At one time, horror and the comics anthology were inseparable. The 1950s were flush with horror comics packed full of short stories (often hosted by spooky characters) until the 1954 Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency scaled back the genre significantly. In the following decades, horror survived but the anthology format hasn’t made a comeback in any significant way. (Steve Bissette’s Taboo from 1988-1992 is the exception.)
Conceived by their love of Taboo and their frustration by the lack of horror anthologies in the modern comics landscape, current Batman writer James Tynion IV and editor Steve Foxe decided to start their own. Thus Razorblades was born.
The self-published endeavour clocks in at 70+ pages. Throughout its digital pages is a mixture of comic book stories, illustration, prose, as well as a meaty interview with Scott Snyder.
From the get-go, Razorblades has carved a name for itself through its modern approach to horror. It’s not trying to be a pastiche of pre-code horror comics – hosted by some creepy individual and dealing in ghoulish tales of revenge for misdeeds. Instead, it has arranged a range of up-and-coming writers and artists to tell horror stories that are grounded in modern anxieties or take a contemporary approach to storytelling.
It’s a kaleidoscope of ideas. No two stories are alike and offer distinct visual styles, voices, perspectives, and flavour of horror.
The magazine opens up with James Tynion IV and Andy Belanger’s ‘The Washing Machine’, a tale of murder and, as the title suggests, a washing machine. The comic explores the actions people are willing to take when they’re desperate to fix their mistakes. Belanger’s draws a rollercoaster of emotions as the character’s situations get direr. This is amplified with the use of repetition, which shows that doing something over and over again will not fix your problems.
‘Local Heroes’ by Marguerite Bennett and Werther Dell’Edera plays on a series of anxieties that many parents will certainly have. While I am not a father myself, I can certainly understand the fear of having a child go missing right in front of you. At the same time, this psychological horror explores the stigma men can face when they are seen alone with children in public.
An excerpt of Michael Walsh’s ‘Sleep Stories’ webcomic is up next and explores the terrifying qualities of sleep paralysis. Walsh partially obscures these night-time terrors in darkness, with the reader forced to fill the blanks in their mind.
‘Dead Means Dead’ a character-focused tale by Steve Foxe and Michael Dialynas about a medical examiner who is afraid to be buried alive. While examining a body, she encounters something that will severely trigger that fear with terrible results. This fear becomes surreal, with the environment morphing around the protagonist in a way that reminded me of a grimy version of Inception.
Lonne Nadler and Jenna Cha give us ‘She’s Got It’, which mixes a 1950s domesticity with psychedelic body horror. It’s an unnerving tale, which starts of normal but things start to get weird subtly in the background. Before you know it, the reader is confronted with a range of body contortions of frightening proportions, rendered with dense linework.
Staying with dense linework, Sam Johns and Dani’s ‘Anatomy of the Rut’ is thick with crosshatching to create a rural setting that is moody and atmospheric. I will admit, that I was not sure what the ending was supposed to mean, but it looks gorgeous.
The most unexpected of all the stories is ‘The Baby Blue’ by Trung “Trungles” Nguyen. I’ve always associated his work with a young adult and fantasy but he goes full horror in this story that mingles Lolita fashion and gore. It’s an interesting juxtaposition of soft visual style and bloody butchery that you do not see very often.
‘A Dream of Time’ by Ram V and John J Pearson is a fever dream of cosmic horror. Reminiscent of Dave McKean, Pearson’s art is a textured blend of styles that come together to serve up emotive and frightening imagery. This ranges from expressive close-ups to the surreal and abstract to create a sense of insignificance in the reader.
But it’s not all pretty pictures, Razorblades #1 has significant text pieces as well. The first is a short story by Danny Lore called ‘Mid-Season Slump’ which follows a magic doctor who’s disillusioned in the trade through his participation in a Ghost Hunters style reality TV series. The other is an interview in which Jame Tynion talks to writer Scott Snyder about how horror influences his work, even in his Batman work.
The plan is for Razorblaes to be a quarterly publication, bringing a range of different creators on board with each edition, with an initial plan for it to run for a year. If it finds an audience, and fills the much-needed hole in the market, then I’m sure it will be around for much longer. Considering the quality of the stories and the creators involved, Razorblades #1 shows that the horror anthology has plenty of life in it.
Want to read Razorblades #1? Head over to Gumroad to buy the digital version at a price you think is fair.