By Stephen R. Bissette
SpiderBaby Graffix & Publications/USA/2013
Anyone who is into horror comics of the 1980s and 90s should be well familiar with the name Stephen R. Bissette. An early graduate of the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art, Bissette’s distinctive and often gruesomely lurid art has graced the covers and interiors of such classic and cult comic books as Saga of the Swamp Thing, Gore Shriek, Taboo, House of Mystery and Heavy Metal, as well as some of the great exploitation film fanzines of the 1990s, like European Trash Cinema and Ecco. He is also a passionate and knowledgeble fan of horror and cult cinema, having written extensively on the subjects for publications including Deep Red, Fangoria, Video Watchdog, Film Threat and others.
Initially published in a heavily-truncated form in The Deep Red Horror Handbook (1989), We Are Going to Eat You! is Bissette’s exhaustive study of the cannibal movie genre, tracing its roots from the silent era and the 1930s through to the grindhouse horror films of the 1960s/70s and, of course, the notorious Italian productions of the late-70s/early-80s. While I can certainly understand why the Italian movies from this period (Cannibal Holocaust, Cannibal Ferox, Cut and Run, Cannibal Apocalypse, etc.) are often the films that many people instantly associate with the genre, it’s great to see the author take in a much deeper and broader view, covering the mondo documentaries, sci-fi (Soylent Green) and jungle adventure films that touched on cannibal themes (including my all-time favourite movie in that particular genre, Cornel Wilde’s 1966 classic The Naked Prey).
Written in 1989/90, Bissette first published this manuscript in 2003, and is offering it up again in extremely limited quantities, and with virtually no changes to the original design and layout. Atari dot matrix print-out text, canary yellow card cover with a clear acetate overlay. Some of the text is faded, but still readable. But there are a ton of great original ad mats reproduced throughout, and Bissette’s cover design is remarkable (reminiscent of some of his best work for Ecco).
In the introduction to the 2003 version, the author expresses his desire to see the manuscript one day published as a “real book”. I don’t know if that is still on the cards or not, but while I would certainly love to see a revised and beautifully illustrated edition sitting on the shelf, I think it’s great as it is. I dig the old-school feel to it, it suits the fact that many of the movies featured in it were still only available as grainy VHS dubs at the time it was being put together, and good writing always stands out regardless of the format. The book is a thick 330+ pages, but I found it a breeze to get through in a couple of sittings, such is the ease with which the manuscript flows, with a good balance of information, entertainment and analysis.
Signed copies of We Are Going to Eat You! are available from Stephen Bissette’s website (www.srbissette.com) and you can read an interview with the man in John Walter Szpunar’s recent mammoth book on classic horror fanzines, Xerox Ferox (Headpress, 2013).