The GeeksverseREVIEW | Forbidden Worlds: Dark Horse Archives, Vol. 1 HC (Dark Horse Books)

REVIEW | Forbidden Worlds: Dark Horse Archives, Vol. 1 HC (Dark Horse Books)
Published on Tuesday, December 4, 2012 by
Comics fans and students of comics history will find plenty to like in Dark Horse Books’ hardcover repackaging of a pioneering pre-Code fantasy, science-fiction, and horror comics title.

Key Review Points

Pros:

  • Excellent opportunity to read a relatively little-known pre-Code comics gem.
  • Informative foreword provides illuminating context.
  • Features remastered early and rarely-seen artwork from Al Williamson, Frank Frazetta, Wally Wood, Ogden Whitney, Emil Gershwin, and other stand-outs from comics’ Golden and Silver Age.

Cons:

  • None of note.

Publication Details

  • Publisher: Dark Horse Books (a division of Dark Horse Comics)
  • Publication Date: December 2012
  • Written by: Stories were originally published without writer credits, but are assumed to have been penned mostly by editor Richard E. Hughes
  • Art by: Al Williamson, Ogden Whitney, Frank Frazetta, Wally Wood, George Wilhelms, Emil Gershwin, Paul Reinman, Henry “HCK” Keifer, Edvard Moritz, Lin Streeter, Charlie Sultan, King Ward, Morris Waldinger, George Klein, Bill Molno, Paul Cooper, Al Camy, and others.
  • Cover art by: Ken Bald
  • Foreword by: Dan Nadel
  • Format: 264 page, full color, hardcover. Collects Forbidden Worlds #s 1–4, originally published in 1951 and 1952 by American Comics Group in single magazine format.
  • List Price: $49.99 (digital review copy provided free-of-charge by the publisher)
  • Availability: On sale on November 28, 2012

Page Previews (Click on images to view in larger size)

Full Review

Between the excellent archival editions of collected early- and mid-20th century material produced by Dark Horse Books, IDW Publishing’s partnership with The Library of American Comics, Fantagraphics, and other, smaller, specialty publishers, today’s readers looking to burrow deep into the history of American comics and sequential art with museum-quality print reproductions are spoilt for choice.

The Forbidden Worlds: Dark Horse Archives, Vol. 1 hardcover is a fine addition to the ever-expanding library of remastered pre-Code American comics compilations. The volume collects the first four issues of Forbidden Worlds, a monthly (later bi-monthly) fantasy, science-fiction, and horror comic anthology that was published by American Comics Group (ACG) from 1951 to 1967. Perhaps because it did not come under the same level of sensationalistic scrutiny during the 1954 US Senate comic book hearings, ACG’s Forbidden Worlds doesn’t seem to enjoy the same revered status in current comics culture as its EC Comics and Lev Gleason Publications contemporaries like The Vault of Horror and Crime Does Not Pay. That Forbidden Worlds managed to survive the mid-1950s anti-comic book hysteria relatively unscathed was no matter of mere luck: As readers of the volume will notice and as mentioned by American comics and sequential art history expert Dan Nadel in the particularly illuminative foreword, Forbidden Worlds was somewhat more restrained than many of its peers in terms of its depictions of what 1950s moral busybodies considered to be objectionable material, although this definitely isn’t to say that the ACG anthology was inferior in any way—Forbidden Worlds may not have been as overtly transgressive as the era’s most notorious titles, but the series’ very best examples of writing and art were definitely on par with the choicest fantasy, science-fiction, horror, and humor comics material the industry had to offer.

Most readers will likely be drawn to this collection because of the promise of seeing some early Al Williamson work inked by fellow legends Frank Frazetta and Wally Wood, doing their collective best Alex Raymond impression. Even at this budding stage of their respective careers, their artistic capabilities are undeniable:

(Left) Page from “Demon of Destruction” from Forbidden Worlds #1 featuring art by Al Williamson and Frank Frazetta; (right) page from “Skull of the Sorcerer” from Forbidden Worlds #3 featuring art by Al Williamson and Wally Wood. Note that these images are scans of the original comics published in 1951. The remastered art in the Dark Horse Books archive is vastly superior in color and line quality.

The talents of editor and presumed writer Richard E. Hughes and the anthology’s platoon of regular artists should not be overlooked, however. Illustrators George Wilhelms (whose “The Doom of the Moonlings” is reproduced in its entirety in the preview section above) and Emil Gershwin (whose werewolf designs in “The Way of the Werewolf” look like they might have served as the visual inspiration for Marvel Comics’ Man-Wolf), for example, contribute a pair of visually well-appointed tales. A particularly entertaining story is “The Vengeful Spirit,” beautifully illustrated by Herbie Popnecker/Fat Fury co-creator Ogden Whitney, about a couple’s bizarre French winery adventure spurred by an encounter with a haunted bottle of champagne (a literal alcoholic spirit). The taut narrative incorporates elements of the humor, action-adventure, horror, and war comics genres in an efficient and exciting eight pages.

As is to be expected for an archive-quality hardcover collecting relatively rare pre-Code material, Forbidden Worlds: Dark Horse Archives, Vol. 1 resides at the slightly higher end of the comics price spectrum with a list price of $49.99. The upcoming holiday season will provide the perfect justification for the more casual comics fan to splurge on the book, but public and private libraries and dedicated students of comics and sequential art history should need no excuse to pick the volume up. Highly recommended.

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3 Responses
    • […] Bright and the Looking Glass HC (Image Comics) December 4, 2012 Invincible #98 December 4, 2012 REVIEW | Forbidden Worlds: Dark Horse Archives, Vol. 1 HC (Dark Horse Books) December 4, 2012 Recent Comments REVIEW | Krishna: A Journey Within TPB (Image Comics) […]

    • One of the best comics I ever read was “Black Magic”, published @ 1971 by DC after Kirby joined their company. It was a Kirby-Simon creation, and the best story was “The Greatest Horror of them All”. It was all re-print. I still have it; I’d love to see more of those types of stories available.

      • The rights to the various pre-Code and 1950s/1960s/1970s horror, crime, and military comics are scattered across a number of publishers today—Dark Horse, Fantagraphics, and IDW Publishing hold some of the more notable ones, I believe—so it’s not inconceivable that we’ll eventually see a good representation of them reissued in future years as archive-quality, specialty publications.

        Somewhat ironically, it’s the classic horror and fantasy stuff from DC and Marvel that seems less likely to be reissued: For whatever reason, whether it be because of longstanding politics, messy copyright issues, missing original art, or maybe it just doesn’t fit into their overall publishing strategies, there doesn’t seem to be much of an impetus at either company to reissue their pre-1980s, non-superhero material.

        Oh, and speaking of “The Greatest Horror of Them All,” Eerie Publications actually presented a remake of the 1954 Kirby classic in a 1975 issue of the Tales from the Tomb anthology. IDW Publishing editor Steve “Karswell” Banes actually posted scans of it on his blog a few years back. It’s an interesting take on the Kirby classic.

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