Review: Forbidden Tales Archive – Vol. 3 (HC)

Forbidden Tales is a lesser known magazine of horror published in the 1950s. It ran well into the 50s, but changed its format significantly after the 1954 Senate Subcommittee Hearings of the Danger of Comic Books. It would later return to its origins, but never really getting the high praise of other horror type comic magazines at that time. Dark Horse Comics, in its commitment to archiving classics from the past, has released a third volume of this magazine in its full original format, ads and all. This volume covers issues #9 through #14 and contains within its pages tales of ghosts, vampires, evil gnomes, demons, mutants, and a whole host of other persons and things of the bizarre. All stories are in color and feature typically four to five comic stories with one single page written tale of mystery. The time frame of the original releases was from September 1952 to February 1953. A time considered to be the heyday of this title.

I have always been a big fan of these types of horror mags, but never in my readings have I ever encountered a Forbidden Tales. I knew of the name, but nothing more. To get a chance to read this 220 + page archive was a treat and I was looking forward to several hours of suspense and fear that was printed back before the days of the Comics Code, where creators liked to push things to the limit and address issues often not covered within the pages of other comics. I was psyched.

Then I read it… man, was I let down. I can see why Forbidden Tales never quite reached the same successes of some of its contemporaries. The stories are just not that good. Most of them are very straightforward "boogeyman" type tales dealing with a couple and whatever monster or creature was trying to get them. The stories at best are predictable, and at worst, redundant. There simply isn't a whole lot of creativity or pushing of the envelope in nearly any of the stories released in this volume. If this was in the 1950s, I think I would have been mad that I spent a whole 10 cents for what is nothing more than unimaginative story telling. This was a huge letdown to be sure.

Forbidden Worlds vol. 3There were a couple of stories that I at least found readable, but they were few and far between. The Witches Curse is a good old fashioned revenge story hundreds of years in the making regarding one of the original Salem witches. It played well and maintained my interest. The same could be said for Ware -Spider's Doom. It was a creepy story that had artwork which definitely made my skin crawl. After those two, the only things that really captured my interest were the single page written tales and the "Real History" comic stories. The true tale of "real vampire" Elizabeth Bathory was particularly interesting and a written story (by an unknown author) entitled Portrait of Satan was genuinely spine tingling with a sad ending as a man invokes the devil himself through a shrunken head from Africa. I can also give an honorable mention to The Man Who Knew All which deals with a "chosen one" and The Awful Letter, another revenge tale from a business partner that was ripped off. I did expect more from this volume though. I just never got more unfortunately.

Though Forbidden Tales may be a little dated, I have read many comics from this era and even earlier that were far more suspenseful and horrific. I think that the publishers of this magazine at the time tried to play it safe and never really delved into the world of the unknown and bizarre like others of the time did. The majority of the stories here present that halfhearted effort. I would have liked to have seen more horror to this horror mag. This volume just didn't offer it to me.

If anyone has a desire to read old horror comics, I highly recommend other titles of the era. Forbidden Tales simply doesn't measure up to what is out there. Purchasing this volume might leave you quite disappointed.

Score: 2/5

Writers: Various Artists: Various Publisher: Dark Horse Comics Price: $49.99 Release Date: 1/29/14