Jack on “Jack Cole’s Deadly Horror”

Jack_on_JackCole1Jack Cole’s Deadly Horror
by Jack Cole, edited by Craig Yoe
IDW Publishing/Yoe Books, $24.99

Jack Cole is a highly significant cartoonist who helped shape the medium, but he isn’t a household name such as Jack Kirby, Bill Watterson or Walt Disney. This is because a large portion of his work isn’t appealing to look at, and in fact, his art can repulse and horrify. Cole’s illustrations had such an impact on viewers that he was exhibit A in psychiatrist Fredric Wertham’s book, “Seduction of the Innocent”. This so-called expose, published in 1954, argued that the rise of comic book consumption correlated and caused an increase in juvenile delinquency. Due to populist disapproval of these controversial, adult content laced comic books read by children, publishers developed a “comics-code,” a set of rules that censored subversive or negative content in the medium. This handicapped the art and business of comic books for decades, and to a significant degree. Here is a small sampling of how absurd the code was, which should give you an idea of the limited perimeters in which cartoonists could work to obtain mass distribution:

*  Policemen, judges, government officials, and respected institutions shall never be presented in such a way as to create disrespect for established authority.

*  All lurid, unsavory, gruesome illustrations shall be eliminated.

*  Inclusion of stories dealing with evil shall be used or shall be published only where the intent is to illustrate a moral issue and in no case shall evil be presented alluringly, nor so as to injure the sensibilities of the reader.

*  Suggestive and salacious illustration or suggestive posture is unacceptable.

*  Scenes dealing with, or instruments associated with walking dead, torture, vampires and vampirism, ghouls, cannibalism, and werewolfism are prohibited.

This is just a small sampling of what the Comics-Code demanded. While there are examples from the 1960s of cartoonists working around these perimeters, they had to title their work as Magazines or have their work exclusively sold in more limited print runs at “head shops”, underground hippie markets off the radar of the corporate publishing juggernaut.  So what did Jack Cole draw to cause such an upset that it changed the medium itself in the United States for decades? Well, lucky for you, you can find out thanks to Yoe! Publishing’s “Jack Cole’s Deadly Horror”, a collection of Cole’s spookiest stories. By today’s standards, it is laughable that these pulpy late night spine chillers were considered subversive to the point of corrupting young minds.  Or perhaps not … for the sake of argument, let’s play devil’s advocate. There is something “off” about Cole’s horror comics. They go beyond your average pre-code horror, which can often suffer from the setbacks of the publishing industry or from a general lackluster attitude about the medium itself.

Jack_on_JackCole3Unlike lesser comics from the era, Cole’s control of facial expression and as a result, facial contortion, is expert. His ghouls often resemble rubber face finger puppets, stretching devilishly to suggest to the reader what is occurring on the page is happening in a more hostile universe where the laws of physics are more unhinged than in our own. His attention to dramatic lighting adds tension to each contorted expression, adding to the otherworldly nature of his horror. The stories are a bit more challenging, often commenting on mental illness like in “Death Prowls the Streets”, or citing researched pagan gods in order to give back story while illustrating isolated homicidal cults like in “Orgy of Death”. Everything is a bit more menacing and Cole isn’t afraid to illustrate death itself such as in “Hangman’s Horror”. The effect is unsettling, although it would be a stretch to say I have an impulse now to shoplift, jaywalk or indulge in any other juvenile delinquency from reading his book.

Jack_on_JackCole2Jack Cole committed suicide on August 13th, 1958. While one can put the pieces together and connect his comic’s lurid material as a warning sign of depression or suicidal tendencies, among Cole’s peer group the event was seen as “One of the most baffling events in the history of cartooning.” (Quote:  RC Harvey). The suicide note he left for his wife has never been made public and his widow, Dorothy, never spoke with the Cole family again, remarrying a year later. In 1991, Cole was placed in the Jack Kirby Hall of Fame and then won the Will Eisner Award Hall of Fame in 1999. He is also famous for creating “Plastic Man”, of which another essay can be written and for being a consistent Playboy Magazine illustrator.

