Hot Best Seller

A Haunt of Fears: The Strange History of the British Horror Comics Campaign

Availability: Ready to download

Between 1949 and 1955 Britain was swept by a rising tide of panic about "American-style" or "horror" comics. The British press cried out in alarm: "Now Ban This Filth That Poisons Our Children," "Drive Out the Horror Comics." As one frenzied columnist protested: "I feel as though I have been trudging through a sewer. Here is a terrible twilight zone between sanity and madn Between 1949 and 1955 Britain was swept by a rising tide of panic about "American-style" or "horror" comics. The British press cried out in alarm: "Now Ban This Filth That Poisons Our Children," "Drive Out the Horror Comics." As one frenzied columnist protested: "I feel as though I have been trudging through a sewer. Here is a terrible twilight zone between sanity and madness . . . peopled by monsters, grave robbers, human flesh eaters." A campaign against ghoulish comic books climaxed in an Act of Parliament making it illegal to publish or sell any material in comic form deemed to be "harmful to children." But behind the facade of concern for the protection of children, another very different story lurked. This book explores the British campaign by asking some rather different questions. Who were the people at the heart of the anti-comics campaign? Why and how did the British Communist Party come to play a central role, and yet end up attacking a group of comics which were "on their side" in assaulting their rationality of McCarthyism? The British "horror comics" campaign reveals the inadequacy of some conventional assessments of anti-media panics. In showing a curious gap between the private concerns of the campaigners and their public rhetoric, A Haunt of Fears, originally published in Britain in 1983, raises serious questions about the state of British culture during this era.


Compare

Between 1949 and 1955 Britain was swept by a rising tide of panic about "American-style" or "horror" comics. The British press cried out in alarm: "Now Ban This Filth That Poisons Our Children," "Drive Out the Horror Comics." As one frenzied columnist protested: "I feel as though I have been trudging through a sewer. Here is a terrible twilight zone between sanity and madn Between 1949 and 1955 Britain was swept by a rising tide of panic about "American-style" or "horror" comics. The British press cried out in alarm: "Now Ban This Filth That Poisons Our Children," "Drive Out the Horror Comics." As one frenzied columnist protested: "I feel as though I have been trudging through a sewer. Here is a terrible twilight zone between sanity and madness . . . peopled by monsters, grave robbers, human flesh eaters." A campaign against ghoulish comic books climaxed in an Act of Parliament making it illegal to publish or sell any material in comic form deemed to be "harmful to children." But behind the facade of concern for the protection of children, another very different story lurked. This book explores the British campaign by asking some rather different questions. Who were the people at the heart of the anti-comics campaign? Why and how did the British Communist Party come to play a central role, and yet end up attacking a group of comics which were "on their side" in assaulting their rationality of McCarthyism? The British "horror comics" campaign reveals the inadequacy of some conventional assessments of anti-media panics. In showing a curious gap between the private concerns of the campaigners and their public rhetoric, A Haunt of Fears, originally published in Britain in 1983, raises serious questions about the state of British culture during this era.

40 review for A Haunt of Fears: The Strange History of the British Horror Comics Campaign

  1. 4 out of 5

    Quentin

    Tells the story of the British Comic book panic of the 1950s, which, unlike its more famous US counterpart, ended in legislation and regulation. I have a pretty good grasp of the history of American comics panics, which I largely got from David Hajdu's "The Ten Cent Plague." I didn't know that an equivalent (and in some ways more successful) campaign occurred in the UK around the same time, though it had a very different trajectory, as Barker so astutely notes. The first major difference was tha Tells the story of the British Comic book panic of the 1950s, which, unlike its more famous US counterpart, ended in legislation and regulation. I have a pretty good grasp of the history of American comics panics, which I largely got from David Hajdu's "The Ten Cent Plague." I didn't know that an equivalent (and in some ways more successful) campaign occurred in the UK around the same time, though it had a very different trajectory, as Barker so astutely notes. The first major difference was that there was not really a homegrown English comic press in the UK. So most comics came from the US as imports. For early critics of such comics, their US origin was part of what made them problematic. The first major group to criticize such comics was the British Communist Party (!) who decried their "thoroughly pernicious influence" on British youth. Thus, comics were a symbol of the invasion of foreign decadence into a polite British culture and values. The campaign was later taken over the Camics Campaign Council, which was an umbrella organization that included doctors and teachers (particularly members of the National Union of Teachers). Their criticisms would be more familiar to Americans, as they focused on the violence and crime themes of "horror comics." However, there was less of an attempt by British campaigners to directly interrogate and critique the content of such comics; in other words, there was no equivalent to Frederic Wertham, the American psychologist whose book "The Seduction of the Innocent" codified a flawed but scientific-minded criticism of horror and crime comics. British Campaigners largely treated the problem as self-evident, though Barker goes to great lengths to show how crime and horror comics subverted the violent and horrific messages that campaigners thought they transmitted to child readers. Finally, the last major difference is that unlike in America, the British Government responded with a law, the "Children's and Young Persons (Harmful Publications) Act" of 1954, which made it illegal to publish crime or horror comics. (In America, the Kefauver hearings were called and might have led to regulation of the industry, but the creation of the industry-based Comics Code Authority pre-empted the need for such regulation). No one was prosecuted for the crime until 1970, and though the law is still on the books in the UK, there have been no subsequent prosecutions in the 21st century. Barker, being a media-studies person, spends a lot of time interrogating the meaning of various crime and horror comics, especially the Bill Gaines/Jack Kamen masterpiece "The Orphan" which is reprinted in full in the book. This was less interesting to me than the historical discussions of the actors involved in the campaign, many of which Barker interviewed personally. But Barker also locates comics panics within broader concerns about the rise of youth culture in the UK (and the US as well) in the 1950s, and the anxieties it produced in middle-class and elite adult circles, of which this comics panic was one example. A really fascinating book that complicated and broadened my understanding of the history of comic books.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Al

  3. 5 out of 5

    Josh

  4. 4 out of 5

    Lance Eaton

  5. 5 out of 5

    Robert Marsh

  6. 5 out of 5

    Carol Tilley

  7. 5 out of 5

    Kevin Patrick

  8. 5 out of 5

    Andrea

  9. 4 out of 5

    Derek Johnston

  10. 5 out of 5

    Drralph

  11. 5 out of 5

    Dennis G

  12. 5 out of 5

    Dennis Slater

  13. 4 out of 5

    Bill

  14. 4 out of 5

    Karl Hickey

  15. 4 out of 5

    Kyla Li

  16. 5 out of 5

    Nicholas Gray

  17. 4 out of 5

    Tracyene

  18. 4 out of 5

    Eddie Duggan

  19. 4 out of 5

    Manolocrimson

  20. 5 out of 5

    Conal Cochran

  21. 4 out of 5

    Aaron

  22. 5 out of 5

    Owen Williams

  23. 5 out of 5

    Dani

  24. 5 out of 5

    Christopher Tower

  25. 4 out of 5

    Christopher

  26. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie McGarrah

  27. 5 out of 5

    Deke Jr.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

  29. 5 out of 5

    Brent

  30. 5 out of 5

    Øyvind Holen

  31. 5 out of 5

    Juli

  32. 4 out of 5

    BookDB

  33. 5 out of 5

    Tereza Bochinová

  34. 4 out of 5

    Jonas Nilsson

  35. 5 out of 5

    Edgar

  36. 4 out of 5

    dawn creech

  37. 4 out of 5

    Bill Wallace

  38. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

  39. 4 out of 5

    Michelle Walker

  40. 5 out of 5

    Untimely Gamer

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.