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fantasia 2004
films + schedule
Stephen R. Bissette’s Journeys Into Fear
Stephen R. Bissette’s Journeys Into Fear

The History, Heritage, and Censorship of the Horror Comics
Montreal Premiere

2000 | 120 min
English language
screening times
July 16th, 2005
2:45 pm
J.A. De Seve
July 17th, 2005
3:00 pm
J.A. De Seve
tickets available through... Admission Ticket Network

Noted comic artist, illustrator, writer and scholar Stephen R. Bissette presents the first two installments of his sprawling, five-part lecture series on horror comics—where they came from, what they’ve gone through and where they’re going. This lecture series has evolved through active presentation of the lecture in many public venues since 1992, including the Copenhagen Comic Art Library, the San Diego Comics Convention and many colleges and universities.

Lecture 1: Roots
From the 12th-century Japanese Ghost Scrolls to the 16th-century Mixtec Codices and European broadsheets, the roots of the horror comics are analyzed in multi-cultural, graphic narrative representations of fantastique imagery, religious hellfire and brimstone, and the excesses of crime and punishment. This chapter also traces the formative works of Hogarth, Goya, the Penny Dreadfuls, the 19th-century crime newspaper comics reportage, and the birth of the comic strip, its evolution via Winsor McCay's Dreams of the Rarebit Fiend, and more. McCay's influence on the emerging medium is discussed, with specific attention to its genre contributions culminating in the escesses of Chester Gould's violent, grotesque comic strip Dick Tracy.

Lecture 2: The Comic Book Terrors
The rise of the horror comic is studied, from Max Gaines’ creation of the comic book format in 1933 to his son William Gaines’ definitive line of horror comics from EC, including the venerable Tales From the Crypt. In charting the growth of the genre within the new medium, attention is also given throughout to the rising tide of criticism and outrage from authorities, psychologists, and parent group across the country. The rising voice of psychiatrist and author Dr. Fredric Wertham lends focus and credibility to this attack on the fledgling comic book industry, and the publishers’ early attempts to self-regulate the content of their publications are analyzed.

—Stephen R. Bissette, Rupert Bottenberg



Director: Stephen R. Bissette


Stephen R. Bissette


Stephen R. Bissette worked 24 years in the comic book industry as a cartoonist, writer, editor, publisher, and co-publisher, and remains best known for Saga of the Swamp Thing and Tyrant. He retired from comics in 1999, but remains busy—since 1990, he has illustrated books by Neil Gaiman and Joe R. Lansdale, written the Stoker Award-winning novella Aliens: Tribes and non-fiction efforts including We Are Going To Eat You! The Third World Cannibal Movies, as well as articles for numerous books, film magazines and fanzines. His essays, interviews, and articles will be collected in 2006 as the book series Gooseflesh: The Secret Histories of the Horror Film (Black Coat Press). Bissette also works as a tutor, college lecturer and consultant and faculty member at the Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction, VT (opening fall 2005). He lives and works in Marlboro, Vermont with his wife Marjory and son Daniel.

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