Since the early days of the Universal Monsters and Hammer Horror to the present day Slasher and Torture-Porn, what is it exactly that endures about the horror genre? There is no doubt a psychological charge when viewing a horror movie or reading a scary story. Indeed, in reality, a person’s sympathetic nervous system would kick in when experiencing a dangerous or terrifying situation. However, movies are movies and fans willingly subject themselves to this rush. The answer could be as simple as being a retreat from the reality around us and knowingly walk out feeling safe and secure. Comic books and Science-Fiction fantasy all share similar details but convey a variety of nerve-wrecking experiences that are unique to their stories.
Over the last twenty years, the idea of a convention has grown to universal proportions. The biggest being the annual San Diego Comic Con and, for a time, the ever popular Fangoria Weekend of Horrors, which satiated the blood-thirsty needs of the horror fan to meet their favorite horror icons. Today, one would be hard pressed to find any comic event that is completely void of any horror incorporation. October 4th, in Hamilton, Ontario, was the fifth annual Hamilton Comicon where from the ever-gorgeous Catwoman herself Julie Newmar, to the massive popularity of the original Mighty Morphin Power Rangers (show regulars Austin St. John, Walter E. Jones, Steve Cardenas and Robert Axelrod) sat Horror Alley: a small corner spot on the floor that seemed insignificant to some, but a golden horseshoe to the rest.
On hand for the event was Chris Alexander, Editor of Fangoria Magazine, who was happy to share his thoughts, “If you look around you and any of the iconography of anything we are looking at, horror has always been a part of comic books. When I was a kid, [reading] was one of my gateways into the genre. Reading Tomb of Dracula and reprints of EC Comics, even Spider-Man had elements of horror in it – I mean the death of Gwen Stacy – when I was a little boy reading that and how devastating that was! The Green Goblin himself was a monster. Monsters, Horror, its DNA is smashed into every element of everything we see around here.”
“The reason horror is here is because it’s a significant element of entertainment.”
Genre veteran R.A. Mihailoff (Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III, Hatchet II) had a similar opinion in that “the reason horror is here is because it’s a significant element of entertainment. Comicon covers everything cultural as far as creative goes. There is an organization based in Los Angeles called The Academy of Science-Fiction, Fantasy AND Horror. Comics encompass all of that fantasy. Its hand-and-glove allied arts. Generally, if you’re a fan of Science-Fiction, you’re a fan of fantasy and horror.”
“I think there’s always going to be a cross-section. I mean horror and Sci-Fi in general, I can find a strong relation between sci-fi and comic books.” exclaims Alex Vincent (known to horror fans a little Andy Barclay from Child’s Play 1, 2 and more recently, a fantastic return in Curse of Chucky), “There’s that cross-over because of the nature of the fans and the fact that horror films and sci-fi have such a following and they continue to because they evoke visceral reactions from people’s fear.”
Chris continues, “as [horror] being a pure entity onto its own, to me, horror is just like the punk rock, nerd sub-genre sort of thing. It’s all part of the same universe. Horror fans are kind of clandestine, almost like a brotherhood, so you’re always going to find its going to be smaller because it has always been a little bit underground and that’s why we love it. It’s like a secret handshake. It’s here. It’s always going to be here, and we like the fact that it’s a smaller component. We’ll intermingle with the 40-year-old man dressed as Aquaman, that’s cool, but we have our own little language we speak of.”
“Let’s face it Halloween is now the second biggest holiday after Christmas. I think it’s a 5 Billion dollar industry.”
The nature of the horror community continues to grow with each generation and while other genres capture imaginations and emotions, the guilty pleasure of immersing yourself into horror creates a bond that cannot be topped, maintaining longevity in this type of cultural aesthetic. “Comedy, Drama, and all that, everybody loves that as well but it doesn’t attract the same type of people. You talk about comedies or dramas and if a movie made you laugh your ass off as a kid, then yes 20 years later, there’s absolutely longevity in it. Just because there aren’t conventions for that doesn’t mean those fans don’t have that to hold onto.” explains Alex, “but I think sci-fi and horror fans are such a community amongst themselves that the longevity we have – for me to be able to do a convention 27 years after the film I was in and people still be interested in meeting me – I think I’m incredibly lucky and fortunate to have been in a horror film.”
Horror has become more mainstream than ever, and yet somehow only in these recent years, does it seem to have broken out of the mold and become a staple to this and future generations. Having seen the progression of the genre, R.A. adds, “I think it’s just been a constant flow you know. I haven’t noticed an increase per se, it just seems it has always been steady. Let’s face it Halloween is now the second biggest holiday after Christmas. I think it’s a 5 Billion dollar industry.”
Whatever the odds that horror fans will be dying for more conventions, it is safe to say that 2014 holds the most conventions so far that integrate Comics, Sci-Fi and Horror. On that note, Chris caps off with, “Dying is the keyword! I think as long as we keep dying and dying violently, there will always be an attraction to horror.”
Not only the cross-over of appeal, but also the safety provided by going to the movies for that 90 minutes of escapism only to return to the normal world is exactly why the genre thrives. Critics can blame horror for encouraging violent acts or corrupting the imaginations of individuals but it often is the exact opposite which keeps fans clamoring for more. In a world that continues to thrive on the true horrors of humanity, it is a blessing that filmmakers, writers, artists, actors and fans can submerge into these fictional worlds and share those experiences all in one place. That is the power of Comicon. R.A. summarizes it best: “Horror is, and always will be, part of popular entertainment.”
Special Thanks to R.A. Mihailoff, Chris Alexander, Alex Vincent, Matthew Miller, Hamilton Comicon, Shaun Wolfe Sandal and Robert Deak Photography.
For more information on Fangoria: www.fangoria.com
For more information on Hamilton Comicon: www.hamiltoncomiccon.com
For more photos of the event, and information on Robert Deak Photography: http://rdeakphoto.smugmug.com