Hi there, horror comic fans! The Longbox of Darkness is back with another post. This time around, we’re going to be talking about one of my favorite comic anthologies of all time: Taboo by Stephen R. Bissette.
If you’re not familiar with this mag, let me give you a brief introduction. Taboo was a comics anthology edited by Steve Bissette that was designed to feature edgier and more adult comics than could be published through mainstream publishers. The series began as a horror anthology but soon branched out into other genres as well. It was published by various imprints from 1988 to 1995, running for a total of nine issues and a special.
Taboo is a virtual treasure trove of amazing tales by some of the most talented and visionary creators in the comics industry. The comic most notably serialized Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell’s From Hell, Moore and Melinda Gebbie’s Lost Girls, and Tim Lucas, Mike Hoffman and David Lloyd’s Throat Sprockets, which became the basis of Lucas’ novel of the same name. It also featured work by French legend Moebius, Chester Brown, Neil Gaiman, Dave Sim, Michael Zulli, Al Columbia, Rick Veitch, Paul Chadwick, Kyle Baker, Scott McCloud, and Charles Vess.
In this post, I want to share with you some of my personal highlights from Taboo, and why I think this anthology is a must-read for any horror comic fan. I’ll also give you some tips on how to find and collect Taboo issues, as they are quite rare and expensive nowadays. So, without further ado, let’s dive into the dark and twisted world of Taboo!
From Hell is probably the most famous and acclaimed story that appeared in Taboo. It is a historical piece of graphic fiction that explores the identity and motives of Jack the Ripper, the notorious serial killer who terrorized London in the late 19th century. Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell spent over seven years researching and crafting this masterpiece, which spans over 600 pages and 16 chapters. From Hell is not only a gripping murder mystery, but also a rich and complex portrait of Victorian society, culture, politics, religion, and occultism.
From Hell was serialized in Taboo from issue #2 to issue #7, as well as in the Taboo Especial one-shot. The story was later collected and published as a graphic novel by Eddie Campbell Comics in 1999. From Hell has also been adapted into a movie starring Johnny Depp and Heather Graham in 2001, but I highly recommend reading the original comic first, as it is much more faithful and detailed than the disappointing film version.
Lost Girls is another ambitious and controversial project by Alan Moore, this time in collaboration with his wife Melinda Gebbie. Lost Girls is an erotic graphic novel that reimagines the lives of three famous female characters from children’s literature: Alice from Alice in Wonderland, Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, and Wendy from Peter Pan. The story takes place in 1913, when the three women meet at a luxurious hotel in Austria, and share their sexual fantasies and experiences with each other.
Lost Girls was originally conceived by Moore in 1989, but it took him and Gebbie over 16 years to complete it. The story was serialized in Taboo from issue #5 to issue #7, but it was never finished due to legal issues and censorship concerns. The complete version of Lost Girls was finally published as a three-volume hardcover set by Top Shelf Productions in 2006. Lost Girls is a beautiful and provocative work of art that challenges the boundaries between erotica and pornography, innocence and corruption, fantasy and reality, but it is certainly not for everyone. For me personally, it is Moore’s most challenging work, and I had a hard time with it.
Throat Sprockets is a psychological horror story by Tim Lucas, Mike Hoffman, and David Lloyd. It follows the obsession of a man named Paul Nash with a cult film called Throat Sprockets, which depicts scenes of erotic asphyxiation. Nash becomes addicted to the film and its mysterious starlet Tessa Vorelli, who may or may not be dead. Nash’s fascination with Throat Sprockets leads him to a dangerous underground subculture of fetishists and fanatics.
Throat Sprockets was serialized in Taboo in issue #1 and issue #3, but it was also left unfinished due to the cancellation of the anthology. Lucas later expanded the story into a novel of the same name, which was published by HarperCollins in 1994. Throat Sprockets is a disturbing and fascinating exploration of sexual obsession, identity crisis, media influence, and death and, other than Alejandro Jodorowsky and Moebius’ The Eyes of the Cat, is probably close to my favorite story that appeared in Taboo.
There are many other stories that deserve mention in Taboo, but I’ll just list a few of them here:
- Through The Habitrails by Jeff Nicholson: A dark satire of the dehumanizing effects of corporate culture and consumerism.
- The Eyes of the Cat by Alejandro Jodorowsky and Moebius: A strange tale of a broken boy living in the ruins of some ancient city and the sinister game he plays with his pet bird of prey.
- After Life by David Thorpe and Aidan Potts: A philosophical and metaphysical exploration of the meaning of life, death, and existence, all told with riveting art throughout.
- Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street by Neil Gaiman and Michael Zulli: A dark and twisted adaptation of the story of Sweeney Todd, with elements of biography and gothic folklore.
How to Find and Collect Taboo
As I mentioned earlier, Taboo issues are very hard to find and collect nowadays, as they are out of print and very limited in number. The original print run of Taboo was only 5,000 copies per issue, and some issues were even recalled or destroyed due to legal threats or censorship pressure. If you’re lucky, you might find some Taboo issues in comic shops, online auctions, or conventions, but be prepared to pay a hefty price for them. The average price for a single issue of Taboo ranges from $50 to $200, depending on the condition and rarity.
However, there are some alternatives to owning physical copies of Taboo. Some of the stories that appeared in Taboo have been reprinted or collected in other formats, such as graphic novels, trade paperbacks, or digital editions. For example, you can easily find From Hell, Lost Girls, Throat Sprockets, The Cowboy Wally Show, I, Paparazzi, The Flowers of Romance, and Mr. Punch in second-hand bookstores or online bookshops. Some of these stories are also available as ebooks or PDFs that you can download or read online. And then, of course, there are online retailers like eBay, though the prices for Taboo material there are usually exorbitant.
Taboo is one of the most important and influential comics anthologies ever created. It showcases the work of some of the most brilliant and visionary creators in the comics industry, who pushed the boundaries of storytelling, artistry, and expression. Taboo is also a testament to the passion and dedication of Steve Bissette, who edited and published Taboo despite all the challenges and obstacles he faced. Taboo is a rare and precious gem that deserves to be read and appreciated by all comic fans.
I hope you enjoyed this blog post about Taboo, and I hope it inspired you to check out this amazing anthology. Remember to subscribe to the blog, and if you have any comments or questions about Taboo, feel free to leave them below. I’d love to hear your thoughts and opinions on this topic. And if you have any suggestions for future blog posts about horror comics, let me know as well. Until next time, stay spooky!
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