1985: Tales of Terror

Tales of Terror (1985) #1-13 edited by cat ⊕ yronwode

This is the companion title to Alien Encounters, so read that one for the explanation on how it relates to Bruce Jones’ Twisted Tales.

Steven Bissette was inspired by Eric Vincent’s cover painting for the first issue to write a really creepy story illustrated by Mike Gustovich. It’s… more… than you’d expect from an anthology like this, what with the paedophilia, incest, cannibalism and the er bees, and it more reminiscent of stuff Bissette would later publish in his Taboo anthology.

Like Alien Encounters, the contributors are mostly not household names. Or let’s just be honest: There’s a lot of amateurish and unpleasant-looking artwork in here.

Several of the pieces try to get away from pure fantastic horror and do more reality-tinged horror stories, like this one by Mark Wheatley. This inevitably means that you get a lot of violence towards women (gratuitous and not), as well as sexual threats to women and girls.

It’s not all dreary stuff, though. This little ditty by Eric Vincent, about a neat freak who rises from the dead… and is still a neat freak afterwards is fun.

And good artwork definitely helps. Here’s Attilio Micheluzzi bringing some Italian style to the pages. And “KER-SOCKO!” That’s a very underutilised sound effect in comics. Get on it, creative people.

The contributors are mostly American, I think, but the occasional Brit also shows up, like in this very stylish David Lloyd thing. The story isn’t very exciting, though, and that’s a problem throughout these issues that I’ve had since I was a teenager. While the work in Twisted Tales made a huge impact, I have barely any recollection whatsoever about the material in Tales of Terror: It’s mostly unremarkable.

Except this three-pager by Mindy Newall and Ron Lightburn that made an impression. It’s such a weird and horrifying little mood piece.

Apparently Eclipse ran an anti-drunken-driving campaign piece on some of their comics, and a reader writes in to tell you that he’s one of the good drunken guys with a car who was totally unfairly given a ticket for driving while drunk.

It takes all kinds… Or does it? Does it really?

Bruce Jones pops in for a couple of new stories, and while they don’t have the same sparkle as his older stuff, it’s got as much tits and ass as it had.

Wow! Carol Lay does two stories here in a style I’ve never seen her use before. It’s not like her “mature” half-face/half-teeth style, and it’s not in her Good Girls style.

The drink’n’drive theme continues with this Chuck Dixon/Carol Lay strip… Is the editor soliciting for these stories to troll the letters column?

Hey! Early Sam Kieth! (Written by Paul Alexander.) Kieth is always fun to read…

And Scott Hampton’s art always looks lovely, even if this story is a bit on the unexciting side.

Another reader who’s a drunken driver writes in an compares the oppression people who drink and drive to racism.

Americans, eh?

Canadians get in on the fun by requesting more naked little boys in addition to naked little girls. Fair is fair.

My guess would be that this may be a satirical way of saying to Eclipse “hey, how about letting up with all the underage rape, huh?” But I’m a glass-half-full-of-a-wonderful-lifegiving-fluid kinda guy.

Wow! Rick Geary does a topsy-turvy slightly unsettling page. Has Geary even collected these bits and bobs? He turned up in quite a few anthologies around this time…

The already iffy quality takes a downward turn about issue ten, but people like John Bolton still makes the occasional appearance. It’s a horribly overwritten tale with a trite twist ending, though.

But most of the artwork’s like this: Barely competent and super-boring.

The editor takes time to give practical advice to a reader that sent in some drawings about how comics are made (mostly about page aspect ration). That’s nice.

Eclipse announces that Tales of Terror is ending because Twisted Tales is starting up again, and Eclipse didn’t want to fight with itself for “the availability of top artists”. Uh-huh. Sure.

But what did the critics think?

Here’s Bill Sherman in The Comics Journal #107:

Today, what was considered outlandish in the underground has become less startling in the alternatives. Consider the material somewhat routinely handled in Eclipse’s Tales of Terror; sexual abuse of children, bestiality, rape—and this from the publisher of Tales of the Beanworld! Eclipse’s title is, of course, an attempted follow-up to Twisted Tales, former Warren scripter Bruce Jones’ short-lived showcase of amorality. Without Jones’ consistent editorial personality (one part Feldstein, one part Larry Flynt), Terror has shown mixed success to date in its handling of horror themes: when its writers and artists are on the mark, the book can stand up to any of its forebears; when not, it’s like reading a mainstream comic-book company’s “mystery” book, bowdlerized twist-ending spook stuff about as challenging as something from the Arrow Book Club.

Most of the contributors to Terror, with the exception of half-known pros like Bill Pearson (present in the first issue of Warreds Creepy), are members of the Kubert School generation: promising and not so promising newcomers on the edge of making comic-book work their career.

Hey, he confirmed my suspicions, so he must be right.

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