Hibernia have reprinted yet another blast from our past in the form of these ghastly tales (often introduced by a character aptly named Ghastly McNasty), original from the hallowed pages of SCREAM! This comic only had a run of 15 issues, plus a few Summer Specials, but is very fondly remembered, not least by myself!
Summer in the Eighties was very memorable for me, and not just because of the Star Wars arcade cabinet, or the release of the very first wave of Transformers toys into the UK, but also because of the comics. Getting your hands on extra spending money so you could afford the Summer Specials was an absolute must, and I recall earning mine by various nefarious means, including raiding building sites every evening for empty pop bottles to return (at a whole 10p per bottle!), and joining the Scouts for a week, just to get the membership card so I could go around ‘Bob-a-jobbing’.
SCREAM! was one such special I bought with my ill-gotten gains, and rereading the strips collected in this volume was such a walk down memory lane. It is a great showcase for such talent as Brendan McCarthy, Steve Dillon, and Cam Kennedy.
However, despite being such a huge fan of these popular artists now, the stories that really triggered recall were drawn by those perhaps not so well known, in the UK at least. The first of these truly nostalgia inducing pieces was drawn by Vivas, apparently a European artist. It tells the tale of a witch drowned in a pond, her skeleton remaining to drag unsuspecting swimmers to their watery grave.
The volume contains stories of varied lengths, some spread over a couple of issues, some contained within a single comic, and others that don’t even complete a page. The Drowning Pond falls neatly in the middle, and is a good example of the the writer’s brief – an exciting tale with a horror element (obviously!), containing a nice twist at the end.
The other nostalgia trip for me was the one-pager about a wee lad that touches a meteorite, only to discover everything he fingers after that sparks a sudden growth (don’t even go there!!) of vegetation. Again an artist unknown to me, but with a final panel that was clearly burned into my consciousness given the instant recall. I won’t spoil that one for you!
On reading the less familiar stories it was a pleasure to see Cam Kennedy strut his stuff. He gets a couple of his in this volume, one concerning a Haunted House fairground ride, and another regarding someone intent upon revealing a psychic as a fraud. His style is instantly recognisable, and while both stories are a good read (the latter being the best), I couldn’t help but think his art raised them up another level again.
Steve Dillon got a chance to hone his werewolf drawing skills in a lengthy strip with a nice ending. Which came first though – the Dredd…
Or the SCREAM!?
Blimey, pass the Cassidium vicar!
Also, Ron Smith got the opportunity to draw two stories about spiders. And I don’t just mean your common-or-garden spiders; I mean mean bloody…
Again, which came first, the Dredd or the SCREAM!? Many of you may recall the Cursed Earth spiders that swarmed the wall of Mega City One, also drawn by Ron. Was he the ‘go to’ spider artist of the Eighties?
The writing is generally of good quality, with the odd clunky or predictable ending. As an adult reader, with years of reading Future Shocks, and many other works of fiction containing twists, it is easy to be cynical about some of these stories. However, if you the reader can put yourselves in a more accepting frame of mind, and read these with eyes of the child you may have been back when these originally turned up in your newsagent, then there’s a lot of fun to be had here. While the glossary at the back is able to list every artist in each strip, sadly the same cannot be said for the writers, many of whom must reside under that unfortunate nom-de-plume, ‘unknown’.
The reprint quality of the stories is very good too, with only the odd faded frame here and there. These anomalies actually go some way to showing how well preserved the rest of the reprints actually are; crisp, clean, dark and well presented, with no blurring, fading, blotching or over-heavy lines. Kudos to Hibernia for maintaining such a high standard.
In summary then, a lovely blast from the past for me. Hibernia show they can collate old strips and present them beautifully for our delectation time and again, this volume being no aberration from that norm. This compendium is well worth a gander if you recall those heady days of finding pocket money for your comics by any means necessary, love creepy tales, or want to see a showcase of artists.
You can find this anthology, and more, at the Hibernia website.
I look forward to seeing what Hibernia have in store for us next; hopefully the complete House of Daemon? Pretty please?