Imagine being a young teenager putting down your superhero or cowboy comic, picking up Shock Suspense Stories, and paging from a Twilight Zone-style sci-fi story about aliens leaving deformed types of their species on Earth because they look like humans or a woman who murders her vegetable husband only to have to take care of her vegetable lover, into a story about a black man being accused of murder and then killed in cold blood only to find out he was innocent. That’s a pretty heavy shift, but an important one.
This is a moment in history that took guts and passion. The sad thing is that you read pieces like “The Guilty” and “Hate,” and they are far too relevant to what’s still happening today. A scary irony that makes me feel like I’m in a story from the comic books. It’s also fun reading the letter columns in reaction to these and other stories.
Is it all a bit heavy handed? Yes! That’s part of the beauty, and sometimes it works wonderfully as we dig into the paranoid mind of a killer who chops up his wife and stores her in a meat locker before guests arrive. Sometimes gruesome, sometimes relevant, and sometimes just crazy fun, this collection is great, from the pulp-style prose to the incredible artwork.
This beautiful collection is worth having for any comic book collector or aficionado not just for the lively stories, but to see the moment when comic books grew up.