on human foibles and reactions. Of course, they’re all beautifully drawn. There’s mention in the introduction of how some of the stories are included even when Kirby drew only the splash page, but without noting which specific stories they are. Again, the target audience can probably recognize them on their own.
The narration is full of thick, evocative description. In an early example, “the girl’s accusation draw a concerted howl of triumph from the grotesque assemblage!” And that’s only one of the two sentences in one panel. Yet somehow, it works, perhaps because this content is from such a different era, or because the baroque, adjective-laden text suits the detailed panels with their distinctive style.
The Strange World of Your Dreams stories make up a short set at the end, just before a cover gallery, and I’m glad there weren’t more of these tales, since they become repetitive. Someone provides a dream of dread, and Richard Temple, Dream Detective, explains why they shouldn’t be worried. (The publisher provided a review copy.)