“Mario Covone is an exciting new voice in comics with a cool new spin on a provocative subject… dare you enter the dark world of the Video Nasty?” – Jake West, Director of ‘Video Nasties: Moral Panic, Censorship & Videotape’
Ahh the video nasties, it has been well documented on this site just how personally affected we were by this debacle in home entertainment history but if you would like a reminder then check out this article here. It is a topic we frequently come back to time after time, because as horror fans both of us founders at The Gore Splattered Corner were there to witness this fiasco and even now it remains a very pertinent and personal subject to us. In fact last time I started a review with a Jake West quote was to visit the seminal documentary Video Nasties: Moral Panic, Censorship & Videotape, and with number two Video Nasties: Draconian Days about to land on our doorsteps in the very near future now seems the perfect time for Video Nasty: The Comic Book to make its debut; both releases I have been highly anticipating this year. I can’t say I am a person who really ‘does’ comics in very big way, but after hearing about this one a while back it certainly had my attention. Issue one was released on March the 15th at a very successful launch party at The Prince Charles Cinema in Leicester Square where a special screening of former video nasty Evil Dead (1981) was shown, and issue 2 will follow very shortly on April 12th. The news just in is that UK cult memorabilia chain Forbidden Planet have just picked up the series and writer Mario Covone, colourist Sam Palmer and Graham Humphreys the cover artist will all be in attendance for a special signing session at the Forbidden Planet Megastore in London on Saturday 19th April.
Video Nasties seems to be the hot topic of recent years among the horror community, mainly following West’s aforementioned documentary which raised the profile of the issue for those who thankfully did not have to endure it; with those survivors of the era of moral panic, witch hunts and victims of dirty politics finally finding their voice. And so brings us to this release, a six part graphic novel written by Mario Corvone (Circles) and illustrated by Vasilis Logios, which sets it foot firmly in the grimly dark place of sweeping paranoia, civil unrest and moral panic- early 80’s Britain. The story while fictional does have a strong foundation in the political climate of the time, and perhaps the factor which makes it so appropriate to that age is that this narrative could very well have been something that would have happened back then. Video Nasties were blamed by politicians, the law and the press for just about everything going, including according to the lunatic that is MP Graham Bright, affecting dogs; many have been left to ponder on that one for the last 30 years and so far no one has come up with a decent explanation, not even Bright himself.
So what is it all about? Well Video Nasty kicks off with a gruesome murder, as expected by the title, but then takes a completely unexpected turn of events. Far from being your typical horror comic with lashings of blood and gore the story focuses on police officer Inspector David Gorely (nice little nod there to David Warbeck’s character in Fulci’s The Black Cat), who is set the task of solving the case by his superiors and pushed into pinning the crime of someone who has gone off the rails by watching too many gore fuelled video rentals. Routing this fictional story in as much realistic grounding as possible Witchfinder General Manchester Chief Constable James Anderton makes a cameo. The story becomes very character driven and humanistic and really is not like anything I had expected (and I mean this in a complimentary way). In the first instalments we have the character Alan Derry introduced who is a horror filmmaker/producer and is going out of business because of the controversy. Derry then gets dragged into the media feeding frenzy in a vain attempt to save his career, but is spun around and spat out by the media hounds who are looking for an angle to support the moral panic they are generating. This just represents both the hypocrisy and level of gnashing teeth present at the time, because real people were affected, put out of business and marked out as filth peddlers, both by the government and the media as the result of this moral crusade; this is something that is easily forgotten and it is nice to see it touched upon here. Choosing to set the story in 1983 is also very relevant, this was the year that Bright got his private members bill presented to parliament, the year Maggie Thatcher pledged her support for the campaign against video nasties and when the Parliamentary Video Group published the first of its enquiries. The story shows the outrage and unfounded public hysteria over the subject of graphic horror, which was at its height during the day. Having only two issues to review I can say very little about where this is all leading, but the story so far has been engrossing and interesting, and I am eager to find out. A swastika knife was found at the scene of the crime, and David Gorely seems sceptical about the line of enquiry his superiors are pushing for.
In terms of artwork Vasilis Logios’ bold illustrations and Sam Palmer’s muted colour palette support the atmosphere of the piece perfectly, the book carries a very dark feel, with lots of grey and brown tones which seem fitting to the air of pessimism that surrounded that particular time. The artistic style is not unnecessarily cluttered or overly complicated, and it does not need to be, with the whole thing managing to capture a sort of noir quality of shadow and dread without having to go all Sin City. I don’t profess to be any sort of authority on the subject of graphic novel art so I am sort of wading around in unknown territory, I will say I think it complimented the writing perfectly, and I found it supported the mood of Corvone’s writing. Also involved in the artwork is Graham Humpreys who designed the cover art for Evil Dead and Basket Case among other projects, and he has constructed the covers for Video Nasty in the spirit of retro VHS artwork cover artwork. His work has a brilliant quality and harks back to the days when the poster art often exceeded the quality of the films involved. Each edition comes with a different cover and if the cover previews are anything to go by Video Nasty: The Comic Book has a lot more left to come.
Check it out here on Mario’s official site
Video Nasties: The Comic Book Official Facebook.