Taboo (Especial) – Various

3 out of 5

Back when I was a scaredy cat, watching the evening movie on HBO, a before or after ad for Tales from the Crypt would freak me out.  When I came around to actually watching the show, I would find it to be incredibly light weight, even years before becoming a legit horror fan.  (Excepting that Don Rickles puppet episode, which is still rather freaky…)

When getting into comics, and finally getting to read some of those Creepys and Eeries and whatnot that I’d quickly set aside for fear of their contents when sifting through friends’ older brothers’ stacks of comics… yeah, also pretty light weight.

An issue of the Adults Only Taboo was on a girlfriend’s shelf several years back, and I flipped to a Michael Zulli bit and…  This – this is what horror comics are supposed to be, I thought.

Maybe a good decade or two after that, I finally have a complete set of Taboos, and I can finally read them start to finish, as I’d just sort of been poking at them until I had the full set.

…That Michael Zulli bit is still pretty good.  Much of the rest of Taboo, though, is rather try-hard, or just, I dunno, almost amateurish seeming, passing off off-kilter story-telling for a reason why other publications might pass up on publishing, when maybe the material just ain’t all that great.  There is, of course, more to the picture here than the content itself, as overseer Steve Bissette was staking a claim against censorship in general, while also providing a platform for lesser seen talents, and this was 1989 / ’90, which was a much different landscape for comics than it is currently, so I can see how plopping down $15 for a fully independent, uncensored book back in the day would just kinda feel taboo in and of itself.  But I do like Steve’s investment in all of the features, which get write-ups and creator bios preceding each.  Regardless of my take, that, to me, suggests that the people making these books were really into it, and that goes a long way toward increasing my appreciation of it.

The ‘Especial’ issue of Taboo was published between issues 5 and 6 of the regular series, and is pretty much in line with what I’ve said above.  There are some good bits, and some sloppy ones, and some forgettable ones.  The names you recognize (Scott McCloud) often add the more lasting additions, and then there’s at least one stand out entry per issue, this time belonging to Glenn L. Barr’s wordless ‘Cliff’s Wild Life,’ which tracks the misadventures of a spirit.

I think the m.o. of Especial was to err on the more humorous side of horror and erotica, and that holds true-ish of the majority of these, maybe save the wandering vampire tale Want, by Wendy Snow-Lang and a Salome take by Ric McCollum, neither of which would seem to have any notes of humor, and so rather throw off my attempts of confirming that ‘funny’ theme for this one-off issue.

I mean, not that the other tales (besides Barr’s) are particularly laugh-out-loud either – Rick Grimes’ is just nonsensical (on par with his other nonsensical entries in previous Taboos); Jeff Nicholson’s complaints about an overweight worker are childish; Mark Bode’s anti-racism ‘satire’ is bland – but you can sense a smirk to them, and such smirks are rare in the regular issues.

That’s all to say: if you’ve read the other books in the series, and have enjoyed them, despite a slightly more light-hearted approach in Especial, it’s of a like mind and quality.