Tag Archives: circus

Weird Love: #21

This has been on my desk for several weeks now. I had picked it up because it looked interesting. It’s a compilation of romance comics from the 1950’s which share a theme of being set in a carnival or circus setting. The characters and tales are weird, as the title implies, but it is also a cool view into 50’s sexuality, and they are all from a woman’s perspective. Now I don’t think that any women actually wrote these, so I question how accurately these tales reflect the average 1950’s female ideals on romance, but it made for some interesting reading.

As a young teenager, I worked with my dad at German festivals in the northeast. I got to know the carnies, the vendors, and the entertainers. Often, in the evenings, I found myself in the trailers out back, and can vouch for the craziness that one might expect to encounter in this environment. But all the freaky people I met were nice, and there was a sense of camaraderie amongst everyone. And this sentiment is also expressed in one of the tales in this comic.

“One thing about carnie people you should know. On the outside, they’re hard and tough. Under the skin, though, they’re warmhearted people. They stood beside me and gave me help.”

In my earlier years, when I was discovering comics as a genre, I was solely interested in horror. It would have never occurred to me to read anything having to do with romance. But in the introduction, the editor, Mike Howlett, explains the parallels between horror and romance.

My two favorite comic book genres are horror and romance, probably because there are so many raw and honest themes shared by the two. Fear, helplessness, and an outcome of triumph (slain monster/true love) or failure (death/heartbreak) prove that the formula can be very similar. Horror and romance stories are filled with passion, emotion, and, surprisingly, both genres find themselves right at home in the sleazy and scandalous world of the comic book sideshow.

I had never stopped to consider this structural similarity between the genres, but it seems so obvious now. Anyway, I’m glad I branched out and read this. It proves how important it is to read diversely.

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“Alice Cooper: The Last Temptation – Book II” by Neil Gaiman

LastTemptation_IIAfter reading the first issue, I went online and ordered the other two subsequent issues that complete the trilogy. Thankfully, they arrived before Halloween.

Today I read Book II, where we find young Steven haunted by his memories of the Theatre of the Real. Throughout the issue, Steven slips between reality and dark fantasy as the eerie showman continues to tempt him to attend another performance.

There is a great dream sequence that evokes imagery from Alice Cooper’s classic concept album, “Welcome to My Nightmare.” When Steven is in school, there are lots of references to the “School’s Out” album, such as song quotes written on the chalkboard and references to songs woven into the dialog, all of which work very well. Another nice touch is that, in class, Steven is reading Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes, which ties in with the theme of dark circuses and sideshows.

The idea of showmanship is also found throughout this issue. The showman is the archetype of the person who leads the audience into the realm of fantasy, directing the stage show which causes one to temporarily lose touch with reality and delve into the world of dreams, fantasy, and illusion.

Steven, no, I’m not the devil. The devil is a huge concept. I am merely a humble showman. I bring you glittering little moments of pleasure which brighten your otherwise dreary and monotonous life.

Again, for me, this is Neil Gaiman at his best, blending the boundaries between reality and dark fantasy, creating a space where nightmares slowly creep into our waking world. The next issue should include the Grand Finale and I must admit that I have high expectations. Check back in a day or so for my thoughts on the final act.

Click here to read my review of Book I.

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