In the 1950s, interest in superhero comics had died down on the heels of World War II. However, comics in general were still booming, with other genres picking up the slack. Of course, then, as now, when someone’s having fun, someone else has to come along and piss on it. The US Senate, rousted to action by busybody members of the “moral majority”, formed a subcommittee bent on putting the blame for a rise in juvenile delinquency squarely on the shoulders of the comics industry (As it certainly couldn’t be attributed to the familial strife caused by lost fathers and siblings and friends due to the recent war).
Chief among the genres that had managed to raise such ire were horror comics. With graphic images of murder and monsters, surely they were to blame for the ruination of our wholesome families. Among those volumes singled out, was the groundbreaking series Black Magic by comics titans Joe Simon and Jack Kirby (creators of Captain America). Wrongly associated with titles who banked solely on gore for sales, this series, for its punch, instead relied on clever storytelling with shocking twists. Coupled with the unmistakeable art of the great Jack Kirby, there is certainly an argument to be made (though no actual proof) for this series being an inspiration for Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone.
Luckily for us, the series is not lost to time. Thanks to Titan Books, The Simon and Kirby Library: Horror! collects the best of Black Magic and the lesser-known short-lived series The Strange World of Your Dreams, reproducing the pages faithfully in one high quality volume.
Being possessed of a love of both horror and comics, I was drawn to this volume like a moth to flame and devoured it in one sitting. Now, it should be noted, these are horror stories from the 1950s, and as such, you shouldn’t hold out hope of actually being shocked or disturbed by any of them. The least Stephen King story holds infinitely more shock value, but when viewed (as they should be) as an inspiration for modern horror, these stories are as good as gold.
I must also add that the biggest disappointment I experienced in perusing this giant volume was that actual Jack Kirby art in these titles is few and far between. All the stories are “produced by” Simon and Kirby. This largely means that though the stories are authentically from the pair, typically most of the artwork beyond the covers and splash pages were farmed out to lesser artists, and this is evidenced in their sometimes atrocious scribblings. But boy, when you come across a Kirby page, does that make it that much more evident how good the man was!
In summation, while perhaps not for the average reader of comics, this book is a must have for comics historians and horror aficionados alike.