I’ve been reading a lot of comics of late . . . mainly the reprint stuff, because that’s where my heart lies. After all, the true Golden Age of comics is 12 . . . which puts my interest around 1961/2, when the infamous Comics Code effectively brought in by Dr. Frederic Wertham’s Seduction of the Innocent was well underway (having kicked off in 1954/55) and the comics themselves were fairly pale versions of what they once were.

So I’ve been slavishly buying DC’s Archive series (which now seems to have stopped—Shame! I say) and their subsequent Chronicles series (also thin on the ground now—Boo!) plus Marvel’s Masterworks . . . particularly their Atlas series of pre-code horror. The latest of the latter to land at PS Towers is the fifth volume of Strange Tales (numbers 40 through 48, November 1955 to July 1956) and I must say that, as much as I always enjoy all of these things, I was somewhat shocked at how pedestrian the stories were in that desert between the early/mid 1950s Atlas (Marvel) fare and the Lee/Kirby monster stuff (not to mention the off-the-wall gems that Steve Ditko had already been making a name for himself with over at Charlton) of the pre-superhero 1960s.

Even comics historian Michael Vassallo notes it in his usual excellent Introduction. “It’s truly startling,” he says, “how much the actual Atlas stories suffered, often by writers who just a year or two previously were turning out wonderfully imaginative material.” Quite so.

The reason I mention this here is the marked weakness of the post-code (and, to be honest, even the pre-code) Atlas material when measured against the Harvey titles (which didn’t continue beyond the arrival of the Code). Thus, on titles such as Witches Tales and Chamber of Chills, we were spared the disappointment inherent in the new Strange Tales volume . . . kind of like James Dean dying before he had an opportunity to besmirch his reputation by appearing in several vapid clunkers in his middle age in order to buy a new beachfront house on Big Sur (remember the likes of Boris Karloff and Vincent Price appearing in surf and hot-rod movies? Oh, let’s not go there . . . )

Now, you may say that this is just a soapbox for me to champion books that we’re producing over at PS under our Artbooks imprint—my only argument with that would be that it isn’t ‘just a soapbox’ (though I do want you to buy them): it’s something I do feel strongly about.

Sure, the old Harveys can be clunky, preposterous and downright crazy, just like the ACGs (we have the first volumes of Adventures Into The Unknown and Forbidden Worlds coming next month), but they show writers and artists who care about what they’re doing as against the stuff turned out by those same folks who’ve had the stuffing knocked clean out of them. ‘Nuff said as Stan the Man was wont to say. Make mine Marvel? Er, no thanks . . . Hand me Harveys!