We're taking a journey. A journey into alternate pasts and speculative futures. Adventure, crime, dark comedy and sci-fi. Hot tunes fading in fast from forgotten dance halls and vintage radio. Fedora hats with a snap brim. And, of course, Gothic lurks in the narrative shadows: tippet for a tulle, the dead once again stroll amongst the decaying temple colonnades. Stories always written out of love - or perhaps necessity? Like the murder of Miss Fromm, one can never really be sure...
I love comic books, especially Golden Age. Back when I
was a kid I couldn’t get enough of those square-bound comics printed on cheap
paper with their extraordinary cover art and wonderful short stories,
everything from sci-fi to mystery, crime, horror and the, well, just
plain weird.And they all featured the fashions, language and motor cars of the forties and fifties. Nearly
all my meagre pocket money went on getting those wonderful stories – and they were
worth every precious penny.
Actually, for a long time I thought those comics had come hot
off the presses in America and didn’t realise that many were pre-code and been
out of print for years. In fact, an English guy called Alan Class had bought
the rights and given them a new lease of life, importing them to Britain for
eager kids like me. I don’t know why but I just didn’t get a kick out of
Captain Marvel and
Jeff takes an unwelcome trip
more famous superhero type stuff. No, it was Alan’s other stories that I went for. Maybe it was the thrill, the shock of the explicit pre-code material that grabbed me; the sheer diversity of all that bloody noir crime, fantasy, shock-horror, sci-fi
and the speculative. I mean, even now the hairs on the back of my neck start to
rise when I see Jeff Raye, scientist, trapped between two worlds! (horrified wife, suitably attired in evening dress and pearls).
Now, of course, Creepy
Worlds and all the rest are pretty much unloved except by discerning fans and collectors. The corner shop that sold them is still there but pipe-smoking Mister Schalken and his daughter left years ago. The place is unrecognisable and sterile,
plastic-franchise new; the old musty wooden and glass cabinets, stacked with snuff,
tobacco, comics and pencils have been replaced with shiny white shelves and lottery
tickets. I guess nostalgia ain’t what it used to be. Looking back, though, one
thing I’ve never quite figured out was did the
Ringo Starr, fan
original comic influence TV
series like The Twilight Zone or was
it the other way around? Or did they all just sort of take-off on their own
separate weird and wonderful trajectories? Perhaps an uncanny case of pulp-cultural-cross-pollination
– a bit like the birth of rock and roll and all those early independent records
labels and radio stations.
Anyway, when I got into writing, a steely determination grew to figure out a way of celebrating Alan’s comics; to celebrate the thrill I got every time I opened the cabinet in Mister Schalken's shop and
stepped into another world. And, I guess, a way to say thank you for inspiring me to write my own stories.
Funny thing is, even now, I still wonder if Jeff did manage to escape and return safely to his wife…
This is my
favourite reference book on noir. Everything on all the films out there, from the
classic to the obscure and overlooked. Plot, detailed analysis, cast and
crew, and some fab quotes. The referencing lists at the end are
particularly useful and inspired. Nice section on modern 'neo noir', too.
through the book last week, I re-discovered House of Bamboo (1955),
starring Robert Ryan and Shirley Yamaguchi. Hard-boiled crime tale set in
post-war Tokyo, with some great location shots.