Horror is a particular genre which lures the masses into its embrace and then pushes us to the very edge. A well written story can invoke pure terror. A well filmed movie can make us scream even though we know we are safe from the horrors on the screen. A carefully crafted ghost story can bring us to the absolute limits of fright and leave us lingering there, sleepless for days on end. Although many dream of crafting the kinds of masterpieces which tear at our very psyches few ever reach that lofty goal. Those who do become nothing less than legends.
In the graphic novel Horrors: Great Stories of Fear and Their Creators writer Rocky Wood and illustrator Glenn Chadbourne have given dark life to their own dark tale. Horrors moves through the centuries of horrific literature to reimagine the lives of some of the authors who shaped the genre as we know it. At the same time they dive into the works of each writer and tap into the themes which drove them. Dr. Frankenstein recognizes his hubris and he struggles to overcome it in futility. The Modernists in Bram Stoker’s Dracula clash with the dark and erotic powers of the supernatural old world. Poe suffers and dies in much the same way as his protagonists.
A mysterious narrator takes readers on this chilling tour of the lives of some of horror’s greatest writers and the famous tales for which they are known. All who are touched by the unnamed host appreciate the gift of genius but inevitably are cursed to suffer as well. None who accept the gift can do so without paying the dark price. Who is this dark patron who clings to the shadows and haunts this tale?
I would tell you but that would be saying too much, wouldn’t it?
Rocky Wood’s writing is nothing less than brilliant. He captures not only the voice of the mysterious narrator but also those of the many famous characters who appear along the way. His reimagining of the lives of these writers fascinates while also maintaining a strong center based on the real events of their lives. This strong center only amplifies the horrific aspects of the narrative as it is not hard to imagine their tribulations as having happened in the very way Wood tells it.
Glenn Chadbourne’s black and white illustrations hint at the great work of horror illustrators from the early days of comics and pulps. At the same time he brings an amazing level of detail to his work which draws the reader deeper and deeper. His work quite literally takes the already exceptional writing of Rocky Wood and elevates it to a new level. Each panel is dark and evocative. Readers will find themselves driven from page to page, finding each illustration as delightful as the last.
Horrors: Great Stories of Fear and Their Creators was nominated as a finalist in the 2010 Aurealis Awards for Best Illustrated Book or Graphic Novel. I cannot recommend this work more highly even if the words existed to do so.