Review: Boris Karloff – Tales of Mystery Vol. 6

Let's take a trip back to a time before torture porn, when scary stories consisted of amazing creatures and impressive originality.

Iann Robinsonby Iann Robinson

Boris Karloff: Tales of Mystery

Reboots abound, schisms going down, fear is all around and multi-spider men crawl through town.

Let’s take a step back, breathe, and remember a slower time in the world of comics, one when good old fashioned sci-fi and horror stories could curl the toes and make the hair crawl up on the back of your neck. In the postSaw world we live in, Boris Karloff: Tales Of Mystery probably won’t scare you to death, but it’s a hell of sweet archive to pore over. This is volume six and you’d figure, after so long, the tales would lose their mystery and their appeal. Nope, stuff like this, the Golden Age of comics (or even pre-Golden Age) has such economic and simple writing coupled with such fantastic art that any true comic fan should be giddy.

The flow of this hardcover archive is just like the flow of the original comics. Short stories involving aliens, demons, monsters, and kooks of all kind are brought to life. Where does the genius begin with volume six? How about the cover, where a scientist is being carried off by five four-armed, four-eyed, polka dotted and multi-colored aliens for starters? Then just open the book, to any page in any section and behold greatness. Page 34, the middle of a story about a monster made of old scrap metal with tires for feet. How about page 123, a tale titled The Awakening Beast, about a giant statue that comes to life and lights on fire. Page 95 where a monster made of the head of a lizard, the body of a monkey and the feet of hawk attacks people. See what I mean? It’s one genius story after the other.

You should be prepared for some things to reflect the era these comics came out in. The thirties, forties and fifties weren’t a very happening time for women so the females in these stories usually look good, do as they’re told and always have to be rescued. There’s little in the way of minorities here and when they do appear it’s not always favorable. It’s not offensive because it simply reflects the ignorance of the times, but I figured I should let folks know what to expect. The stories are also simple, but very elegant. It’s a great change of pace to get joy out of reading a comic instead of furrowing my brow over the next big tragedy.

As far as the art goes, well, you tell me. You’re going to be viewing work from Alex Toth, whose Zorro is a genre defining example of proper technique with black and white and shading. Len Wein, creator of the Swamp Thing, Jerry Robinson who created The Joker, Dan Spiegle, the list goes on and on. One of my favorite things about these kinds of archives, besides the genius work, is the fact that they were turned out almost in a factory like nature but still above reproach. Story after story after story, each one had the highest quality of artwork and writing. Boris Karloff: Tales Of Mystery Volume 6 is the most recent in a lineage of books that any comic book collectors must have for themselves.