It’s Ghastly! – review


I have just received a copy of “It’s Ghastly” – Hibernia Comics’ latest addition to their Comic Archive. This 64-page publication spells out the reasons for the demise of IPC’s short-lived horror title Scream! and exhumes lost material intended for the abandoned weekly issues.

It’s a handsome glossy publication, mostly in black and white but with a handful of colour pages in the middle. My particular interest wasn’t so much in the information about Scream! itself (as I never read that title) as about what it might reveal about comics publishing of the time, or any as-yet-unknown information about who did what.

It features a lot of interviews and information from people involved in creating the title: Barrie Tomlinson (Group Editor at the time), Gil Page (Managing Editor of the title), Ian Rimmer (editor), Simon Furman (sub-editor). Some of them are reprints of interviews originally published some years previously, but bringing them together in one magazine is a definite service to fans of the title and those interested in this slice of history.

I was interested to note how the various memories of what happened at that time were all slightly different: David McDonald was clearly trying to get an answer to the key question of why Scream! folded so quickly. Barrie Tomlinson had a number of possible answers – the strike, the content, the sales figures… while Gil Page put the blame fairly squarely on the overall sales figures. Ian Rimmer puts it down to a staffing problem and to management interference and second-guessing, which put a real crimp in the process of just getting on with creating as good a title as possible. He ultimately blames management timidity. So even from people who were there at the time, it’s possible to get as many answers as there are people answering – at least for the tricky questions. Something for any of us interviewers or comics historians to be aware of in terms of the dangers of drawing firm conclusions!

As with MacManus’ “The Mighty One”, I was struck once again by the sheer amount of writing that was done in house. There is also a lot of interesting discussion about artwork: not so much the process of creating it or how much was done by the art editor, but about how it was reused in subsequent publications, even if that meant cutting up a page of art or reusing some cover artwork by José Casanovas in a Holiday Special – but removing the central human character which was part of the whole point of the original story.

There’s lots of solid material in here – interviews, re-creations of three unused covers that could have been printed in issues 16, 17, and 18 (the title stopped at 15), scripts, and a whole unpublished story of “The Nightcomers”! The artwork is the original from the time, but as it was unlettered and only half the script could be found, the other half was rescripted by Simon Furman, who was the original writer. Those of us who are fans of other titles can only feel a mixture of jealousy that David was able to come across this treasure trove, and hopefulness that maybe such a miracle could happen to our own favourite title some day.

“It’s Ghastly”; Hibernia, 2016: available on Comicsy for £7.50 plus postage

12 thoughts on “It’s Ghastly! – review

  1. I’ve got new hope that unpublished material from Tammy might still be around, including the last episode of Cora.

  2. Oddly enough, I share that hope! But why fixate on Cora: after 10 years Bella deserved a decent ending and so’d Pam after 5.5 years. “I’m Her – She’s Me” is the story I’d most like to have seen concluded. Scream fell into the middle ground of the three comics affected by the strike: 2 strips were continued and so was the Dracula File, in an on-and-off way. Even Fiends & Neighbours fans could’ve seen new strips in the 1985 and 1986 Cor!! Annuals. Only leaves us suspended in limbo…

    1. Cora was one story that had me on the edge of my seat and I was dying to see how it ended. Looks like I’m not the only one either. But yes, the others should have been concluded properly. I wonder if “I’m Her – She’s Me!” would have ended with Natalie and Paula waking up back at the bandstand and finding it had all been a crazy dream.

      1. I’d have thrown up if it had, and wouldn’t have let the fact that I wasn’t taking Tammy at the time stop me! BTW worked out that Pam Watts was around, with a minor break in JInty, for 4½ years, not 5½. Have to reread in BL sometime soon.

        1. Girl II also had a body switch called “Bodyhopping”, where two girls switch bodies after an accident. Another accident switches them back. Maybe that’s how this story would have ended too.

  3. A sidebar: the below looks like, gasp, palpitate, can it be – a completed yet unseen issue! Know what I’m thinking don’t you? Well besides that, I thought that this cover was only seen on a Thirteenth Floor-dedicated issue of the Best of Eagle Monthly in June 1988. Seems I was wrong.

  4. Perhaps the problem was that it just didn’t have enough iconic characters. When 2000AD launched, they had some strong strips from the off in Flesh, Dan Dare and then Judge Dredd. Ditto the revamped Eagle with Dan Dare (again), Doomlord and the Tower King in the very first issues.
    I liked Scream a lot but The Thirteenth Floor is the only really standout story with Max as the most iconic character. That’s why that strip survived until right until the death of Eagle, whereas the others faded into memory.

    1. Perhaps so. But early issues of Jinty, for instance, had strong strips but not necessarily much focus on iconic characters as such. Katie Jinks and Merry at Misery House lasted for some time not anything like as long as Bella Barlow, the Four Marys, or Pam of Pond Hill. I don’t think lack of strong characters is enough explanation by itself tho it could clearly be part of the explanation.

      1. I admit it – they got me. ”Issue 18”’s a mock-up but a very good one. I’ve already alluded to the hope this gives Tammy fans; we can only wait and see if there’s material in need of repair/restoration like The Nightcomers. Suppose we can play the waiting game a little longer.

    2. The Thirteenth Floor is the one that definitely lives. It’s even getting its own publications now. I also like the Leper stories, and “The Dracula File” has grown on me. I’m not quite so taken with “Monster”.

      Misty did not have enough iconic characters, and I believe it suffered for that reason when it merged with Tammy. Jinty was wise to revive Pam of Pond Hill before she merged, who was iconic enough to carry on.

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