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Horrors: Great Stories of Fear and Their Creators
Rocky Wood, illustrated by Glenn Chadbourne
McFarland, 192 pages

Horrors: Great Stories of Fear and Their Creators
Rocky Wood
Rocky Wood is the author of two Bram Stoker Award-nominated books on Stephen King and is regarded as a world leading Stephen King expert. He is president of the Horror Writers Association and a member of the Australian Horror Writers Association. He lives in South Yarra, Victoria.

ISFDB Bibliography

Glenn Chadbourne is a freelance artist who specializes in the horror/dark fantasy genre. His trademark pen and ink illustrations have enhanced the work of some of today's hottest authors, including Stephen King's The Secretary Of Dreams. He lives in Newcastle, Maine with his family.

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Richard A. Lupoff

Certainly an ambitious project, and one worthy of the attempt, Horrors is Rocky Wood and Glenn Chadbourne's attempt to provide a history of gothic literature, taking as its point of departure the famous (or infamous) 1816 party at the Villa Diodati in Italy. There, Lord Byron challenged his companions, Dr. Polidori, Percy Shelley, Claire Claremont and Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin (aka Mary Shelley) to a ghost story contest.

Out of this event came Mary's famous novel Frankenstein and Polidori's The Vampyre. The latter book, of course, was overshadowed in later years by Bram Stoker's immortal Dracula but The Vampyre remains a significant chapter in the history of Gothic literature.

Wood and Chadbourne trace Gothic themes -- dark fantasy, horror, the supernatural -- to Beowulf, and haul in William Shakespeare by the quill and parchment. There's something of a stretch here but the case is, at the very least, arguable.

Wood's text provides a fair introductory text on Gothic literature, but one wonders who the audience for this treatment would be. Surely any adult would find it shallow and puerile. I doubt that a child would find it of interest at all. Perhaps a pre-teenager with a taste for the dark would find it informative to a point, and would be motivated by it to pursue more advanced studies on the subject as well as seeking out the works themselves. The gloss provided in Horrors has its moments, but it is really no substitute for reading the books themselves, any more than a perusal of Cliff's Notes would be a substitute for studying the great plays and novels of history.

Horrors is prolifically illustrated by Glenn Chadbourne. In fact, the publisher refers to it as a graphic novel, which it really is not. Chadbourne furnishes hundreds of lushly detailed illustrations of the Deodati event and of other historic references in Wood's text. More significantly, he contributes graphic versions of Frankenstein, Dracula, Othello, The Castle of Otranto, The Monk, and a number of Poe's poems and stories. Shades of Classics Illustrated!

Comparison with classic horror comics illustrations, particularly those of the EC era, is regrettably inevitable. Anyone who grew up on the amazing work of Graham Ingels, Wally Wood, Al Feldstein, Roy Krenkel, Al Williamson, Frank Frazetta, Reed Crandall, Jack Kamen, and Bernie Krigstein will see Chadbourne's drawings as the efforts of a moderately talented fan at best.

Of course Chadbourne has a number of professional illustrating credits on his resume, including at least one story by the king of modern Gothic writers, Stephen King. I suppose this tells us of the level to which cartooning and comic art have sunk. In fact, there are any number of superbly talented illustrators at work today in the comics industry; I will not even start enumerating them. There is no doubt in my mind that Chadbourne is motivated by sincere dedication to his craft. Sad to say, sincere dedication is no substitute for talent.

Copyright © 2011 Richard A. Lupoff

Richard A. Lupoff is a novelist, short-story writer, critic, and sometime academic. His most recent books are Visions (currently in production by Mythos Books) and Quintet: The Cases of Chase and Delacroix (Crippen & Landru). He is also the Editorial Director of Surinam Turtle Press, an imprint of Ramble House.

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