-Jack Turnbull

 

Free Comic Book Day 2017

Hub Comics FCBD 2017From opening at 10am until closing at 9am (or earlier, if we run out), Saturday May 6th is one of our favorite days of the year! It’s FREE COMIC BOOK DAY! A collaboration of stores, publishers, and the industry’s major distributor, FCBD is the perfect time to check out new offerings from your favorite publishers like Drawn and Quarterly, Image, Fantagraphics, Marvel and DC! Hub Comics will also have some choice books on-sale that day for an extra discount, but supplies will be limited!

Jack reviews “Cinder and Ashe”

Hub Comics Jack Reviews Cinder AsheCinder and Ashe
Gerry Conway and Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez
DC Comics, $14.99, recommended for mature readers

Hub Comics Jack Reviews Cinder Ashe 2Cinder and Ashe is a pulp masterpiece by writer Gerry Conway (Spider-
Man, Firestorm, Justice League of America), artist Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez
(Atari Force, Batman, as well as DC Comics Style Guides used for their
licensed superhero products), with traditional flat colors by the great Joe
Orlando (various EC Comics, Classics Illustrated, Mad Magazine). First
serialized in 1988, it heavily borrows from the detective genre while
commenting on the worldview of two distinctly different survivors of the
last days of Vietnam: a half American /half Vietnamese orphan-turned-street
thief named Cinder, and a marine named Ashe. The book takes place
between 1980s New Orleans and 1970s Saigon, intertwining the two
locations to flesh out the protagonists and how the tragic events of war (and
the results of war, poverty, corruption, etc.) still affect them. The book is
simultaneously lowbrow and highbrow; it uses traditional (but not
unsophisticated) comics storytelling and embraces detective tropes while
simultaneously investigating post-traumatic stress disorder.
The bad guys are bad: they’re misogynistic bigots, pimps and pushers,
corrupt politicians, and punk hooligans. This makes the good guys so
likeable; they’re honorable, fair, and they put the good of community in front
of their own personal needs. Despite its adult-oriented action, this is a DC
Comics title after all.

Action-packed and historically relevant, Cinder and Ashe excites and
intrigues. The characters are complex, the stakes are high, and the pacing is
expert. This comic came out around the same time as Watchmen and is a
lost masterpiece of the first wave of thinkers who dared to say “comics aren’t
for kids anymore.”

-Jack Turnbull

DKoaDN 2016!

We are pleased to showcase Dave Marshall‘s lovely poster for our 8th annual Dark Knight on Dark Night. Come to our opening reception on Saturday, December 10th from 6 to 8pm and see Batman-inspired works by local artists! If you miss this fun event (Snacks! Soda! People talking about Batman!), the art is on display through January.

Hub Comics DKoaDN 2016 art by Dave Marshall

Dark Knight on a Dark Night 2016

Hub Comics Batman—-START DECORATING THE BAT-POLES, ALFRED!——
HOLY WINTER SOLSTICE, BATMAN! HUB COMICS celebrates our eighth annual Dark Knight on a Dark Night art show, and we want local artists’ interpretations of the world of Batman. The opening reception is Saturday, December 10th, and the show runs through January.

· If interested in contributing art, please send us an email at hubcomics [at] gmail [dot] com with “Dark Knight” in the subject line. Jpeg photographs of submissions will be required no later than Saturday, December 3rd.

· If your piece is accepted, you’ll be notified by Monday, December 5th (due to space limitations, we may not be able to accept all submissions).

· Please include your name, title, medium, and size of the piece, as well as pricing information if applicable. All accepted pieces must be ready for hanging/installation.

· Batman in any form, his friends and foes, 2-D and 3-D art is eligible, as are all the mash-ups, variations, and reinterpretations you can think of! Go crazy!

Our DARK KNIGHT ON A DARK NIGHT show is free and open to all who quest for justice. Bring us your best homage to the caped crusader’s seventy-five-years-plus history!