As well as its enterprising programme of dark fantasy and science fiction novels, PS Publishing has been doing considerable service to aficionados of graphic novels and comics by reissuing some of the most collectable material of the past in handsomely restored editions – notably a series of reissues of the small but enterprising company ACG comics which moved from horror to fantasy and SF( perhaps PS Publishing feels sympathy, being of a similar ilk). Richard Hughes’ intelligent and wistful fantasy tales for the 1950 comics Forbidden Worlds and Adventures into the Unknown are (with some exceptions) a series of small gems, always beautifully but unspectacularly illustrated – and I suppose at this point I should declare an interest, having written the introduction for Volume 7.
The imaginative visions of ACG workhorse editor Richard Hughes (aka Leo Rosenbaum; this was an era in which Jewish names were traded for something more Anglo-Saxon) were perfectly realised in the clean, superlative draughtsmanship of his star artist Ogden Whitney, as might be seen in several of the covers collected here, notably that for issue 43, in which a startled explorer in a pith helmet points to the Eiffel Tower buried in the sands of Egypt (covered, as he gasps, ‘for over a million years!’). Let’s face it: what comics-loving child of the era would not have to pick up a comic with a bizarre hook like that? What’s more, the lead story which furnished the image, ‘Home is where you find it’, actually matches in strangeness that startling cover scene. In fact, Stan Lee at rival company Atlas had created many similar images for his post-Code fantasy comics, usually drawn by Bill Everett, but rarely attempted to match the surrealistic strangeness of the ‘come-on’ cover illustrations to the pedestrian tale within; in fact, he cheated his readers in this regard far more often than the conscientious Richard Hughes, who would usually deliver the goods — and even apologise in a subsequent letters page editorial if he’d not been able to!
Both volumes 7 & 8 are crammed full of such pleasures, with volume 8 even more firmly located in the post-code, post horror -horror era when Hughes really hit his stride; his horror stories were usually workaday.
Forbidden Worlds Volumes 7 & 8 (Richard Hughes, editor) are published by PS Art Books