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Peter Normanton p1

Readersvoice.com aims to collect a few interesting reading tips. This issue features an interview with Peter Normanton, editor of the excellent horror comics anthology The Mammoth Book of Best Horror Comics, which features more than 50 horror comics from the 1940s to the present, including many obscure examples. Peter Normanton also created From the Tomb magazine. He knows just about everything about horror comics.

There’s a lot to like about old horror comics, apart from the nostalgia factor. Of course there’s the level of craft and skill that went into the artwork. Not many artists these days could do what was routine art work in horror comics from the 1950s to ’70s.
Then there’s the entertainment value. If these old horror stories were made into a tv series it’d be a cult hit at least, and not just for teenagers. I particularly like the supernatural element in old horror comics. These days a lot of horror will feature a psychopath or two running around doing nasty things with saws or kitchenware. That’s all very well, but if it doesn’t have the supernatural element, it doesn’t work for me like real horror. The spookiness is where the fun comes in.
Another thing I like about old horror comics is that they’re a reminder of the dark side of human nature: manipulators, opportunists, professional liars.They’re still around in real life, and they’re not all in politics. It’s a shame they probably won’t receive the supernatural justice meted out in old horror comics.

The Mammoth Book of Best Horror Comics features some fascinating comics from the 1940s to the present day, all but one of which were from editor Peter Normanton’s private collection. I asked Peter Normanton about his excellent collection and his reading. There are some excellent reading tips here on the history of horror comics, as well as some fiction titles.

READERSVOICE.COM: I thought The Mammoth Book of Horror Comics, which you edited, was fascinating. I was wondering where you got the comics from. Were they all from your personal collection, and where else?

PETER NORMANTON: Thanks for this. All but one of the stories came from my own collection, the Matt Fox tale “The Hand of Glory” from Chilling Tales 13. Frank Motler kindly helped out with this one.
I’ve been collecting horror comics for over thirty five years, so I have been lucky enough to pick up some quite remarkable items.

RV: Where did you get the background information on the artists and writers for the Mammoth book?

PN: It all started on Boxing Day 1991. I received Volumes I and II of Ernie Gerber’s Photo-Journal Guide with all of those cover displays, literally thousands of comics from the 1930s through until the early 1960s. Along with these I was also given copies of Mike Benton’s History of Comics, the Horror and Science Fiction editions. I spent the afternoon lying in front of the fire, probably listening to Pink Floyd or Led Zeppelin pouring through these incredible tomes.
That afternoon planted the seed. I wanted to learn more about these comics and record everything I could, all in the pages of my own fanzine.
I got into comic book fandom when I was fifteen, and the thing I wanted most in the whole world was my own fanzine. I sought out as many fan-related publications as I could to glean every last bit of information, acquiring a full run of Squa Tront and Bill Leach’s Horror from the Crypt of Fear. In those days there wasn’t a great deal written about pre-Code horror so it was something of a task, albeit a very pleasurable one.
Initially my intention was to produce a fanzine dedicated to Bill Gaines’ line of comics; however I threw my net a little further and started to look at the other publishers of the day in the hope of discovering why EC were so popular. I soon learned these publishers had much to offer; okay maybe their efforts weren’t as polished as Tales from the Crypt and Weird Science, but they were many gems hidden away in these titles.
If we turn the clock back twenty years, the stacks of horror comics published by EC’s rivals weren’t all that expensive, making it possible to pick these titles up at very affordable prices. This in turn allowed me to build a far more detailed picture of the period. Virtually every book, magazine and fanzine I found with information on this era I eagerly purchased.
These days with the growth of the internet it has become so much easier to research these creators. I shouldn’t forget Frank Motler in this; he has amassed such a volume of information on these years; if he doesn’t know about it, it probably isn’t worth knowing.
I bought many of these comics from a fellow by the name of Ken Harman; it was a great experience buying from Ken because he was also an enthusiast and did much to teach me about what was what and which issues to keep a look out for.

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-copyright Simon Sandall.