Thursday, January 13, 2011
INSIDE THE TOMB: AN INTERVIEW WITH PETER NORMANTON (PART 3)
Today is the conclusion of the MONSTER MAGAZINE WORLD interview with Peter Normanton, editor of THE MAMMOTH BOOK OF HORROR COMICS and publisher of FROM THE TOMB.
MONSTER MAGAZINE WORLD: How would you describe your own monster collection, including comics, magazines, memorabilia, etc.?
PETER NORMANTON: My own collection is mainly comic books, particularly pre-Code, with some film magazines mainly from my childhood. I have shelves full of books on horror movies and comic books with models collected over thirty-five years. I guess this is the doorway to my childhood. Sadly my Aurora glows in the dark figures never survived my teen years but I still have those dinosaur kits the company produced, sadly those wonderful boxes that came with the dinosaurs went years ago.
MMW: Do you have any particular favorites when it comes to horror comics?
I am a big fan of the pre-Code years, in particular EC. I know it has become a cliché, but these are some of the finest comics to see print, particularly their science fiction titles - Weird Science, Weird Fantasy, Weird Science-Fantasy and Incredible Science Fiction. I am also an avid reader of the Atlas horror and fantasy titles. Their covers, even after the introduction of the Comics Code, would have had youngsters across the North American continent willingly shelling out their pocket money. Their titles have such a fine array of creators, Joe Sinnott, Joe Maneely, Matt Fox, Russ Heath, Bill Everett, Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko to name but a few. Harvey Comics, often considered the poor man’s EC, were another formidable horror comics publisher from these deranged years. They had penchant for bizarre and bloody deaths.
It’s no big secret, but I am a great admirer of Alan Hewetson’s work at Skywald, it all goes back to that Nightmare #17. There is nothing quite like a vintage Skywald, whether it be Nightmare, Psycho or Scream. Whenever I can I pick up the underground horror comics of the late 1960s and early 1970s, titles such as Skull, Slow Death, Fantagor, Deviant Slice and Slow Death. These are quite bizarre publications, occasionally incomprehensible, but so often they went beyond anything you would ever see in the pages of any horror comic from any era.
MMW: How healthy is the horror comic industry? How well was your book, THE MAMMOTH BOOK OF HORROR COMICS received?
NORMANTON: There’s been a lot of interest in horror comics over the last ten years, although it has to be said it has never been the match of the superhero fare. The publishers have responded with material that ranges from the sublime to the absolutely ridiculous; and every now and again, let’s face it is just plain awful. If horror is to survive it is going to have to stay away from simply re-hashing the mainstream. If the genre is to remain healthy it will need to encourage innovators of the calibre of Steve Niles, Dave Hitchcock and Serena Valentino.
The Mammoth Book seems to have gone down very well. There was no one more surprised than me when the publisher announced it was to go into a second print. The response since its publication in January 2008 has been remarkably favourable and those criticisms that have been made have been quite valid. How can it be the Mammoth Book of Best Horror Comics when both EC and Warren are conspicuous by their absence? True, the sad thing is I couldn’t get permission to use these tales. There was one moment that really did bring a smile to my face, and it made all those months of work well and truly worthwhile. I was looking at the bulletin board on a comic book site I can no longer recall and discovered a mailing from a young lad who was so excited about the prospect of receiving the book as a birthday present. This young fellow was really looking forward to tucking into its contents; I only hope it lived up to his expectation and helped make his birthday that special day.
MMW: What are your plans for the future of FROM THE TOMB?
NORMANTON: Well now I am back in work, at least for the foreseeable future, I want to get issue #29 completed and look to getting #30 ready. Issue #30 has been in planning for quite some time. I want to concentrate on some of my favourite artists from the past seventy years. Obviously I couldn’t fit them all in there, but I’d like to do as many as possible of them the justice they deserve. Hopefully the on-line The From the Tomb Archive will take off and generate enough interest to keep The Tomb going for many years to come. The hard back annual edition is an exciting prospect and could be a way of moving forward and getting international distributors back on board. Globally the economic situation isn’t so good, but surely it can’t last forever and when the world improves From the Tomb will be out there once again.
Away from The Tomb I have been asked by the Mammoth Book publishers to produce a Best of Slasher and Splatter Movies, another 500 page bumper edition. This is quite a challenge, but my research has already uncovered some unbelievable movies. If all goes according to plan this might just appear around the middle of next year.
MMW: If you could wave a magic wand, what would be the one thing you would either do or re-do with FROM THE TOMB?
NORMANTON: With all of the delays and problems in getting #28 to the printers I wish I had followed my instincts and sent this issue to the printer who did such a fine job on #27. As ever money was tight and they had increased their prices by quite a substantial amount, we chose not to go with them in the hope of getting #29 out soon after. It didn’t quite work out that way. The missing text on my Marvel piece was soul destroying as was the finish on this issue which wasn’t what I’d hoped for. The material and layouts on this were terrific, they deserved so much more. My aim had been to put it up for review with some of the major horror magazines and let people know we were up there again, I was so confident about the content. The print job never came up to scratch. My readers still disagree with me on this point they feel the print job was fine; it was just a shame about the column of missing text. Maybe I have got too critical in my old age.
MMW: What would be your advice to someone who is interested in starting up a magazine similar to yours?
NORMANTON: Never give up with the dream. It takes quite a bit of planning and you will have more than your fair share of ups and downs but the rewards are amazing. I would never have dreamed I would have had a book on sale in Waterstones. It took over twelve months before sales of each issue got beyond the 100 mark.
The chances are you are not going to make money from such a venture; From the Tomb is deep in the red. The real pleasure comes in the running of a publication of this ilk, this by far outweighs the negative bank balance. Take the time to listen to the advice offered by your readers; it might surprise you to learn many of them have actually done the job. Also, I have learned a good web-site is of tremendous value.
MMW: Any final words of wisdom for the readers of MONSTER MAGAZINE WORLD?
NORMANTON: Me, wisdom? Just keep on reading the books and magazines and watching those crazy movies you enjoy, don’t let anyone convince you otherwise. And keep your eyes out for those junk shops and second hand book stores, you never know what you might find.
MMW: How can readers find out more about FROM THE TOMB?
NORMANTON: You can either contact me at Peter.Normanton[AT]btinternet.com or take a look at the site at:- http://fromthetomb.blogspot.com/ or http://www.fromthetombstore.co.nr/
Thank you, Peter Normanton!