Papercuts: Marvel’s Chamber of Chills

Papercuts: Chamber of Chills from Marvel Comics

By Ryan “HB” Mount

 

In the late 1960’s and into the 1970’s DC Comics was not the only producer of many horror genre comics.  Marvel seemed to be in an arms race against DC with the amount of horror comics they were producing at the exact same time.

Chamber of Chills was just one of Marvel’s titles and it was published from November 1972 through November 1976 and ran for 25 issues.

Much of these books remain uncollected and unavailable digitally, making the only way to consume these titles is visiting your local comic shops and searching back issue bins or tracking them down online.

Chamber of Chills #1 (Marvel)

This was a heck of a first issue.

First issues are always difficult.  Typically, it is either a cold opening with just enough to grab onto or on the other side of the spectrum, it is an info dump and ruins a series before it event gets started.  Well then, how do you start an anthology series that has no overarching story thread and give readers enough to want to come back for the second issue?  This issue solves that quandary.

It was hand curated by Stan Lee and Roy Thomas in a true collaborative effort.

Out first tale might have been the most straight forward tale of Werewolves with a very specific twist.  The turn was so great, that to this day, I have not seen it been used in any other interpretation of Werewolves.

The second tale was written by Stan Lee himself.  For a man known for his fantastical tale, this was a very dark, reality based commentary on the prison system.  It was the darkest tale of the three.  Stan was certainly playing with his narrative style as most panels were surrounded by dialogue which may have been perceived as over writing but the last panel makes it all come together and deliver a crushing blow.

The final tale was clearly to appease Roy Thomas who spent much of his career introducing sword and sorcery tales into the Marvel Universe.  However, the actual tale was written by Gerry Conway, another great comic writer of the 1970’s.  The story was mainly one of a barbarian, but with modern day consequence.

It is clear that the further most horror anthology series are published, the quality begins to dip and rely more and more on reprints, but this first issue was simply spectacular.

Each tale was very well written and the art complimented it well.  While there was no top notch artists listed on the creation of this book, they all did their best with workman style art that still holds up over time, perhaps more than even those of newer generations.

Ratings: 4.5 out of 5

  

Chamber of Chills #2 and #3 (Marvel)

Issue #2 contained two very different tales of Vampires. One in the Old West and another millions of years into the future.  Hard to image back to back tales featuring similar monsters being compelling, but one was more of a cursed story and the other one felt like the original Alien film, only the aliens were vampires.  The third story was another Roy Thomas influenced tale of sword and sorcery which may not entirely fit the genre, but would certainly appeal to a larger audience.

Issue #3 may have contained less sword and sorcery, but ventured into adventure genre comics with a horror bent for the first tale.  The real gem of this book was “All the Shapes of Fear.”  Written by George Effinger and art by Don Heck, it clearly took place during then present day and had the artwork to match.  However, it was one of those haunting tales with a tale of redemption and if you can find this issue in the wild, might be worth picking up.  It may be one of my favorite anthology style stories featured in any comics.

Ratings: 4 out of 5

Chamber of Chills #4 (Marvel)

The main highlight of this book, was that one story contained very early artwork of comic book legend, Howard Chaykin.  While it was done in a style of that time and looks much different than modern era Chaykin, it still had elements that he uses today.  Each character has his signature strong chins and was already drawing very seductive and sultry women into his work.

If you are a fan of Howard Chaykin, this issue may be worth tracking down just to be able to see his early starting points.  While the overall issue was fine, filled with weird and interesting tales, his artwork began to stand out even back then.

Ratings: 3.5 out of 5

Chamber of Chills #5-#7 (Marvel)

Issue #5 marked the beginning of the reprints for the series.  The issue contained four total stories, with three being new and one tale a reprint of a previous pre-comic code story.  The unfortunate part of the reprint is that there was no credit given to the artist or the writer in the book.  Also, given that it was surrounded by modern storytelling, it really stood out amongst the issue and not necessarily in a good way.

Issue #6 was three more tales, with two new stories at the beginning and the final tale one being a reprint.  This issue overall felt fresher than #5.

Issue #7 was fine, but it already seemed like this was the end, even though there were 18 more issues to be printed, the remarkable care and thought put into issue #1 seemed long gone.

Ratings: 3 out of 5

 

After the publication of #7, #8 began to be all reprints of older materials.  And #7 also happens to be the last issue that was available immediately.  Overall, I think if you are a fan of Marvel from the 1970’s this should be a series you track down.  If you want to see where modern horror anthologies really started to take their shape, I’d also recommend these first 7 issues.

