TASTEFUL violence, anyone?

Recently I decided to delve into the world of Hellblazer and read from the first to somewhere around the 70th issue (all in a span of 48 hours, too...) and have since decided to drop the series from my read list. This decision was reached after much thought and consideration, which can essentially be summed up thusly: I sat back and asked myself 'Do I actually enjoy reading this title?'.

Needless to say, the answer was no. That in and of itself can be explained by the nature of the stories themselves- largely due to the fact that they seemed to revolve around levels of violence that I found very unnecessary. Which makes my dislike of the title (and writer) driven purely by personal taste- some people like that kind of thing, I'm told, but I'm not one of those people.

To be frank, I have a fairly weak stomach when it comes to violence, and I'm sad to say that I just can't handle experiencing much of the horror genre, in print or film. Mind you, I'd be the last person to say that violence has no place in the media and/or literature; in fact, I'd go as far as to say that it's an essential part of both, and I have yet to read a good book or comic that didn't feature it to some degree.

That being said, at what point does a writer think to himself "okay, a few issues ago I had a lovely full-page depiction of a grotesque mass of evil-looking cancerous flesh hanging off of the dying form of my main character, and recently Jack the Ripper's demon-thing has been brutally maiming people for a while now, writing this story where a mob of people get killed in various ways for most of the issue will be totally tasteful and not at all overdone"? I'm not saying violence has no place in comics, but it should be better employed. Even in the horror genre one could utilize little to no violence and still come up with something terrifying. For example, the only issues of the Hellblazer title that made me really profoundly uncomfortable were 25-26, which were written by the often impressive Grant Morrison, and featured practically no depicted violence ('told', not 'shown', which can be just as effective when done right). What really had an effect on me was the frenzied, animalistic, malignant nature of the writing and to some degree the inevitability of the events. Perhaps I'm a bit too cerebral when it comes to the horror genre, because I tend to find drawings of blood, gore and the usual sorts of mutilation to be more offensive and irritating than 'scary'. Artistic renderings of the results of horrible brutality aren't usually the kind of thing that keeps me up at night, and a truly talented writer should be skilled enough that they don't have to rely on gruesome images to scare people.

So I ask you, my fellow comic enthusiasts, whether you agree with my sentiments- is over-the-top blood and gore really called for in the horror genre, as a rule?

16 Comments
16 Comments
Posted by gambitpryde1993

Gore doesn't really bother me that much, but I'm more into old school atmospheric horror (The Shining, Evil Dead, Jaws) than the "torture" stuff like Jaws. I think if the gore helps develop characters or helps move the story along then I'm fine with it. Definitely feel you on the "tell, not show". Have you read Justice League: Dark?

Posted by CATPANEXE

It's a hardline to walk since as a rule, it's the writer specific. Tasteless shock and shock violence and depravity is whats expected it of him, and what draws in his audience. He is capable of writing outside of this, and really good at it too, like I'll note the mini Hulk Smash. Yet who read that except me and two other sentient beings, much less know he did that book? But again, it's the Garth Ennis staple that everyone knows and loves. Ennis is like Troma, or John Waters. He has an embedded stigma attached to his name, and can't really let it go considering all it's done for him so far. Could he write it tastefully? I believe so from evaluating much of his writing. Will he most of the time? No, because he appeals to the tasteless violence subculture. Can violence be written tastefully by writers on other books who are not locked in like he is. Yes.

Posted by Squares

@gambitpryde1993:Actually, yes, I have. It's proven to be pretty readable so far, IMHO.

@CATPANEXE: Lovely insights, but kind of off-topic.

Posted by aztek_the_lost

The part that confuses me is how you write off all of Hellblazer due to the writings of one Garth Ennis that happened decades ago. Garth Ennis is really a hit-or-miss guy so I can understand why you'd hate him, you're certainly not the first...but surely if you read the stuff before him, you also know he's not what defines Hellblazer, he had a run like everyone else and everyone has their own spin on the title.

That said, I think Ennis can be a great horror writer, sure he's not always top-notch but he's definitely brought some horrifying thoughts to light.

