Some years back, I think it was around 2005, I joined an online forum to talk about a short-lived horror comic I used to enjoy as a kid. The title in question was Scream! It only enjoyed a meagre 15 issues, released in the spring/summer of 1984. I wrote about it on my blog over at Badgers Crossing, recalling my devastation at its cancellation.
A Scream! fan called Tim West had set up a website Back From The Depths, which is dedicated to the memory of those few issues (and a handful of annual revivals which fizzled out by the end of the 80s). On that site were digitised downloads of the old issues, some information about the comic and the aforementioned discussion forum. In that forum, we talked about our favourite stories, artwork, other comics inspired by, and which inspired Scream! but one thread exited me particularly. Folk were talking about getting together to produce a revival edition – purely by the fans, for the fans.
Now, I know Scream! has made something of a comeback over the last few years – but this was years before the Rebellion purchase of the IPC back catalogue when Scream! was, for all intents and purposes, dead and languishing in limbo. Therefore, this was very appealing to me – I had just started to show an interest in creative writing and I very much wanted to be a part of it.
Sadly, the forum section of the site was closed down and I hadn’t realised they had moved to a new space. I believed it to be just pipe dreams which had come to nothing. That is until I found the Back From The Depths Facebook group a few years later when I finally pulled my finger out and signed over my soul to Zuckerberg. I discovered that one of the BFTD forum members, independent comic artist Malcolm Kirk, had provided the impetus to actually get things moving, that the project was still very much alive, and was, in fact, gathering steam for a Halloween 2009 release. Albeit with a slightly changed name, and all new original stories (understandably, due to copyright issues).
But that was never the point of Scream! Yes, there were recurring characters and stories like The Thirteenth Floor, The Nightcomers, The Dracula File and Monster – but for me, and for many others too it seemed, Scream! was all about the feelings it evoked. And Scream! relied as much on the one-shot morality tales or darkly humorous shorts of The Library of Death and A Ghastly Tale as it did on the serialised stories.
At first I watched with interest but didn’t re-engage with the creative side of things. I downloaded the inaugural issue of Hallowscream on the day of release, read and very much enjoyed its mix of retro style art and stories along with some more modern comic book techniques, to bring it into the 21st Century. For years this pattern continued until I became more confident in my story-writing ability. In the spring of 2015, when the submissions for the next edition were opened up I thought “What the hell?” and submitted my own, award-losing short story The Conductor to BFTD creator Tim, who had also taken on the role as editor of the publication.
A few weeks later I was surprised to get an email from Ghastly McNasty (who Scream! readers will recognise as the ghoulish, fictional Tharg-like editor) telling me that my story was in! I couldn’t believe it! When Halloween came around and I downloaded the new issue, true to Ghastly’s word, there on page 23, in all its glory was The Conductor! I’ll always be indebted to Hallowscream for that because it was my first published short story. It was in a free, fan-produced indie comic, for which I received no royalties but that is irrelevant. To see my name in print was fantastic! I’m proud to have been a part of it and intend to submit something for the 2019 issue!
So today, on Halloween 2018, Hallowscream celebrates its glorious 10th edition. I’ve downloaded and quickly flicked through it and, as usual, the team have pulled off a feat that is nothing short of a marvel (pun intended). The variety of different artistic styles gives it a real community feeling.
I’ll enjoy it properly later but I wanted to share it this morning as soon as it was released!
Visit the Hallowscream section of Back From The Depths to download not only this issue but every issue all the way back to the first one.
Print versions of most of the back issues are also available to buy from Lulu.