Ginger Nuts of Horror
A non-superhero film jolt the world of comic books? Never....but it happened. In 1987, a mind blowing film called 'Hellraiser' was released and led to an explosive rebirth of horror comics. As a comic book fan since 1977, apart from ‘Batman’ and some really cheesy stuff that I used to save up for which always disappointed my deviant little mind, this was huge for me and was well worth the wait. A new level with gripping, wild storytelling and artwork of which the like had not been experienced in the genre thanks to Eclipse Books in 1989 and early 1990s.
'Tapping the Vein' was monumental; Clive has always been a comic book fan and that was apparent with the finished product. I had the Books of Blood and every other Clive Barker story out at the time so to have these tales brought to life visually by the likes of P. Craig Russell, Scott Hampton, Klaus Janson, John Bolton, Denys Cowan, Michael Davis, Bo Hampton, Steven Johnson, Alan Okamoto, Jim Pearson, Stan Woch, Mark Farmer, Fred Von Tobel, Hector Gomez and Tim Conrad with the stories adapted for the medium by P. Craig Russell, Chuck Wagner, Fred Burke, Bo Hampton and one of my favorite talents to this day, Steve Niles, was brilliance. Every rendition was rendered, to me, as it was written. The varying art styles only drew it all together.
There were also stories from the ‘Books of Blood’ following ‘Tapping the Vein’ such as ‘Dread’, ‘The Yattering and Jack’, ‘Son of Celluloid’, ‘Life of Death’, ‘Rawhead Rex’ and ‘Revelations’. As a woman, ‘Life of Death’ has always strongly resonated with me and years later when I was digging for the Museum of London at a plague pit and cemetery, I have to say that this story kept popping up all of the time in my mind.
This wasn't just a ploy to make money; these editions were collaborations of love. I remember buying the first issue and the man in the shop asking if I was buying for my boyfriend to which I said "No, for me." and getting a very strange look. The early 90s were still a bit of a male dominated area for comic book shops, not outright rudeness but stares and disbelief so I’m so happy how things have turned around.
Also, the 'Hellraiser' comic line which had others introducing their own sojourns into Hell along with some very interesting variations of the Cenobites. It is always fascinating to me how these nameless soul collectors took such a prominence which lasts to this day. Another good one was ‘Primal’ by Dark Horse Comics, excellent stuff.
Marvel/Epic comics also gave us ‘Hellraiser’, ‘Nightbreed’, ‘Pinhead’ and loads more titles from Barker which were his original creations that went beyond the Marvel Universe, ‘Ectokid’, ‘Hokum and Hex’, ‘Hyper Kind’ and ‘Saint Sinner’, ’Book of the Damned’, ‘The Harrowers’, ‘Nightbreed/Hellrasier: Jihad’ respectively, and ‘Weaveworld’. Some were created by other artists but Barker was a presence as consultant. I do have some of the ‘Hellraiser’, Nightbreed’ and ‘Pinhead’ but not the later ones so I can’t really comment on them. The issues that I do have from Epic Comics were amazing. IDW produced ‘The Thief of Always’ and ‘The Great and Secret Show’. Please forgive me if I have missed any.
Another store responded very rudely to me when I was searching for 'Hellraiser' issues that I'd missed, "They didn't sell things like that; it was a respectable family store." Bit mad, right? Needless to say that I never entered that establishment again and actually felt a bit sorry for their limited scope because they were missing out on some superb comic book action.
I've held onto these original books and they've survived four transatlantic moves and a few local ones. I am forever grateful for those small miracles. Rereading these after all these years has been a fabulous trip. These are tales which never get tired or dated and the illustrations further the journey.
Recently, Boom! Studios have begun a 'Hellraiser' story line featuring our friends, Pinhead and Kirsty. They are doing a bang up job with story and with the art. I can't wait to see what else Leviathan has in store for us. Apart from Barker’s writing, art and film work, I have to say he’s created such a crew of devotees of his work and every single one that I’ve had the pleasure of meeting or engaging with has been amazing. One Artist, One Man created all of this wonderful mythology and the power of this draws us all here now. In Clive We Trust.
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