The Horror Of It All

A n   i n t r o d u c t i o n   t o   S a v o y   C o m i c s  
b y   D a v i d   M i t c h e l l
(2 of 3)

Beyond Magazine
Reprinted in Rapid Eye 2 (1995)

  Horror spotFrom the first ten pages alone, one can see that Lord Horror is an SF novel of an 'alternative universe' where all the events, characters and scenes are metaphorically playing out philosophical and metaphysical abstractions in a sequence of symbolic forms. This is Dave Britton's Pilgrim's Progress—or at least his Childermass.

In a manner similar to the discourses of De Sade's Philosophy In The Boudoir, the dialogue consists of contrived argument and counter-argument, encapsulations of every major train of thought and belief that has made the 20th century the horror we see today—the characters voicing all the insane dialectic which has fuelled the nightmare of Western culture. Lord Horror himself is an extreme aesthete—a psychopathic/neuropathic dreamer—a cross between Des Esseintes and Darth Vader. He is here likened, in this respect, to Hitler, who also (the book suggests) dreamed of higher things, of beauty, purity and glory divorced from reality. Horror is the epitome of Hitler's version of the Übermensch amoral, physically powerful and ruthless, agonisingly hypersensitive and mystically inclined, with a violent scorpionic sexuality. He is a Byronic anti-hero, his goals superhuman, his actions subhuman.

The exaggerations, the surreal imagery, and the distorted misappropriation of historical characters actually define a vision closer to the truth than mere 'social realism' would ever be able to, revealing the corrupted inner life of characters, things and events—the dreaming reality of the historical process. The dialectic gets under the skin because the nightmares put on display are shared, common to us all.

'Fascinating Fascism' (as Susan Sontag termed it) has an appeal which originates in the atavistic—the beserker animal, the werewolf. The Nazi mentality is sado-masochistic. Hierarchies of degradation, as in a Bosch painting, tier upon tier of trapped bureaucrats each shitting on the tier directly below them, until the shit stops at the bottom on the socially despised race—the Jews, niggers, spics, gypsies—all those most reviled by 'pure' society (and those most secretly desired). Annihilating sex! A body without emotions, fucking itself until it bleeds to death; Reich's personality armour, cranked so tight that the inner life has strangled and rotted away! When that sexual core, the feeling, human centre, has gone bad, all the manifestations become cold, extreme, brutally destructive and violent. Rockabilly would be the ideal muzak for death camps.

The two polar extremes of Western schizoid mentality led ultimately to the death camps, unable to resolve the contradictions inherent in their existence. Extreme analytical discourse, whether couched in psychological, political or sociological textbook talk, or even in the glib, easily digestible pseudo-analysis of women's magazines, encourages people to become more and more out of touch with their emotional core and deep inner convictions. On the other hand, visceral spontaneity as displayed by the 'human' herd leads to the abandoning of any form of genuine conscience and the blind following of animal impulses which arise through mere biological friction. Both extremes lead to and embody ultimate nihilism.

Lord Horror
Lord Horror was followed by the comic book exploits of the character in Hard Core Horror issues 1 to 5, the first four issues being drawn by Kris Guidio and executed in a Beardsleyesque 'yellow' manner—showers of blood and offal mingling deliriously with art nouveau backgrounds; eroticism and elegance merging seamlessly with ultraviolence and sadism. The key point in the series occurred in issue 5, illustrated by John Coulthart, where bleak and rigid depictions of death camp architecture are both terrifying and beautiful, the lines and planes of the Art Deco designs shouting repression and annihilation. After several pages of beautiful Maldororian prose from Dave Britton the reader is confronted by shocking photographs of dead bodies, murdered children, and we realise that we've reached the bottom line! This is where all the rhetoric and philosophy has led us.

On Friday 2nd April 1993, David Britton was jailed for four months under the Obscene Publications Act in Manchester. This was a result of the seizure in 1989 of Lord Horror by Manchester Police. An attempt was made to ban it but at a Crown Court appeal 31st July 1992 (brought by Savoy), the order for its destruction was overruled. An issue of the comic Meng & Ecker was, however, found obscene and banned—the first case of this happening to a comic in the UK For reasons that they failed to make clear, the police continued to mount raids on both the Savoy office and a retail shop owned by David Britton. As a result of this harassment Britton was convicted for material sold from his shop and, by a strange coincidence, the raid was conducted three days after the initial ruling that Lord Horror was obscene—the search warrants signed by the very same magistrate who had originally adjudged the comics obscene. Savoy's case elicited some respectable, though cautious, response from the mainstream press but we've seen no repeat of the public outrage at the Salman Rushdie incident. Mr Rushdie, after all, was attacked by a culture other than our own—one with which we do not feel immediate complicity. >>>

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