My experience with the genre of horror has been a long and twisted genre. Where I refuse to watch TV shows or movies marketed as thrillers or horror, I can binge watch crime shows like Criminal Minds or Bones for hours. Therefore, I have come to find that my aversion to horror is more an aversion to the genre that puts me on edge before I’ve even sat down to experience it. Interestingly, in choosing to read The Vault of Horror, a horror comic from the year 1950, I found myself more involved with the text than any other comic I’d read thus far.
As a modern reader, it feels like the first time I’ve seen a comic without propaganda from the time period. The focus, although in the genre of horror, is on telling a good story and creating an atmosphere through color and illustration rather than to put forward a political bias or commentary on society at the time. The comic seems both dated and timeless, like a campy classic that one continues returning to for the nostalgia and brilliant story.
The colors draw me in more than anything else, purples and greens for the different lighting shifting the mood panel to panel and shifting the focus in and out of intense horror and contextual exposition. It’s nothing I’d see in a comic book released today. The reason for this is as society shifts and changes the trends in art shift and change at the same time. Art that I see being produced nowadays, especially in the realm of animation and Comics is softer, simpler, choosing to create complexity through computer generated artwork. It is easy to tell when something was hand drawn versus digitally created. All methods are equally impressive but modernity can be traced through Comics as the characters features become less intense, less humanistic, more cartoon, softer, digitally rendered onto a page. I notice this more between covers and internal pages, most comic pages are still drawn but the covers are digital.
In The Vault of Horror, characters look slightly different panel to panel, the focus on realistic features makes it so on one panel, a character may be grimacing, changing their entire set of features and on the next they look slightly morphed. In modern comics, depending on the artist, this doesn’t happen as much, the techniques used are changing.
Although, I love this issue, I recognize that for a younger audience it would violate a certain societal code we have in place. This issue contains a disfigured creature feasting on its father. As a concept of horror, it’s incredible, as a comic book for children, the ideals it could instill have the possibility of being negative. I think society doesn’t give kids enough credit, however, to distinguish between reality and fiction.