Moderator
Posted by Billy Batson

YOU DROPPED HELLBLAZER? BLASPHEMER.
I'm not really into gore but if someone like Ennis writes it then I have no problem with it.
BB

Posted by InnerVenom123

@Billy Batson said:

YOU DROPPED HELLBLAZER? BLASPHEMER.
I'm not really into gore but if someone like Ennis writes it then I have no problem with it.
BB

All Ennis-gore revolves around asses being turned into faces.

Posted by Billy Batson

@InnerVenom123 said:

@Billy Batson said:

YOU DROPPED HELLBLAZER? BLASPHEMER.
I'm not really into gore but if someone like Ennis writes it then I have no problem with it.
BB

All Ennis-gore revolves around asses being turned into faces.

With a pinch of dark humor.
BB

Posted by InnerVenom123

@Billy Batson: Exactly.

Posted by aztek_the_lost

@InnerVenom123 said:

@Billy Batson said:

YOU DROPPED HELLBLAZER? BLASPHEMER.
I'm not really into gore but if someone like Ennis writes it then I have no problem with it.
BB

All Ennis-gore revolves around asses being turned into faces.

I'm confused here, it as a face turned into an arse...not the other way around, what have you been reading?!

Also, it was a social criticism on the Kurt Cobain generation, it was thought-provoking, I swear it!

Moderator
Posted by InnerVenom123

@aztek_the_lost said:

@InnerVenom123 said:

@Billy Batson said:

YOU DROPPED HELLBLAZER? BLASPHEMER.
I'm not really into gore but if someone like Ennis writes it then I have no problem with it.
BB

All Ennis-gore revolves around asses being turned into faces.

I'm confused here, it as a face turned into an arse...not the other way around, what have you been reading?!

Also, it was a social criticism on the Kurt Cobain generation, it was thought-provoking, I swear it!

There was more than just Arseface.

In the "Road to Damnnation" Ghost Rider book, Ennis had this demon shove a biker's head up his ass and he kept him as a pet.

Posted by aztek_the_lost

@InnerVenom123 said:

@aztek_the_lost said:

@InnerVenom123 said:

@Billy Batson said:

YOU DROPPED HELLBLAZER? BLASPHEMER.
I'm not really into gore but if someone like Ennis writes it then I have no problem with it.
BB

All Ennis-gore revolves around asses being turned into faces.

I'm confused here, it as a face turned into an arse...not the other way around, what have you been reading?!

Also, it was a social criticism on the Kurt Cobain generation, it was thought-provoking, I swear it!

There was more than just Arseface.

In the "Road to Damnnation" Ghost Rider book, Ennis had this demon shove a biker's head up his ass and he kept him as a pet.

Ennis has trouble remembering all his story ideas on account of smoking too much pot, it's an actual fact that he's mentioned before...that's why Preacher is actually just Hellblazer: The Sequel and presumably why a lot of his stuff has the weirdest errors that any actual editor would notice but that they don't point out because he's popular

that said I like him

Moderator
Posted by InnerVenom123

@aztek_the_lost: I haven't finished Preacher yet.

But what kind of errors?

Posted by aztek_the_lost

@InnerVenom123: idk, I don't keep a list, but one that always stands out to me (maybe because the article on ComicVine made me laugh) is he brutally murders some characters in Crossed in a splash page finale of the first issue and then later they appear with the group of survivors unexplained

Moderator
Posted by InnerVenom123

@aztek_the_lost: Weird. What article?

Posted by aztek_the_lost

@InnerVenom123: the character's in question I believe, although actually my favorite ComicVine/Ennis related article were the character pages for some of his Hellblazer creations where it said the reason he killed them all off at the end is because he didn't like the idea of someone else playing with his toys after he left...which is funny because most Hellblazer writers go out of their way to ensure the cast they introduce can't be used by the next writer

Moderator
Edited by Squares

@aztek_the_lost: Okay, let me rephrase- I'm not keen on reading more of Ennis' Hellblazer. I'd be willing to pick up some of the later writers' work.

@Billy Batson: Christ, man, is it really necessary to use such a large font size?