It is a source of wonder that PS Publishing (under the stewardship of the indefatigable Peter Crowther) continues to turn out such luxury products as these two jawdropping collections of classic American horror comics (in the case of Adventures into the Unknown, in fact, the very first continuous horror comic). If you are an aficionado of the genre, you will be in seventh heaven simply drinking in the sheer sumptuousness of the production values and design here. As with earlier collections of pre-code American comics from PS Publishing, the reproduction and finessing of the original artwork on heavy stock art paper is of the very finest quality (and, needless to say, far superior to anything these classics of popular culture enjoyed in their original incarnation, where they were printed on paper of the cheapest quality).
Then there is the handsomely bound hardcover presentation (the deluxe editions feature a sturdy slipcase and original cover recreations by top British artists); one may take a guess and assume that Peter Crowther understands the curious psychology of the collector like few publishers.
Turning to the work showcased here, the artwork is variable but mostly immensely impressive, with such giants of the field as EC’s Al Williamson producing splendid early work. However, what makes the volume so collectible is the chance to sample the storytelling skills of the inimitable Richard Hughes, writer and editor of all the ACG (American Comics Group) magazines, an immensely talented workhorse who alternated work of keen inspiration with more workaday fare (both sides of his talent may be found within these pages). Of course, these grisly tales were produced at the height of the horror comics boom of the 1950s, and modern readers can relish the lurid, blood-chilling antics of the zombies, vampires and werewolves that stalked the genre to such delicious effect in this far-off era (it’s amusing to note that in the 21st century, such gruesome themes are back in fashion with a bang).
I suppose I should declare an interest here: I provided the foreword for the Adventures into the Unknown volume (ace fantasy writer Stan Nicholls did similar duty for the Forbidden Worlds volume), but I can be objective in this review – I really can! — as my foreword proves; my favourite period in ACG’s splendid history are the immediate postcode stories, in which all horror had been ruthlessly expunged after the Draconian rulings of the Comics Code Authority. But I still have a great weakness for horror comics of this period, and I can think of few better ways to indulge that pleasure than PS Publishing so generously provides here with volume 1 (more to come!) of, respectively, Adventures into the Unknown and Forbidden Worlds.
And if you need a final ounce of persuasion, just think what it would cost to try to buy all the original 1950s comics in these handsome volumes — even if you could find them (an Olympian task), it would cost you a great deal more than buying the first two volumes in what will be a highly cherishable series.
Adventures into the Unknown and Forbidden Worlds, Collected, Vol 1 are published by PS Publishing