The indefatigable British publisher (and author) Peter Crowther continues his ambitious – and, some would say, foolhardy — excavation of classic American comics of the 1950s in more durable restored hardback collections of horror material that once was considered so beyond the pale that an entire censorship organisation was invented to deal with it. But although the Comics Code was never actually rescinded (and the British equivalent remains, theoretically, in place), and there is still an odour of the unacceptable clinging to these garish and lively books (somewhat ironic, in light of the fact that the more restrained of these two titles, Richard Hughes’ Forbidden Worlds, cannot now compare with the gruesomeness of current comics: in a recent issue of the latest Batman incarnation, demented villain The Mad Hatter bloodily puts out the eyes of an underling — the horror of which is shown in a full-page panel).

The comics collected here are drawn from the Harvey archives and Richard Hughes’ long-dead ACG group, and are, for the most part, great fun — although in the case of the latter title, Crowther’s reissue program has yet to reach the true heyday of the Hughes books – which, ironically, came about after the imposition of the Draconian comics code. Nevertheless, those who have picked up previous volumes in the series need not hesitate – and it goes without saying that the restoration job done on these once-disposable books is absolutely nonpareil, with the matte paper used for the recreation of the four-colour horrors far more suitable in terms of recreating the vintage feel than the glossy paper that was used in earlier incarnations of such collections.

Forbidden Worlds Volume 2; Witches Tales volume 2 (Peter Crowther, editor) are published by PS Publishing

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