Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Stomach Flu Blues

Short post this morn, as I'm battling the stomach bug. Urgh. I'd prepared an expansive talk on comic strips for yesterday's CCS session, but had to stay put with this crap. James Sturm, fighting another species of flu, filled in and offered his take on Harold Gray, Roy Crane, Chester Gould and one other I'm too medicated to recall at this moment, so I'll be recovering lost ground next Tuesday... so, no CCS news this morn, sorry to say.

Hey, two Taboo spawn made the grade in Stephen Jones and Kim Newman's new tome HORROR: Another 100 Best Books, but I might be accused of having stuffed the ballot box on one title therein, Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell's From Hell. I wrote the entry on From Hell. I must add that editors Jones and Newman made that selection from my five-title 'wish list,' so I shouldn't be perceived as having stacking the vote (I campaigned mightily for Brock Brower's sadly forgotten The Late, Great Creature). From Hell certainly deserves its position in such stellar company, and I did my best to give Alan and Eddie their due; if you want to know more, read my entry.

My amigo Tim Lucas (of Video Watchdog fame) also contributed an essay (on Pierre Souvestre and Marcel Allain's 1911 Fantomas), but scored a surprise bullseye with one of his own novels making the cut! Novelist Tananarive Due (My Soul to Keep, The Living Blood) blessed Tim's 1994 novel Throat Sprockets with a stellar writeup, graced with one of those oh-so-quotable lines -- "Before there was The Ring, there was Throat Sprockets." Where's your movie agent when you need 'em? BTW, Tim has a new novel out, The Book of Renfield: A Gospel of Dracula, which has suffered lukewarm reviews but don't you believe 'em -- it's a fantastic read, highly recommended from this corner.

(Some of the idiot critics dissing Renfield are doing so by damning the novel in light of Throat Sprockets, but I must add that Tim's first novel suffered similar reviews in '94; how soon they forget. It's like comparing original reviews of, say, films by Leone, Penn, Romero, and Kubrick with the subsequent lionization of all earlier works: whatever the most recent film was from each, it was damned in light of prior achievements that had been, in turn, damned upon release. It's a form of critical idiocy too often indulged.)

Throat Sprockets indeed emerged from Taboo, as did From Hell, as a work that might otherwise not have existed at all. In both cases, it was my pushing (respectively) Tim Lucas and Alan Moore to "dig deeper" and do something that genuinely disturbed them after each had offered this obsessive editor scripts that were excellent but comical rather than unsettling. In the case of Throat Sprockets, after a pair of troubled tangos with artistic collaborators (who nevertheless delivered three of Taboo's most potent original works), I convinced Tim to chuck the planned series of Throat Sprockets comics stories and just do a novel, sans any collaborators. Thankfully, Tim took said advice and embraced the opportunity, creating in a remarkably short period of time one of the key horror novels of the 1990s. Alas, Throat Sprockets was disowned by its US publisher almost as soon as it saw print, and it's been out of print stateside for a decade... hopefully, this push from the Jones & Newman tome will change that state of affairs.

As for HORROR: Another 100 Best Books, it's in bookstores now and has been on sale on Amazon for a couple of weeks:
More later today, as health permits...


Blogger K. A. Laity said...

Not that the rest of the Taboos aren't wonderfully horrific, but I will always thank you for both Throat Sprockets and From Hell. Sui generis works that will not be repeated (and of course, that's what critics want, repetition). Perilous Cheryl tells me that you did some drawings for Joe Citro's Weird New England. Can't wait to see them. Hope you're on the mend soon.

Blogger SRBissette said...

The oddest thing about Taboo is that it was, by definition, a genre title -- horror -- but my orientation to the material was sui generis, in that my personal definition of 'horror' as a genre is so expansive, it embraced works no 'horror comics editor' of its era would touch with a ten foot pole. That this included S. Clay Wilson's work demonstrated to John Totleben and I how fallow and completely out-of-touch the 'horror comics' form had become by the mid-1980s; that works as diverse and yet perfectly attuned to their era as From Hell, Throat Sprockets, Through the Habitrails, Lost Girls, "Love in the Afternoon," and Rick Grimes's comics became focal points of Taboo were pleasant surprises that demonstrated (to me in any case) that we were indeed doing something necessary and vital. Would the Vertigo line have been as diverse sans Taboo before it? All I have to go on is Vertigo honcho Karen Berger saying to me in person, pre-Vertigo, that she wanted to nurture "something like Taboo" at DC, and that the Vertigo editors occasionally called to ask for contact info on Taboo creators. Ironically, there was no room for moi in that brave new world... but it didn't matter, as I'd accomplished my goals.


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