 

If you like what you read, make sure to like it and share it.  Follow me on twitter @hebruise and let me know what you liked, what you did not, which horror books you are into and your suggestions to be reviewed!

Papercuts: Horror Classics from DC Comics

Papercuts: Horror Classics from DC Comics

By Ryan “HB” Mount

In the late 1960’s and into the 1970’s DC Comics was producing a large amount of horror based comics, even in the comics code era.  Most famously, they had works like House of Secrets where readers were introduced Swamp-Thing.  While there was the couple of series like House of Mystery that endured, there were a lot more that most current readers may overlook like Tales of the Unexpected and Ghosts.  Also, interesting about of this period, is how few collections were and are available of all these titles.  There were a couple of Showcase Editions of some titles, which were low-cost, newsprint, black and white reprints.  Even now, with digital comics, most of these runs have yet to make it onto the digital platform for current readers to enjoy.

Papercuts has traditionally been focused more on current and ongoing books.  There are many reasons for that.  One, very simply is because they are the easiest books for readers to check out after the reviews have been posted.  So, if you like what is reviewed this week, make sure to visit your local comic shop and go through the back issue and dollar bins and see what haunting surprises wait for you!

The Witching Hour #30 (DC)

Published: April 1972

The Witching Hour ran from 1969 until 1978 and has an incredible run of 85 issues.

After reading this issue, this series was the most inventive book of the books I looked at this week.  Mainly due to the art found throughout the entire book.  While there was still a lot of traditional panel work, there was a lot of panel breaking and bleeding.  There were some pages that did away with traditional grids and put nearly no borders on entire pages.

There are several tales throughout the issue, but the best two are “Night Fright” and “The Box.”  Night Fright is the tale of a young couple and an attacker and due to lack of any supernatural elements, was extremely creepy and believable that could have happened to anyone, especially in that time.  The Box was fantastic because it was a one page story that told a complete story, with a twist ending, and incredibly dark in nature and subtly political in today’s contexts.

If given the chance to read any one of these series, completely though, I would certainly start with this one due to the mixture of natural and supernatural horror and interesting art choices.

Ratings: 4 out of 5

Weird Mystery Tales #14 (DC)

Published: November 1974

Weird Mystery Tales ran from August 1972 until November 1975 and had a moderate run of 24 issues which by today’s standards would be a huge success.

The art again was another simple grid layout and overall the art might not stand out with any unique voices, but these were all professional artists working on each story.  When comparing a horror anthology of today versus this one, I’d say the skill level of the artists working back then on even a lower tier book, far surpasses the horror niche books being put out today by a lot of publishers and even perhaps a higher quality than a lot of Big 2 books on the stands today.  While it is not crisp and as neatly printed as today’s comics, the craft is still great to read.

The title does a great job of letting readers know exactly what is in store.  Each tale is a mystery, some more obvious than others, but all told with the reader asking themselves what is really going on here in terms of the mystery, which is solid story telling.

Ratings: 3 out of 5

Forbidden Tales of Dark Mansion #14 (DC)

Published: October 1972

According to Wikipedia, Forbidden Tales of the Dark Mansion started under the title of The Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love for the first four issues.

The series ran from September 1971 through March 1974, but only produced 15 total issues in three years.

The most notable feature of this book that it features early Howard Chaykin art.  While it is fun to see where he started, this is still a long way from modern Chaykin with his heavy lines and square jaws.

While after the name change, it was said to have been a departure from the romance angle, this book is still a romance book with horror and supernatural elements.  Every story in this book dealt with relationships one way or another and it sets itself apart from the other horror titles.

Ratings: 3.5 out of 5

Secrets of Haunted House #9 (DC)

Published: January 1978

Secrets of Haunted House ran from May 1975 until March 1982 and had a fantastic run of 46 issues, just 4 issues short of what today is the marker for fantastic indie books.

If seeking variety with horror anthologies, this appears to the title to explore a vast variety of subject material.  Everything from ghosts and vampires to androids in the future.  If there was a way to put The Twilight Zone story telling into comics, Secrets of Haunted House, comes the closest.

The art is extremely basic with its simple four to six panel grids on nearly every page.  With such a simple style, this book hopefully leaned on the story telling to keep issue fresh for its long run.  Perhaps that is why the variety of tales in this book was all over the map in subject matter.

Ratings: 3.5 out of 5

 

 

Next time on Paper Cuts:  Horror Classics from the vault of Marvel!

 

If you like what you read, make sure to like it and share it.  Follow me on twitter @hebruise and let me know what you liked, what you did not, which horror books you are into and your suggestions to be reviewed!