A Haunt of Fears
Pluto, London, 1984
price: £4.95; 232 pages
The blurb on the back:
Before 'video nasties' there were horror comics, comics with titles such as Tales From The Crypt, The Vault of Horror, The Haunt of Fear.
They were accused of corrupting children, disturbing their imagination, fomenting cruelty. But then, so the story goes, ordinary decent people - teachers, writers and others all over Britain - rallied in opposition until the government was forced to ban them.
A Haunt of Fears is the first serious study of the horror comics campaign. In it, Martin barker tells a different story. The campaign itself was a well-orchestrated exercise in pressure politics, energized and run in large part by members of the Communist Party (a fact well concealed at the time). Its assumptions as to how horror comics worked in corrupting the young were crude in the extreme. Ironically, those which attracted the greatest criticism - such as 'The Orphan' - were significant documents of radical social criticism.
In A Haunt of Fears, Martin Barker returns to the comics themselves, looking in detail at what they did and how they could be read. Some of the more controversial strips are reproduced for readers to judge for themselves.