Speed Reading

Pub date February 4, 2009
SectionArts & CultureSectionLiterature


Edited by Peter Normanton

Running Press

448 pages


It probably comes as no surprise that post–World War II Americans decided Hitler was a lot scarier than the Boogeyman. It’s a little more shocking to see that fear realized in their comic books. The Mammoth Book of Best Horror Comics contains its fair share of vampires, werewolves, and zombies, but those early years are dominated by ghostly stormtroopers, Nazi clones and — more often than not — the reanimated fuhrer himself. I’m particularly fond of "Terror of the Stolen Legs," which, I assure you, is creepier than the title suggests.

For this collection, editor Peter Normanton has culled prime examples from more than six decades of horror comics. The results are often fascinating: how else to see Nazi anxiety so aptly literalized? And, of course, they’re fun. Don’t forget these are comics, so for all of their time capsule–esque appeal, they retain that guilty pleasure quality. Imagine you’re a kid in the pre-"graphic novel" ’50s while reading the collection— it enhances the thrill.

For the most part, it’s these early offerings that prove the most delightful, if only for the camptastic writing. The best example comes from "The Game Keeper," which begins, "Run Avis Drood! Run as fast as your lovely legs can carry you, for the full moon burgeons beyond Drood Castle and the game is afoot!"

The only real downside to the collection is Normanton’s purple prose. He tends to ham it up in his introductions to each story, promising a life-changing experience on every page. But hey, feel free to skip those parts they don’t have pictures, anyway.